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July 2005 movie recommendations  Preview
1 September 05 from Andrew Hamlin 5
Not planning on seeing War of The Worlds though I look forward to people watching the George Pal version, and heck, maybe even listening to the classic radio broadcast.  

Okay, listen to the rock opera if you really want to.  

Looking forward to: Tropical Malady (missed it in the theater dammit), Grizzly Man (I'm still hesitant on Herzog, but what a great voice), and hm...not much else looks promising...  

Now if they'd bring the newish "Gigantor" live-action pic over here...  

Andy
30 July 05 from mlmitton 8
glenn's right about War of the Worlds: It's visceral, powerful, and pointless. The pointlessnes didn't bother me, though, because I would much rather have characters who learn nothing that the traditional blockbusters which give us poorly drawn characters who learn things that are either silly or too cliche to even draw out a modicum of thought from me. In other words, if you're just going to do something badly, I'd rather you don't even try.  

Which brings me to Batman Begins, a great film. Between this and Spiderman 2 last year, it really makes me hope that Hollywood might keep giving us at least one blockbuster each year can have good dialogue and still kick ass.  

I had a very mixed reaction to Me, You, and Everyone We Know. There were some fantastic scenes (The walk down the street) and then others that made me wonder whether she was trying to be funny, or she was going after the George Lucas style dialogue. For example, the goldfish scene--How were we supposed to take that? Other scenes were so good that I want to believe I'm just missing the point on scenes like this.  

Still, I liked all the Portland references.
25 July 05 from glenn mcdonald 3
For long stretches of War of the Worlds I felt like I was actually watching human beings in non-stop headlong helpless-panic flight from irresistable forces of implacable horror and imminent death. So I have to give it credit for evoking something visceral and powerful.  

But there are momentary pauses throughout, and then a long one after it ends, and this isn't a movie that fills its pauses well. Nothing redeeming really ever happens, no build-ups are paid off, nobody learns anything, none of the characters gets to do much other than scream and run after the first ten minutes, and humanity doesn't eventually triumph so much as the problem expires for reasons that make sense only if you believe that invading Earth is the first time these aliens have ever actually left their own bedrooms. Also, I admit that I don't remember Wells' original at all, but I feel certain that he wasn't quite primitive enough to think that if you get a man drunk enough, the headlights of his car will flutter and then go out.  

On the other hand, though, a lot more explosions than Signs.
23 July 05 from mlmitton 8
No hesitation, The Best of Youth. I've "forced" about 10 people to go see it, all of whom balked at the idea of a 6-hour foreign language film and said they'd kill me if they didn't love it, and they have all come out thanking me for pushing it on them.  

What makes the movie unique is precisely its length which allows one to explore the characters to a level of depth simply unheard of in film. (This is of course what the best television does, but television here in the U.S. is episodic, even within an episode, which breaks up the flow making it difficult to treat the show as a unified whole.) I tell people it's like watching a novel because you get to spend so much time with the characters. Supporting roles aren't there only as foils to advance the story of the main character; they're stories in themselves. A couple of reviewers I've seen said something like "Sure it's long, so is War and Peace" and indeed, I do think this movie's main competition is the great 19th century novels. When the movie ends, I honestly feel like I've said goodbye to friends I've had my whole life, and I wish nothing more than to spend another 6 hours with them.  

Of course, it's not great because it's 6 hours; that's why it's unique. It's great because you want to spend that much time with them, because the story is moving, because it's interesting, because it never drags, because it's funny....
18 July 05 from glenn mcdonald 7
I should have said "live-action comic-book-superhero movie". I didn't mean to be comparing Batman to Ghost World.  

-----  

B and I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory over the weekend. This movie should never have been remade at all, and I think I've come to the conclusion that Burton is a great visual artist but a dreadful storyteller. It was pretty easy to ignore those objections while watching, though. Funny-pretty things to look at, and Johnny Depp channeling some unearthly gene-splice of Steve Buscemi and Michael Jackson. Very entertaining.
18 July 05 from jer 6
OK, Ghost World one of or possibly the very best movie ever adapted from a comic book, but I suppose it's my genre-centric ignorance of the whole medium (though I'm learning) that keeps me from thinking of it as a comic book movie. And I say this having read the comic before seeing the movie (though after hearing the Aimee Mann song).  

Sin City is possibly the best realization of the whole comic book-y aesthetic yet put on film. The only other film that even comes close, for me, is Warren Beatty's underrated Dick Tracy, which is still my choice for the best looking movie ever made. Having seen Sin City not too long before Batman Returns might also help explain why the latter kind of underwhelmed me as well, come to think of it.
16 July 05 from Daniel Jensen 4
I would call Sin City the flat out best comic-book translation so far. Mind it has all kinds of boy-issues. Enough to be a graphic novel. It is flat-out awesome if you are truly a fan of comic-books and have not seen it then you have done yourself a major diservice. If you have and you weren't impressed as I was than I am appalled. Mind, though, Batman Begins was really close as in Batman Begins is like number three on my top ten list behind only Three Extremes . . . which speaking of appaled, um, this film is so beyond weak-stomached as to be something interesting and Sin City which I loved. A Lot.
16 July 05 from Daniel Jensen 4
Jorry about the miskey on Jen v. Jer. My bad.
16 July 05 from Andrew Hamlin 5
I still say Ghost World is the best comic-book film ever made. By far.  

Mysterious Skin no longer plays in my town. Sad.  

Derailroaded, a documentary about the life and work of Larry Fischer, aka Wild Man Fischer, looks interesting.  

The other week I watched Makoto Shinkai's Kumo no mukô, yakusoku no basho, aka The Place Promised In Our Early Days. Shinkai isn't a master, not yet anyway. The plot gets awfully baffling. But he flies on impeccable composition and a fulfillingly intricate retro-futurism.  

Hopefully an octopus who can follow simple instructions,  

Andy  

p.s. Looking forward to Bergman's Saraband when it opens here.
16 July 05 from Daniel Jensen 4
Maybe Jen, but I personally thought the greatest thing about Batman Begins was the first third. It wasn't, mind, boring, the first three times I saw it, though the fourth was rocky, but whilst I love Tim Burton's thing, I love Chris Nolan's way more. It made the previous Batman movies all take a star hit.  

I've learned that this might be about the score. But I don't think it is entirely about that.
14 July 05 from jer 2
I seem to be in the minority on Batman Begins, or at least in it being the definitive Batman movie. Maybe childhood nostalgia is coming too much into play here, but Tim Burton's first film still strikes me as the perfect Batman and this one finds us going through the origins of Batman yet again, which I though was kind of a drag. The second half of the film is pretty fantastic, though, and might have even been more so had the Scarecrow--easily the film's best character--been given more screen time. Mostly, though, I miss the beautiful pseudo-film-noir look of Burton's original and I couldn't help but be underwhelmed by how Gotham now looks like just a normal city. I do like the film, mind you, but my favorite movie critic Alex Jackson (whom I nevertheless only agree with about 40-50% of the time) nailed it when he said that "Tim Burton's Batman is a pop art masterpiece" while this one is just a really good summer blockbuster.
13 July 05 from glenn mcdonald 3
Needed a blockbuster, so I saw Batman Begins this evening. Definitely one of the best comic-book films yet made, although I was never a Superman fan, so maybe my opinion on this subject shouldn't count much. X-Men would be my previous favorite in this category, and Batman Begins doesn't necessarily take over, but it might, and it's at least close. And it has to be the best Batman by a wide margin.
11 July 05 from glenn mcdonald 1
Interesting. I was avoiding Mysterious Skin based on not having liked Araki very much before. Hmm.  

I just got back from Hauru no ugoku shiro. It's pretty lightweight compared to Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi and Mononoke-hime. And Laputa and Nausicaa, for that matter. And it doesn't have nearly the invention of Tonari no Totoro or the simple charm of Majo no takkyuubin. But it's still Miyazaki and it's still plenty entertaining.
11 July 05 from jer 2
I'll have to wait at least a week for Me and You and Everyone We Know, but in the meantime I just saw Mysterious Skin, the latest film by Gregg Araki, and was absolutely blindsided. If you don't happen to know anything about Araki, you're lucky, and if you do, forget what you know; this is an infintely more mature and thoughtful film that has little to do with the vacant, smirky outrageousness of his earlier work. It is actually a sober and absolutely unflinching look at how child abuse affects the lives of two young boys in radically different ways, with neither the touchy-feely drama nor the revenge-fantasy histrionics that a Hollywood treatment of the same subject would have most likely taken. A revelatory and possibly career-making/altering performace from former sitcom child star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the more complex and self-destructive of the two boys and a gentler and possibly even more effective one from the unknown Brady Corbet as the weirder and more introverted one, the movie is sad and occasionally startling while avoiding being depressing by mixing in some unexpected humor, an odd (but never flashy or unnecessary) fantasy sequences and a quiet subplot about the touching friendship that develops between two small-town outcasts. The movie is graphic enough about the sexual violence that takes place between both adults and children as well as between adults and other (younger) adults that I am rather amazed that no ratings controversy surrounded it (the film was released as "Unrated," so perhaps they never even bothered trying to get MPAA approval) but it is never glib or exploitive. I can honestly say that I was left emotionally drained by the end of this film (the way that the final scene plays out is rather amazingly tender and actually poetic), something that I could not say about a slicker and more respectable (albeit admittedly well acted and provocative) "issue" movie like Crash.
10 July 05 from glenn mcdonald 1
1. Me and You and Everyone We Know  

Easily my favorite movie of 2005 so far. An atmospheric collage of disarmingly plausible people's lives and issues and expectations coexisting and sometimes intersecting. A woman who drives a ride service for old people makes oblique performance videos. A shoe salesman tries to save his own life and fails (and that's the long version). Some people have been to Guatemala and some have not. Truths are revealed about gravity, towel sets, coming of age and ASCII art. Imagine Harold and Maude without the Cat Stevens music and the age difference, or Donnie Darko without the vortex or the rabbit or the music or the angst and the lead characters are adults. Imagine the movie Laurie Anderson would make if she were Suzanne Vega.
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