Category Archives: Film

12 Monkeys

I think, Dr. Railly, you’ve given the alarmists a bad name. Surely there is very real and very convincing data that the planet cannot survive the excesses of the human race: proliferation of atomic devices; uncontrolled breeding habits; pollution of land, sea, and air; the rape of the environment. In this context, isn’t it obvious that Chicken Little represents the sane vision and that Homo sapiens’ motto, “Let’s go shoppin'” is the cry of the true lunatic?

Trying to be inconspicuous

Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism

Friendly reminder that responding with racism isn’t suddenly justified if the person is a bad person (even if they’re, say, a genocidal dictator). The Interview is probably racist as hell. Team America was racist as hell.
Get over it, nerds.

Even if it was, it wouldn’t justify or excuse the bully or threats of violence to prevent it from being shown. The decision of pulling it makes sense but people have a problem with the use of threats from an outside group to try to force others in deciding what should or shouldn’t be released or seen. Even if it is a stupid movie.

There’s been other movies affected by the fear these threats have caused that you probably wouldn’t label as racist, so I don’t see how this movie being “probably” racist has anything to do with this.

Continue reading Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism


Caution: Spoilers (Enhancements?)


Why does Mann try to kill Cooper?
It appears that Mann had to falsify the data in order to save his own life. It does not appear that he should have known that he would be jeopardizing humanity by doing so. He thinks he has to stop Cooper because Cooper is bound for Earth. This is bad because Mann knows that he (Mann) will need all available resources to get the human seeds to Edmonds’s planet. His comments about survival are probably to drive home just how sure he is that Cooper could not be talked out of going back to Earth despite its certain doom.

Why doesn’t Mann just tell everybody that he falsified the data?
There may be insufficient clues in the movie to answer this question. It may simply be that he’s not sure that he can trust them. And, before he can determine whether or not they’re trustworthy, the dominoes start falling. He sent the beacon for anyone to rescue him, assuming that no one would. When the rescue party did come, he reasoned that, given their limited resources, the group could only make one trip (to deliver their payload to Edmonds’s planet) before those resources were depleted.

Cooper [After being pushed off a cliff by Mann]
What are you doing?

I’m sorry. I can’t let you leave with that ship. We’re gonna need it to complete the mission. Once the others realize what this place isn’t, we cannot survive here. I’m sorry.
Don’t judge me, Cooper. You were never tested like I was. Few men have been. You’re feeling it, aren’t you? Your survival instinct. That’s what drove me. It’s what drives all of us. And, it’s what’s going to save us. ‘Cause I’m gonna save all of us. For you, Cooper.

Continue reading Interstellar

Life Itself

Thanks to a helpful Facebook post by Chaz Ebert, I learned that the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself is now playing in Scottsdale (Shea).

Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the documentary enormously and I hope that other people see it. I think it may be worth noting, though, that, aside from being equal parts funny and moving, the film also takes an unflinching look at the illness that took Ebert’s life.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why it was so important to Ebert that he not hide his illness, not because I find it difficult to see him in such discomfort (I do, of course), but because of one review of his I have long found frustrating.

That would be his critical review of The Elephant Man (a movie that reduces me to a blubbering mound of flesh and mucus every time I watch it): “The film’s philosophy is this shallow: (1)Wow, the Elephant Man sure looked hideous, and (2)gosh, isn’t it wonderful how he kept on in spite of everything? This last is in spite of a real possibility that John Merrick’s death at twenty-seven might have been suicide.”*
Continue reading Life Itself

Spirits and Ghosts

“Like most men who never knew their father, Bill collected father figures.”
A line from Kill Bill, Volume 2. That line struck me when I first heard it because I remember reading that Tarantino was raised by his mom. As someone who’s never seen even a picture of his father, I think the line may have resonated with me even more.
I don’t know if I’ve really “collected” father figures, but there are some guys that I grew to look up to and I can’t see any harm in acknowledging them for helping me to acquire an appreciation for other people, an appreciation for knowledge, and for giving me profound things to strive for. So, thanks to François Truffaut, Roger Ebert, and Carl Sagan.

I think of these guys and I think of Kurosawa’s great Ikiru which implores us to leave something worthwhile behind. Amiri Baraka also sums it beautifully in Bulworth: Be a spirit, not a ghost.

Here’s to some of my favorite spirits.

Mouchette (1967)





Arsène’s Bite Wound Cauterization

Mouchette’s father: “She was a brave woman.”

Once upon a time the dead were embalmed. Now they’re not even washed. I know the departed go to heaven, as the curé says, but even so…. The dead were worshipped once. They were gods. Real religion, that was.

Mouchette works mud into the old woman’s rug. She whispers, “You’re disgusting, you old bitch.”

Final scene:
Mouchette holds the thin fabric of the dress against her body. The bottom of the dress gets caught on a bush and tears. The sound of a tractor motor can be heard. She raises her hand as if to get the driver’s attention. He looks back and continues on. She wraps the dress around her body, over her clothes, and rolls down a hill. Leaves, twigs, and dirt cling to her clothing and to the dress.

Throughout most of the film, she has worn no expression on her face. In one scene, where she appears to be enjoying riding the bumper cars, she smiles. In a few scenes, she is shown to have tears on her face (though, her expression doesn’t change). In this scene, whatever she’s thinking is her secret as her expression remains neutral. She rolls down the hill a few times before dropping into a pond at the bottom of the of hill. The camera stays fixed on the water. She doesn’t surface and music beings to play. It’s clear that this shot of the water’s surface is rewound and replayed several times to prolong the shot.

Thoughts Concerning Blue is the Warmest Color

Something I thought of while enjoying Blue is the Warmest Color (streaming on Netflix!): “As for erotic or pornographic films, without being a passionate fan I believe they are in expiation, or at least in payment of a debt that we owe for sixty years of cinematographic lies about love. I am one of the thousands of his readers who was not only entranced but helped through life by the work of Henry Miller, and I suffered at the idea that cinema lagged so far behind his books as well as behind reality. Unhappily, I still cannot cite an erotic film that is the equivalent of Henry Miller’s writing (the best films, from Bergman to Bertolucci, have been pessimistic), but, after all, freedom for the cinema is still quite new. Also, we must consider that the starkness of images poses far more difficult problems than those posed by the written word.”
—François Truffaut, 1975

This isn’t to say that I found Blue is the Warmest Color (aka La Vie d’Adèle) to be pornographic. Then again, I also don’t find pornography to be pornographic. That is to say, I don’t find the act of watching humans copulate any less significant or legitimate (or voyeuristic!) than, say, watching Jack Nicholson perform his home-entering ritual in As Good as It Gets. Why should things be this way? Maybe in 50 years things will have changed. Too bad we’ll all be dead. Still, …Warmest Color seems a positive step to me and I couldn’t help shedding a few tears both for Truffaut and for Roger Ebert while watching it as I know they’d’ve liked it as much as I did. That’s the worst problem with being dead.

Strong Female Characters

Lisbeth Salander (Män som hatar kvinnor)
Frances Farmer (Frances)
Ripley (Alien)
Elizabeth Shaw (Prometheus)
Ellie Arroway (Contact)
Maggie Fitzgerald (Million Dollar Baby)
Mallory Kane (Haywire)
Christine Collins (Changeling)
Mattie Ross (True Grit)
Lisa Reisert (Red Eye)
Marge Gunderson (Fargo)
Clarice Starling (The Silence Of The Lambs)
Sarah Connor (The Terminator)
Ryan Stone (Gravity)
The Bride (Kill Bill)
Jackie Brown
Erin Brockovich
Karen Silkwood
Ree Dolly (Winter’s Bone)
Mildred Pierce
Marie Curie (Madame Curie)
Stella Gibson (The Fall)
Shosanna Dreyfus (Inglourious Basterds)

Need Further Exploration
Jordan O’Neil (G.I. Jane)
Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
Diana Guzman (Girlfight)
Gloria (Gloria, 1980)
Hanna (Hanna)
Jen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Bree Daniels (Klute)
Norma Rae Webster (Norma Rae)
Josey Aimes (North Country)
Temple Grandin
Tina Turner (What’s Love Got To Do With It)
Dian Fossey (Gorillas in the Mist)
Sabina Spielrein (A Dangerous Method)
Ada McGrath (The Piano)
Diana Christensen (Network)
Edna Gladney (Blossoms in the Dust)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis, it seems to me, thinks that there’s a purity to music and he’s trying to harness it. As I lie here reading an interview with the Coens, I continue to think about what they meant to say about the age-old uneasy relationship between art and commerce. There’s also a subtext of death and abortion in the movie that I think must be significant somehow, though I’m not sure I’ve quite figured it out. Is it reaching, I wonder, to think that Llewyn might view his desired career path as his child?

In what I think is the best scene, Llewyn apparently aces an important audition, giving what seems to me to be a perfect performance of a song that happens to be about a woman who asks repeatedly for an abortion in order to save her life.

When he’s finished with this poignant, heartfelt performance, there’s a long pause before the callous verdict comes in: “I don’t see a lot of money here.”

Llewyn seems to realize at around this point that, like Queen Jane of the song he’s just sung, it’s him or the music.

It’s difficult for me not to think of a musician I like a great deal named Ron Sexsmith. He’s led a long career, writing many excellent songs, the best of which only a handful of people will ever hear. Of course. He’s got no real gimmick (unless naked sincerity is a gimmick), he’s not especially handsome, and he doesn’t growl out vapid love songs.

Anyway, he’s got a song that seems fitting here called “This Song”: “Brought a song into this world / Just a melody with words / It trembles here before my eyes / How can this song survive? / I brought it to the tower of gold / In my coat of many holes / I came unarmed; they’ve all got knives / How can this song survive? …”