A Serious Man

“I’d been on the fence about this one. I absolutely \m/ love the Coen bro’s dramas (Fargo, No Country…) but dont so much get their dark comedies. I’d heard some good things about it, but also didnt think I was the right target audience (Im not Jewish). Yeah, I was right.

Most of the rest of the theater (good size crowd for a Mon night) seemed to really enjoy it. I just didnt get it. Apparently it was supposed to be a Job type of story. Knowing that now, it makes some sense. But I also didnt get most of the humor, and I dont think this shiksa was supposed to.

It definitely had the WTF feel I come to expect from the Coens, in particular the end. Thats one thing I can always count on them for–a great ending. If you’re looking for closure, something wrapped up in a neat little bow, you’re not gonna get that here. But if you want a clever ending, they never disappoint. That earned it an extra half rock hands in my rating.

What I did find amusing was that the leader, Michael Stuhlbarg, seemed like a perfect cross between Eugene Levy and Quentin Tarantino. And I can honestly say I ever expected to describe someone like that. It was Levy’s look and mannerisms with Tarantino’s voice and way of talking.

Well, Im almost ashamed to give my rating for the movie, because its not that it was bad, its just that the movie was lost on me. But if I cant get into a movie, Im not gonna enjoy it, soooo

A Serious Man – \m/ \n

The Best Years of Our Lives (AFI #37)

“Gonna try to type out these next two entries with a kitty who likes walking on the keyboard. He seems particularly fond of the help key.

I was trying to come up with whatever excuses I could to push off Best Years Of Our Lives. At a glance, it didnt seem to have much going for it in my book–really old, post war drama, 3 hours long. But the fates kept pushing for it. It was in the middle of the biggest gap in the list, other than the top (I should get one of the 10-15’s in soon). Weekends are good for the long movies, especially given that I was planning to start at 6. And the DVD was hanging out in the stack. I was gonna hafta get to it eventually so I put it on. I was quite pleansantly surprised.

The movie’s about 3 war vets (WWII I think) who meet on the flight back to their home town. And it follows them as they adjust to their new life. Yeah, it didnt sound that interesting to me either. But those three characters (and the rest of ’em really) were just fascinating. And their stories were so gripping.

My favorite of the three was Homer played by Harold Russell. He actually won two Oscars for the role–best supporting actor and a special Oscar for being an inspiration to war vets–the only person to ever get two for one role. He’s an actual double amputee, who lost his arms in an accident while training paratroopers. They rewrote the role especially for him. Originally his character was supposed to have had some type of PTSD. He was just fabulous and I absolutely fell in love with him.

I’d actually started this one last night, but there were some distractions (not entirely kitty related this time) that kept me from finishing it. At some point after I’d started it, I realized I hadnt checked Best Buy’s sales this week and found a _really_ good deal on an HDTV and Blu-Ray player. So I ended up calling home to discuss with my Daddy. And this morning I went to Best Buy and bought them. The tv is being delivered on Wed. Im excited.

Finding a chance to finish the movie was a bit of a predicament. I had plans for this evening, and didnt wanna hafta wait til Tuesday. I was working from home today, which usually results in me putting on a movie for background entertainment. Even though I knew I wouldnt be able to catch everything this way, I just had to know how it ended so I watched while I was working. Not the best option, but I really didnt feel like being patient.”

American Graffiti (AFI #62)

“I cant quite get my head around the fact that this movie was directed by George Lucas–yes, that George Lucas. Its just such a different style. The one thing he gets mega points for on the directorial front with this film, is that (acc to IMDB) he’d do a lot of single take scenes. The actors would sometimes flub lines, but as long as they stayed in character, that was the shot that was used (examples are when Carol gets hit by a water balloon and also when Terry brings the booze to Debbie in the car). Adds a lot of realism to it.

The best part of the movie was definitely the soundtrack. No contest there. Such classic oldies–Johnny B Goode, Runaway, Barbara Ann, Surfing Safari, Maybe Baby. I’ve just added all of them to my download list. Often times I wasn’t even paying attention to the scene because I was rocking out. Yeah, I know. Punk rock princess over here rocking out to oldies. Deal with it.

There wasn’t much in the way of plot, which meant that I’d lose interest here and there. But I did really like some of the characters. Milner was my favorite. Definitely perked up whenever he was on screen. And points for Harrison Ford, singing One Enchanted Evening (just the beginning of the clip).

While the plot didnt quite grab me, I found it really intriguing as a period piece. The 60’s is easily my favorite decade that I didnt live through. Although I usually like the stylized uber colorful version (think Hairspray). But this was a great real vision of the decade. I was also fascinated (that word choice seems strange) by the whole cruising concept. I dont think I’d ever really seen that before. Growing up I used to always hear about teens crusing down San Bernardo back home, and I never understood what was so special about it that it was such a big thing. Now I get it. Do the kids still even do that anymore?”

The Wild Bunch (AFI #79)

“Its kinda unfair to this movie that it got picked for today. I could not pay attention at all. Reason? New Kitty. Yup, the cat hunt saga finally came to an end this morning. Nosferatu Sylar is six months and the sweetest little thing ever. I just hope it doesnt take Lestat too long to make friends with him.

I really dont have any comments on the movie itself. I kept on having to stop and restart due to kittyness (and laundry). What I should do is rewatch it later. But given that I dont particularly go for westerns, Im not sure that I’d end up paying more attention to it anyway. And even when I was able to sit thru a good chunk of it, it wasnt quite grabbing me.

So, Wild Bunch, I am sorry, but you have been defeated by an itteh bitteh kitteh.”

Duck Soup (AFI #60)

“I realized that I keep on picking movies that I want to see, and skipping over those that I have no interest in. I figured I should mix in a few of the ones that Im dreading now, before Im only left with a whole bunch of movies Im wary of. Duck Soup is one on that list.

I’d actually seen this one before. I think it was soph year that I took a (primarily) literature class called Comedy. Besides a few books and plays, there were a few movies we watched. Since I couldnt make most of the screenings, I half.com-ed them, which turned out well since 3 of those are on the AFI list: The Philadelphia Story, City Lights, and Duck Soup. I’d also ended up getting Noises Off and His Girl Friday. And we saw Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill (which was my favorite part of the class), but I already owned and loved that.

I totally get why this movie is considered one of the best movies of all time. The slapstick is masterful and all the puns are expertly delivered. I just dont find that stuff too funny. I laugh when a joke catches me off guard, not when I see it coming from a mile away. A lot of it was also just too non-sensical for my taste (taking a pair of scissors to every cuttable object you see? really?).

I’ve said before that plot is important to me. I like to be told a story. For this movie, the plot was very thin secondary to the comedy. It was basically there to connect all their schtick–not good for catching my interest (again, personal opinion).

I’ll close with an amusing anecdote. I heard once that when interviewing some really high up there politician (who I can’t remember right now) a reporter once asked him what his thoughts are on the situation in Freedonia, and what we can do to correct it. The politician then went on a tirade about how awful the situation was and our responsibilties toward it, blah blah blah. Yeah um, Freedonia is the ficticious country that Groucho Marx’s character is the leader of in Duck Soup. The reporter was running a bullshit test. The politician failed.”

The Men Who Stare At Goats

“New release Tuesday at Best Buy! Stopped there on my way home. Bought my first Blu-Ray: Up. No haven’t upgraded my system yet, but Disney does that combo pack thing where they give you a DVD and BluRay disc. Figured since I should hopefully be getting that hook up in a little over two weeks, it was worth buying that now. And Bones is on sale. Just got season one. I expect to lose focus on the AFI project as I try to get in episodes of Bones in between.

Enough of that. Tonight’s movie, The Men Who Stare At Goats. I went in there with zero expectations. Entertainment Weekly gave it an F (I just read the review and theyre just being whiney). This weekend it had been in the big auditorium, but tonight they moved it to a little one. And I dont typically put a lot of trust into George Clooney’s movie choices. At least for me, they’re very hit or miss. All of that equalled not such the best outlook. But we all know what happens when you go into a movie with zero expectations–I actually kinda enjoyed it.

The main comment I’ve got is WTF?! Every other minute, there was another WTF moment. Kinda felt like a Coen bro’s movie. But I was chuckling at every one of those WTF’s–as was everyone else in the overcrowded tiny theater. And there was one moment that got every last guy in the audience to groan out loud with sympathy pain. That amused me.

Most of the film didnt make sense, but I went along for the ride. Well I guess its not necessarily that it wasn’t sensical, more that it was just over the top absurd. However, I felt that our main guys, Ewan McGregor and George Clooney had enough charisma to pull it through. Was also very amused by all the “”you can be a Jedi like one of us”” talk at Ewan, who as well all know played Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequels. That got a smile outta me every time.

Props to the supporting cast as well. Kevin Spacey was a total scene stealer, and I love him for it. Also wanna point out Glen Morshower, who plays Aaron on 24. Aaron is the only character other than Jack Bauer to be in every season, and he’s one of my faves. Wasn’t particularly special in Goats, it just made me happy to see him.

Yeah, so totally didnt deserve the F that EW gave it. This is why I get upset at movie critics, and why Im scared about being an amateur one. One person’s opinion shouldnt determine the fate of a movie.

The Men Who Stare At Goats – \m/ \m/ \m/

Midnight Cowboy (AFI #43)

“Started this as soon as I got home. Thought maybe I’d be able to end it early enough to at least start another to make up for yesterday. But, as luck would have it, something was wrong with the disc and it took me a good 30-45 min to see everything in chapters 25 and 26 of the film. And Im totally kicking myself for not being a receipt saver, cause I got this from Newbury and could have gone back to exchange it. Oh wells. Rock & Roll.

Despite that set back, I really liked this one. Some of the early stuff was light and funny, but then other parts were dark and intense. But the best part–Dustin Hoffman. It seems like he moves up my respect ladder with each film I see him in. This performance is right up there with Rain Man. I could try to explain the awesome-ness of him in this role, but I think you just gotta watch it for yourself.

Jon Voight was also quite wonderful, although I really could not get over seeing him so young. And I spent about 80% of the flick trying to figure out who he looked like. I was convinced it was a current young thing, but it eventually hit me–John Schneider as Bo Duke. That revelation amused me because when I saw old school Dukes of Hazzard, I couldnt get over young John Schneider after seeing him as Jonathan Kent on Smallville. But it was great seeing Voight in one of his signature roles, instead of the type of stuff he’s been in lately. Bit of trivia about his recent work, when he was filming Holes he took Shia LaBeouf under his wing as his acting padowan. He’d give him homework assignments, making him watch classic screen performances.

Another thing in the yay! column was that I really liked the dream sequences and flashbacks. My favorite was early on when Voight was chasing Hoffman thru the subway. That sequence more than anything else up to that point really hooked me.

Not sure how intentional this was, but I found it cool how there were a lot of X’s in the movie–the windows at the apartment, the conversation about Rizzo’s dad. Reason why Im intrigued by that is the movie was originally rated X, and its the only X rated movie to have ever won Best Picture. Two years later the rating did get knocked down to R when X became almost exclusively associated with porn. I can kinda see how it woulda gotten that rating (which would be like NC-17 now) back in the late 60’s, but not so much by today’s standards.

Well Ive got a kitty crying at me for her dinner, so that’s my cue to peace out.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (AFI #50)

“While yesterday I couldnt write much about North By Northwest, I could write forever about LOTR. I had quite the obsession with it back in the day. Not even sure how it started. A couple years before I’d even heard of the movies, I tried reading the first book. I was with it until they got to Bree and then had no idea what happened after. Something compelled me to pick up the big 1000+ page three in one edition with the movie poster that came out a few months before the first movie. This time around, I was hooked by the time we got to Bree. I’ve read through that thing about 3 or 4 times cover to cover (plus a few failed attempts). I remember someone taking a look at my copy and commenting that it looked “”very well loved””. The last time I read it, I took it with me to Arizona when I spent a month in the desert for my field geology class. I figured, 1000 pages would be enough to occupy me for the month. I was done in about 2 1/2 weeks. Been thinking I should give it another whirl soon. Im finishing up the True Blood series and starting on Cirque du Freak, but Im gonna be looking for some new (well new to this year at least) reading soon.

Im gonna be using a lot of abbreviations, which should be obvious but just in case: LOTR = Lord of the Rings, FOTR = Fellowship of the Ring, TTT = The Two Towers, ROTK = Return of the King. Got it?

So if you think that’s obsessive with the book, it gets even worse with the movie. I was supposta see FOTR with a so-called friend of mine on opening day, but he ended up blowing me off. When I talked to him a few days later, he said he forgot, but that he shoulda called me the second time he saw it. Twice within the first week? Without me? Oh, it was on. I ended up beating him 5 times to 4, and on that last one we finally managed to go together. The next year, for TTT, I went 9 times–no contest, just wanted to see it again and again. I moved up to Boston just in time for ROTK, which meant I really could go to the movies anytime I wanted. I think I managed about a dozen trips to see it. I kinda lost count at some point.

Then there was all the merch. BK (Burger King) had some LOTR toys in their kids meals back when FOTR came out. I think there were 18 in the set. It was small figures of the fellowship that had interlocking stands that joined up to a big ring in the center. Each figure either lit up or talked, or if it was a really important character, he did both. I ran all over Laredo Texas for a month and managed to get the entire set. I still have them in my room back home. A few of the voice boxes dont work so good, but they’re there. On top of that, I’d constantly patroll K B Toys waiting for LOTR toys to go on sale. The way that the people at Best Buy nowadays know me cause Im there so often, thats how it was there.

Needless to say, I absolutely love the movies. In Clerks II, when they have the trilogy argument over LOTR vs Star Wars, I totally sided with the hobbit lovers. There was a point where constantly have one of them on, but it’d actually been a while since I’d last watched them. So long, that it almost felt like watching for the first time. Almost, cause I knew what little things to expect, but I did get excited for them all.

Book adaptations have the potential to go so wrong, but this one wasn’t done to make money. It was done by people who utterly loved the books so completely, that they wanted to make a good movie. Everything from the detail of the costumes to the camera tricks for the size differences is brilliant. I remember going to the LOTR exhibit at the MOS (Museum of Science) a couple times and just hanging out in that room for over an hour each time.

And the cast is fantastic. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monoghan, I love each and every last one of them. Im always struck by the extreme friendship you see portrayed by them–every time Sam runs after Frodo or Boromir runs after Merry and Pippin or Legolas teams up with Gimli–its just beautiful.

Seriously, I could just go on and on about LOTR, but I think I’ve gotten my point across for now. I hear there’s a first draft of the script for The Hobbit floating around now, that Ian McKellan has already been allowed to read. No news on who’s gonna play Bilbo yet, but Im kinda excited.”

North By Northwest (AFI #55)

“Can’t quite figure out what to say ’bout this one. It started off really intriguing. I was so ready to get caught up in the mystery and suspense. But then after a while, I just didnt care anymore. I think the problem (my own fault) was that I expected it to take a particular turn, and then it didnt. Reason for that is that the movie is referenced in Lucky Number Slevin, one of my absolute faves, and they compare Cary Grant’s predicament to Josh Hartnett’s. I guess I sorta assumed they’d end up following the same route. Not the case. Sorry, being cryptic to avoid spoilers on both ends.

To me, this felt a lot more like a James Bond movie than a Hitchcock. I know I dont know enough about either to be any sorta expert, but it sorta threw me off balance. Really dont have too much else to comment on it.

Update on the movie aquisition. I went by the Newbury Comics on Newbury and picked up a handful of movies. I found it weird that I could hardly find any of the AFI movies in their feature film section. Nearly gave up, and then I noticed there was a tiny section called “”Classics”” that had most of the movies I was missing. I’ll need to check the Fanueil Hall Newbury to see if they have a similar section I’ve missed, even though I’ve found a lot of them there already. Couldnt resist buying Streetcar, even though I’d already rented and watched it for this blog. The price was too good to pass up seeing the “”Hey Stella!”” scene again. My half.com order still hasnt come in, and Im starting to get concerned. Its been two weeks, and the status just says Confirmed, not shipped or anything. The site wont let me complain about missing items til next week. I hope they’re just slow. I should prolly try and get another order in soon. Although, I am more than halfway through acquiring movies. Nearly 3/4 of the way if you count all the Amazon rentals still available. Just wanna get as much of them bought before I start spending too much on Christmas presents this year.

Anyways, I’d planned to get two movies in tonight, but ended up falling asleep for two hours. Had especially hoped to get one of the 3 hour ones outta the way cause I thought I’d have this huge free evening. Funny how a nap can really cut into that. Think I’ll start #50 – Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the Ring and hopefully if I do crash, I’ll wake up early enough to finish it off in the morning before running to the matinee of Side Show. Besides, this is one of the movies on the list that I know best, so its okay if I end up watching a chunk of it in a sleepy stupor.”

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)”