Into the Wild

2007 drama based on Krakauer book

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Christopher McCandless, following his graduation from college, decides he's fed up with society's lies and, inspired by Thoreau, changes his name to Alexander Supertramp and embarks on a cross-country adventure. His ultimate destination--Alaska. Along the way, he befriends old people, criminals, Europeans, and hippies as he hitches, tramps, rows, camps, and walks. He learns from them, they learn from him, and tears are shed. He makes it to Alaska and dies. Whoops!

Liked the book a lot but felt this was uneven and overly long. At one point, I forgot that I was watching a movie and thought that Sean Penn had broken into my house and tried to put his fist completely down my throat. During large chunks of this, it seemed like a two-hours-and-forty-minute series of montages broken occasionally by dialogue. The music somewhat and some of the stylistic choices (intentionally jitters, halts, swirls, tilts) took the focus away from the protagonist and put it on the direction. And one scene involving an apple is one of the biggest movie mistakes I've seen in a while. What should have been simple was convoluted and offensively bedecked. Thoreau and more than likely Alexander Supertramp wouldn't have been happy. The kid playing the lead was very good in a physically-demanding role, and the overall message, reflective scenes with minor characters, and key quotes (I'm guessing from Supertramp's journals) made parts of this powerful and moving. And of course the parts of America that don't involve people are also pretty beautiful. I wanted to like this more and wished there was less of it.

Here I am watching Into the Wild. I'm a little cold. I also ran out of cookies.

The Films of James Broughton

1948-1988 short avant-garde wackiness

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Collection of poet/playwright/filmmaker James Broughton's work broken into three periods--the early years, the middle period, and the later films made in collaboration with Joel Singer. Most of the shorts have something to do with the penis.

As expected with a compilation of an avant-gardist's stuff, this is hit or miss. Most wallow in pretension or take the audience on a herky-jerky ride on the masturbation train straight to Dullsville. Mythological allusions, narrated poetry, operatic singing, anatomical dwellings, Morgan Subotnick, pagan handjobs, extended shots of nothing, etc. And lots of penis. Seriously, one short ("Hermes Bird" from 1979) is just the guy reading poetry while a guy gets an erection. That's not art. I could have videotaped myself naked becoming aroused while reading "The Walrus and the Carpenter" or something In fact, I should have videotaped myself naked becoming aroused while reading "The Walrus and the Carpenter"! I liked most of what I saw on the first disc--the early years. "Mother's Day" had its surreal moments. "Loony Tom," about a Chaplinesque character who prances around for the sole purpose of finding women to sleep with, was cute. "The Bed" was outrageous fun and my favorite short here with its variety of vignettes on or around a bed that wandered into a forest, and "The Pleasure Garden," though dull, also had its moments. The majority of the rest, even the very human explorations of the nude body, were too difficult to connect with. Definitely some interesting ideas and some moments of beauty. This was an awful lot to swallow though, even in short installments.

Note: Apparently, Richard Brautigan was filmed for a scene in "The Bed" but not used. Too bad.

Here I am watching disc one of the collection:

Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman

1971 Asian genre-blending action flick

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The one-armed swordsman, Wang Kong, is travelling in Japan to receive martial arts training with some monks. He meets a family of three and decides to travel with them. They come across what appears to be a funeral procession which the young boy disrupts. The mother and father are killed immediately, and Wang Kong slashes up some people and runs off with the child. Zatoichi stumbles along and agrees to travel with them despite their language barrier. Misunderstandings lead to distrust as the blind Zatoichi and the one-armed Chinese man have to fight off hordes of bounty hunters. Lots of people get sliced open.

A gigantic body count here. There's some wonderfully poetic blood splatterin' and some terrific fight sequences. Genres cross with the Zatoichi samurai stuff (humor, swordplay, Zen-like reflection and philosophy) clashing with the early kung-fu one-armed swordsman stuff (high flying, punch and kick choreography). I prefer the fight scenes with Zatoichi (the one-armed swordsman is a pre-kung-fu boom stuff that looks a little slow and unnatural), but the climactic fight scene between the title characters is good stuff. There's almost zero rapport between them since they don't speak the same language. In fact, you're required to read two sets of subtitles to explain puns as they try to communicate. I could watch this blind bastard cutting people up all day, so it's a good thing there are about 300 Zatoichi movies. They're a little formulaic, but I still haven't seen a bad one.

This is me watching, I believe, my eleventh Zatoichi movie:

Santo in the Vengeance of the Mummy

1971 Santo tale of adventure

Rating: 20/20

Plot: Following his victory over an undefeated Italian tag-team, Santo is recruited by scientists and anthropologists to accompany them on a trip to someplace that probably never existed in search of the tomb of a prince and the treasures within. They unleash de furio de la momia and Aztec mayhem after the disturbance of said tomb, and Santo watches members of his party die off one by one or run off like cowards.

Not nearly as much wrasslin' action in this, but the three fights outside the ring, the climax obviously involving the mummy, are good. El Santo even fights a panther in a scene that ends with a flash of butt crack. There are of course some unintentionally humorous moments. There's also a character (apparently some kind of Mexican Amish scientist) in the movie only for comic value who rivals Jar Jar Binks as least necessary (and least funny) addition to an action movie. At least he, unlike Binks, gets his by the end. Nowhere near the best Santo movie I've seen, especially because of a predictable ending that looked like something right out of a Scooby Doo cartoon, but because of the El Santo Rule, this is still a 20/20.

El Santo's Crotch? Meet my finger!


1959 supposedly improvised drama

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A guy of indeterminate race wears his sunglasses at night. He has a sister of indeterminate race and an African American soul-singin' brother who is struggling with his career because he either doesn't sing songs fast enough or sings them too fast. The sister falls for a white guy who is very obviously a square. Then all the characters sort of walk around and sometimes dance.

This has that near-documentary look that lends this some realism. It didn't seem improvised to me at all though; instead, it just seemed poorly acted and sort of dully written. It's an interesting passing glance at race relations during a very specific time in New York City, but as a film, it feels really incomplete and sketchy, more of an experiment (it was Cassavetes' debut) than a complete realized work of art. There is one truly great scene and one nearly great scene, but the rest of this unfortunately clunks instead of glides. At around an hour and a half, this actually managed to oddly seem longer than Faces.

Me, a black Native American:

Sullivan's Travels

1941 romantic comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Sullivan is a successful director of comedy films. He decides he wants to make O Brother, Where Art Thou?, something with a little more meat, something that will accurately reflect the lives of the most troubled persons in troubled America. As one of the studio bigwigs points out, however, Sullivan has never suffered a day in his life. Impulsively, he decides to borrow some hobo clothes from the studio and embark on an itinerary-free adventure with only ten cents in his pocket in order to know what real trouble is. He runs into troubles along the way--his inability to get out of Hollywood, meeting an aspiring actress who insists on coming along, and ultimately getting himself arrested.

I liked this story, and I liked Veronica Lake (especially dressed as a male tramp in a way that wouldn't fool even the most idiotic hobo). Unfortunately, this wasn't funny at all. There was a lot of typical 40's slapstick and verbal jabs, but this lacked the ironic punches and crisply black comedy of Unfaithfully Yours. The plot and mood were all over the place. There was the fast-paced goofiness in a wild car chase that reminded me of something from a Mickey Mouse cartoon. There were quiet moments when the protagonists tried their best to blend in at the railroad stations and the soup kitchens. There was a moment both touching and desperate during Sullivan's time behind bars, one that reveals (somewhat preposterously) one of the themes of the movie--the importance of comedy. One thing that was very interesting to me was how blacks were shown. The black characters ranged from a very typical cook character stumbling around in a kitchen to much stronger, more realistic characters, the latter, I imagine, being fairly revolutionary portrayals for the early 40s. This is one of those rare movies that would benefit from being a little more drawn out. At just over an hour and a half, it didn't quite have enough time for the romance to realistically develop or for the audience to really believe the troubles of the protagonist.

I've often dreamed of being a hobo:


1968 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Wealthy married couple Richard and Jeanie laugh and gossip and laugh and tease and laugh and don't laugh. Richard falls for a prostitute, and after Jeanie fails to laugh at his lame jokes, announces that he wants a divorce. Jeanie goes clubbing with her other middle-aged friends and seduced by a younger man named Chet. Drunken stupors and much tomfoolery abound as lives threaten to fall completely apart.

I really thought I was going to have trouble getting through this after the first thirty minutes. Indeed, there are moments when scenes or conversations in this almost entirely dialogue-driven drama seem like they're going on far too long. When I really think about it though, any word taken out of this would disrupt the ultra-real and exceptionally natural tension created in these extended moments between the characters. Words pile upon words until a single line (always a single line) is just too much for a character to take. Snap! This acting is among the best I've ever seen, and the way Cassavetes shoots close-ups of the characters' faces, it forces you to concentrate to the point where it feels like you're about to see their souls. I've not seen anything else like this; in description, it doesn't seem like there's enough to sustain interest, but the characters become so real and the tension created is so dense that it's impossible not to let the thing absorb you. It feels almost like a play, but one where you get to leave your seat and walk around on stage and stroke the characters. The final shots involving a staircase are so lackadaisically moving. Gripping stuff.

Recommended (director, at least) by Winter Rates.

Here I am watching one of the five Cassavetes movie included in a box set:

Porco Rosso

1992 cartoon

Rating: 15/20 (Dylan: 11/20; Emma: 11/20; Abbey: slept)

Plot: It's early 1930s Fascist Italy, and the title anti-hero has abandoned the Italian airforce. Flying the skies as a humanoid pig (the result of a curse), he's employed as a bounty hunter to protect the seas from sky pirates. Those sky pirates are a filthy lot. An egomaniacal American pops onto the scene, falls for Porco's love interest (and seemingly any other female), and decides to challenge Porco in a dogfight to make his name internationally known. I forget his name. Porco flies off to have a mechanic in Italy, right under the government's nose, make repairs to his red plane. He meets the mechanic's outspoken and talented niece (another Miyazaki strong female character) who winds up coming back to his hide-out. Conflicts collide, and Porco's puzzling past is gradually revealed.

This is Miyazaki, so of course it looks great--beautiful hand-painted skies especially. The air flight and fight scenes are a lot of fun, and the title character is complex and dynamic and unfortunately voiced by Michael Keaton. (The only other voice I recognized, by the way, is Brad Garrett from Everybody Wants to Screw Raymond.) I could have used a little more diversity with the storytelling (this is definitely a more simple story than a lot of the other Ghibli stuff), and the plot crosses the line into melodrama at times. Really, it's a plot that could have been lifted from 1940s Hollywood although most of the melodramatic stuff is left unresolved by the sketchy, partially indeterminate end. There are some funny moments, both for me (sort of an adult) and my children, but it's really that Miyazaki attention to details, sometimes very small details, that give Porco Rosso flight.

Note: I only picked this up so that I could use that pun.

Here I am:

Modesty Blaise

1966 spy satire

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Honestly, I'm not sure. The title character is a thief-turned-spy or a spy-turned-thief. She's assigned by somebody who might work for the government to oversee a transaction involving diamonds, a transaction that might involve Arabs. A suave wealthy Englishman wants the diamonds. Modesty recruits a sidekick, the British equivalent of Silver Spoon's Rick(y) Schroder. A bunch of old guys (also mostly suave) drift in and out of the movie, and it's quite possibly that Modesty Blaise slept with all of them. She's both clever and slutty!

I liked the style--lots of color flaunting and some really stupid camera choices like shooting scenes through wine glasses. Things are kept disorienting, and most of the movie looks fun. Terrence Stamp (General Zod in Superman, a voice in Halo 3, and also the main character in The Collector) is also in this, and he just might be the greatest actor of all time. Some of the Bond-esque weapons (most notably, an umbrella and a seagull the characters put together during a pivotal scene [although once again, I couldn't really figure out what was going on there. . . signalling the Arabs?) were cool. My biggest problem with this, other than the confusion about what the hell was going on, was that I couldn't figure out what it even was. Satire? Dry comedy? More straight spy stuff? It doesn't sustain a cohesive mood or voice, and that gives it a real scattered, clunky feel. Cheesy in the wrong places. Not goofy in the right ones. I'm not sure what I expected from this since I've never even heard of the comic books this was based on, but I still managed to wind up disappointed.

I wasn't born until 1973.

The Animation Show Volumes One and Two

2003/2005 short animated film compilations

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Various artists from a variety of countries and with a variety of animation styles showcase their goods. Some are humorous, some are artistic, some are action packed. The rating above is an average, bumped up a little after I checked Youtube to see a few shorts that were included in the theatrical run but for whatever reason were not part of the dvd's.

Those aforementioned missing shorts were good. Don Hertzfeldt's "Rejected," a fake compilation of rejected commercials for The Family Learning Channel was pretty hilarious. His stuff included on the dvd's wasn't as strong. Tim Burton's stop-motion short "Vincent" about a boy who wants to be like Vincent Price (rhyming narration provided by none other than Vincent Price) looks as good (and is as delightfully askew) as Nightmare before Christmas. Another missing was "Ident" which is by those Wallace and Gromit guys. That one was good. From the dvd's, I really enjoyed a trio of claymation tributes to family members by animator Adam Elliot, a gloriously chaotic black-and-white piece called "Bathtime in Clerkenwell" that works as a electro-lounge music video for The Real Tuesday Weld, a surreal short apparently based on Madame Butterfly called "Aria" that featured some doll sex, a Japanese short called "Mt. Head" about a guy with a tree growing out the top of him, an innovative and uniquely wild short called "Pan With Us" that used a Robert Frost poem, and "Ward 13" which is full of action and humor but probably goes on too long. There are a couple Bill Plympton shorts, one which I actually almost liked. Normally, I don't care for him. There was one rotoscoped thing, and a few shorts (the one with rocks, the one with people with music-playing devices for heads, the French one textured like impressionist paintings, and a couple computer animated things) that needed to be more fully realized or just dazzled without really dazzling for a reason. Then there's Mike Judge stuff that is worthless, but not nearly as offensively idiotic as something called "The Adventures of Ricardo" which seems to be making fun of both the mentally challenged and Hispanics. I'm all for making fun of the mentally challenged and Hispanics, but at least be clever with it! My favorite of all, "Fallen Art," is by somebody called Tomek Baginski. Well-done computer animation with twisted humor that makes me giggle a little bit just thinking about it. Try Youtube-ing that one. I didn't like the other Tomek Baginski ("Cathedral") much at all. Pretty hit and miss as expected with a compilation like this, but when it hits, it hits hard.

Look! I am watching cartoons!

The Muppet Movie

1979 Muppet funk

Rating: 16/20 (Dylan: 8/20; Emma 11/20; Abbey fell asleep within ten minutes)

Plot: Kermit's a swamp rat keeping it real with nothing but his banjo, his songs about rainbows, and his dreams. When he meets a Hollywood producer, he gets an ambitious idea--find his way to the showbiz capital of the world to become rich and famous. At the same time, businessman Doc Hopper, owner of a chain of restaurants specializing in frog legs, wants Kermit to sell out and become spokesman for his company. While journeying, Kermit befriends a criminally unfunny bear, a rock band, a pig, a Gonzo, a giant hairy thing, and a couple scientists. Together, they hit the road, evading Hopper and his thugs while attempting to reach their dreams.

First off, I completely missed the "one-eyed midget" played by Tommy Madden in this one. It's impossible to imagine that I could miss a midget, but I was probably distracted by another of my obsessions--puppets. This movie has everything--guns, car chases, suggested sexual relations between a vulture and a chicken, a Skip Spence reference (see: Animal), a psychedelic bus, music, terrible puns, a puppet riding a bicycle, a whorish pig, gratuitous cameos. The cameos were a bummer. Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Big Bird, Telly Savalas, Mel Brooks (big surprise--he overdoes it), Milton Berle, Orson Welles, Edgar Bergen (his last role. . .he died a few weeks after shooting his cameo), and others. It's in the spirit of the show (but where was John Denver?) but got a little tiring after a while. Some of the jokes were pretty terrible, maybe ripped off from a lost Marx Brother movie, but that sort of added to the charm. There are lots of cool visuals and lots of "How are they doing that?" moments, and the vocal performances and most of the songs are excellent. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem nearly steal the movie, and their song "Can You Picture That?" is a highlight.

"Anybody's lover, Everybody's brother I wanna be your lifetime friend.
Crazy as a rocket, Nothing in my pocket, I keep it at the rainbow's end.
I never think of money, I think of milk and honey, Grinnin' like a Cheshire Cat.
I focus on the pleasure, It's something I can treasure, Can you picture that?

Let me take your picture, Add it to the mixture, There it is I got ya now.
Really nothing to it, And anyone can do it, Its easy and we all know how.
Now begins the changin', Mental rearrangin', Nothing's really where its at.
Now the Eiffel Tower's Holding up a flower, I gave it to a Texas Cat.

Fact is there's nothing out there you can do,
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you.

Break down your walls, Begin, believe, begat.
Be a better drummer Be an up-and-comer Can you picture that?


All of us are winnin' Pickin' and a-grinnin' Lordy how I love to jam.
Jelly belly giggling Dancing and a wiggling Honey that's the way I am.
Lost my heart in Texas, Northern Lights affects us, I keep it underneath my hat
Aurora Borealis, Shinin' down on Dallas, Can you picture that? Can you picture that?

Use it if you need it, But don't forget to feed it, Can you picture it?"

There's a good message poking its head out from all this meta-nonsense, and although the humor and deluge of songs would make this difficult for some people to watch without audible groaning, it's impossible not to appreciate the creativity and artistry of Jim Henson. Speaking of him, this story is apparently based on his own.

Here I am enjoying puppets:


1998 French comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: The father of a seemingly normal family decides to bring home a rat as a family pet. The mother objects. Immediately, the rat has a profound impact on the family's lives and relationships with each other. The son comes out of the closet. The daughter attempts suicide and later becomes a dominatrix. The maid, her husband, and the daughter's boyfriend become involved in the shenanigans. Desperate to keep the family from falling completely apart because of the pet purchase of her apathetic husband, the mother successfully seduces her son. The daughter fails in her attempts to seduce her father. The children and mother go on a retreat to figure things out, and the father dreams of shooting them all. It's hilarious!

I wish this would have worked, but it ultimately fails as satire, parody, and as black comedy. It overstays its welcome as a bizarre and shockingly subversive but cowardly poke at society. See, it's called Sitcom but the story and characters presented are the exact opposite of the pristine existence portrayed in old school American sitcoms. It's irony. There are moments and then there are awkward moments and then there are moments that I guess are intentionally awkward. I'm just not sure I felt what I was supposed to. I'm fairly sure this was supposed to be artistically unpleasant, but it just ended up unpleasant. Director Ozon takes chances and dares to be different, but there's very little style and humor that is more puzzling and unknowingly juvenile than funny. Canned laughter would have improved the movie. Maid nudity would have, too. Left me empty.

Here I am violating my own ear:

Beauty and the Beast

1946 French version of fairy tale

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Belle is a complete whore. Magic gloves! And they all lived happily ever after.

I liked Cocteau's surrealist Orphic Trilogy (especially the first two-thirds) better, but this had the same sort of dreamy, atmosphere and ingenious special effects--backwards filming, tricky mirrors, moving statues. Memorable imagery works, but unfortunately, some old-time overacting and a goofy script, the latter which could actually be more of a problem with translation, keep this from being really great. Cocteau was a poet, and the majority of this looks like the work of a poet. After an extended exposition, slowly unfolding melancholic scenes of Beauty lamenting her situation in the Beast's castle, and a believably paced romance, the end feels a little rushed, almost like the director got bored and just wanted to end things. Choppy ending. I don't really care for the fairy tale's ending anyway.

My wife, a beauty, took this photograph of beastly me watching Beauty and the Beast:

Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter

1972 Mexican wrestler vs. monster(s) action flick

Rating: 20/20

Plot: El Santo, as usual in the middle of an important wrestling tournament, runs into trouble as Dr. Frankenstein's daughter, a chip off the old genius block, decides she needs his blood to make herself immortal. The serum she's been using on herself and her cronies, it seems, lacks durability. Aside from that concoction, she's also turned a man into a fiercely powerful half-man/half-gorilla and created a monster from seven different dead guys just like her dear old dad. She kidnaps Santo's shrieking redheaded girlfriend (Santo, in my opinion, could do a little better), and Santo and his girlfriend's sister run off to rescue. Will Santo defeat the monsters and make it back in time for the finals of his wrestling tournament? If you don't know the answer, you've never seen a Santo movie!

I made a rule a long time ago that any movie featuring Santo can get no less than a 20. This one doesn't have his cohort The Blue Demon in it, and it isn't quite as campy as the other Santo movies I've seen, but it's still entertaining goof. There are enough plot twists to nearly make it incoherent, so that's a definite bonus. Love the music in these, and the Santo against five bad guy action sequences are entertaining. One great scene features the hypnotized girlfriend of Santo approaching her boyfriend to gouge out his eyes after being directed by Ms. Dr. Frankenstein to do so. The eyepatched bad guy, who is supposed to be watching the proceedings, explains that it brings back the memory of him losing his own eye and is giving him goosebumps. The scenes with the monsters are hilariously stupid. Dylan (he refused to watch this, saying "You already made me watch two of these.") said, "Santo sure does get choked a lot," after turning to watch one scene. It's my dream to make a rock opera based on Santo.

Here I am, remembering my own (too short) career as a Mexican wrestler:

Perfume: Story of a Murderer

2006 stinkfest

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with exceptional olfactory powers under a table in a fish market in Paris. When his mother is hanged, he's sent to an orphanage and eventually winds up being sold and working for a tanner and then a perfume maker with a really large nose (played by Dustin Hoffmann's nose). His gift enables him to make the world's greatest perfume, but he wants to continue to experiment, extracting the scents of deceased cats and abandoned iron. He sets off for Grasse to discover the perfect, and more than slightly grisly, ingredients to concoct a smell that could impress the French and put his name on the map.

Lots of this was beautifully ugly, but unfortunately, this whole thing just seemed like a seemingly endless joke with two punchlines, neither which actually worked. I didn't like the style much. Admittedly, I don't care for these period pictures regardless, but Tykwer's visual flare gets downright obscene. As in Run Lola Run (a movie that I seem alone in actively hating), it's a case of style over substance, more specifically style hovering over substance with gigantic gloved hands squeezing the life from its victim. Good costumes, great imagery, a somewhat intriguing story, and wonderful dusty props that lend this some authenticity tangle with oppressive narration and soundtrack, a flatulent bumbling script, unrealized characters, and far too much trickery. Definitely moments (classy nudity, a fun little violent montage) but most the movie failed in making me feel anything at all.

Here I am, probably able to smell myself:

Being There

1979 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Chance is a gardener working at a Washington D.C. property which he has never left. His only knowledge of the world comes from watching television--news shows, Sesame Street, exercise programs, commercials. His elderly employee dies, the maid leaves, and Chance has to enter the world for the first time. Shirley MacLaine's limo backs into his leg, and he's taken to the mansion of her rich dying husband to recover. The movers and shakers of Washington mistake his peaceful simple ignorance and ramblings about gardening (the only topic he knows anything at all about) for peaceful Zen-like profundity and political/economic metaphor and accept him into their world. Then Shirley MacLaine touches herself.

If the idea of Shirley MacLaine masturbating excites you, this is your movie. Peter Sellers' performance was quietly exceptional, and although the movie is far from perfect (for one, it's too long; for two, there are scenes that seem written for televised sketch comedy), he brings it much closer to perfection. There's a great, unexpected ending which leaves everything completely open to interpretation, and the satire (on television, on politics, on projection) makes this a thinking-man's comedy. I, of course, didn't get any of that; I only laughed at the conversational slapstick and at Shirley MacLaine pleasuring herself while Chance watches television and stands on his head. Good performances and a great script.

I watched this in my bed:

Sink or Swim

1990 autobiographical documentary

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Through a stream 26 snippets (each titled with one of the letters of the alphabet in reverse order), director Su Friedrich tells the story of her relationship with her father.

This is old-fashioned avant-garde, utilizing very little sound; stock footage, home video, and poorly recorded television series excerpts; surreal scratchy imagery of female body builders, circus performers, women bathing, and roller coaster rides; and a deliberate artsy-fartsy pace. The story is complex and made even more complex with the literary narration read by a young girl, a script that includes mythological and poetic allusions. A lot of this didn't seem to add up, more than likely because it connects only on a personal level, but a lot of this was also fairly moving. My bias against female avant-gardists is reflected in the rating.

Here I am, nearly weeping:


2007 animated crap

Rating: 8/20 (Dylan: 4/20)

Plot: The party noise from Heorot disturbs the neighbors, most notably a giant grunting demon named Grendal. Grendal comes over and very politely asks them to turn down their grunting and harps. Then he tears a lot of them in half. The king Hrothgar and his subjects become melancholic and close down the world's finest mead hall. Beowulf pops in out of nowhere, introduces himself over fifty times, and promises to kill Grendal a little over forty times. Clothes are removed, harps are again withdrawn, arms are torn off, and demons howl and hop around in a strobe-light. Beowulf's next challenge is to go after Grendal's nippleless mother. Will he survive and rule as King Beowulf and get to make whoopie with numerous young women? Will his vanity be his downfall? Will the audience suffer from vertigo and stop caring?

This got both the midget bonus and the Crispin "Hellion" Glover bonus (although I couldn't understand a word he said) and, more importantly, reminded me that I need to get my hands on the movie Crispin Glover directed which more than likely has midgets in it. Other than that, this telling of the epic poem is pretty worthless. It's not as creepy as The Polar Express but it's not any better either. It's inflated nonsense, bloated with over-the-top visuals (mostly people flailing around or pretty lights or "camera" swoops and sweeps) and a terrible over-the-top script. Dylan and I both laughed multiple times--when Beowulf introduced himself with a heroic "I am Beowulf" for the nineteenth time (probably so we won't confuse him with Dar in The Beastmaster); when he faught Grendal naked while having his genitals covered up in ways that would make Austin Powers groan; when Beowulf announced, "I will kill your monster!" I don't like this kind of animation (motion capture?) at all. The people don't move like people, and it's distracting even when the backgrounds are aesthetically and artistically pleasing. The characters nearly look real though; unfortunately, they just look like really really terrible actors. Speaking of which, John Malcovich phoned in a role (maybe literally?) and Angelina Jolie's lustiness was absolutely embarrassing. Robert Zemeckis needs to cut it out. The Polar Express and this piece of crap were enough. Next: an animated version of A Christmas Carol. Why the heck does anybody need that? Unless it stars that kid from Webster, this is nothing I want to see.

Here's a crudely animated me:

Death Proof

2007 crap

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Stuntman Mike has a "death proof" car and a hobby. He stalks women and then uses his "death proof" car to kill them. After three hours of endless dialogue, he succeeds in killing five women with his "death proof" car in Austin, Texas. When he plays around in his "death proof" car with three women in a small Tennessee town, however, he realizes that he and his "death proof" car have possibly met their match. Death proof!

This was a couple hours of stupid. Diabolically stupid! Positives--the car scenes (both a violent crash shown from multiple angles and climaxing with the Wilhelm scream and a very long chase near the end) were really well filmed. Lots of camera angles, some tension, some humor, some stunts. The rest of the movie was garbage, and not the right kind of garbage Tarantino was going for either. These characters just talked and talked and talked, and about 7/8 of Death Proof just seemed extraneous. The pacing might be the worst I've ever seen. This is by far Quentin Tarantino's worst movie, and I really hope he doesn't make anything even close to this bad again. Seriously, how does one mess up a movie that is SUPPOSED to be bad? I am really surprised that I liked Planet Terror more than I liked this.

Here I am, probably thinking, "C'mon, Quentin. That's about enough with this foot thing.":

Zero for Conduct

1933 satirical fantasy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A group of boys at a repressive boarding school decide to rebel against the teachers, the midget schoolmaster, and his scholarly beard. They act up, engage in pillow and food fights, perform magic, and curse at the midget.

A precursor to both 400 Blows and If. . ., both which I've watched this year and enjoyed, this Jean Vigo movie unfortunately feels rushed and incomplete. It reminds me of Simon of the Desert in that it could have wound up as something really great if it had a chance to be fully realized. I'm wondering if something got in the way of Jean Vigo's vision. Random snippets of child misbehavior and touches of surrealism give this an anarchic feel that builds, without tension, to a climax I fully expected to be more startling than it was. There's a great midget in this one.

Here I am, inspired by this movie to do a handstand on my desk tomorrow:

Gun Crazy

1950 dramatic thriller

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A kid obsessed with guns kills a chicken. Later, he breaks into a hardware store and steals a gun, only to get busted when he slips and falls down. After four years in a juvenile detention facility and four more years in the military, he returns to his home town. Everybody says, "Wow! You look just like Orel Hershiser!" During a night out with his friends, he meets and falls in love with a carnival sharpshooter. They shoot things off each other's heads and get married. When the money runs out, they turn to lives of crime.

Crazy! This was a fairly good and fairly modern Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque movie, nice and quick. Nothing groundbreaking with wasted moments and no characterization, but a solid story filmed with some sense of style. Car scenes were very well done, including an extended single shot bank-robbing scene shot from the back seat. There's a final scene that looks great even if somebody really should have gotten ahold of the script prior to filming. AKA Deadly Is the Female, this works as a metaphor for the dangers of marriage. And it's yet another case where gun=penis.

Note: I may have spotted a midget during a scene at a carnival. I couldn't be sure and didn't feel like rewinding to confirm.

Midget crazy:

The Way Things Go

1987 tomfoolery

Rating: 15/20

Plot: In what seems to be a gigantic amount of space, two artists have set up a series of household objects (chairs, ladders, tires, bottles, chemicals, etc.) as some sort of Rube Goldberg machine. After thirty minutes, nothing happens!

Fun to watch. Things roll, explode, bump into each other, revolve, dissolve, fizz, plummet, climb, drip, tip, wobble, inflame, etc. It's filmed without extraneous effects or style, and the only sounds are the sounds the "machine" makes as it functions. There are times when it's seemingly stopped working, and I'm not convinced there wasn't cheating going on. Bonus points should be given for the creation of something that can be described as both filthy and artistic.

Here I am trying not to compare my life to The Way Things Go:


1976 drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Executives at UBC, a struggling fourth television network, watch in disgust as their ratings continue to dive. They fire their veteran news anchor Howard Beale who counters by telling his television-viewing audience that he is going to kill himself on air. Faye Dunaway, programming director, realizes that there's an audience for crazy old guys who curse on live television and the network gives him a "prophet of doom" show during which he can ramble to the masses.

Positively prophetic. The parts of this that are gritty and almost documentary-like are very good. There's a realism and flow that make it work. Then there are the other parts where this is just like a movie. There are unnecessary subplots including an affair between Dunaway and William Holden's characters, and too many scenes that seemed designed just to give the actors an excuse to act their butts off and win Academy Awards. This holds up fairly well today, mostly because of its prescient ideas about television in America, despite the name-dropping of 70s television series and icons. It just seemed overlong, overwritten, clunky, very cynical, and too sure of itself to really really like.

Something about Faye Dunaway rubs me the wrong way:

Eyes without a Face

1960 French horror

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Because of his poor driving (exhibited in one scene by his inability to parallel park), a brilliant doctor is involved in an automobile accident that causes his daughter to no longer have a face. He decides to remedy this by kidnapping pretty young French college students and performing experimental heterografting surgery which unfortunately doesn't work and then almost works but then doesn't. It does succeed in making his daughter really really cute for a few scenes though. The doctor gives up and befriends a confused, obviously doped-up Billy Idol while burying one of his victims in a graveyard. They record what is widely considered the first techno song, "Man Beets [sic]" which the dogs don't like very much. The daughter falls madly in love with Billy Idol's crotch, but unfortunately, her father backs into it with a car. No worries, however, as the doctor successfully heterografts a rhino crotch onto Billy Idol, and everybody lives happily ever after.

I'm not ordinarily squeamish, but the heterografting scene was pretty graphic stuff. I think my favorite part of this movie was the goofy carnival music that was almost like a theme song for the doctor's female assistant. The music would play every time the woman's car was on screen. More horror movies need carnival music. Good crisp black and white here and lots of poetic moments make this well worth looking at even if the story is a little hokey. The daughter's mask and tendency to wander aimlessly (and expressionlessly) created some creepy moments, and the final scene, one that involves birds, is especially haunting. Atypical horror, especially for the late 50s.

Note: I watched a short Georges Franju documentary from 1949 called Blood of the Beasts that was included as a bonus feature on the dvd. It splices together beautifully shot scenes from slummy Parisian suburbs and children playing with scenes from inside a slaughter house. If you want to see horses and cows slit, flayed, eviscerated, killed with a blow to the head, etc., this is for you. Otherwise, steer (pun intended!) clear. There are nuns in it, too.

My eye (not pictured: face):

Unfaithfully Yours

1948 romantic comedy

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 17/20, although she dozed off several times and probably didn't even see the ending.

Plot: A conductor finds out from his brother-in-law and a private detective that his young and beautiful wife is cheating on him with his secretary. He gets as surly as the ghost of the seaman in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. During a concert performance, he dreams up a triad of ways to approach his wife's infidelity--murder, forgiveness, and a poetic suicide. When he gets back to his apartment, he has difficulty executing his plans.

"Have you ever heard of Russian Roulette?"
"Why, certainly. I used to play it all the time with my father."

I rarely laugh at movies, even ones that I think are funny, and it's very rare that I'm going to laugh at somewhat dated comedy like this. But, I laughed out a couple few times while watching this one (scenes featuring uproarious and mad laughter, a recording machine, and the above dialogue). Stuffed with snappy, well-written dialogue and possibly a few too many slapstickly moments, this is as a whole a tidy little comedy that zips along quickly enough. The beginning is fairly pedestrian while the ending is Hollywoodly predictable, but the middle daydreaming section leading into the reality following the concert performance is pretty hilarious. There's a style to this movie that is barely noticeable but that makes it a more unique experience than other romantic comedies of the 40s. I don't believe I'd ever seen a Preston Sturges movie before this, and I like it enough to check out more.

Jen and I watching Unfaithfully Yours. See? She's obviously not awake here: