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Last Movie You Watched 
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Nightmare Before Christmas

I hadn't seen this one since it was released theatrically. I had no recollection of anything from The Nightmare Before Christmas except for its production design, which is so strange and marvelous that it has since spawned its own industry of Halloween-themed merchandise that has appeared in shopping mall retail chains ever since. What I got upon rewatching was some illumination on what made it so popular in the first place, but also why so much of it passed from my memory.

The goal here seems to be to subvert the "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" story conceit by having Christmas hijacked by someone who intends to improve the holiday, rather than ruin it. There's a theme here concerning malaise and overzealousness which shouldn't be lost on anyone whose creative pursuits have ever been bedeviled by such troubles. Tim Burton's old friend Danny Elfman is heavily involved, so of course the music is wonderful. And there's that visual design again. Any pause screen from this movie is beautiful enough to frame.

Unfortunately, the look, the music, and the appropriation of ideas from TV holiday specials only take the film so far. Perhaps if they'd actually made it as a holiday special, with the appropriate length and plot structure, it might have worked better. (Let's forget about the obviously big budget for a minute.) That said, they made it as a feature length film, and the elegantly simple material starts to feel strained after a while. There are stake-raising conflicts here involving military weaponry and a scenery-chewing supervillain that feel particularly wrong for the film's tone, as though they were grafted on from a different story.

Trimming these subplots would have made the movie conclude well before its already short running time, but it would have made for a leaner and less schizoid tale. The Nightmare Before Christmas could have become one of the annual holiday classics, instead of the flawed but charming feature that it ended up being.

2 excellent Danny Elfman tunes out of 3 weird spiral hilltop thingies.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:54 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
It might be the reason you said or just a cultural gap, but I remembered 10 years ago when I watched this with my family, my mom wondered if it had been a short first because it's a bit meandering, and my sister got pretty bored in the middle of it. As a general animation fan then (not seriously into movies yet), I enjoyed it on that level, but I am hard pressed to remember any of the story details now.


Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:04 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
The Nightmare Before Christmas

I hadn't seen this one since it was released theatrically. I had no recollection of anything from The Nightmare Before Christmas except for its production design, which is so strange and marvelous that it has since spawned its own industry of Halloween-themed merchandise that has appeared in shopping mall retail chains ever since. What I got upon rewatching was some illumination on what made it so popular in the first place, but also why so much of it passed from my memory.

The goal here seems to be to subvert the "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" story conceit by having Christmas hijacked by someone who intends to improve the holiday, rather than ruin it. There's a theme here concerning malaise and overzealousness which shouldn't be lost on anyone whose creative pursuits have ever been bedeviled by such troubles. Tim Burton's old friend Danny Elfman is heavily involved, so of course the music is wonderful. And there's that visual design again. Any pause screen from this movie is beautiful enough to frame.

Unfortunately, the look, the music, and the appropriation of ideas from TV holiday specials only take the film so far. Perhaps if they'd actually made it as a holiday special, with the appropriate length and plot structure, it might have worked better. (Let's forget about the obviously big budget for a minute.) That said, they made it as a feature length film, and the elegantly simple material starts to feel strained after a while. There are stake-raising conflicts here involving military weaponry and a scenery-chewing supervillain that feel particularly wrong for the film's tone, as though they were grafted on from a different story.

Trimming these subplots would have made the movie conclude well before its already short running time, but it would have made for a leaner and less schizoid tale. The Nightmare Before Christmas could have become one of the annual holiday classics, instead of the flawed but charming feature that it ended up being.

2 excellent Danny Elfman tunes out of 3 weird spiral hilltop thingies.


That's a sad thing about growing older - you realise that beyond wacky ideas and lush visuals, there's precious little substance behind Burton.

Even Beetljuice at diminished when I watched it 12 months ago, and I thought that would live forever in my higher echelons.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:30 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
I would definitely agree with that. In fact, my lingering impression from rewatching Batman Returns is my surprise that it didn't fall victim to those issues, at least not in the same degree as Burton's other films from that time period.

I'm not sure he can be faulted for those weaknesses in The Nightmare Before Christmas, though. His sketches and story ideas were expanded into a film by others, and by all accounts he was too busy with other projects to get involved. I also doubt that the more glaring parts of the story are things that would have been there if he'd been involved. Those conventional conflict devices I highlighted just don't seem like his style.

I'm not a Burton hater by any means. The ways in which he's distinctive are mostly positive. We're hurting for directors who bring an original style to their work. We're hurting for directors who bring style to their work, period. Whatever deficiencies he might have as a story craftsman, the worlds Burton creates are his own... and maybe a little bit Danny Elfman's. He and Burton seem to be the visual and musical lobes of one brain.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:04 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Emperor's New Groove

It's a short, simple story: The emperor of an unnamed kingdom gets transformed into a llama, and has to team up with a peasant in order to find a way to change back. Of course, they become friends along the way and learn things about each other. I'll admit I don't go to children's movies in the theater; I don't like to be in the theater with kids. As a result, I've missed some films that are good, and at the very least entertaining. The Emperor's New Groove is an entertaining film with dashes of humor. Not a Disney classic, but it's all right.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:49 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
The Emperor's New Groove

It's a short, simple story: The emperor of an unnamed kingdom gets transformed into a llama, and has to team up with a peasant in order to find a way to change back. Of course, they become friends along the way and learn things about each other. I'll admit I don't go to children's movies in the theater; I don't like to be in the theater with kids. As a result, I've missed some films that are good, and at the very least entertaining. The Emperor's New Groove is an entertaining film with dashes of humor. Not a Disney classic, but it's all right.


I definitely prefer it to Mulan and Tarzan. Good sense of fun, good laughs throughout.


Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
My favorite Disney film, although Wreck-it Ralph is not too far behind. Feels like a Chuck Jones movie in the best possible way.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:05 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Millers Crossing

I don't know about anybody else, but it's hard to follow a movie when it's hard to understand character motivation. Why does Tom do half the things in this movie? Does he want to get back in with Leo? If that was his motivation, why did he reject Leo's offer to go back to work for him? It wasn't out of love, that's for sure, since there was never any hope of him getting back with what's her name.

Wonderfully shot and composed, the films style works against it, making everything feel cold and distant. The characters rarely have any discernable motivation as I mentioned, and therefore it's hard to care too much about stuff. There are scenes that I'm not sure have any point to. Such as when the police blow up a building and then get into a fire fight with the survivors. Why did they blow it up? Whose building was it? I get that it probably had something to do with the gang war that was going on, but if you cut the scene nothing would have been lost.

Basically, this is a case of everything being too overplanned, which just ultimately sucks any possible emotion out of everything. Later Cohen films also kind of have that problem, but not to the extent of this one.
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Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:40 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Jug Face (2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2620736/
A low budget indy horror, about an isolated hillbilly community who has for generations made pagan human sacrifices to "The Pit" (literally a nasty looking mud hole) if their potter (while under some sort of trance) makes a jug with the would-be victim's likeness on it. When one of the villagers chances upon an upcoming jug with her face on it, she decides to hide it (possibly because she is pregnant with her brothers child(!) (this is a hillbilly community, after-all), and isn't too keen on having her throat slit and her unborn baby killed). "The Pit" is none too pleased about this, and subsequently wreaks its unholy vengeance upon the rest of the community until they sacrifice the person associated with the jug face - the problem being the hillbillies have no idea who it's meant to be. Strangely this is not remotely as campy as it sounds. In fact this film plays this nutty scenario completely straight. Indeed it is actually remarkably grim and depressing, creating something quite memorable. Sean Young (the only (barely) recognisable face) plays the mother of the the girl. "The pit wants what the pit wants".
7/10.


Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:41 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
thered47 wrote:
Millers Crossing

I don't know about anybody else, but it's hard to follow a movie when it's hard to understand character motivation. Why does Tom do half the things in this movie? Does he want to get back in with Leo? If that was his motivation, why did he reject Leo's offer to go back to work for him? It wasn't out of love, that's for sure, since there was never any hope of him getting back with what's her name.

Wonderfully shot and composed, the films style works against it, making everything feel cold and distant. The characters rarely have any discernable motivation as I mentioned, and therefore it's hard to care too much about stuff. There are scenes that I'm not sure have any point to. Such as when the police blow up a building and then get into a fire fight with the survivors. Why did they blow it up? Whose building was it? I get that it probably had something to do with the gang war that was going on, but if you cut the scene nothing would have been lost.

Basically, this is a case of everything being too overplanned, which just ultimately sucks any possible emotion out of everything. Later Cohen films also kind of have that problem, but not to the extent of this one.
-Jeremy


I agree completely. Everything is so arch that there's never any investment at all. I'm not a fan.

Speaking of disappointing Coens, I just saw Inside Llewyn Davis and gave it 2.5 stars. Thoughts in the theatrical up-nutting thread

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:45 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Mmm, I have been hearing disappointments regarding llewyn.

American Hustle: good flick with great acting and interesting plot. Some of Russells musical editing choices really pump it up. Russell does a lot with material that could easily be really dry. As colorful and vibrant as anything I've seen this year.

Her: The best spike jonze movie to date. Intimate, audacious, emotional. One of the best of the year even though the ending is a little underwhelming. Phoenix is terrific. I got the sense that he had the audience hooked from the get-go, and the movie obviously belongs to him. Jonze tugs hard on the viewer's emotions, but I think it works well.


Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:21 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Passion of Joan of Arc

This is an amazingly crafted film. Carl Dreyer photographed faces better than anyone, arguably...and he seemed to understand pain better than any of his contemporaries. And that's what this film is - an hour and a half meditation on pain. This is not to say it isn't a great work of art, but it's heavy stuff. Not a good date movie.

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Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:43 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Heard a lot of diverse reactions to Llewyn. I came across an intriguing thought in twitter that the movie is like the Coens imagining life without one another.


Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:28 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
American Hustle (2013) 3/4

I want to start off by saying that I enjoyed American Hustle quite a bit. Good acting and nice hair--what more could anyone ask for? Ok, thats done. Heres my thing with David O. Russell--the guy is giving audiences (and critics alike) lots of things that they love, but not necessarily anything new or even slightly original. I don't want to come across as the guy who expects everything to gleam with originality, because hey "Theres nothing new under the sun" right? Well I guess thats arguable, but with O'Russel the quote seems to embody the breadth of his most recent work. Did The Fighter give us anything that Rocky or Raging Bull didn't? Did Silver Linings really delineate itself enough from standard formula and arc to become something really worthy of praise? I don't really think so. Of course this isn't to say that the aforementioned films aren't competently made or even fairly good for that matter, because I believe they are to some extent. But I just can't jump on a bandwagon that praises a film that isn't really anything other than a sort of genre/sub-genre exercise.

Also, does anyone else feel that Russell is consistently hitting us over the head with this years central theme of survival? Instead of letting the theme mature over the course of the narrative or allowing it to blossom by itself, Russell chooses to make it very well known through several, very clear lines of dialogue. In turn the theme never feels natural, and it badly contrasts with such excellent portrayal of the theme in films like Gravity, All Is Lost, and 12 Years A Slave.

Hard Eight (1996) 3/4

A Smooth, suave, and classy first effort by my boy PTA. There is a LOT of style here, but it never completely engulfs a rather nice sense of familial substance.

Cutie and the Boxer (2013) 2.5/4

I used to be pretty involved in the art scene (whatever that is), so I always find myself checking out docs geared toward the plight of the artist. Unfortunately, Cutie and the Boxer never successfully concocts a message that hasn't already been conveyed a thousand times over. We all know that most artists are in the "starving" category, and that the road to recognition is full of potholes and pitfalls. So let me also go out on a limb and say that the idea of other artists constantly "competing" against one another in order gain some sort of edge or what have you is also not very new or revolutionary. These are essentially the messages in this particular doc. I concede that these messages are trapped in a pretty interesting situation, and this does offer quite an appealing look at these messages that have been constantly relayed in the art community. Yet Cutie and the Boxer, and their story as a whole, never truly becomes something other than an already well known message of becoming overshadowed and overlooked.

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Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:08 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Before Midnight: Not the best film of the year by a long shot, but still the best of the series, which improves with each installment. There were times I wanted to grab a brick and brain our two protagonists, but all the arguments about career and family resonates with me. I was amused by how much the two girls looked like Julie Delpy; apparently being Julie Delpy is a dominant trait. So dominant in fact that her stepson looked a bit like her.

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Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:48 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Syd Henderson wrote:
Before Midnight: Not the best film of the year by a long shot, but still the best of the series, which improves with each installment. There were times I wanted to grab a brick and brain our two protagonists, but all the arguments about career and family resonates with me. I was amused by how much the two girls looked like Julie Delpy; apparently being Julie Delpy is a dominant trait. So dominant in fact that her stepson looked a bit like her.

Is looking a bit like Julie Delpy necessarily a bad thing to have tho?


Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:04 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Quote:
American Hustle (2013) 3/4

I want to start off by saying that I enjoyed American Hustle quite a bit. Good acting and nice hair--what more could anyone ask for? Ok, thats done. Heres my thing with David O. Russell--the guy is giving audiences (and critics alike) lots of things that they love, but not necessarily anything new or even slightly original. I don't want to come across as the guy who expects everything to gleam with originality, because hey "Theres nothing new under the sun" right? Well I guess thats arguable, but with O'Russel the quote seems to embody the breadth of his most recent work. Did The Fighter give us anything that Rocky or Raging Bull didn't? Did Silver Linings really delineate itself enough from standard formula and arc to become something really worthy of praise? I don't really think so. Of course this isn't to say that the aforementioned films aren't competently made or even fairly good for that matter, because I believe they are to some extent. But I just can't jump on a bandwagon that praises a film that isn't really anything other than a sort of genre/sub-genre exercise.

Also, does anyone else feel that Russell is consistently hitting us over the head with this years central theme of survival? Instead of letting the theme mature over the course of the narrative or allowing it to blossom by itself, Russell chooses to make it very well known through several, very clear lines of dialogue. In turn the theme never feels natural, and it badly contrasts with such excellent portrayal of the theme in films like Gravity, All Is Lost, and 12 Years A Slave.


I agree that Russell's lack of uniqueness is a fault in a certain sense, but he gives actors great things to do and finds just the right tone for the gravity (and lack thereof) of his work. The lack of pretentiousness is really what singles him out as a strong director in my eye. None of his last three movies pretend to be anything more than what they are: great actor vehicles, modestly produced. I don't see Russell coming up with anything as radical as Long Goodbye or Nashville. But it's good to have at least one slice-of-life director who's popular.


Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:19 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Spectacular Now (2013)

Smashed: the High School Years? The director really loves this subject.

As a big fan of John Hughes, a film that subverts his stories while still maintains their charm already has me. That it feels so authentic and creates two completely believable, nuanced characters at the center is what makes it one of the better teen movies in recent memory. Shailene Woodley is especially memorable. 9/10

Don Jon (2013)

The stuff with Julianne Moore's character is very problematic (she basically functions as a magical MPDG). The film is viewed through Jon's very subjective eyes, but stuff like his family still come off as too cartoonish to resonate later. Even so, it's still a lively, energetic debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt with some fun performances. It works best when he and Scarlett Johansson are together and navigating through the film's theme, because they both encapsulate their characters so well. 7/10

Fruitvale Station (2013)

The last act with the incident's depiction is fairly powerful and elevates the whole movie. The first hour before that (along with a particularly villainous casting of a police offer) is highly questionable. Too much deck-stacking to give this guy one of the "last day-iest last days" possible (put in quote because I forget where I've heard it from). Good direction and great acting though. 7.5/10


Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:58 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JackBurns wrote:
Hard Eight (1996) 3/4

A Smooth, suave, and classy first effort by my boy PTA. There is a LOT of style here, but it never completely engulfs a rather nice sense of familial substance.



I love that film. It was surprisingly engaging and well-acted with lots of subtle moments. I remember I watched it by chance one day on TV, when I had nothing better to do, and I ended up being completely caught in it. I haven't seen Boogie Nights or Punch-Drunk Love, but this is my #2 film from PTA, below There Will Be Blood.

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Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:09 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
MGamesCook wrote:
Quote:
American Hustle (2013) 3/4

I want to start off by saying that I enjoyed American Hustle quite a bit. Good acting and nice hair--what more could anyone ask for? Ok, thats done. Heres my thing with David O. Russell--the guy is giving audiences (and critics alike) lots of things that they love, but not necessarily anything new or even slightly original. I don't want to come across as the guy who expects everything to gleam with originality, because hey "Theres nothing new under the sun" right? Well I guess thats arguable, but with O'Russel the quote seems to embody the breadth of his most recent work. Did The Fighter give us anything that Rocky or Raging Bull didn't? Did Silver Linings really delineate itself enough from standard formula and arc to become something really worthy of praise? I don't really think so. Of course this isn't to say that the aforementioned films aren't competently made or even fairly good for that matter, because I believe they are to some extent. But I just can't jump on a bandwagon that praises a film that isn't really anything other than a sort of genre/sub-genre exercise.

Also, does anyone else feel that Russell is consistently hitting us over the head with this years central theme of survival? Instead of letting the theme mature over the course of the narrative or allowing it to blossom by itself, Russell chooses to make it very well known through several, very clear lines of dialogue. In turn the theme never feels natural, and it badly contrasts with such excellent portrayal of the theme in films like Gravity, All Is Lost, and 12 Years A Slave.


I agree that Russell's lack of uniqueness is a fault in a certain sense, but he gives actors great things to do and finds just the right tone for the gravity (and lack thereof) of his work. The lack of pretentiousness is really what singles him out as a strong director in my eye. None of his last three movies pretend to be anything more than what they are: great actor vehicles, modestly produced. I don't see Russell coming up with anything as radical as Long Goodbye or Nashville. But it's good to have at least one slice-of-life director who's popular.


I agree with the lack of pretension, which is weird coming from a man who made I Heart Huckabees

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Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:37 am
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