Author Archives: Whitney

100 Movies in 2011

Scott has created a 100 Movies to Watch in 2011 list and wants me to do the same. Ok, I’ll bite. I’d love to be a little more careful in my movie choices, but mostly I’m interested in having the list as a counterbalance to Scott’s list so we don’t end up watching whatever he wants all the time. My life is mostly centered around competition and getting exactly what I want, so this works really well for me.

I’m switching it up a little. I’ve noticed lately that I only have vague recollections of important movies I watched once 5-10 years ago, so 50 of my films to watch in 2011 will be rewatches and 50 will be new films.

50 ReViewings:

The Last Temptation of Christ
Apocalypse Now
Aguirre, Wrath of God
Nashville
City Lights
Sunset Blvd.
Asphalt Jungle
The Thin Red Line
Days of Heaven
Persona
The Seventh Seal
Raging Bull
Full Metal Jacket
The Big Sleep
On the Waterfront
Cool Hand Luke
Hud
The Thing (1982)
The Killing (1956)
La Ceremonie
Three Colors: Blue
Forbidden Games
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Ordet
The Secret of Roan Inish
Blow Up
Stroszek
Grand Illusion
Samurai I
George Washington
3 Women
Eyes Without a Face
Short Cuts
My Own Private Idaho
An Angel at my Table
Z
Paris, Texas
Ride with the Devil
The Darjeeling Limited
Eyes Wide Shut
Blue Velvet
Where the Wild Things Are
In a Lonely Place
The Piano
Dressed to Kill
Written on the Wind
Forbidden Planet
Lolita
The Long Goodbye
Rescue Dawn

50 New Movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life
Scenes from a Marriage
The Decalogue
Stalag 17
Rebecca
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Man Who Would be King
Sleuth
Rope
King Kong (1933)
Last Tango in Paris
The Leopard (Italian Version)
Grey Gardens
Orphic Trilogy: The Blood of a Poet
Orphic Trilogy: Orpheus
Orphic Trilogy: Testament of Orpheus
Stalker
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
The Grapes of Wrath
Jason and the Argonauts
Captain Blood
The Spirit of the Beehive
Cleo from 5 to 7
Stella Dallas
Hoosiers
The Shootist
I Saw What You Did
Samurai II
Samurai III
Alphaville
Flesh for Frankenstein
The Scarlet Empress
Spellbound
Contempt
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Le Cercle Rouge
Touchez Pas au Grisbi
La Commare Secca
Ugetsu
The Tales of Hoffman
A Canterbury Tale
49th Parallel
Sansho the Bailiff
Pierrot le Fou
The Furies
The Earrings of Madame de…
Magnificent Obsession
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Hunger
Broadcast News

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Black Swan Obsession

It seems like the only thing I care about anymore is Black Swan. Ever since I saw it on Sunday morning I haven’t been able to get the film out of my head.

We’ll be talking about the movie in the next Frankly My Dear Podcast, so you should definitely listen to that if you have any interest in my review. We’ll talk about the perfect levels of campiness the film embodies. The swerving, swooping often handheld cinematography that perfectly complements the fantastic notions at play. I’m sure we’ll talk about the hot Natalie Portman, the hot Mila Kunis, and the uber-hot lesbian sex scene. Along with the performances, we might discuss the quality of production that must go into a ballet film featuring non-ballet dancers.

Most importantly, I’d like to go over female hysteria and why it always seems to accompany ballet/dance films. Everyone is reminded of The Red Shoes when they watch Black Swan – an enormous complement, I think – and it does seem like the sentiments in both are identical. I’m not sure how to put it all together yet, though. I’ll have to watch The Red Shoes again (Alright!).

But even though we’ll discuss all that at length on the podcast and I don’t want to spoil it here, I did want to get it out there that Black Swan is amazing. Amazing. And let’s open that up for discussion…

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Susanne Bier is a Lady

I haven’t been watching very many movies lately. But of the movies I have been watching, Susanne Bier is standing out more than anyone else.

She’s this awesome director from my hometown, (Hjemland, if you will) Denmark. And she makes movies about mostly good – but flawed – people making mostly good – but sometimes regrettable – choices. All of her films are character-driven, slow-moving, microscopic looks at relationships. And even when parts of the film don’t work (usually the soundtrack choices), the performances she gets out of her actors are always incredible.

Even Halle Berry and David Duchovny! Now, you know I love me some Fox Mulder, but Duchovny’s somewhat of a one-track actor. He always plays a kind of obsessive ladies man with a quick wit. Not so in Things We Lost in the Fire. Do you remember seeing the trailers for this one? It was awful. They were packaging it as a drug fueled thriller, but there’s really nothing thrilling about it. Instead, like many of Bier’s films, it’s a movie about death and how you deal with death of loved ones. Looking past some of the cheesy lines, I think this is definitely the best film of both Berry and Duchovny’s careers. And may be the best of Benicio del Toro’s.

Most recently I watched her Dogme 95 film Open Hearts. It’s a really painful story, but she approaches the subject with so much honesty. You’d think that would be a staple of dogme 95 films, but that hasn’t really been my experience. I feel like many directors who work in the genre want to use the natural lighting and sets as a way to shock and disorient you. They use the human body as something ugly and greasy, ready to be injected with drugs that will bruise and disfigure it. Open Hearts takes the opposite approach, taking a realist approach to what could be an overly dramatic situation. There are affairs, car accidents, screaming matches, door slamming, and paralyzation, and yet the film is very quiet.

Susanne Bier. Check her out.

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What Up With That

So you may have noticed…I burned out a little. We were doing our month of foreign, watching Irma Vep and some Bunuel and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t end up writing about because I went a little crazy. It was probably just my period. A two week PMS fiasco. Anyway, I didn’t feel like blogging, or watching movies, or doing anything except watching episodic television and the game show “Minute to Win It.”

But, Scott made me get it together long enough to record this:

FRANKLY, MY DEAR PODCAST!!

Just a picture of Scott so far. But we commissioned the artist to do me!

Go listen. I know you’ve been missing my take on movies.

I missed one of our triple features, too. We watched movies that had been banned in a country. Django, Team America: World Police, and Bad Taste. And it was great. We have another one coming up tomorrow that I’ll definitely be posting about.

For now, enjoy the podcast.

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Foreign May: Day 17 and 18

May 17th: Cria Cuervos

This movie is haunting me. You know how people say that a piece of music is “haunting” and they kind of mean that it’s morose, dark, and a little jarring? Cria Cuervos definitely embodies those moods, but it’s also haunting because I can’t stop thinking about it.

The film expresses my sentiments about the “evil child” genre perfectly, but it’s not quite a horror film. Nothing frightening happens, and yet its main character, Ana, is living in a death-obsessed world, believing she holds the power to off anyone she wants at any time. Rather than scaring her, she exercises this belief by putting what she thinks is poison in family members’ drinks. We think that children are so innocent, that they are more spiritual and trusting, that they have a larger capacity for love. But perhaps that innocence is more like a dangerous naivete. Childhood is almost as unknown to us as death. We only have the capacity to remember through our experience, so the trust and faith we had as children is lost to us now. Children can be an Other just as alien to us as…well, aliens. Or monsters or ghosts. Cria Cuervos narrates the views of a child obsessed with death, and attempts – rather successfully, I think – to recreate those naive memories.

In the end, when Ana discovers she isn’t in possession of a dangerous poison, we feel relieved. No child should have that kind of power. But, from the view of 8-year-old Ana, we also feel a little disappointed. This is the one thing she believes she has control of. How much control she really has over her violent actions is debatable, however, as the violence of the Franco regime is passed on from father to daughter. Her lack of understanding about herself is the most frightening thing of all.

May 18th: What Time is it There?

I’m loving these Taiwanese films! What Time is it There?, like Yi Yi, explores the loneliness of city life and how big life events (the death of a husband, first kiss, etc.) all end up being remembered alone. This one might be even better than Yi Yi because it has a cameo by Jean-Pierre Leaud, who still looks great.

Each shot of the film is cluttered and noisy, and yet the characters within those shots are still and silent. Though Paris and Taiwan seem to share little in common, both landscapes suffocate while simultaneously isolating. Each character is desperate to share something with someone else, but they all seem to fail. Whether they try through technology, spirituality and superstition, or love, in the end each character is still very much alone.

It’s a depressing concept, but kind of reassuring when you see multiple people suffering from the same sentiments. We’re alone physically, but psychically we’re all connected.

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Three Best Friends Triple Feature!!!: Vol. 7

‘Cause we’re the three best friends that anyone could have. We’re the three best friends that anyone could have.

The Attendees:

Scott

Aaron

Heather

Sam

Whitney

Theme: Films featuring a weapon of mass destruction.

The Blob
Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth
Starring Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut
1958, 82 min.
“Beware of the Blob!”

Synopsis: There’s not much to it. A meteor crashes to Earth carrying a horrible, man eating (not little cute dog eating, don’t worry)  parasite affectionately nicknamed “The Blob.” Steve McQueen and other inappropriately cast “teenagers” have to convince the town that this monster exists and that it’s out to absorb everything it touches!

Scared?:

Aaron: I think Steve McQueen is pretty good looking.
Whitney: He’s such a man’s man. I don’t know any girls that think he’s especially good looking, but every boy I know loves him.
Aaron: You don’t think Steve McQueen is that good looking?
Whitney: No.
Aaron: What about when he does that thing with his eyebrows?
Whitney: …No.
Aaron: What about with that haircut?
Whitney: It’s so square!
Aaron: I know! It’s awesome!

Scott: Is he supposed to be 40-years-old in this?
Aaron: No, he’s a teenager.

Sam: What year was this movie made?
Whitney: I don’t know. Back when they could say “spook.”
Sam: And “hang loose.”

Scott; This movie needs Scoobie Doo.

Aaron: I wish they played that song every time the blob was killing people.
Sam: They should make it a musical.
Aaron: And every time the blob finishes it says “Beware of the blog. Da doo da doo da doooodadoodoo.”

Aaron: The cops from the 50s thought everything was short circuits instead of monsters.

Sam: I know why you don’t find him attractive, Whitney!
Whitney: Why?
Sam: He’s not bald and he doesn’t have glasses like Larry David.
Scott: He’s older than you’d think, but not old enough.
Sam: Now he and Larry David are probably the same age.
Scott: Steve McQueen is a little bit too Aryan for her taste.
Sam: You don’t like Germans? …racist.

Scott: I like his “stupid parents” attitude.
Whitney: Yeah, you really shouldn’t be living at home anymore, McQueen.
Scott: “They live with me!”

Aaron: The Vampire and the Robot is the movie they’re watching?

Aaron: Oh! they opened it up for a global warming sequel!
Whitney; Well, I know they remade it and they are remaking it again next year.
Aaron: Why are they doing a remake when they can just make a sequel! There are so many good global warming jokes. … Oh man, I love global warming jokes.

Rambo III
Directed by Peter MacDonald
Starring Sylvester Fucking Stallone and some Middle Eastern dudes
1988, 102 min.
“Well I hate to admit it, but the truth is we’re getting soft.”
Scott: They just killed hundreds of people!

Synopsis: Rambo hates money and technology. He likes monasteries and Afghanistan. He kills a bunch of people. A bunch of people try to kill him. In other words: Rambo fixes the Middle East.

AAARRRRRRRGGGGGGG:

Aaron: Do you want to watch this in Survival Mode?
Whitney: No.
Scott: Is that where you can click and find out about the people.
Heather: No.
Aaron: Yeah! you can click and open up a portfolio on each person, like you’re in the military and you see their dossier!
All: No.
Aaron: So the answer’s no? That makes me so sad, you guys.
Heather: Didn’t you try to make us do this last time?
Aaron: Yeah, and when I watched the first Rambo I tried to get them to watch it in Survivor Mode and they said no, too.

Sam: So The Blob killed 40-50 people?
Aaron: The body count’s going to be higher in Rambo III, I garantee it.

Whitney: I’m trying to convince Scott to let me name our son Todd.
Heather: That’s a terrible name!
Aaron: Why not name him John Rambo?
Whitney: I’m for that. How about Todd Rambo?
Scott: John Rambo’s nerdier, fatter brother.

Aaron: They should just remake this movie but instead of “Russian soldiers,” they can say “American soldiers.” And it can star the Russian Rambo…Ivan…what’s his name from Rocky III.
Whitney: Drago. Dolph Lundgren.
Aaron: Yeah.

Sam: “Todd Rambo”?
Scott: “Have you met my brother John?”
Heather: “Or my brother Spencer?” I actually like the name Spencer, it’s just the dweebiest.
Scott: “My brother John’s such a dick!”

Aaron: Maybe they should make a Rambo IV about how Todd Rambo and John Rambo make amends after all these years. The military comes and asks them to do something, and they have to work together. Todd Rambo always had to compensate for his physique.
Scott: Because they did a Rambo IV and Stallone says that’s the last one, but the studio is going to do one without him. Perfect time for Todd.

Aaron: What do you guys like better, when Russians speak English with Russian accents, or when Sean Connery speaks Russian?

Heather: I like the inconsistency of his scar makeup. Like, right now it sticks out more.
Aaron: It’s because it’s hotter outside and it swells.
Scott: Eww!
Heather: And they paid attention to that when they were doing makeup.
Aaron: Yeah, so it’s more attention to detail than you thought. More than you could even imagine… But the important thing is, that I like to break my pretzel in half and put one on each side of my mouth then bite down, so I have pretzel dust lining each side of my teeth.
(We all try and find it strangely satisfying)
Aaron: I’m going to try it with two.
Whitney: Can you fit it all the way back there?
Aaron: Almost.
Scott: I’m going to try to crush them vertically.
Aaron: Like the Rancor!
Whitney: How can you open your mouth that far!!??
Sam: All the Woods have big mouths.
Heather: I want to try!
Whitney: Ow!
Heather: Ow! We have small mouths.
Aaron: I think I’d have to break it in half first. But, I want to do it like the Rancor!
Whitney: What’s a Rancor??
(Aaron shakes his head in disappointment.)
Scott: It’s with Jabba the Hut…
Whitney: Oh!
Scott: If you’re writing it down I’ll spell it for you.
Sam: I bet I can fit half a Mountain Dew can in my mouth.
Aaron: I bet you can’t.
(He can’t)
Aaron: I win.
Heather: That was a good third, though. So, way to go.
Aaron: A third doesn’t hold up in a court of law.

Sam: He’s just doing this to impress the girl.
Witney: That’s why he does everything.
Heather: That’s not why he’s doing it. It’s just an added benefit.
Aaron: He needs to not wear his pants so high.
Heather: I like how he matches his denims!
Aaron: He gets some things from Todd. How to match his denims and wearing his pants too high.
Scott: And belly shirts. Todd’s known for his belly shirts.
Sam: Long curly hair.
Scott: And headbands. Todd’s big on headbands.
Aaron: Some things run in the family. Some things you can’t get away from. Oh man, I love this Todd Rambo stuff.

Aaron: Man, I love seeing Rambo on a horse. I really do.
Scott: Oh yeah. This movie didn’t get that seal of approval from…who are the people who protect animals? Not PETA…
Whitney: It didn’t?? No! What did they kill.
Scott: Horses.
Whitney: How?? That’s horrible.
Aaron; Maybe there’s someone just dumping boxes of horses. Off cliffs and stuff.

(Rambo says something about his friendships not lasting long.)
Scott: Which is the opposite of Todd Rambo who makes friends and they last forever.
Heather: They actually try to get rid of him.
Aaron: Yeah, he thinks he made friends, but they actually don’t really want him around.
Scott: “Hey, friends!”
Heather: “What are you doin’ this weekend?”
Aaron: It’s hard, too, because he can’t find anyone to go shopping for denim with him.
Heather: “Are these right?”
Aaron: The only one he can get to go with him is John, because it’s the only thing they have in common.
Scott: He really looks up to his brother. I like to think of Todd as the older brother.
Aaron: Me too.
Scott: His mom’s like “Now take care of your little brother, Todd.”

Aaron: Do you think Todd could be played by fat Val Kilmer?
Aaron: I love fat Val Kilmer. I think he’s way better looking than when he was thin Val Kilmer.
Heather: Ew. I don’t think so.
Whitney: He was never attractive.
Sam: What if he looked like Larry David?
Whitney: Well then, that would be great.
Sam: Ew.
Scott: Hear that? Your sexual attractions disgust our guests.

Aaron: He just pushed that spike through from the back, and it came out the front like the Blob.
Sam: Now he’s going to put black powder on it to seal it up!
All: OH!!
Aaron: (fist pumping) Rambo! Rambo!
All: (Fist pumping) Rambo! Rambo!
Heather: He just gauged his hip!!

Aaron: Do you think that’s one of those Cassio math watches? From Todd?
Scott: Todd’s like “You wear it silly!”
Aaron: He loves his brother, but…
Scott: We should make a web series about Todd Rambo.

Heather: Ha ha ha. Surprise, mother fucker!

Whitney: Wait! I have to hear the song.
Scott: Oh yeah. You love the Rambo songs. “I sang this in my school choir.”
(Whitney and Heather sing. Aaron shakes his head in disapproval.)
Whitney: You know this song! “The road is long…with many a winding turn…He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.” It’s about Todd!!!
Heather: We sang this in my seventh grade choir.
Whitney: So we both sang Rambo songs in our school choirs!

New Jack City
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Starring Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Chris Rock, Judd Nelson, and Mario Van Peebles
1991, 97 min.
“We talkin’ ’bout accommidatin’ and consolidatin'”

Synopsis: Out of all the weapons of mass destruction we exploring in our triple feature, crack has the highest death count. Wesley Snipes doesn’t care. He just cares about that cash money. So he sets up an entire apartment building for the production and sale of crack, and it ends up getting a lot of people killed dead.

Word:

Aaron: Crack cocaine is a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a biological weapon.
Scott: Yep. You can thank the US Government.
Heather: Maybe.
Scott: But no. Really
Heather: Yeah really. There are two conspiracy theories I really believe and that’s one of them.

Heather: Does Mr. Cooper make a cameo in this movie??

Scott: I wish I was black in the 90s. Or back in the 90s.

Scott: This movie is like Clueless for crack dealers.
Whitney: What does that mean?
Scott: Just about a bunch of friends who are crack dealers, hanging out in a jeep. Driving around. A lot of crack. A  lot
of jeeps.
Heather: And that guy in the back is wearing the same hat as Dion’s boyfriend.

Heather: One thing that I miss about the 90s is hats with the brim-
Whitney: Yes! Flipped up! I was just thinking I want to bring that back!
Heather: It’s so cool.

Aaron: Is this Boyz to Men?
Heather: Or All 4 One?

Scott: I want to be the snow cone distributor outside New Jack City’s crack headquarters.

Whitney: What is Judd Nelson doing in a movie??
Heather: He’s so weird looking.
Whitney: Does he die?
Scott: I can’t tell you that.
Whitney: (groan)
Scott: It’s not early on, I can tell you that.

Scott: Ice-T is wearing a little too much mascara for my taste. A little too much eye liner.

Sam: Did you see that sign? “Crack Kills.”
Whitney: It seems like it kills…everyone in New York.
Aaron: Most of the people in this movie, if they don’t die in this movie, they’ll die in a year or so.
Whitney: I think this one has the most mass destruction, then.

Aaron: All I know is, these guys aren’t very good at going under cover and acting natural.

Whitney: That was a weird trial.
Sam: There were some weird laws back then.
Whitney: Back in the 90s?

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Foreign May: Day 15 and 16

Foreign May is more than halfway over! I’m actually a little sad about that. There are still a billion foreign films I want to watch, but when there are two of us trying to choose a movie, chances are we’re going to talk each other into watching Lethal Weapon 2 again instead of Revanche or something.

May 15th: Knife in the Water

See, look at that. How can that shot not be hiding a deeper meaning that I'm not smart enough to get?

I’m still reading about Polanski’s debut feature, but it’s been hard to find anything substantial in the more accessible reviews. Most people are writing about the DVD release, which means they get away with two sentence observations about the entire movie and a list of the features. I feel like I need to read some deeper analysis before I really comment on the movie because I may be missing something. It’s one of those movies that are so simple and uncontrived that I don’t trust my understanding. I loved the performances. I loved the slight build of tension when you put three people on a boat together with no where to escape. And I loved the suspicion that underlies every action and phrase. I was most impressed by the way Polanski increases the tension without the aid of eerie music or, even, behavior. The characters almost seem at ease with each other on the surface, but we feel their distrust in the silences between what they say. Each light of a match or play of a card feels sinister. And yet nothing very “sinister” ever happens. Sure, an affair isn’t ideal, but nothing nefarious ever takes place besides the potential betrayal of trust that no one has for each other in the first place.

To me, Knife in the Water seemed like a very accessible, straightforward film without any hidden Freudian undertones, and that’s where I’m getting hung up. There must be something more that I’m missing because this is Polanski and Polanski operates just under the surface. So I’ll get back to this one.

May 16th: Smiles of a Summer Night

Here’s another film that seems uncharacteristic of the director. But apparently, Bergman was going through some personal hard times and his producer told him that if this movie didn’t succeed financially he wouldn’t finance any more of the director’s films. As a result, Smiles of a Summer Night is far more accessible than any other Bergman I’ve seen, and while I love anything and everything this man has come up with, the humor of this movie was totally welcome.

The relationships are as complicated as a Shakespearian comedy and character development isn’t lost in all the twists and turns. Everyone is fairly likable and no one has deep-seated issues with God. The men are, of course, somewhat inefficient and impotent – not that they realize it – and the women must plot around male egos to get what they want. I have to go back to dog walking now, so just read Pauline Kael’s review for the Criterion disc.

What is that? What is that? A smile?? Bergman...what?

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