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Last Movie You Watched 
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Astronaut: The Last Push (2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1541123/
Hard sci-fi drama about two astronauts on their way to Europa to verify/study the life that is supposedly there under the ice (based on photos from a probe). It's a six year trip, so they are put into deep sleep. However, early in their journey (while still on their way to Venus (due to use of the Venus/Earth gravitational slingshot)) are struck by a mini asteroid, killing one of the astronauts and waking the other. This is not a spoiler since this all happens within the first 10 minutes. The film is in fact about the 2-3 YEAR trip back to Earth, the experience of near total isolation and boredom of being confined to 3m x 2m space, and its psychological ramifications. Even though Lance Henriksen gets top billing, this film is essentially a one man act (similar to Tom Hanks in Cast Away) from Khary Payton. Together with Europa Report, Astronaut: The Last Push marks the second sci-fi film released in 2013 that is "better" (i.e. thought provoking) than the superficial spectacle over actual substance (albeit entertaining) that is Gravity.
8.5/10.


Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:39 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
nitrium wrote:
Astronaut: The Last Push (2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1541123/
Hard sci-fi drama about two astronauts on their way to Europa to verify/study the life that is supposedly there under the ice (based on photos from a probe). It's a six year trip, so they are put into deep sleep. However, early in their journey (while still on their way to Venus (due to use of the Venus/Earth gravitational slingshot)) are struck by a mini asteroid, killing one of the astronauts and waking the other. This is not a spoiler since this all happens within the first 10 minutes. The film is in fact about the 2-3 YEAR trip back to Earth, the experience of near total isolation and boredom of being confined to 3m x 2m space, and its psychological ramifications. Even though Lance Henriksen gets top billing, this film is essentially a one man act (similar to Tom Hanks in Cast Away) from Khary Payton. Together with Europa Report, Astronaut: The Last Push marks the second sci-fi film released in 2013 that is "better" (i.e. thought provoking) than the superficial spectacle over actual substance (albeit entertaining) that is Gravity.
8.5/10.


Looks interesting, I'll have to check this out. Always down for an obscure space flick.


Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:07 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Balaji Sivaraman wrote:
ilovemovies wrote:
The Spectacular Now - *** 1/2 out of ****

Loved it. Was especially impressed by Miles Teller's performance. He's fantastic and really makes the movie. Shailene Woodley is great too and very lovely and there are nice supporting turns by the likes of Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler and Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk. A great coming of age tale.

Great. I loved this one very much too. And it is nice to see you mentioning nearly every supporting actor who appears in the film. That is exactly what I wrote about the film as well. These actors who're on-screen for only a handful of minutes embody their respective characters, and that in turn makes the world they inhabit truly come alive. Just a wonderful film. What did you make of the ending? Open-ended? Or is it plainly obvious what happens after the fade to black. (It was the latter for me.)


It's definitely open ended but I didn't mind that.


Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:06 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) - 4 out of 4 (SPOILERS BELOW!)

Imagine the pressure on me as I sat down to watch this to keep up with my goal of watching at least one classic per month. It came highly recommended by Mr. Kunz who says it is the only film that has made him sob. Nearly every other forumite I highly respect considers this film an unabashed masterpiece, and that it made all of them tear up. (I picked up the recommendation from the crying thread.)

Unfortunately I didn't go as far as to sob on this first time viewing. I was definitely moved by it (how couldn't I be?). In the moment of the film's closing sequences, I saw its greatness, I saw why everyone cried, but somehow it didn't hit me as hard as it did most everyone here. But then something amazing happened, which rarely has so far in my years of watching films. I spent most of the day yesterday in office (slow work day) thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I went through individual scenes in the film, the more the lump in my throat grew, and the more I realized the beauty of the film.

I love how the film is constructed to slowly draw the viewers in to its very familiar world. Yes, we know this is Nazi-occupied France during the end of World War II. Yes, we know the dangers Jean is in the moment he begins at the school. Yes, we know that Julien quite doesn't realize the gravity of the situation. But for the most part, the film makes you feel safe. I guess it has to do with all the light and carefree scenes showing the boys having fun. I felt these boys will get through. They will make it.

Sure, there were a few scenes - like the sudden search of the school premises or when Julien and Jean get lost in the woods and are picked up by army officers or when army offices barge in on the restaurant where Jean has lunch with Julien's family to ask for papers - that had me near the edge of my seat praying for the safety of Jean, but on the whole, the film wrapped me in a cocoon of safety. Even towards the end, we are shown scenes of the beginning of the end of the war. The scene with the teacher discussing the offensive from the Soviets, US and the British only served to increase that feeling of safety. Yes, the ordeal was finally over. Jean could finally be free.

And then it hit, like a sucker punch to the gut. There are two things that struck me about those closing moments. One: I can understand why the director feels so much guilt, but you do have to think that Jean would've been caught anyway, as he himself says so. That isn't going to change the guilt he feels, which I can fully sympathize with. It is just an observation. Two: Probably the reason I didn't cry was I was too shocked. I hardly blinked in those final moments, and I could feel my eyes burning. (It was late in the night as well.) As I said above, I was comfortable in the knowledge that Jean was about to be set free. And then for that ending to suddenly hit like a ton of bricks, I didn't have enough time to process what had happened. (I was like: What the fuck just happened?)

Once the initial shock had subsided, I really thought about why this film is consistently ranked as one of the best ever made. I read what our forumites and Roger Ebert had to say about it. That is why I said the more I think about the film, the more the lump in my throat grows. And as I was writing this, I understood why it made James sob so hard, and I get the feeling that I might be in a similar position the next time I watch this film.

On the first time viewing, I may not herald it as highly as James does, but I can honestly state that this is only going to grow on me with repeated viewings. Thanks for the recommendation Mr. Kunz!

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Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:47 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Au Revoir les Enfants is a great film, but I haven't seen it in years. A rewatch is certainly in order. Glad you enjoyed it.

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Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Jagten (The Hunt) (2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2106476/
Excellent and superbly acted Swedish film vividly portraying why you'd have to be out of your mind if you pursue an occupation that involves children if you happen to possess a Y chromosome.
9/10.


Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:26 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Balaji Sivaraman wrote:
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) - 4 out of 4 (SPOILERS BELOW!)

Imagine the pressure on me as I sat down to watch this to keep up with my goal of watching at least one classic per month. It came highly recommended by Mr. Kunz who says it is the only film that has made him sob. Nearly every other forumite I highly respect considers this film an unabashed masterpiece, and that it made all of them tear up. (I picked up the recommendation from the crying thread.)

Unfortunately I didn't go as far as to sob on this first time viewing. I was definitely moved by it (how couldn't I be?). In the moment of the film's closing sequences, I saw its greatness, I saw why everyone cried, but somehow it didn't hit me as hard as it did most everyone here. But then something amazing happened, which rarely has so far in my years of watching films. I spent most of the day yesterday in office (slow work day) thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I went through individual scenes in the film, the more the lump in my throat grew, and the more I realized the beauty of the film.

I love how the film is constructed to slowly draw the viewers in to its very familiar world. Yes, we know this is Nazi-occupied France during the end of World War II. Yes, we know the dangers Jean is in the moment he begins at the school. Yes, we know that Julien quite doesn't realize the gravity of the situation. But for the most part, the film makes you feel safe. I guess it has to do with all the light and carefree scenes showing the boys having fun. I felt these boys will get through. They will make it.

Sure, there were a few scenes - like the sudden search of the school premises or when Julien and Jean get lost in the woods and are picked up by army officers or when army offices barge in on the restaurant where Jean has lunch with Julien's family to ask for papers - that had me near the edge of my seat praying for the safety of Jean, but on the whole, the film wrapped me in a cocoon of safety. Even towards the end, we are shown scenes of the beginning of the end of the war. The scene with the teacher discussing the offensive from the Soviets, US and the British only served to increase that feeling of safety. Yes, the ordeal was finally over. Jean could finally be free.

And then it hit, like a sucker punch to the gut. There are two things that struck me about those closing moments. One: I can understand why the director feels so much guilt, but you do have to think that Jean would've been caught anyway, as he himself says so. That isn't going to change the guilt he feels, which I can fully sympathize with. It is just an observation. Two: Probably the reason I didn't cry was I was too shocked. I hardly blinked in those final moments, and I could feel my eyes burning. (It was late in the night as well.) As I said above, I was comfortable in the knowledge that Jean was about to be set free. And then for that ending to suddenly hit like a ton of bricks, I didn't have enough time to process what had happened. (I was like: What the fuck just happened?)

Once the initial shock had subsided, I really thought about why this film is consistently ranked as one of the best ever made. I read what our forumites and Roger Ebert had to say about it. That is why I said the more I think about the film, the more the lump in my throat grows. And as I was writing this, I understood why it made James sob so hard, and I get the feeling that I might be in a similar position the next time I watch this film.

On the first time viewing, I may not herald it as highly as James does, but I can honestly state that this is only going to grow on me with repeated viewings. Thanks for the recommendation Mr. Kunz!


You're welcome. So glad you watched and liked it!

Oh I love it so much. The movie is so delicately constructed -- the friendship between the two boys is so tentative and real -- and then it all comes tumbling down. And you hear the priest say the words of the title and then Louis Malle's voice comes onto the soundtrack and you realize that it's his story and OH MY GOD

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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
A Woman Under The Influence - I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to “get” John Cassavetes. The little experience I’ve had with this very highly-regarded and enormously influential filmmaker hasn’t exactly inspired the most passionate of reactions, but I wanted to hold off on any premature judgments until I saw this 1974 film, which many consider his best. Well, now I’ve seen A Woman Under The Influence, and now I have a dilemma: it did almost nothing for me. The drama centers around the fracturing marriage between blue-collar Nick (Peter Falk) and his unstable wife Mabel (Gena Rowlands), and how the people around them react to her deteriorating mental state. Essentially it’s an examination of how mental illness (as probably alcoholism, although there seems to be a conscious decision within the film to work around any moments of actual drinking) can affect a family and how they are perceived by the community around them. In the right hands, that’s certainly a subject ripe for great drama. The problem with A Woman Under The Influence is that it isn’t great drama. Hell, I’d argue it isn’t even particularly good drama.

Throughout the course of the film’s 155-minute running length, I couldn’t escape a feeling of artificiality hanging over the whole production, for a couple big reasons. Firstly, despite the acclaim heaped upon her over the years, I found Gena Rowlands’ overcranked histrionics here had an overly-calculated quality that made it impossible for me to view her performance as anything other than that, a performance. Secondly, the film is awkwardly built around a series of increasingly uncomfortable scenarios, and as these scenarios escalate they start to feel increasingly more fabricated. While I appreciate that Falk’s beleaguered husband has his own set of character flaws, why he feels compelled to constantly push his awkward wife into crowds of people is a complete mystery to me. There’s actually a point late in the film when he gathers together a large group of people to welcome his wife as she returns home from the mental hospital, only to be convinced to break it all up at the very last minute, and it’s almost as if the filmmakers themselves suddenly realized how ridiculous the situations were getting. This material was first envisioned for the stage, and I think in the end it would have been a better fit there. As a piece of filmmaking, I’m struggling to understand what makes this so remarkable. Maybe Cassavetes just isn’t for me. 4/10.

Zatoichi And The Chest Of Gold - The sixth film in the Zatoichi series. Especially coming after what I felt to be the most workmanlike entry in the series, Zatoichi On The Road, I was hoping for something with a bit more bravado. Fortunately, bravado is something Zatoichi And The Chest Of Gold has in spades. The film opens with the blind swordsman making a pilgrimage to a small village, where he will pay respects at the grave of a man he wrongly killed in the recent past. When he arrives, he is drawn to the sounds of a celebration. The villagers reveal they’ve just saved up enough to pay off the large tax demanded by the local governor. After Zatoichi briefly joins in the frivolities (and displays an aptitude for the drums), the villagers pack up the funds and leave to deliver their payment. On the way, however, they fall victim to an ambush, and the money is stolen. Suspicious of the sudden appearance of Zatoichi, the villagers demand that he retrieve the stolen chest of gold from the thieves.

The first thing that strikes you about Zatoichi And The Chest Of Gold is just how stylistically adventurous it is, especially when comparing to the previous films in the series. This is apparent right from the opening title sequence, which plays out over a minimalist montage of Zatoichi showing off his sword-fighting skills in front of a black backdrop. Kazuo Ikehiro, making his first of three turns in the director’s chair for the series, continues with the light experimentation throughout the rest of the film, throwing in slow-motion flashback sequences, more pronounced instances of bloody violence, and even a little bit of skin in a light-hearted bathing sequence. The pacing is also much faster compared to the more stately rhythms of what came before, and the result is a film that really moves. The film isn’t without its shortcomings, chief among them an extended detour into the mountains, where Zatoichi meets with an old mentor and convinces him and his band of dislocated warriors to abandon their lofty retreat and return to the real world. It’s a strange excursion, stopping the main narrative dead in its tracks and exiting without much in the way of a payoff (one wonders if a future entry will provide a more satisfying conclusion). This relatively aimless stretch can be forgiven though because of the high quality of everything around it (including a thrilling climactic duel where Zatoichi’s opponent decides to play against the rules). Zatoichi And The Chest Of Gold is missing the emotional weight of the best entries in the series, but it compensates for that absence through its wild energy and keen sense of adventure. 7/10.

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Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:35 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Die Another Day (2002)

These Brosnan-era romps look really dated now. Not technologically, just in terms of quality, such is their eclipse by the Craig trilogy.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Second time I watched this since my first time 2 and a half years ago. Just as good as the first watch. But what struck me is exactly how sad the characters are. I mean, not just sad, almost disturbed. Arkin, Lemmon, Harris and Spacey would be far better off if they were just painlessly put to sleep. Only the sharkish, amoral capitalists played by Pacino and Baldwin manage to stave of depression in this flick. Not sure what the message is behind that.

Still love Lemmon's performance. You can actually feel it.

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Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:28 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Blonde Almond wrote:
A Woman Under The Influence - I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to “get” John Cassavetes. The little experience I’ve had with this very highly-regarded and enormously influential filmmaker hasn’t exactly inspired the most passionate of reactions, but I wanted to hold off on any premature judgments until I saw this 1974 film, which many consider his best. Well, now I’ve seen A Woman Under The Influence, and now I have a dilemma: it did almost nothing for me. The drama centers around the fracturing marriage between blue-collar Nick (Peter Falk) and his unstable wife Mabel (Gena Rowlands), and how the people around them react to her deteriorating mental state. Essentially it’s an examination of how mental illness (as probably alcoholism, although there seems to be a conscious decision within the film to work around any moments of actual drinking) can affect a family and how they are perceived by the community around them. In the right hands, that’s certainly a subject ripe for great drama. The problem with A Woman Under The Influence is that it isn’t great drama. Hell, I’d argue it isn’t even particularly good drama.

Throughout the course of the film’s 155-minute running length, I couldn’t escape a feeling of artificiality hanging over the whole production, for a couple big reasons. Firstly, despite the acclaim heaped upon her over the years, I found Gena Rowlands’ overcranked histrionics here had an overly-calculated quality that made it impossible for me to view her performance as anything other than that, a performance. Secondly, the film is awkwardly built around a series of increasingly uncomfortable scenarios, and as these scenarios escalate they start to feel increasingly more fabricated. While I appreciate that Falk’s beleaguered husband has his own set of character flaws, why he feels compelled to constantly push his awkward wife into crowds of people is a complete mystery to me. There’s actually a point late in the film when he gathers together a large group of people to welcome his wife as she returns home from the mental hospital, only to be convinced to break it all up at the very last minute, and it’s almost as if the filmmakers themselves suddenly realized how ridiculous the situations were getting. This material was first envisioned for the stage, and I think in the end it would have been a better fit there. As a piece of filmmaking, I’m struggling to understand what makes this so remarkable. Maybe Cassavetes just isn’t for me. 4/10.


Man you are really not helping me suck it up and start watching Cassavetes films

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Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:59 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
NotHughGrant wrote:
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Second time I watched this since my first time 2 and a half years ago. Just as good as the first watch. But what struck me is exactly how sad the characters are. I mean, not just sad, almost disturbed. Arkin, Lemmon, Harris and Spacey would be far better off if they were just painlessly put to sleep. Only the sharkish, amoral capitalists played by Pacino and Baldwin manage to stave of depression in this flick. Not sure what the message is behind that.

Still love Lemmon's performance. You can actually feel it.


Having worked at a sales job of that type I can speak for the truth in that the soul killing nature of those jobs as depicted in that movie is accurate. Very much so.

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Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:10 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Memories of Murder is an excellent South Korean drama about three policemen, two rural, one from Seoul, on the track of a serial killer, and the effects the frustrations the investigation has on them. The rural cops, coming up with a suspect, use torture and intimidation to get a confession out of a suspect the city cop knows couldn't have done it. But what happens when the city cop finds a suspect he thinks did it but can't come up with the evidence he needs? Is he so above taking suspects?

The story has some aspects resembling Zodiac (which it preceded) and The Onion Field, but was directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho, who would go on to direct The Host and Mother. It sometimes has off-the-wall humor, even a little slapstick, but even much of that is grim. There are tantalizing patterns that vanish with the next murder. There is an amazing scene where the detectives know a murder is about to take place, but the cops they need to assist them are all occupied suppressing political dissenters, and the detectives know that there is almost certainly going to be another victim in a few minutes and they almost certainly can't do a thing to stop it.

The movie has an epilogue that is beautifully filmed and haunting.

The movie is based on the actual case of South Korea's first known serial killer. His body count is estimated at ten
[Reveal] Spoiler:
and he was never caught
. (9 of 10)

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:32 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Closely Watched Trains is the story of a Czech boy's coming of age. He's in the fourth generation of men who have made careers out of finding means of living that entailed a minimum of labor. Young Milos's chosen profession is assistant dispatcher at a railroad station. This seems to entail sitting aroung until a train comes by, greeting it, staring at comely women, and frustrated lust for a sexy and willing female conductor. The train station also has a lead dispatcher who's into seduction of any comely woman who comes by (though not of the conductor about whom he's giving the kid romantic advice). Finally, there's the station manager, who's trying to restore order out of chaos, and a pretty telegraph worker who creates a little chaos in her own right.

This is all taking place in Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1944-5. There's a funny scene in which a Czech collaborator shows us the favorable military situation with all the strategic German retreats which are all part of a master plan to lure in the Americans and Russians so the Germans can surround and destroy them.

Although the film isn't very dark, we get one scene in which the workers describe one train full of half-dead cattle and another carrying starving sheep, and we are clearly to think of the human victims that were similarly transported.

The film was made in 1967 during a period of political thawing in Communist Czechoslovakia. This resulted the next year in Alexander Dubcek becoming First Secretary of the Communist Party, and a period of political reform known as the Prague Spring, which lasted until the Soviet tanks moved in that August. I don't think this film could have been made two years later. As it was, it won the Academy Award for best foreign language film a few months before the tanks rolled in. It's a good film that may well have deserved its award, nicely acted, earthy, often funny, and worth watching even now. (8 of 10)

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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Counselor (2013)

Ended up liking this a bit despite its many flaws. Namely, everyone had to sound like Cormac McCarthy and most struggled with it at various moments (at least the low point came early: "I think truth has no temperature." Gagging). Cameron Diaz is miscast; the strain to be diabolical really showed. Charlize Theron or the previously attached Angelina Jolie would have been a much better fit. Only Brad Pitt disappeared into the character and his verbose dialogue all the way through. I also liked the novelistic feeling of the film; how each speech could be the highlight of its chapter, each one ruthless in showing the downward spiral of dealing with evil. The talent behind the film did make its miss on potential greatness a little disappointing, but I still admired how deeply weird the whole thing is. 7/10


Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:33 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
How I Live Now (2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1894476/
Saoirse Ronan plays a stereotypical American girl visiting her aunt and three estranged cousins in rural England, and soon falls in love with the oldest cousin (I personally don't find that remotely offensive, but it is an something some people seem to have an issue with). Then the shit hits the fan...
[Reveal] Spoiler:
A nuclear bomb goes off in London(!), and the country is invaded by (nameless) terrorists and they all end up separated after martial law is declared and the area evacuated. The remainder of the film plays a bit like The Road lite, with Ronan and the youngest cousin attempting to find their way back to the rural house where she hopes the other cousins are waiting for them.

Well acted, and extremely well shot and directed (by Scottish director Kevin Macdonald). Based on a novel by Meg Rosoff. An interesting "what if" scenario, and not too bad for what it is.
7.5/10.


Last edited by nitrium on Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
NotHughGrant wrote:
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Second time I watched this since my first time 2 and a half years ago. Just as good as the first watch. But what struck me is exactly how sad the characters are. I mean, not just sad, almost disturbed. Arkin, Lemmon, Harris and Spacey would be far better off if they were just painlessly put to sleep. Only the sharkish, amoral capitalists played by Pacino and Baldwin manage to stave of depression in this flick. Not sure what the message is behind that.

Still love Lemmon's performance. You can actually feel it.


One of the best of the last 25 years in my book. Lemmon is a marvel (and one of the more unjustly overlooked performances by the Academy), but the entire cast is absolutely note-perfect. Indeed while it's nice that someone got an acting nomination for this film, Pacino arguably was the least memorable. Baldwin always struck me as the perfect capitalist in this film (which had to be one of the reasons he was cast in 30 Rock), completely cold, amoral, and utterly focused on the bottom line. I think I'm due for a rewatch soon, it's been a few years, but I've loved it more every time I've seen it. I find the four you said should be put to sleep the most intriguing characters, personally.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:12 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
Man you are really not helping me suck it up and start watching Cassavetes films


I'm sure someone else here could offer up a spirited defense for Cassavetes, but personally I find both watching his films and writing about them incredibly draining, and not in a rewarding way.

The Great Beauty - Where to even start here? Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 film is such a fierce whirlwind of energy and ideas, to attempt to decipher everything going on over the course of its 150 minutes is quite the tall order. There are meditations on art and religion and the search for transcendence. There are self-deprecating takedowns of intellectual lifestyles and scathing critiques on the manufactured personas of people desperately seeking fame. There are musings on life and death, and on finding oneself with feelings of regret in the twilight years and wishing to eradicate those feelings. And all that is really just extra embellishing to what is at heart an unabashed love letter to Rome. In the center of all this busyness you have the great screen presence of Toni Servillo, as the witty but world-weary Jep Gambardella. Once an author and now an easygoing column writer, Jep devotes most of his time either to wandering the streets of Rome in casual introspection and throwing lavish parties with his eccentric, intellectual friends. But there is a detachment to Jep’s everyday routine, and as he continues to get older, he continues to think more and more about his life and his still-ongoing search for meaning.

Sorrentino’s freewheeling approach is both a blessing and a curse for this film. Jep Gambardella searches around Rome for “the great beauty,” and there’s the feeling that the film itself is doing the exact same thing, searching. There are scenes that palpitate with an undeniable energy, but there are other scenes that just come across as aimless. Because the material so frequently bounces around every which way with little interest in offering any kind of consistent narrative path, it’s easy to lose your center and find yourself off-balance. I remember sitting in the theater and getting the feeling the end was drawing near, only to look down at my phone to discover there was still an hour left to go. So, despite the fact that the film contains moments of memorably absurd and wry comedy and sequences of surprisingly poignant drama, and despite the exuberant direction and the loving allusions to the great Italian filmmakers of cinema’s past (specifically Fellini and Antonioni), The Great Beauty ends up falling short of the greatness for which it strives. There is so much to admire here, but less to truly love. 7/10.

Leviathan - I’m not usually the type who gives much time to the semantics of what exactly constitutes a film. If the results are compelling, what does it matter if the creators took a more unorthodox road to get there? But I have to say that mindset was given a real workout during the course of watching this 2012 work from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel. At the most basic level, this is a documentary, in that it “documents” the dreary operations onboard a commercial fishing vessel. But attempting to find anything resembling a “traditional” documentary in Leviathan is just going to end in frustration. The “film” is essentially not much more than glorified home video footage, edited together with little rhyme or reason and given almost no context apart from some biblical quotations at the very beginning (which honestly could be changed out with just about anything else and I doubt it would have made much of any difference). The footage is shot with cheap waterproof cameras, either attached to people going about their business on the ship or to sturdy tethers so that they can be whipped around and thrown into places cameras don’t usually go. So can Leviathan even be called a film? I don’t know if I can answer that question.

And yet, I will acknowledge there is a power to some of the images, especially when the cameras manage to hold on something long enough for the viewer to decipher what they’re seeing . At one point, the image is lowered down to ground level, amidst a heap of dead and dying fish sloshing around on the floor as the ship rocks back and forth. A later moment takes things down even further, into the ocean, to show excess fish guts being dumped out of the ship. As the camera bobs above and below the blood-streaked water, a large flock of hungry seagulls materializes to hover over their future meal. In its most arresting moments, Leviathan combines its chaotic visuals and oppressive aural soundscape to create something genuinely foreboding and intimidating, a grim and desolate portrait of life on the open sea. Because the piece is so much a sensorial and textual experience, I can imagine a theatrical viewing offering a drastically different experience from a home viewing. Projected onto the biggest screen possible and supported by a powerful sound system, Leviathan could have hooked me. Even then though, I doubt the line would have been strong enough to reel me in. 4/10.

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Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:56 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
peng wrote:
The Counselor (2013)

Ended up liking this a bit despite its many flaws. Namely, everyone had to sound like Cormac McCarthy and most struggled with it at various moments (at least the low point came early: "I think truth has no temperature." Gagging). Cameron Diaz is miscast; the strain to be diabolical really showed. Charlize Theron or the previously attached Angelina Jolie would have been a much better fit. Only Brad Pitt disappeared into the character and his verbose dialogue all the way through. I also liked the novelistic feeling of the film; how each speech could be the highlight of its chapter, each one ruthless in showing the downward spiral of dealing with evil. The talent behind the film did make its miss on potential greatness a little disappointing, but I still admired how deeply weird the whole thing is. 7/10

I was saddened that I didn't like this film. My ultimate problem was that it certainly seems like a Cormac McCarthy story in the general details, but there isn't a sense that this story means anything to McCarthy in terms of personal significance. His style is there, but he's not using it to express anything or work through his problems or reveal things that upset him. It's as if someone put a gun to his head and said "Tell a story", and McCarthy did his best despite not having anything juicy in the bank.

To borrow from the eternally reliable James Kunz, there's no urgency to the script. It's everybody doing their best on a tank full of fumes, McCarthy included. And I say that as a fan of his books and the movies based on them.

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Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:14 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
To borrow from the eternally reliable James Kunz, there's no urgency to the script. It's everybody doing their best on a tank full of fumes, McCarthy included. And I say that as a fan of his books and the movies based on them.


Agreed with the no urgency thing, although it wasn't detrimental to my experience. At first I was thinking when they would shut up and got on with the story, but by the time the second or third speech came and I realized that this was gonna be the norm, I stopped looking for plot clarity and gave in to just hearing the dialogue. The approach was certainly off-putting, but I was engrossed by it as well.


Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:33 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Blonde Almond wrote:
The Great Beauty - Where to even start here? Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 film is such a fierce whirlwind of energy and ideas, to attempt to decipher everything going on over the course of its 150 minutes is quite the tall order. There are meditations on art and religion and the search for transcendence. There are self-deprecating takedowns of intellectual lifestyles and scathing critiques on the manufactured personas of people desperately seeking fame. There are musings on life and death, and on finding oneself with feelings of regret in the twilight years and wishing to eradicate those feelings. And all that is really just extra embellishing to what is at heart an unabashed love letter to Rome. In the center of all this busyness you have the great screen presence of Toni Servillo, as the witty but world-weary Jep Gambardella. Once an author and now an easygoing column writer, Jep devotes most of his time either to wandering the streets of Rome in casual introspection and throwing lavish parties with his eccentric, intellectual friends. But there is a detachment to Jep’s everyday routine, and as he continues to get older, he continues to think more and more about his life and his still-ongoing search for meaning.

Sorrentino’s freewheeling approach is both a blessing and a curse for this film. Jep Gambardella searches around Rome for “the great beauty,” and there’s the feeling that the film itself is doing the exact same thing, searching. There are scenes that palpitate with an undeniable energy, but there are other scenes that just come across as aimless. Because the material so frequently bounces around every which way with little interest in offering any kind of consistent narrative path, it’s easy to lose your center and find yourself off-balance. I remember sitting in the theater and getting the feeling the end was drawing near, only to look down at my phone to discover there was still an hour left to go. So, despite the fact that the film contains moments of memorably absurd and wry comedy and sequences of surprisingly poignant drama, and despite the exuberant direction and the loving allusions to the great Italian filmmakers of cinema’s past (specifically Fellini and Antonioni), The Great Beauty ends up falling short of the greatness for which it strives. There is so much to admire here, but less to truly love. 7/10.


Spot on! This pretty much mirrors my thoughts on the film. It frequently skirts with greatness without ever attaining it. One of the best scenes in the film was the Gambardella's takedown of one of his female colleagues. Tony Servillo delivered the scathing monologue perfectly. I felt the film needed more scenes of such intensity focus and less of the aimless wandering you aptly spoke of. It is still worth checking out, and I believe worth a second look as well, simply because there is a lot going on to take it all in in one sitting.

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Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:04 am
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