The Box

“The first week after “”fall back”” is always so trippy. I went to the early movie (12:30!) and outside looks like I just got back from the 4:00ish show. WTF?

Kinda apprehensive about going to see The Box, the latest offering from Richard Kelly. Wasn’t sure where it’d fit on the Donnie Darko to Southland Tales spectrum (his two previous films). Although really excited about actually being able to see one his films on the big screen. Speaking of, before I go further, I hear there’s a midnight Donnie Darko at Coolige Corner. Extremely tempted, but wont go that far that late by myself. If anyone is actually reading this and wants to go, drop me a line. End tangent.

Verdict? It was no Donnie Darko (and I never really expect anything else to ever be) but I really enjoyed it. I think Kelly learned a lot from …Tales about what does and doesnt work, and how to try to recapture that Darko feel without trying too hard. The story was a lot more streamlined for the most part. I could follow it, but was still surprised by every turn (even ones I saw coming). There was a good chunk of it, though, that didnt really make much sense. At that point, I stopped trying to figure it out, then stopped trying to follow, and just tried to absorb as much as I could to process later once we saw where everything ended up. That proved to be an effective strategy. It wrapped up pretty well, and from reading up on it later, I think I was as close as I was ever gonna get to figure out that weirdness.

I got to wondering what Kelly’s feeling towards this whole thing is. Is there a deep meaning behind every little detail, or does he just think its kinda cool? After reading this article on IMDB, it seems like he just thinks its cool, trying to add a sci-fi element to the story. I can totally respect and understand that. I’ve had hour long conversations about Donnie Darko on multiple occasions, and could possibly do that for The Box as well. I kinda like knowing that at the end of those discussions, there really isnt a right or wrong answer. Hell, even if I sat down with Richard Kelly for an hour (which would be OMG amazing), Im not sure I’d get anywhere further than I am now.

To go a bit deeper down the philosophical rabbit hole, another thing that I really liked is that while a lot of it is kinda effed up, there’s a logical sense to it, like its not as messed up as it seems. Or at least there’s reason behind why things went down the way they did. Yeah Im prolly not making any \m/ sense. I’ll move on.

Really liked the cast–Camerian Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella. They all fit quite well. Diaz and Marsden were so believable that I kinda came close to almost crying at the end. Also thought the setting gave such a great feel to the movie.

I think it was a Sat afternoon well spent. Def worth a watch if you like Donnie Darko, just dont expect it to be as good.

The Box – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n (I’ll likely round it up to 4 when I lable the DVD I’ll inevitably get)”

On the Waterfront (AFI #19)

“Trying to squeeze in another AFI movie today wasnt such the best idea. I was fighting to stay awake. I prolly coulda really gotten into this movie otherwise. Needless to say, this write up is likely to be short.

So I was on a bit of a Brando kick after watching Streetcar this morning, which is why I chose the movie that won him his first Oscar. As expected, he was fan-\m/-tastic, but I think I prefer his Streetcar role.

Noticed a few other actors from this week’s AFI films. Karl Malden, won did win an Oscar for Streetcar, was in this as well as two jurors from 12 Angry Men. Also noteworthy, this is Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.

‘Member how I was saying one of the cool things about this project is hearing classic quotes in context? On the Waterfront gave us “”I coulda been a contender””. Did not expect that. For some reason, I’d always assumed that was from Rocky. I feel educated now. And sleepy. Bed time.”

Platoon (AFI #86)

“I actually bought this movie a while back. There was an episode of Entourage where some movie mogul said that his daughter was the one with the real eye for talent. She was about 8 when she saw Platoon and pointed out Johnny Depp to her daddy saying that he was the one to watch out for. Being on a Johnny Depp kick at the time, I picked it up. Tried watching it once, but couldnt get into it. Couldnt really get into it today either.

There wasnt much narrative to it, it was mostly montages of war scenes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I just like to be told a story. I also dont typically care for war films (Private Ryan being an exception). Example: I absolutely \m/ love the first half of Full Metal Jacket (which came out around when Platoon did). But once they get to ‘Nam it loses me. Now, there were some outside factors involved in why I didnt quite groove with the movie. If you remember, a few weeks ago I had this big saga with trying to get a second cat and then it didnt happen. Today I emailed the shelter I got Lestat from, and right after I started the movie got a response. There was some on and off phone calling about that. The good news is I should be meeting some potential kitties next week. So understandable that I had other things on my mind during this film.

What I did like was the cast. Mostly, I was just amused by how young they all look. There’s some killer cast people in this: Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Dillon. This was the first time I actually noticed the family resemblance between Charlie Sheen and his bro Emilio Estevez. Kinda got me giggling. Then Kevin Dillon gave a line, and my first thought was that it was Matt Dillon. At which point I put two and two together for the first time and realized they’re bros (IMDB confirmed it). Kevin was def my favorite in this movie. Some of it was amusement at seeing a much younger Johnny Drama on screen. But I was just drawn to his character.

Gonna try to get some time in with my guitar to clear my head before attacking a third today.”

A Streetcare Named Desire (AFI #47)

“I’ve been curious about this one for a while. As a theater person, I tend to hear the play mentioned often (especially back in my theater classes), and as a movie person, I tend to see references to it. Yet another reason I think this project was a good idea. So that now I actually have a clue what these peeps are talking about.

Some time ago I found an interview with Edward Norton (for those not in the know, Norton is my fave actor) where he said the reason he did The Score back in ’01 is cause he didnt want to walk by the poster one day and see someone else’s name listed with Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. I now completely understand. I’ve had mad respect for Marlon Brando since I first saw the Godfather. That just increased times a thousand. I was just drawn to him every time he was on screen. And I had to watch that “”Hey Stella!!”” scene again once I’d finished the movie.

I think the biggest downside to this whole Amazon Rental thing is that there’s no subtitles. Its been a habit of mine for years now to always turn on the subtitles when watching a DVD, to be sure I dont miss any important dialogue. Started that when I first saw Donnie Darko (my all time third fave flick). Immediately once the credits hit, I backtracked to the first chapter, turned on the subtitles, and watched the whole thing over. Didnt make much more sense that time, but the habit stuck. It also comes in handy when watching movies at home with my Daddy. My mom has a tendancy to wander in the room and talk loudly about nothing. With the subtitles on, we didnt miss any of whatever we were watching (usually 24). But for Streetcar, between how fast Vivien Leigh (I didnt even recognize her until I IMDB-ed it) talks and Brando’s manner of speaking I lost so much of the dialogue, which made me really sad.

There was a lot I didnt get, and some I didnt care about. I was far more interested in Stanley (Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) than I was in Blanche (Leigh). I perked up whenever Brando was on screen, and lost interest whenever he and Hunter were both absent. There were also some subtleties that I didnt catch onto until I read about them afterward. Apparently a lot of stuff got censored from the original play, which is what led to a lot of confusion. Also, the ending didnt make much sense to me until I heard what it was originally supposed to be. Dont you hate it when Hollywood does that?

Now for the part where I tie the movie into some really bad current film that I love for some reason. This time, Hollywood Homicide. Comedy with Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford where they play cops with career interests other than LAPD. Ford is trying to be a realtor, and Hartnett wants to be an actor. Throughout the film, he’s practicing for a showcase where he’ll be playing Stanley in Streetcar. He’s constantly walking away yelling “”STEEELLLAAAAAA””. Yeah kinda had that image in the back of my head everytime Brando said the name. But no contest that Brando did it waaaaay better”

The Graduate (AFI #17)

“Got started on this one late. The plan was gonna be to finish the penultimate episode of Numb3rs season 5 that I fell asleep to last night. Then watch a movie. Then finish Numb3rs while going to sleep. Buuuut that episode ended on a cliffhanger, so I had to finish it all off. Now that that’s done, I hopefully wont be as distracted. I still have season 4 of My Name Is Earl to go thru, and a few assorted non-AFI movies I picked up recently, but I dont forsee getting too wrapped up in them.

Right. The Graduate. Highest ranking movie on the project so far. I get kinda nervous talking about the classic ones like this. If I dont like one of these “”best movies of all time”” do I lose my street cred as a movie afficionado? But the fact remains that sometimes I just dont “”get”” it. Kinda the situation here. Now there were a lot of things I did love about it, and I’ll get to those later. Lets just get the yuck outta the way, shall we?

The movie lost me just about halfway in. It didnt seem like it was gonna go anywhere. I kinda spaced thru much of the next bit. And I also had a really hard time being sympathetic toward Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman’s character). I have mad respect for Dustin Hoffman. He is way up on my list of favorites. C’mon, who doesnt love Rain Man? Although I think I first saw him in Hook. I heart that movie now, but it scared me when I first watched. Well, the scene with the scorpion box scared me. I digress. Shiny things distract me. Back now. What I loved were a bunch of little things. And while there are more of those little things, they dont seem to add up to enough to get over the somewhat boring (to me at least…dont hit me) plot.

What did I like? The director, Mike Nichols. Some of those shots are simply iconic–the scuba thing and of course, the shot thru Mrs Robinson’s leg during the classic “”Mrs Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?””. And the dialogue free shots were just beautiful. Great images with a really soothing soundtrack from Simon and Garfunkel. To be honest, they’re a bit too mellow for my taste, but it fit the movie well. And hearing them always makes me think of a buddy of mine, who once told me she and her sister were not allowed to be on the same team when playing Taboo because they’d use Simon and Garfunkel lyrics as clues.

While I may not have liked the character much, I did like Dustin Hoffman’s performance. He played awkward so well, I felt uncomfortable for him. That aspect grabbed me right away. I think it was because of that party scene at the beginnig, which felt almost too real for me. When I go home, I feel like Im in that same situation with my parent’s friends. They all wanna talk to the MIT graduate. Half the time I feel like Im being interviewed by Jay Leno, but I didnt do anything special. Needless to say, at that point I was behind Benjamin. It just didnt last long.

Also wonderful performance from Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson. Although I know her better as Ben Stiller’s mom in Keeping The Faith (great flick if ya havent seen it). But there’s one random actor I need to point out. During the scuba scene, I was thinking that William Daniels’ (Benjamin’s dad) voice sounded incredibly familiar, but I couldnt place it. And with the hat and glasses, I couldnt recognize his face either. I checked IMDB. Name didnt ring a bell. Clicked on him anyway. Oh my \m/ God, its Mr Feeny from Boy Meets World!! I almost dropped my laptop, I was laughing so hard. Okay now, everyone all together “”Fee-nay. Fee-hee-hee-hee-nay!””

Guess thats about it for this one. That brings the total up to 14/100. Still a ways to go”

12 Angry Men (AFI #87)

“I think I’ve finally figured out the most comfortable setup for watching movies on my laptop. Tonight, I piled up the big blankets into a little mountain. Topped it with a strategically placed pillow. Snuggled up into the little fleece blanket. Placed the laptop in enough to leave me with leg stretching room. Then called the kitty over to cuddle while watching. (Here she is!). I was so comfy I didnt move, and even my computer kept trying to fall asleep.

Maybe part of the reason I was pratically immobilized is that I was completely absorbed by the film. I’d seen a stage production back home, so I already knew how it was gonna go down. But still I was captivated. All the characters and performances felt so real. I found myself IMDB-ing all of the actors, trying to find where I knew them from. Turns out, I didnt actually know any of ’em, they just had a \m/ belivable “”everyman”” quality, which makes quite a statement for this film.

Found some interesting trivia on this one too. Something I hadnt actually noticed until it was pointed out, early on the film starts out with a lot of wide angle shots. They get moved in closer and closer over the course of the film to create a claustrophobic feeling. Very effective. Also, a lot of the stuff the jurors do while deliberating (namely getting the extra knife and reenacting the guy shuffling in his apartment) is apparently referred to as “”jury experiments”” and can be grounds for mistrial. Huh.

I feel like I should be writing more about the film, but it was so pared down (which was one of its best qualities) that I cant think of much else. Also, Lestat is yelling at me for dinner, so I should go fix that. Anyways, the goal for this week is to get to 20 by the end of Sunday. This one puts me at 13. I have a plan/schedule. I just need to stick to it.”

Jaws (AFI #56)

“I really should stop trying to get a movie in on Fri nights. I fell asleep again. And again that is not a commentary on the movie at all. Finished it off this morning, but had to postpone blogging until after running errands for BYOP. Wasnt worth cutting into my zipcar res time.

Anyhoo, such a great movie. No, it didnt actually scare me (that takes a lot) but it did hit some of the key elements for a good horror film. Spielberg was a master when it came to creating suspense, and a lot of that was apparently by accident. The first half of the movie is incredibly effective because you dont see the shark. Turns out they only did it that way because the shark-bot was malfunctioning half the time. Just think, if the shark had worked properly, the movie would not have been nearly as good (and I know Im not the only one of that opinion).

The realism of the movie was another plus. This wasn’t about some mythical being or a psycho is some specific set of circumstances. The villain was a natural creature, killing indiscriminently based on instinct. Its a lot easier to scare people when they can actually believe in what’s trying to scare them.

John Williams’ score was fantastic (but we knew that). It built suspense, but also created a sense of adventure. I swear, there were a few times I thought I was watching the Goonies or Pirates of the Carribbean.

Im just 12 movies into the list, but I’ve already noticed something really cool and unexpected. Watching these movies makes me appreciate the movies I love even more. Okay so Im watching the scene where Quint and Hooper start comparing scars. At some point, Hooper says “”I got that beat. I got that beat”” Im thinking ‘I know that’ Then I think ‘hey they were just talking about permanent scars…no way…put your leg on the table. Put your leg on the table! Holy \m/’ That scene was parodied in Chasing Amy, which is one of my all time favorites, and prolly my second fave Kevin Smith movie after Clerks. Although in Amy they were talking about scars that were, um, acquired doing something else. As is, that might be my favorite scene in Amy, cause it just sticks with you. I had no idea it was a spoof. That makes it ten times better.

Also got an unexpected funny early on when we got to the “”that’s some bad hat Harry”” line. Anyone who watches House knows why that’s relevant.

Well, off to spooky up the Hellmouth for BYOP tonight!”

Rear Window (AFI #48)

“Back on track, after a two day break due to DWTS watching. Sadly, my boy Louie has been eliminated, which means the show will no longer be interfering with this blog.

Trying to get in a few of the suspenseful and scary films this week, prepping for Halloween this weekend. Figured a Hitchcock movie was a good place to start. Those are some of the ones Im most stoked about on the list. Up til today, Psycho was the only one of his I’ve seen (which I absolutely love) and Ive really been meaning to check the rest out. If nothing else, it’ll make that Hitchcock Halloween trivia episode of That 70’s Show make that much more sense. If you’re a fan of the show, you should really check it out. Season 3, I think, or 2. One of those season’s Halloween episodes was called “”Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young To Die””. Maybe this one? You’ll know you got the right one if Fez is dressed as Frankenfurter, not Batman. Moving on.

Side bit of trivia before I get started. According to IMDB trivia, Rear Window is NPH’s favorite movie. Yay!

This one stayed consistent with the feeling I’ve had towards most of the movies on the list. Started great, slowed down in the middle, sensational ending. I think in this case, the expectations were set just a smidge too high. I’d expected it to be a bit faster paced and more suspenseful throughout. However, those last 15 minutes or so proved exactly why Hitchcock is the master of his genre. I really was at the edge of my seat with my heart pounding.

Another thing that grew on me was the set. At first, it seemed a little too fake. But it worked so beautifully with the film. I love how everything was done from the protagonist’s apartment. You only saw what he could feasibly see. And you know that helpless feeling you get when you’re watching a movie and you want to warn the characters that there’s someone on the other side of the door? This time, you actually had someone on screen to share that feeling with, which was just genius. Im really looking foward to the other movies old Alfred’s got for me this fall.

Also worth mentioning that this was my first introduction to Grace Kelly. Oh my God that woman is gorgeous. I now understand every compliment that’s ever been said about her. Absolutely adored her. And this was James Stewart’s first appearance on the list. He’ll be popping up quite a bit more.

Final thought, although this may be a long thought. I wanna talk a bit about Rear Window vs Disturbia. Yeah, that silly movie with Shia LaBeouf where he thinks David Morse is his friendly neighborhood serial killer. Disturbia was very losely based on Rear Window: guy confined to his house watches the neighbors for entertainment, and thinks his neighbor killed someone. Now Disturbia wasnt anywhere near as smart and well crafted as Rear Window, but it is worth a watch if it interests you. Much more faster paced (definitely a plus for me) but more for today’s audience, particularly the younger crowd. Not saying there’s anything wrong with Rear Window. Its by far the superior of the two and I’d definitely recommend it first. But Disturbia takes just enough influence from it balanced with enough creative license that it works. I really enjoyed it when I first saw it, and I gave it another watch a few weeks ago and also got really into. Dont know how I woulda felt about it if I saw Rear Window first though. Anyways, I just thought this was an appropriate chance to plug an underappreciated flick.”

Pulp Fiction (AFI #94)

“I \m/ love this movie. Quentin Tarantino is a movie god, and hands down my \m/ favorite director. I just love every aspect of this movie. Serioulsy, Tarantino is a \m/ genius. I have no idea how he comes up with these stories. And I love the gritty feel and the funky music (which I just added to my download list) and the fantastic cast and just everything. I wont argue with anyone who says its Tarantino’s best, but to be honest I actually prefer Reservoir Dogs. Mostly I just prefer the story.

I also like some of the subtle interconnectedness with Reservoir Dogs, the big one being that Vincent Vega is Vic Vega’s (Mr Blonde) brother. There’s also one theory about the case that the contents are the diamonds from ‘Dogs. Personally, I prefer the theory that its Marsellus Wallace’s soul. I just dont think the characters would react to the contents the same way if it weren’t something priceless and incredible.

Watching it again, I was thinking that I sorta wish I could be watching it for the first time. And then I wished I could be watching it a theater. In particular, I was thinking about Christopher Walken’s speech and how out of nowhere it is. I just wanted to feel that initial shock again.

And such killer dialogue thru the whole \m/ movie. The opening sequence is brilliant, as are all of Tarantino’s openers, and it just gets better as it goes on. While there are so many quick-witted quotes to chose from, I actually do have a favorite, and its one that has a lot of personal meaning to me: “”Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?…That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”” Those of you who know me know that Im usually very quiet. If I dont have something worth saying, I keep my mouth shut. I’ve seen some of my friends get used to that slowly over time. And yeah, it is special once you have that unspoken understanding.

Geez, throughout the whole thing I kept on noticing stuff I wanted to point out, but now Im just basking in the awesome and I cant remember the rest of my points. And Im also a bit sad that I didnt get to do the Tarantino-esque production of Bat Boy I’d wanted to direct. Maybe in another five years when it comes back around.”

The Maltese Falcon (AFI #31)

“Here’s another one where I expected something completely different. I thought a story about someone searching for a priceless statue would be more of an adventure. I guess Humphrey Bogart’s outfit on the movie poster gave me too much of an Indianna Jones vibe. Turns out, this was actually a mystery–film noir to be more specific, but a real fun one at that.

It did hit on every noir cliche, but I suppose this is the movie that was best at it. I actually was really intrigued by the story, and I liked the falcon being at the center of the murder mystery.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the AFI flicks so far: they all have really good endings. No, Im not getting spoilery, but so far most of these films have wrapped up very nicely with conclusions that I absolutely agree with. This was another one of those.

Should also point out that this was my first introduction to the illustrious Humphrey Bogart. I didnt even know it was him, til halfway through the movie I was so impressed that I couldnt wait to IMDB him. And suddenly his reputation made sense. He was suave yet sharp and slick and smart. He delivered his brilliant one liners with ease, and he just has this breathtaking confidence about him. We’ll be seeing more of him this fall. I think he’s got another 3 on the list, including, of course, Casablanca.

Not really much else to say about this one. It was pretty \m/ close to flawless.”