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June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema 
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I smashed 11 in 8 days but now I'm leaving for the island on a 3 day trip. I have 3 days off afterwards so I'm hoping to take down another 6 during that spread.

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:24 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm going to have to pick up the pace significantly to complete this month's challenge. 12 days in and I've only made it through 3 new films. Revisiting They Shoot Horses, Don't They? didn't help; that one, masterful as it is, can really wear you down, and everything you watch after just pales in comparison. Anyway, here's some quick thoughts on the films I've watched:

Film #1: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

This was pretty rubbish, for a variety of reasons. At the most basic level, the film fails to recapture the nightmarish surrealism that makes the original film so great. Only one scene comes close, but it's surrounded by....well, not much, really. There's also a dip in quality with the main protagonist, with plucky Heather Langenkamp replaced by "some bland guy." More insidious is the weirdly homophobic subtext that runs throughout the story, with Freddy serving as a metaphor for the main character's repressed homosexuality, an evil presence that has to be fought and defeated. That through-line meansA Nightmare On Elm Street 2 is not just a badly made film, but a morally questionable one as well.

Film #2: Robocop 2

This actually turned out to be a mildly pleasant surprise. Of course, it doesn't measure up to Paul Verhoeven's original classic; it lacks the same perfect balance of dark satire and great action. But Empire Strikes Back helmer Irvin Kershner respectably holds down the fort, staying true to the Robocop spirit while exploring some new and fun ideas. (The best moment: when Robocop is reprogrammed to adhere to the frivolous whims of corporate executives). The film is all over the place and not everything works, but I had fun with it nevertheless.

Film #3: Together (2000)

Continuing to catch up with the films of Lukas Moodysson before the release of his latest We Are The Best!. This 2000 film didn't quite connect with me the same way as Lilya 4-Ever and especially Show Me Love did, but there's still plenty to appreciate in this slice-of-life portrait of a 1970s Swedish commune. Its message at the end, appropriate given the title, is one of togetherness, as this unconventional group of people slowly comes together to form a family. It's not a perfect mix, and indeed some people don't make it to the end, either because they're more interested in shallow political posturing or just taking advantage of the patience and generosity of others. But the ones that stick it out learn more about themselves and find happiness in the process. Cool stuff, and similar to Show Me Love, I liked how sincere and good-hearted this film ended up being.

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Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:36 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I fail to see how NOES2 is "homophobic", I think you may have been reading too much into it, I personally thought it was a decent enough sequel, though part 3 was definitely better.


Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:59 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Homophobic is not the correct word choice on my part. It's more likely the filmmakers had an idea and, like just about everything else in the film, didn't execute it well enough to have it come across as anything but wrong-footed.

But I don't know, man, I think the subtext is almost impossible to miss. I thought the early scene with the main character flamboyantly dancing around his room was kinda weird, but later on when he wanders into the S&M bar for no reason and runs into his leather-clad gym teacher, I started to wonder if something was up (that gym teacher ends up getting killed by Freddy while tied up and naked in the locker room shower). And then you get to the stretch where the main character abandons his girlfriend in the heat of passion to go spend the night in the bedroom of his perpetually shirtless best friend (the male toplesness in this film is plentiful). That scene culminates with Freddy literally bursting out of the main character. There are other hints as well, but even just from those moments it seems pretty clear cut to me what the film is getting at.

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Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:49 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
David Chaskin has said in interviews that he wrote the script with a bisexual theme, and that's was part of the reason why the openly gay Mark Patton was cast as the lead.


Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:13 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Blonde Almond wrote:


Film #3: Together (2000)

Continuing to catch up with the films of Lukas Moodysson before the release of his latest We Are The Best!. This 2000 film didn't quite connect with me the same way as Lilya 4-Ever and especially Show Me Love did, but there's still plenty to appreciate in this slice-of-life portrait of a 1970s Swedish commune. Its message at the end, appropriate given the title, is one of togetherness, as this unconventional group of people slowly comes together to form a family. It's not a perfect mix, and indeed some people don't make it to the end, either because they're more interested in shallow political posturing or just taking advantage of the patience and generosity of others. But the ones that stick it out learn more about themselves and find happiness in the process. Cool stuff, and similar to Show Me Love, I liked how sincere and good-hearted this film ended up being.


Yeah of his Big Three I find this one to be the least affecting, but it's a solid film.

Also, why isn't They Shoot Horses, Don't They? broadly considered a great film?

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Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:31 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Blonde Almond wrote:
Homophobic is not the correct word choice on my part. It's more likely the filmmakers had an idea and, like just about everything else in the film, didn't execute it well enough to have it come across as anything but wrong-footed.

But I don't know, man, I think the subtext is almost impossible to miss. I thought the early scene with the main character flamboyantly dancing around his room was kinda weird, but later on when he wanders into the S&M bar for no reason and runs into his leather-clad gym teacher, I started to wonder if something was up (that gym teacher ends up getting killed by Freddy while tied up and naked in the locker room shower). And then you get to the stretch where the main character abandons his girlfriend in the heat of passion to go spend the night in the bedroom of his perpetually shirtless best friend (the male toplesness in this film is plentiful). That scene culminates with Freddy literally bursting out of the main character. There are other hints as well, but even just from those moments it seems pretty clear cut to me what the film is getting at.

Oh i'm well aware of the subtext in the film, it was definitely bizarre and hilarious at the same time.


Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:56 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Sons of Bitches had a DVD player and some old Hitchcock movies at the house I stayed at for work this week! I managed to stomp The 39 Steps while I was gone so I'm only 1 off pace to go 30/30. I have a 3 day weekend now and fuck if I don't watch 2 a day.

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Sat Jun 14, 2014 1:51 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm really procrastinating at this point. Need more nuttage. But, 13 down, 7 to go. Very doable.


Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:19 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
nitrium wrote:
I'm really procrastinating at this point. Need more nuttage. But, 13 down, 7 to go. Very doable.


Oh that's well on pace. I'm at 11. Definitely going to make it.

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Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:18 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm also at 11 and have even sprinkled a few rewatches in that I'm not counting. Excellent month so far for me, although I'd like to add a bunch more older movies in there and not as many new releases.


Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:19 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm at 13 and it looks like I'm going to pick it up from here. Could end up at 25 and maybe even 30.

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Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:00 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm on pace for 32, but I won't get it. My goal is 30. What I'm really looking forward to is the monster post I get to write at the end of the month.

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Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:11 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I'm on 16 now, so I'm almost certain to complete the challenge at least. Not sure how far beyond I'll end up going. Binging on films this month probably means I won't break double digits for July :? .


Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:43 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
JamesKunz wrote:
Also, why isn't They Shoot Horses, Don't They? broadly considered a great film?


Beats me, man. It's certainly due for, and from where I'm standing much more deserving of, the same kind of widespread rediscovery that William Friedkin's Sorcerer has received this year. ;)

I've been slowly chugging along on the challenge. A week ago, I would've said there's no way in hell I'd make it to 20. But I've watched quite a few in the last handful of days, including 3 today, and now I'm up to 12 total. Here are some thoughts:

Film #4: Zatoichi Goes To The Fire Festival

I had really high hopes for the 21st entry in the Zatoichi series, the chief reason being the participation of Tatsuya Nakadai. Alas, his role is not much more than an extended cameo, a variation on the "skillful samurai seeking vengeance on Zatoichi" character seen in many of the past films. It's a disappointment, especially after Toshiro Mifune's contributions to the previous film, where he essentially served as a co-lead. The rest of the film is a strange mix of highs and lows, the highest point a naked bathhouse fight sequence that rivals the one in Eastern Promises, the lowest point a curious subplot involving an effeminate youngster and his awkward attempts to seduce and kill the blind swordsman. Frequent series director Kenji Misumi tries to merge it all together, but he never quite pulls it off, and so the film, more than any other in the series, feels like a collection of setpieces and disparate bits. The standout sequences make it worth seeing, but at least on first viewing it's not up there among my favorites.

Film #5: Summer Hours

Olivier Assayas' 2008 film is notably different than what I've seen of his work in the past (admittedly only Irma Vep and Carlos). Those films share a frenetic, explosive energy; comparatively, Summer Hours is much more subdued and controlled, but no less interesting. The narrative is minimal, focusing in on the decision of three siblings over what to do with their late mother's multiple-generation-spanning estate and possessions. Over the course of the film, Assayas comments on the ability of objects to build up personal significance over the years, but also the strange phenomenon to hold those objects up on some kind of pedestal, even when they start to mean less and less to future generations. Sometimes the film has the tendency to hit you over the head with its intentions, but I still found it quite affecting.

Film #6: Jazz On A Summer's Day

Very little in cinema gives me quite the same warm feeling as watching a great concert film. And this 1959 document of the Newport Jazz Festival is a great one. Apart from the top quality of the music and the performances (from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk and many others), the film is interesting in its focus on the audience and the Newport community. It reminded me strangely enough of Mr. Hulot's Holiday, only with music instead of comedy. Because of that unique tone and atmosphere, I'd recommend the film even to those who aren't big fans of jazz.

Film #7: Paper Moon

This is a wonderful film, a close-to-perfect mixture of con-artist comedy and touching father-daughter drama. The chemistry between real-life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal is never less than completely believable, the script is sharp and witty and tense and heartfelt, and Peter Bogdanovich's direction is so precise and assured it makes me think that, at least for a brief moment in time, he was a master filmmaker.

Film #8: Coffee and Cigarettes

This 2003 anthology from Jim Jarmusch is an interesting experiment. Assembled over 17 years, it consists almost entirely of conversations. Because of the nature of how it was put together, the film almost works as a summary of Jarmusch's work up to that point, with the action beginning with Down By Law-era Roberto Benigni and moving forward with appearances by many of the filmmaker's regulars. There are also some interesting connections between the conversations, with lines and themes popping up again and again. It's almost like the characters in each subsequent conversation are reincarnations from others in the previous ones, which is kind of a cool little quirk. I don't know if the film is a standout in Jarmusch's career (and there are some false moments, particularly a segment where Cate Blanchett has a conversation with herself), but I enjoyed the time spent with it.

Film #9: Maniac (2012)

Trying to figure out what made me curious to watch this one in the first place. Maybe because it was short, or maybe it was just in the mood for some punishment. I watched the original Maniac a couple years back when I was trying to find something to watch around Halloween, and it's such a grimy and sleazy viewing experience it made me want to take a shower afterwards. This new version replaces the dirt and grime with gloss and sheen, but it's still just as unpleasant. There's some interest in the film's method of showing the action entirely through the eyes of the killer (except when it doesn't), but it's not enough to dispel the question of why this needed to be remade in the first place.

Film #10: The Immigrant (2014)

There are some nice things to be said for James Gray's latest film. The cinematography is top-notch, the period details are flawless, and the performances are mostly solid across the board (although Joaquin Phoenix is doing some weird kind of Brando thing that comes across occasionally as overplayed). Many times I'd say those positives would be enough to recommend a film, but here they all contribute to a whole that doesn't leave much of any real impression. This will probably sound shallow, but just watch The Godfather Part II again.

Film #11: The Rover

David Michod's followup to Animal Kingdom has received a surprisingly wide release, I'm assuming because of the presence of Robert Pattinson in the cast list. But Twilight fans should probably stay away from this one; just like Cosmopolis before it, this is about as far away from mainstream accessibility as possible. I'm still trying to wrap my head about this to be honest. It's something of a cross between Mad Max and Cormac McCarthy and David Lynch, and the opening stretch is so surreal and off-kilter I wondered briefly if the film was supposed to be a black comedy, playing up the most well-known tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre. As the film moves along, however, it becomes more conventional and serious, and also a little less involving. I still have a fondness for this kind of stripped-down exercise though, and the stark cinematography, discordant score (which throws in some tracks from post-rock band Tortoise), and the two central performances from Guy Pearce and Pattinson make this worth seeing.

Film #12: We Are The Best!

This film is like totally the best. Since I've only recently started exploring the films of Lukas Moodysson, I've stuck with what are considered his best efforts, and avoided the stretch of time when he seemed to lose his way. So I'll leave the opinion of whether this is a "return to form" to others, but from my perspective this is neck and neck with Show Me Love as the best I've seen from the filmmaker. Forgive me for not going into too much detail; I'll just say that I'm only about an hour removed from finishing it as of this writing and I'm still giddy. Right now, it's probably my #1 film of the year, and I'll be shocked if it isn't in my top 3 at the end of 2014.

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Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:21 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
One to go. w00t!


Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:36 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Blonde Almond wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Also, why isn't They Shoot Horses, Don't They? broadly considered a great film?


Beats me, man. It's certainly due for, and from where I'm standing much more deserving of, the same kind of widespread rediscovery that William Friedkin's Sorcerer has received this year. ;)

I've been slowly chugging along on the challenge. A week ago, I would've said there's no way in hell I'd make it to 20. But I've watched quite a few in the last handful of days, including 3 today, and now I'm up to 12 total. Here are some thoughts:

Film #4: Zatoichi Goes To The Fire Festival

I had really high hopes for the 21st entry in the Zatoichi series, the chief reason being the participation of Tatsuya Nakadai. Alas, his role is not much more than an extended cameo, a variation on the "skillful samurai seeking vengeance on Zatoichi" character seen in many of the past films. It's a disappointment, especially after Toshiro Mifune's contributions to the previous film, where he essentially served as a co-lead. The rest of the film is a strange mix of highs and lows, the highest point a naked bathhouse fight sequence that rivals the one in Eastern Promises, the lowest point a curious subplot involving an effeminate youngster and his awkward attempts to seduce and kill the blind swordsman. Frequent series director Kenji Misumi tries to merge it all together, but he never quite pulls it off, and so the film, more than any other in the series, feels like a collection of setpieces and disparate bits. The standout sequences make it worth seeing, but at least on first viewing it's not up there among my favorites.

Film #5: Summer Hours

Olivier Assayas' 2008 film is notably different than what I've seen of his work in the past (admittedly only Irma Vep and Carlos). Those films share a frenetic, explosive energy; comparatively, Summer Hours is much more subdued and controlled, but no less interesting. The narrative is minimal, focusing in on the decision of three siblings over what to do with their late mother's multiple-generation-spanning estate and possessions. Over the course of the film, Assayas comments on the ability of objects to build up personal significance over the years, but also the strange phenomenon to hold those objects up on some kind of pedestal, even when they start to mean less and less to future generations. Sometimes the film has the tendency to hit you over the head with its intentions, but I still found it quite affecting.

Film #6: Jazz On A Summer's Day

Very little in cinema gives me quite the same warm feeling as watching a great concert film. And this 1959 document of the Newport Jazz Festival is a great one. Apart from the top quality of the music and the performances (from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk and many others), the film is interesting in its focus on the audience and the Newport community. It reminded me strangely enough of Mr. Hulot's Holiday, only with music instead of comedy. Because of that unique tone and atmosphere, I'd recommend the film even to those who aren't big fans of jazz.

Film #7: Paper Moon

This is a wonderful film, a close-to-perfect mixture of con-artist comedy and touching father-daughter drama. The chemistry between real-life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal is never less than completely believable, the script is sharp and witty and tense and heartfelt, and Peter Bogdanovich's direction is so precise and assured it makes me think that, at least for a brief moment in time, he was a master filmmaker.

Film #8: Coffee and Cigarettes

This 2003 anthology from Jim Jarmusch is an interesting experiment. Assembled over 17 years, it consists almost entirely of conversations. Because of the nature of how it was put together, the film almost works as a summary of Jarmusch's work up to that point, with the action beginning with Down By Law-era Roberto Benigni and moving forward with appearances by many of the filmmaker's regulars. There are also some interesting connections between the conversations, with lines and themes popping up again and again. It's almost like the characters in each subsequent conversation are reincarnations from others in the previous ones, which is kind of a cool little quirk. I don't know if the film is a standout in Jarmusch's career (and there are some false moments, particularly a segment where Cate Blanchett has a conversation with herself), but I enjoyed the time spent with it.

Film #9: Maniac (2012)

Trying to figure out what made me curious to watch this one in the first place. Maybe because it was short, or maybe it was just in the mood for some punishment. I watched the original Maniac a couple years back when I was trying to find something to watch around Halloween, and it's such a grimy and sleazy viewing experience it made me want to take a shower afterwards. This new version replaces the dirt and grime with gloss and sheen, but it's still just as unpleasant. There's some interest in the film's method of showing the action entirely through the eyes of the killer (except when it doesn't), but it's not enough to dispel the question of why this needed to be remade in the first place.

Film #10: The Immigrant (2014)

There are some nice things to be said for James Gray's latest film. The cinematography is top-notch, the period details are flawless, and the performances are mostly solid across the board (although Joaquin Phoenix is doing some weird kind of Brando thing that comes across occasionally as overplayed). Many times I'd say those positives would be enough to recommend a film, but here they all contribute to a whole that doesn't leave much of any real impression. This will probably sound shallow, but just watch The Godfather Part II again.

Film #11: The Rover

David Michod's followup to Animal Kingdom has received a surprisingly wide release, I'm assuming because of the presence of Robert Pattinson in the cast list. But Twilight fans should probably stay away from this one; just like Cosmopolis before it, this is about as far away from mainstream accessibility as possible. I'm still trying to wrap my head about this to be honest. It's something of a cross between Mad Max and Cormac McCarthy and David Lynch, and the opening stretch is so surreal and off-kilter I wondered briefly if the film was supposed to be a black comedy, playing up the most well-known tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre. As the film moves along, however, it becomes more conventional and serious, and also a little less involving. I still have a fondness for this kind of stripped-down exercise though, and the stark cinematography, discordant score (which throws in some tracks from post-rock band Tortoise), and the two central performances from Guy Pearce and Pattinson make this worth seeing.

Film #12: We Are The Best!

This film is like totally the best. Since I've only recently started exploring the films of Lukas Moodysson, I've stuck with what are considered his best efforts, and avoided the stretch of time when he seemed to lose his way. So I'll leave the opinion of whether this is a "return to form" to others, but from my perspective this is neck and neck with Show Me Love as the best I've seen from the filmmaker. Forgive me for not going into too much detail; I'll just say that I'm only about an hour removed from finishing it as of this writing and I'm still giddy. Right now, it's probably my #1 film of the year, and I'll be shocked if it isn't in my top 3 at the end of 2014.


I also really liked Paper Moon.

Can't wait to see We Are the Best

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Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:42 am
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I enjoyed both Maniac films, the original film was supposed to make you feel unnerved and it accomplished that very well for me. I thought the remake was pretty good as well, it had a different feel from the original yet it still retained some elements, so while maybe it wasn't "necessary"(but really, what remake is truly "necessary"?), it was still a worthy remake in my eyes.


Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:05 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
Blonde Almond wrote:
[Film #7: Paper Moon

This is a wonderful film, a close-to-perfect mixture of con-artist comedy and touching father-daughter drama. The chemistry between real-life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal is never less than completely believable, the script is sharp and witty and tense and heartfelt, and Peter Bogdanovich's direction is so precise and assured it makes me think that, at least for a brief moment in time, he was a master filmmaker.

Film #11: The Rover

David Michod's followup to Animal Kingdom has received a surprisingly wide release, I'm assuming because of the presence of Robert Pattinson in the cast list. But Twilight fans should probably stay away from this one; just like Cosmopolis before it, this is about as far away from mainstream accessibility as possible. I'm still trying to wrap my head about this to be honest. It's something of a cross between Mad Max and Cormac McCarthy and David Lynch, and the opening stretch is so surreal and off-kilter I wondered briefly if the film was supposed to be a black comedy, playing up the most well-known tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre. As the film moves along, however, it becomes more conventional and serious, and also a little less involving. I still have a fondness for this kind of stripped-down exercise though, and the stark cinematography, discordant score (which throws in some tracks from post-rock band Tortoise), and the two central performances from Guy Pearce and Pattinson make this worth seeing.


I'm up to 17 for the month after a rare weekend with no plans (other than watching movies), and both of the quoted films have been watched by me. The Rover, being a new release and all, doesn't greatly surprise, but the overlap of Paper Moon is pretty cool. Like you and Kunz, I found it wholly wonderful. I really liked how virtually everything about the production, from the location and time period, to the choice to film in black and white was in stark contrast to the sweet nature of the story. Smart, well-acted, entertaining film, that one.

What did you think of The Rover's ending? To me
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the fact that there was a dog in the car the whole time added a new layer to Guy Pearce's character. The dog is definitely supposed to mirror Pattinson's character, but the end gave some reasoning as to why Pearce was willing to help him. There was also a bunch of stuff done with cages and fences contrasted with the wide open spaces of the Australian outback. The scene with the army soldier and the captured Pearce was really interesting too. Can't quite wrap my head around that.


Not a great movie by any means, but one that's interesting and thought-provoking. I just can't really decide if I liked it or not.


Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:50 pm
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Post Re: June Challenge, my fellow warriors of cinema
I've got 20 done. I'll keep rolling and see how far I get.

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