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Movies i've seen...

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Posted

I figured that was the reasoning and I thought it worked well for Batman's initial appearance( in the suit) but not after that. That is, Batman's arrival was shot well and the close up conveyed the fear of having such a quick, and powerful attack from seemingly nowhere then disappearing. After that, however, I think it would have worked better if Nolan pulled the camera back. You can still be quick but just let the audience enjoy the action also.

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Posted

I'm watching "Ran" right now and am blown away the plot though the film obviously looks aged graphically. Anyone seen this?

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I just caught Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and found it a masterwork. There is something very beautiful about his understated directorial style, which seems carried over from Unforgiven. The movie explores similar themes, of course, and the ending was just as perfect. The idea that there are individual tragedies literally everywhere fascinates me, particularly the question of whether people give up in the face of them or carve out a silent victory as did Swank's Maggie here. I'm not sure why we should need wonderful films to point this out, though.

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I saw War of the Worlds today. Let me just say I dont like child actors much less child actors that scream irritatingly loud as Dakota Fanning does in this movie. This little girl was lauded for her role in Man on Fire, yet another movie I thought was actually undermined by her excruciating screaming but thats just me. Forgetting all that, a very good movie by Spielberg if a little unsatisfying. Speilberg manages to make the movie relentless and dreadful, even scary at times while telling the story of a man learning to behave like a father( Cruise, of course, has to save his two children who are just over for the weekend). It becomes too sappy for my liking but it did not detract from the film. The ending, however, left something to be desired- it seems like movie could have gone on 20 more minutes with some wrap up. In fact, I think there are much better themes in the movie that should have been explored moreso than the survival of and bonding of the family - namely how humans would act toward each other in such a dreadful, unexplainable crisis. One pivotal scence in the film highlights the desperate and in fact "evil" things we may resort to when impending doom is on the horizon. I think it would have a much richer film had the social breakdown caused by the invasion would have played a more instrumental part in the film, but then again I didnt read the book so...

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Posted

The Sea Inside. This was an incredible movie dealing with( and making the case for and against) euthansia. While, I think the against position could have been made more forcefully, the for position is defintitely given its just due considering that the major character is a quadraplegic who wants to die. He his played brilliantly by Javier Bardem( even moreso than I was told. Its truly an incredible performance). Of course, he meets obstacles from his family, the government and the church and extant relationships of which people are dependent on him. There are many beautiful stories in this movie about love, conscience and mostly how it must feel for a full intelligent and prideful man to be handicapped in his bed for life. However, one aspect I definitely enjoyed was the articulation of arguments in the movie coupled with the relationships explored which illustrate that the myriad of issues surrounding euthanias in a deft way.

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Posted

Mar Adentro is indeed a wonderful movie, probably (or maybe hopefully) one no one can fail to be moved by. The degeneration of Sampedro's companion is perhaps even more tragic than his own predicament, as is the quiet desperation of those around him. The interesting thing also is the balance achieved: just as we sympathise with the others in his life and view his decision as a selfish (if understandable) one, this confident moral pseudo-superiority is ripped out from under us by an image of his life previously or his "flight" to the sea. I think the lessons, if any, are that no man has any business judging another's wish to live or die, and that our best guesses of "what it must be like" are at best unhelpful and at worst profoundly disrespectful.

I have long given up trying to anticipate what levels Bardem's acting can attain. It is hard to suppose he has many (if any) equals.

Here is a translation of Sampedro's poem Mar Adentro, which closes the movie. I often think there is something deeply missing in those who are not brought to tears by this kind of beauty.

The sea inside,

the sea inside and the weightlessness of the deep

where dreams come true,

two souls unite to fulfill a single wish.

Your gaze and mine, over and over like an echo, repeating

"deeper and deeper"

beyond everything that is flesh and blood.

But i always awaken

and i always wish for death,

my lips forever entangled in your hair.

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Posted

Indeed, that is a good poem amplified even more by Bardem's anxious delivery( it has to be heard to be fully appreciated).

The degeneration of Sampedro's companion is perhaps even more tragic than his own predicament, as is the quiet desperation of those around him

Yes, one of the most poignant moments in the film to me is when she says she refuses to simply be grateful for all the love and help she's been given because thats all she can do in her condition. In other words, a certain dependency develops on those with severe disabilities and it is a serious dilemma for those who can still function(think) soundly to be constantly beholden to others and seemingly reguklated to an existence of mere thankfulness and resignation. As far as balance, it is also interesting to note that one of the people aiding him in his case his a pregnant woman - that is a person bringing life into this world helping someone who wants to end his. Very interesting contrast that might be useful to explore.

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Posted

Existenz. A film by David Cronenberg starring Jude Law and Jennier Jason Leigh.Whoa. Amazing film. This movie encapsulated all the fears( and some utopian ideas) I've had regarding videogames. It is a mindbender with no solution as far as I'm concerned. A pivotal scene in the film involves the murder of a brilliant game designer. The charge? Deforming the boundaries between reality and virtual reality( the game is "existenz"). In the film, the "real" world and the "videogame" are identical except that the gaming world has you follow a storyline which is intended to be more eventful and exciting than your life. The trick is that in the gaming world, you supposedly retain a bit of consciousness and can at times resist your "urges" to say something in the story though it is made clear that you cannot avoid saying the things you're suppose to say so "you might as well enjoy it."

The problem of freewill is presented fascinatingly here. In this gaming world, you can feel your character doing things -with your body- that you cannot stop -- you're a spectator to the movements of your body and thoughts* though you can have your own thoughts about the inevitable actions you do( while in the the game). In any case, a serious problem is obvious by the end of the movie. If virtual reality becomes a reality, will we become so immersed in it we cannot tell the difference between "real life" and virtual reality provided our technologies take us that far? But that is not the conundrum: it is this, if technology can effortlessly mimmick reality the only way you can know if you're really in a game or not is if you're dead but if you're dead you cannot know so you can never know what is real and what is not. Since you can create storylines in games about people trapped in games, it is very easy to blur the line where you do not know what is real and what is not. That is, when we 'find' out that you're not dead, this itself might be part of the game and in any case, only a confirmation that you're alive not whether or not you're in the 'real world.' If we immerse ourselves thoroughly with a virtual world identical to ours, we will have the inability to distinguish our 'real' lives from the gaming world -- not even memory can save us here since again, in a virtual game about virtual gaming you can "remember" downloading a game to yourself.

Basically, see this movie to understand what I'm saying. Fascinating stuff. ( yeah, it deals with this issue better than The Matrix which approaches it differently).

* the characters in the game, sometimes, describe what I think should properly be called 'thoughts' as "urgings" but this use could be taken to imply a subtle determinism --certain things happen and you can rationalize it or make meaning of it in your consciousness but it would have happen anyway.

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Posted

Now, my friend, says the 'force' is actually in balance since the Jedis have been wiped out and the ratio of siths and jedis are almost equal ( Anakin-Palpatine/ Obi-won-Yoda).

Small nitpick - The dark side of the force reflects an imbalance. It is by a Yin-Yang sort of concept that the force can be balanced, but by the destruction of the dark side.

Think of it not as balance, but as completion, in much the same sense that, in accordance with Christian doctrine, one achieves completion by becoming one with God.

Hence, Anakin restores balance with the defeat of Palpatine in EP VI.

As to the Village, I didn't enjoy it - I felt the big twist was all too evident (saw it coming a mile off) and as interesting as the concepts may have been, I went for the movie, not the concepts (and I find the Matrix trilogy to be lacking for the same reasons).

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Posted

I just saw Shallow Grave the other night. I've long been a fan of Danny Boyle, but his first film was the only film I hadn't seen yet. It definitely wasn't his best film, but I enjoyed. I'm still amazed that the same guy who directed this movie and Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, also directed last year's Millions.

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The last movie I had an opportunity to watch was the remake of The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler. It was entertaining enough, but predictable given the fact that it's a remake. ;) The next one I'm going to queue up will be Napleon Dynamite. I've heard both positive and negative things about it, so I'm looking forward to it.

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Posted

Napoleon Dynamite is probably the most random movie I'ever ever seen. Completely oddball. I thought it was funny though but its "love it or hate it" thing as the humor is just deadpan. Very random. And, whoa, that is amazing that Rusty. I would have never thought that director wuld have directed such different films( I havent sen Trainspotting yet due to the infamous dinner and bed incident--just unneccesary after I've seen Requiem for a Dream. Am I wrong?)

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Posted

Has anyone seen any of the Nightwatch trilogy?

Does the translation from Russian mar the film? Can I appreciate a dubbed or subtitled version as fully as the Russian original?

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The Island. This, like many critics say was good for the first half: a very mysterious, dystopian setting and of course, all the typical problems with such uniformity and the all seeing eye watching you. The second half is fair in my estimation but should have been restrained, and not into the 'explosive' Michael Bay movie it did. It was just unneccesary and overblown when a more subdued film would have worked best to capture the themes the film tackled. Bay's handling of the material is disappinting. He has all the right technical details but the story just lacks content( the deicisions of the heroes are formulaic ) so scenes that are suppose to evoke well-being or something of the sort feel ridiculous. Why is he sweeping the camera around the country side again? And using that music? Its not like its going to be happy days . Basically, there is good action here, great cinematagrophy, a good enough theme but very thin story. All the technical details merely highlight the thinness of Bay's approach(mainly in the second half) not enhance it.

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Hustle and Flow. The story of a pimp who becomes a rap star. Isnt that we hear everyday in mainstream rap songs anyway? While that maybe the case this film is done well--quite unapolegetic in its potrayal of the central character Djay and a good story--an amazing soundtrack for those that like this kind of music( I do). What is pariticularly good about this film is the way it presents the life of DJay, hardly sugarcoating his life as a pimp and drug dealer or apologizing for it. I've seen some film critics complain about the treament of the female characters in the film, in how they are potrayed and in how Djay treats them. All these criticisms, I find irrelevant since they seem to want to film to condemn the character rather than explore his world. Why should a film have to do this? I will take about this more ina different thread, however.

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The Devil's Reject by Rob Zombie. I was suprised by this film. It works on some levels( aesthetic) but not others( it is not remotely scary, simply gory) but I'm quite sure would be an interesting film to study, particularly concerning the aesthetics of filmaking( the finale is perfect for this type of analysis). For example, what effects can musics have in appropriating characters? Why? Feelings of sympathy, etc? Why or how do montages work to convey the dynamics of onscreen characters? I think these questions will be asked because the film is cleverly manipulative indulging the audience in the maccabre life of a serial killing family, with a certain ambivalence that can be be intrepeted as being sympathetic (I tend to judge how manipulative a film is by how the lady reacts---at one point she said " its bad how they do. I'm feeling sympathy for evil people"). I note that the film is ambivalent because, on like some critics of the film, I leave it open that flattering montages of the serial killers, and other scenes that maybe intepreted thusly, are not neccesarily there to engender audience sympathy but rather to show how the characters think of themselves - i.e not a romanticization of the characters but there romanticization of themselves.

Why the film is not 'scary' as I earlier said is due to how Zombie chooses to direct the film, interspersing scenes of brutality and horrifying scenarios with one-liners and more prominently music that does not at all match the brutality that you're watching( in fact, its interesting to wonder how different the film would be if a different score was used). Thus, there is little to no terror here even though if you think about what exactly you're seeing, you should be horrified. However, Zombie, for whatever reasons chooses to make all this comical to an extent. It does not quite work to keep the audience off-balance as that in of itself maybe induce terror( am I suppose to laugh? be scared?) because, the violence is expected to be followed by some disarming music or scene. Interestingly, the scariest part (or what could be considered scary) is when a single character is exacting revenge on the trio of killers. I'm sure Zombie did this intentionally and it only makes what I've already discussed even more important.

At a different level, I'm disappointed with the film and horror movies in general which seem unable to take horror or the fact of serial killing seriously. That is, horror films(whether fantastical or based on 'real' events) for awhile now have been too conscious of themselves as films and really do not convey terror or induce fear as much as they could. Why this was problematic in this film in particular, is that there are real people that are like the killing trio in the film and it maybe of benefit as film to make people genuinely scared( not disarmed by comedy), to for example, examine the possibility that these serial killers have normal family squabbles and have a sense of humour. In the film, for instance, the jokes they tell to themselves and semblance of a family fued they have play to the audience rather than convince them. In other words, it is not made believable that these are actual jokes they'd tell themselves or things they'd argue about but instead something characters do in a film to convey how odd ball they are.

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Last night on The Movie Channel, I saw the movie The Story of the Weeping Camel (available at Amazon). I especially recommend it for those of the Peak Oil participants who "don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" - in this case camel babies.

Along those same lines, I would also recommend Heartland, starring Rip Torn (also available from Amazon). It has been at least twenty years since I saw this movie, but, as I recall, it has a good baby birthing scene - except I think it was a cow.

Anyhow, The Story of the Weeping Camel is about much more than birthing camel colts, but be forewarned - some of you (depending on your taste in movies) might think it is a movie about nothing much in particular (and how wrong you would be, but at least you will not be expecting something fast-paced).

Michael

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Solaris by Steven Soderbergh. I was compelled to rewatch this film in anticipation of an essay to be written about it. On my first viewing, I thought the film was plodding and boring and really I did not understand at all what was going on. Now, I still do not understand what was going, and the film is still plodding but hardly boring--in fact, its quite an experience to get sucked into the world of the film. What happened on my first viewing is that I did not see the entire story, I think. I missed some crucial story elements that are developed in the opening. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing film that I do not know how to begin describing. It is very eerie, sublime and meditative. One question throuhgout the film is the nature of memories--their effect, reality, etc. For instance, can our memories of people be true? Our 'mental images' or construct of how people are? Well, apparently, one way to consider this is to imagine, like this film does the possibility that a person could be created solely from your memories of them. What is the result? How do you react to it? What is it that we do(consciously or unconsciously) when we love someone? There are many questions that are raised in the film -- none solved, I think (unless a missed something) but in that is where the film is superb, mediating on these issues and the choices made in light of extradonary circumstances not an 'explanation' of it.

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Man Bites Dog. This is a darkly comic movie satirising reality television in 1992 of all times! What is the reality tv show concerning? Spolied people trapped on some island? In a room? Following the life of a mechanic in his garage? Following police around? No. Here, we are watching the real Tv of a serial killer. Yes, a serial killer. The film is shot just the way any normal reality show would be filmed, with interaction between the camera men and the killer and with vignettes. What is well done this movie is its commitment to satire: rather than become incredibly self-conscious as many movies have become letting you know that you're wtaching movie, this film plays it straight. There are really no ' this is a movie in jokes' but a well done satire on reality tv. A diificult question the film brings of course, is media complicitly in violence, as the camera men, producers of this show on the serial killer partake in his exploits: moving bodies and chasing people dow at his request, and eventually kicking the dead body of a man he just killed. Another question is to what extent do shows like this make 'bad people' humane? Or the film, I think considers the possible effects of what could happen if we ever got this far, indirectly critiquuing reality tv. I read the film as suggesting that it would be foolish to think a serial killer, for instance, would not be charismatic, have ideas about Art( shallow as they maybe), or have everyday friends and that he interacts with people well. The problem( and I may have read this wrongly) is that what the person, the serial killer is doing is repugnant( for instance, on camera he frigghtens an old lady to death) but the decision to film him has given him a personality: he's revealed as a charimatic, albeit nihlistic( and racist) person. He smiles, jokes, etc.

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Four Brothers. I'm tempted to call John Singleton, the (apparently) promising director of Boyz in the Hood a hack after watching this film but the lady liked it so what can you say. In any case, a very muddled film with an equally muddled tone, muddled plot, just muddled. While I'm hardly one to question moralize the cinema, it is questionable how Singleton potrays these rogue brothers( the four 'brothers' are two white men and two black men--thankfully, a joke that doesnt waste itself in the film though with one questionable line by Walberg that doesnt seem at all justified considering the tone of the film) on a search for those that murdered their mother. This is a fairly ok story to develop with interesting characters but their choices and apparently, murderous zeal doesnt lend itself much credibility, or better a way to identify and be with the characters rather than sit in judgment of them. This a result of Singleton's inability to decide what he wants the film to be--a crime thriller, a full blown comedy, what? Because the tone is not settled, I, atleast found myself wondering about the characters motivations, and reasons for what they're doing--and unsurprisingly, I found it lacking. If this film for example had the comedic tone of say 'The Big Hit' then I dont think this would even be on my mind but Singleton appears to want to have some drama here but it simple does not come across. Ah, well. I think I'll probably speak more about these type of reactions to film in another thread as they can be interesting.

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The Constant Gardener. This film for good or ill will inevitably be compared to Hotel Rwanda because of its focus: the relationship between the West and Africa- this time concerning the politics of selling and testing drugs in the guise of a love story or as some would say, a love story with pretensions of talking serious politics. In any case, this is a very good film in all its aspects; as a love story, an indictment of the drug industry, and of course, the west's treatment of Africa. The film cleverly allows itself to unfold through the eyes of its protaganist Ralph Fienes so we learn along with him the mysteries of the plot( the film itself concerns a mystery)--we're never ahead of him and therefore deeply interested his story- we experience the horror of what he learns as he learns it since it is new to us also. The theater was dead silent when the film ended, most of the audience stuck in their seats, arrested by what they've just seen. This itself was aided by the powerful music in the background as the credit roled( i will soon find out what this is).

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Stalingrad. Eventually, I will make a thread discussing war films - which invariably focus on the a group of individuals and their journey through the horror. This film is no different following an elite group(4) of German Storm troopers in the well-known suicidal mission( but good for the rest of the world) that was Stalingrad. The film is dreary, sad, brutal seen through the eyes of these four soldiers. What is particularly fascinating and depressing about the film is the total absence of ideals in these men- in the sense that they are not fervent nationalists, they're not 'nazis's( whatever evils this conjures up) but rather your everday young and old battle ridden soldiers utterly confused about what they're fighting for and the senseless violence around them. The directing is apt here--the violence is not stylishly choregraphed but is disorganized, detached and thus appears utterly random and meaningless. The characters simply wade through disasterous event--ill-advised (bloody) battles, failed attempts at desertion and starvation in the desert( in the winter nonetheless), after another with alternating bouts of resignation, fury, and a general sense of helplessness. The film takes a toll on you but its worth seeing.

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I rewatched Punch-Drunk Love tonight. A movie about sex, theft, and violence that also happens to be a romantic comedy. I remember originally watching this in the theater when it first came out. I think half the audience came to see a Paul Thomas Anderson film and the other half came to see an Adam Sandler movie. The later group was disappointed, the former group was not.

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I had mixed feelings about Yimou's "Hero" and I have seen it three times already. I loved the scenery and camerawork and as an old martial artist, I also loved the stilistic fighting scenes. But one thing that disturbed me a bit with this movie, was that I sensed a weird "idealistic defense" for the totalitarian Chinese political system. I have discussed this with my friends too; some agree with me, but some don

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In davidm's The Visual Arts thread,

Hugo Holbling wrote:

One of my favourite pieces of (classical) music is G

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