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December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting 
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
I'm going to be testing out my new rating system in this thread.

Movie: Philomena
Director: Frears
Grade: C

I actually liked Philomena, quite a bit even. The acting is uniformly superb and the film takes a very harsh stance against the Catholic Church. I give it a C because it doesn't try to anything new. There aren't any interesting shots. There aren't any memorable sequences. It's simply good storytelling told without a whole lot of flair. In other words: it's average.

Movie: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Director: Van Groeningen (Belgium)
Grade: C

This film actually ripped my heart into pieces. The Broken Circle Breakdown tries a little harder than Philomena to do noteworthy things, but it also fails a little harder. It chronicles a relationship that's mired with child-related problems, of which all the heartache is derived from. On a storytelling level, this one loses points for being told out of chronology. That's a technique that should be reserved for films that know how to use it and I'm not sure this qualifies. The jumbled mess of a narrative serves... what? The mental state of the parents? The disparate lifestyle choices? The screenplay? I don't like the choice Van Groeningen made, but I'm sure he's a-okay with it. It just seems like he forgets that he's telling the story in a certain way and the jumps in time are jarring and meh. In other words: it's a different kind of average, but it's average.

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Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:46 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Pedro wrote:
I'm going to be testing out my new rating system in this thread.

Movie: Philomena
Director: Frears
Grade: C

I actually liked Philomena, quite a bit even. The acting is uniformly superb and the film takes a very harsh stance against the Catholic Church. I give it a C because it doesn't try to anything new. There aren't any interesting shots. There aren't any memorable sequences. It's simply good storytelling told without a whole lot of flair. In other words: it's average.

Movie: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Director: Van Groeningen (Belgium)
Grade: C

This film actually ripped my heart into pieces. The Broken Circle Breakdown tries a little harder than Philomena to do noteworthy things, but it also fails a little harder. It chronicles a relationship that's mired with child-related problems, of which all the heartache is derived from. On a storytelling level, this one loses points for being told out of chronology. That's a technique that should be reserved for films that know how to use it and I'm not sure this qualifies. The jumbled mess of a narrative serves... what? The mental state of the parents? The disparate lifestyle choices? The screenplay? I don't like the choice Van Groeningen made, but I'm sure he's a-okay with it. It just seems like he forgets that he's telling the story in a certain way and the jumps in time are jarring and meh. In other words: it's a different kind of average, but it's average.


I don't like your rating system already. I'm a teacher, and Cs aren't actually "average" grades. If failing is a 69, and a C starts at a 73, that's a bad grade

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Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:13 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
JamesKunz wrote:

I don't like your rating system already. I'm a teacher, and Cs aren't actually "average" grades. If failing is a 69, and a C starts at a 73, that's a bad grade


What kind of grades are those?! 60's passing and C's start at 70.

Or are they weird voodoo Kunzie grades


Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:34 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
JamesKunz wrote:
I don't like your rating system already. I'm a teacher, and Cs aren't actually "average" grades. If failing is a 69, and a C starts at a 73, that's a bad grade

I'd wager you won't like it any more upon further exposure. That's okay. I do appreciate the feedback, though. My long term goal is to isolate which films really took the time and effort to be something extraordinary. I don't think Philomena or The Broken Circle Breakdown qualify.

I will say: some students are perfectly content with Cs.

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Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:38 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Pedro wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
I don't like your rating system already. I'm a teacher, and Cs aren't actually "average" grades. If failing is a 69, and a C starts at a 73, that's a bad grade

I'd wager you won't like it any more upon further exposure. That's okay. I do appreciate the feedback, though. My long term goal is to isolate which films really took the time and effort to be something extraordinary. I don't think Philomena or The Broken Circle Breakdown qualify.

I will say: some students are perfectly content with Cs.


The latter is unfortunately very, very true. :(

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Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:40 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Yeah, if I hadn't read the write-ups, I would have thought you found both films bad (on my scale the write-ups would sound like they're B-).


Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:44 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Back in the days of LiveJournal (2004-2005), I wrote movie reviews and used a letter grading system, but therein lied a problem. When I was in school, I was a perfectionist, always gunning for A's and disappointed whenever I came up short. For me, this didn't sync up so well with reviewing movies because a lot of filmmakers don't even aim that high (apologies to those who do). They'd be happy with a B- from a critic but I sure as hell wouldn't be. So I ditched it and went to the tried-and-true 4-star system.

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Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:03 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
KWRoss wrote:
Back in the days of LiveJournal (2004-2005), I wrote movie reviews and used a letter grading system, but therein lied a problem. When I was in school, I was a perfectionist, always gunning for A's and disappointed whenever I came up short. For me, this didn't sync up so well with reviewing movies because a lot of filmmakers don't even aim that high (apologies to those who do). They'd be happy with a B- from a critic but I sure as hell wouldn't be. So I ditched it and went to the tried-and-true 4-star system.

The problem I've been having with most rating systems is that readers aren't as inclined to, well, read. They just look at the rating grade and go, "Well, okay." I admire film critics who get by on words alone. I can't do that. :(

It's true: a lot of filmmakers don't aim that high. If I were to review Hollywood's 2013 output, it'd be a lot of Cs and Ds, with a fair share of Fs. If I were to review the Criterion Collection library... it'd be different to say the least.

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Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:46 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
2013 has actually been a pretty good year for movies. It'd be more like a lot of B's IMO.


Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:01 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
I tried using a rating system in the beginning, but I found that it was much easier to just say what I thought about the film without using a arbitrary letter/number grade, I feel my words can speak better for themselves without shoehorning in a grade.


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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
First two of the month this weekend:

Out of the Furnace **1/2

Scott Cooper turned in what is likely the biggest botch of excellent material this year. It's a movie that's seemingly tailor-made for greatness, or at least very goodness, which Cooper manages to turn into something just slightly above average. There's a handful of really good actors that give really good performances (outside of Forest Whitaker, who is horribly miscast more so than bad) and a script that, while somewhat standard in terms of how the plot unfolds, is full of ideas that are brought into focus through its characters. There's even a really smart opening scene that sets the film's tone and introduces the theme. Then Cooper infuses the rest of the film with so pretentiousness and self-importance that it becomes hard to take anything seriously. There's long, drawn out slo-mo shots of characters in moments of tension, over-explanatory dialogue, imagery that thinks it's profound, and might be if it wasn't beaten into your mind like the deadest of dead horses, and a Deer Hunter reference that's so overt it feels more like theft than homage.

The raw materials for a really good movie are here, it's just assembled terribly.

Frozen ***

There's not much to say about this one - it follows the old-school Disney formula, has a few cute/funny side characters that will sell some merchandise (cynical but true), and a solid message about love and sisterhood. It's enjoyable in a light way, even if some of the songs don't totally work, and there's never really a threat from a villain.


Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:09 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
PeachyPete wrote:
Out of the Furnace **1/2

Scott Cooper turned in what is likely the biggest botch of excellent material this year. It's a movie that's seemingly tailor-made for greatness, or at least very goodness, which Cooper manages to turn into something just slightly above average. There's a handful of really good actors that give really good performances (outside of Forest Whitaker, who is horribly miscast more so than bad) and a script that, while somewhat standard in terms of how the plot unfolds, is full of ideas that are brought into focus through its characters. There's even a really smart opening scene that sets the film's tone and introduces the theme. Then Cooper infuses the rest of the film with so pretentiousness and self-importance that it becomes hard to take anything seriously. There's long, drawn out slo-mo shots of characters in moments of tension, over-explanatory dialogue, imagery that thinks it's profound, and might be if it wasn't beaten into your mind like the deadest of dead horses, and a Deer Hunter reference that's so overt it feels more like theft than homage.

The raw materials for a really good movie are here, it's just assembled terribly.


This seems to be the general opinion floating around. I was thinking about taking the time to see it, but all the lukewarm reactions have convinced me it's not really worth it.

So far I've seen two films in theaters this month: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, both I which I really enjoyed, the latter especially.

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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Man, Pete, you've made me extremely unenthusiastic about Out of the Furnace. I might put that one off for a while.

Movie: Nebraska
Director: Payne
Grade: B

I'm not sure if I'm in a minority, but I think Nebraska is Alexander Payne's best work. It nails a lot of the details that come with living in a small town, although many of the supporting characters are little more than caricatures. That's okay, though, because the main characters are extremely well developed. Payne's got this balance of comedy and drama thing down to a science, and man is it funny. June Squibb's comedy is among the best I've seen all year. The black-and-white is more than a "it looks good" choice. Despite being present day, the small town has this old, lived-in feeling surrounding it. Whatever life was there is no longer existent. Sunday Football is about the only thing worth looking forward to. Being applauded in front of your peers/town residents at the local buffet/karaoke bar is the cherry on top of a perfectly average day. The black-and-white photography brings out the hopelessness that is their life, while at the same accentuating the beauty that is their land. Good shit.

Movie: The Great Beauty
Director: Sorrentino (Italy)
Grade: B

Italy's choice for Best Foreign Language Film is their best chance to win the award since Gomorrah came out five years ago... and that one didn't even get nominated. Welp. It's very likely this one will at least get shortlisted, if not nominated or win. It's an ambitious drama about an aging socialite who decides at 65 that he can't waste his time any further. He lapses into the past here and there, but spends a lot of time waltzing through Rome trying to recapture what the word "beauty" really means. I remember when i first saw Trainspotting I was like, "This film has a very detectable pulse." I felt the way here. The camera moves all over the damn place, the fourth wall is broken on occasion, and chiaroscuro is a very common lighting technique. It doesn't congeal in the way a lot of people have claimed, but for the most part it comes close. There's a good chunk of time, maybe an hour and a half or so, that's the pinnacle of 2013 cinema. It also has an emotionally resonant ending. Good shit.

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Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:31 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Pedro wrote:
Man, Pete, you've made me extremely unenthusiastic about Out of the Furnace. I might put that one off for a while.

Movie: Nebraska
Director: Payne
Grade: B

I'm not sure if I'm in a minority, but I think Nebraska is Alexander Payne's best work. It nails a lot of the details that come with living in a small town, although many of the supporting characters are little more than caricatures. That's okay, though, because the main characters are extremely well developed. Payne's got this balance of comedy and drama thing down to a science, and man is it funny. June Squibb's comedy is among the best I've seen all year. The black-and-white is more than a "it looks good" choice. Despite being present day, the small town has this old, lived-in feeling surrounding it. Whatever life was there is no longer existent. Sunday Football is about the only thing worth looking forward to. Being applauded in front of your peers/town residents at the local buffet/karaoke bar is the cherry on top of a perfectly average day. The black-and-white photography brings out the hopelessness that is their life, while at the same accentuating the beauty that is their land. Good shit.


His best work only gets a B? Alright, I'm trying really hard to get used to your system. In any case, I liked the movie a great deal too. I hope Dern gets the nod he richly deserves. And I love seeing Stacy Keach as a villain. I need more of that. All the time

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Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:33 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
PeachyPete wrote:
First two of the month this weekend:

Out of the Furnace **1/2

Scott Cooper turned in what is likely the biggest botch of excellent material this year. It's a movie that's seemingly tailor-made for greatness, or at least very goodness, which Cooper manages to turn into something just slightly above average. There's a handful of really good actors that give really good performances (outside of Forest Whitaker, who is horribly miscast more so than bad) and a script that, while somewhat standard in terms of how the plot unfolds, is full of ideas that are brought into focus through its characters. There's even a really smart opening scene that sets the film's tone and introduces the theme. Then Cooper infuses the rest of the film with so pretentiousness and self-importance that it becomes hard to take anything seriously. There's long, drawn out slo-mo shots of characters in moments of tension, over-explanatory dialogue, imagery that thinks it's profound, and might be if it wasn't beaten into your mind like the deadest of dead horses, and a Deer Hunter reference that's so overt it feels more like theft than homage.

The raw materials for a really good movie are here, it's just assembled terribly.

Frozen ***

There's not much to say about this one - it follows the old-school Disney formula, has a few cute/funny side characters that will sell some merchandise (cynical but true), and a solid message about love and sisterhood. It's enjoyable in a light way, even if some of the songs don't totally work, and there's never really a threat from a villain.


Out of the Furnace is a tried and true example of a film that is thinly written on big themes; so much so that it tends to buckle under all of the weight. However, I found quite a bit to like about the film. As you said, the film doesn't necessarily present anything new, and I will concede that it rubs up against The Deer Hunter in more ways than one--yet I think the film offers up a solid picture of subdued masculinity and loss. The supporting cast that forever lingers in the background is never all too stunning (except a very one-sided Harrelson), but Christian Bale is pretty great in this bare-bones role. It's kind of difficult to get inside Bale's head, but for me that made the film all the more interesting. It's hard to deny that the film sets out on a average path and does't stray to far away from that mark, but our protagonist and his loss --stemming from an incident of chance/fate/ what have you-- elevated the film for me. This guy is broken, and by the end of the film he kinda has nothing left. And that final shot just kinda works perfectly. Not to mention that it makes you reflect on the entire film. I'm not saying that such a shot makes a film good or great, but when such a shot is so effective I think its important to note. So I can definitely hear you Peachy, I guess I just found a little more there to like. I went 3/4.

Frozen on the other hand…you could say I kinda despised it in a very loving way. The songs man. THE SONGS! For the life of me I don't know how I got through them. Maybe I'm over exaggerating, but they didn't seem well written and were excrutiatingly poppy. The narrative isn't free flowing or organic, its ruled and dominated by the songs themselves. In turn, all of the scenes from the first and second act feel very compartmentalized. It doesn't really echo the nice feel of a Disney classic IMHO.

And the villain. Now that's a by the books definition of a red herring, and it just really really didn't work for me. But yea, kinda nice to see a film take a non traditional approach in its third act. I'm sure the feminist crowd will go bananas over it (Not saying anything bad about feminism mind you). Overall, Frozen just really didn't strike me. I didn't see Disney's best work on display here. I only saw mediocrity at best. Disney tends to get a pass for a plethora of reasons, but I can't give it one this time around.

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Last edited by JackBurns on Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:59 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:23 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Caught in the Web

Superb but depressing. Very depressing. Chen Kaige presents a tragedy of modern social norms very effectively. The theme is essentially the loss of privacy and the rise of ignorance in the age of viral videos, Iphones, but most of all the assumption that we all now belong to a collective social consciousness. A theme that De Palma only hinted at in Passion, but Kaige explores it pretty expansively. Like a few other Kaige movies, this one is blunt, emotional, sad. It's also done in a hyper-real, docu-esque style that I haven't seen in Kaige before (though I haven't seen all of his movies yet). What's really sad is that it never feels like Kaige is overreaching. The events depicted in the movie seem extremely plausible, especially since similar things have happened before anyway. All the characters seemed recognizable from real life. Really strong stuff.


Mon Dec 09, 2013 11:56 pm
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Vexer wrote:
I tried using a rating system in the beginning, but I found that it was much easier to just say what I thought about the film without using a arbitrary letter/number grade, I feel my words can speak better for themselves without shoehorning in a grade.


I give this post 8/10

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Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:23 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
NotHughGrant wrote:
Vexer wrote:
I tried using a rating system in the beginning, but I found that it was much easier to just say what I thought about the film without using a arbitrary letter/number grade, I feel my words can speak better for themselves without shoehorning in a grade.


I give this post 8/10

You're overrating it. That post did nothing for me except put me to sleep.

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Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:59 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
Ken wrote:
NotHughGrant wrote:
Vexer wrote:
I tried using a rating system in the beginning, but I found that it was much easier to just say what I thought about the film without using a arbitrary letter/number grade, I feel my words can speak better for themselves without shoehorning in a grade.


I give this post 8/10

You're overrating it. That post did nothing for me except put me to sleep.


I give this post 9/10 ... for humbug!

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Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:48 am
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Post Re: December 2013: The Theatrical Up-Nutting
JamesKunz wrote:
Pedro wrote:
Man, Pete, you've made me extremely unenthusiastic about Out of the Furnace. I might put that one off for a while.

Movie: Nebraska
Director: Payne
Grade: B

I'm not sure if I'm in a minority, but I think Nebraska is Alexander Payne's best work. It nails a lot of the details that come with living in a small town, although many of the supporting characters are little more than caricatures. That's okay, though, because the main characters are extremely well developed. Payne's got this balance of comedy and drama thing down to a science, and man is it funny. June Squibb's comedy is among the best I've seen all year. The black-and-white is more than a "it looks good" choice. Despite being present day, the small town has this old, lived-in feeling surrounding it. Whatever life was there is no longer existent. Sunday Football is about the only thing worth looking forward to. Being applauded in front of your peers/town residents at the local buffet/karaoke bar is the cherry on top of a perfectly average day. The black-and-white photography brings out the hopelessness that is their life, while at the same accentuating the beauty that is their land. Good shit.


His best work only gets a B? Alright, I'm trying really hard to get used to your system. In any case, I liked the movie a great deal too. I hope Dern gets the nod he richly deserves. And I love seeing Stacy Keach as a villain. I need more of that. All the time


+1 on the Stacy Keach thing. He's got a mustache tailor-made for twirling. I really like Pedro's write-up too.

JackBurns wrote:
Out of the Furnace is a tried and true example of a film that is thinly written on big themes; so much so that it tends to buckle under all of the weight. However, I found quite a bit to like about the film. As you said, the film doesn't necessarily present anything new, and I will concede that it rubs up against The Deer Hunter in more ways than one--yet I think the film offers up a solid picture of subdued masculinity and loss. The supporting cast that forever lingers in the background is never all too stunning (except a very one-sided Harrelson), but Christian Bale is pretty great in this bare-bones role. It's kind of difficult to get inside Bale's head, but for me that made the film all the more interesting. It's hard to deny that the film sets out on a average path and does't stray to far away from that mark, but our protagonist and his loss --stemming from an incident of chance/fate/ what have you-- elevated the film for me. This guy is broken, and by the end of the film he kinda has nothing left. And that final shot just kinda works perfectly. Not to mention that it makes you reflect on the entire film. I'm not saying that such a shot makes a film good or great, but when such a shot is so effective I think its important to note. So I can definitely hear you Peachy, I guess I just found a little more there to like. I went 3/4.


I agree with most of what you said here, I just didn't like it as much as you. Even the opening scene I called clever initially is something I like less and less the more I think about it. A lot of the directorial flourishes Cooper uses don't really fit the salt-of-the-earth feel the story has. Cooper tried to dress it all up too much for my taste, and the result felt a little pretentious. I'm all for directors asserting their point of view into a story, but I'm also a big believer in form matching content, and I just didn't see that here. But I definitely agree that there are a lot of really good elements in play.


Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:39 pm
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