Sunday, December 31, 2006

Introduction to milkriverreviews

This site is under construction. I hope to have this process complete soon. Until then, browse freely, but be aware much is about to change. Thanks for visiting.

This site is an adjunct to my main blog -- milkriverblog. Milkriverreviews will be restricted to my arts reviews -- film, theatre, dance, music and literature -- along with my Biospoilers Project.

All the reviews and commentary on this site are by tony gallucci, unless otherwise noted, and must be cited, along with milkriverreviews, when quoting or borrowing any portion of a review.

I strongly recommend that, before you read my reviews, you take a couple of minutes to read On Film Criticism and My Criticizing Film on my history in film and motivation for reviewing, and about my Movie Pet Peeves.

Clicking on the title in the review will take you to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) page for a film. There is a link at the bottom of the review for the Rotten Tomatoes review page for the film.

Reviews will be posted here in full. As i accumulate them the earlier posts will fade into archive mode but will remain accessible via the linkbar on the left. [Note that in my construction process some links may be nonfunctional.]

If you click a link for a review, use your back button or the logo pic to return to milkriverreviews. Or click on the milkriverblog picture to return to the main site.

The main blog is here -- milkriverblog -- and contains some initial postings of these reviews, plus outside reviews, news on my personal film projects and acting, and other information on the arts, my other interests and opinion.

A secondary blog is hyperintuitive -- which is dedicated to research materials related to some plot tropes in my feature film Diogenes/Dionysus.

And finally, my writing blog, containing some of the seeds of ideas relate to my films is here -- vignettes&vendettas.

Thanks for your patronage,
tony g, milk river music & film

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gemini Ink Reviewing Class

From Gemini Ink:

Do you love to watch and critique films? Hone your ability to see, think and write about cinema in this two-part class with writer Steven G. Kellman. Besides teaching comparative literature at UTSA, Kellman is a film critic and arts commentator for the San Antonio Current.

Participants will review current releases and share their accounts. Saturday, April 1 and 22, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. at Gemini Ink. See assignment and registration information here. Kellman will be featured on a panel during next week's European Film Festival at the Bijou Theater.

#15 The Review: Thinking and Writing about Film
In this workshop we will hone our understanding of the art of cinema as we hone our critical prose. “How do I know what I think until I see what I have said?” E. M. Forster famously stated. What do we talk about when we discuss cinema? What is a review? Is raising or lowering thumbs a meaningful response to film? “Criticism,” wrote Pauline Kael, “is exciting just because there is no formula to apply, just because you must use everything you are and everything you know that is criticism is particularly exciting just because of the multiplicity of elements in film art.” This workshop will brave those elements. With a glance at the history and nature of film criticism, participants will review current releases and share their written accounts.

Steven G. Kellman is a film critic and arts commentator for the San Antonio Current, contributing writer to The Texas Observer, and professor of comparative literature at UTSA. His books include Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth, The Translingual Imagination, The Plague: Fiction and Resistance, Loving Reading: Erotics of the Text, and The Self-Begetting Novel. He received the H. L. Mencken Award for his long-running column in the San Antonio Light and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. He served as a director of the National Book Critics Circle and was the founding board president of Gemini Ink.

First Assignment A week before meeting, Gemini Ink will contact students to view and write about a newly released film. Date: Saturday, April 1 and 22, 10 am - 1 pm Location: Gemini Ink, San Antonio, Texas. Registration Deadline: Friday, March 24. CPE Credits: 6 Language Arts (all levels). Fee: $90/member; $100/nonmember.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Theatre Worthy

Movie Madness
Does anybody else have the feeling that cellphone ringtones have become the blaring car alarms of the decade. Remember those? They were obnoxious and ultimately worthless since they went off constantly and became electronic cryers wolf? Well, ringtones won't be quite so worthless, but i suspect they will long instill the same violent reactions from those who have to listen to them constantly until there is a national backlash and ringtones become declasse.

I am one of those who thinks that cellphones, and general rudity, has quite nearly ruined watching movies in theatres (such that i tend to go on weekday nights when few people are present -- see my pet peeves posts at milkriverreviews), and so it is with some gratitude that i see in the months since i began ranting that theatre owners are taking this seriously. It's about time considering that, coupled with outrageous ticket prices, it's driving my attendance down, and i'm sure that of many others.

Instead of jamming cellphones, what if someone came up with (probably already are capable) the technology to ring every phone in the theatre that's on, say during the ads or trailers, and when the patrons answer ask them to please turn off their phone, or set it to vibrate, and that if it rings during the show to please exit the theatre to answer it, lest they be escorted out permanently.

And frankly, though i'm mr. civil rights, i see no issue with jamming phones as long as there's a huge poster out front that notifies patrons that their phones are being jammed. The patron has a choice to enter and watch the movie unimpeded like everyone else, or they can go home and watch something on satellite. Or perhaps offer that, if they expect there could be problems with kids at home, to leave their phone at the desk to be answered for emergency purposes.

The idea, proposed in the article that it's dangerous to not have one on you in case of emergency is baloney. There's always help just out the door. We didn't have these things available until recently and unless i missed it there hasn't been a rise of any kind in lives saved by 911 calls from theatergoers. We could get hypothetical all day, but i still live in an America unfettered by terrorism, despite colored warnings (which seem to have quietly slipped away lately . . . anyone else notice that?).

Speaking of ticket prices. We're paying $6 here. When i have to go to SA or Austin to see a film i'm generally paying $10 or so. Well, besides being able to dictate my viewing environs, watching at home makes better sense for a lot of reasons. My chief one would be that, knowing already there are so many films out there i can't hardly keep up and, having a bit of patience, i can buy, on DVD, most anything that comes out for the price of a ticket. Best of all, i can then watch it ad infinitum, with friends if i want, lend it out, and have the benefit of all the extras including deleted scenes, commentary tracks and documentaries.

I suspect it's the same at a place near you -- once the initial renting boom is finished, the local video rental store puts its DVDs up for sale, used mind you, but almost always in near-perfect shape, for anywhere from $5 to $10. I can collect all the big-time shows for next to nothing. And patience and keep my eyes open means i can collect the more obscure ones, and even some that are years past their rental state for close to nothing too.

Wal-Mart (which i loathe, but will take advantage of because i'm poor) has rotating specials on overstock, some of which are outstanding movies. Recently they had some classics up for sale for $5 -- undoubtedly someone misgauged whether they'd sell -- now they're special pickings for connoisseurs.

None of that of course really beats seeing a great film up on the big screen in a theatre. What beats it is the constant distraction of people who you have to wonder why they spent all that money to not pay attention and enjoy the flick. So i'll still manage to go to some films at the theatre, but the bad is rapidly overwhelming the good of the experience.

If only there was CD rentals that you could buy cheaply afterwards. Music companies might still be happy instead of declaring war on their customers.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Zerosum (2005)

Zerosum (2005) [dir. Ryan Batley]
with Alex Dunbar, Lizzie Bishop, Dan Groat, Louise Leahy, Leamann Valentine, Chris Valentine, Luke Cummings
script by Leamann Valentine & Ryan Batley
score composed and recorded by Ryan Bailey

Yesterday i got to see Ryan Batley's Zerosum, a product of his Rampaging Rhino Studios, that plays like a feature film although it would technically be a short. It is a fluid little masterpiece.

Now, before i go any further, let me say that i helped film an early version, and some of that footage is in this film at the end as well as some of the sound. I also count as friends virtually everyone involved in the production. Normally i do not review films that i have been involved in for obvious reasons, other than to say skip it or check it out. I'm making an exception here for a couple of reasons. First, since it's just now on its legs you might not find anything about it anywhere else. Second, it's that good. If it weren't i'd simply not review it.

It's also 99% a different film that what i actually worked on. The original actress playing Ixchelle simply quit coming to filming sessions which necessitated new casting (including some other parts for folks who had already given months of their time), and included a switch to black and white and 16:9 framing -- all for the better in my opinion.

So let me tell you about Zerosum. It plays against a number of plot types, but in my opinion it would be hard, once the film is over, to not think of it as Romeo & Juliet. I won't give the whole thing away, but the plot involves an unspoken love interest, battling families, a misunderstood situation and final desperation.

There are three parallel stories taking place, and at first you may struggle with the relationships among the various characters, but as the stories begin to merge, each conjunction is a mini-epiphany. Ryan takes you through pieces of each story and kicks time around like a playground ball. It's only in the final sequence that you catch up and it's a stunning moment.

Jake is quietly in love with Ixchelle. They're high-schoolers, and in that stage when a lot of indulgent flirting goes on, but no one ever seems to be quite sure of who is "with" whom. And Jake can't quite bring himself to say the right words, perhaps because he, like too many guys that age would be devastated to ask and find out the girl is "with" someone else and he never caught on. So this dance is what the film is about.

Being high-schoolers they also are at least on the fringes of, and probably more deeply involved than they'd admit, the drug scene. Smoking a bit of dope is casual and just a little bit thrilling, and would mean nothing except that it requires hiking to someplace -- a ditch here -- in which their little hobby can be engaged without attracting attention or rumors.

Well Jake, played superbly by New York actor Alex Dunbar, is a bit sloppy as is his buddy/pusher Derek Goldstein, played by Luke Cummings. And in the midst of covering themselves in the movie, one gets a mouthful of mushrooms and the other, in a weird accidental payback gets a mouthful of, well, something else. And the overdose creates problems.

Enter Ixchelle, played sublimely by the replacement actor Lizzy Bishop, as confessor, shoulder, mother figure and love quest.

Over the course of the next 35 minutes we see the machinations of both their families, watch them both burns short fuses over their family lives and unrequited love, see more than a bit of screaming, punching, and piles of weed. And when the two finally, simply, run away, there is no place to go but into each other's arms. But it's neither obvious where or how, and the way it ends will not be something on your radar.

Ryan, faced with a major problem at the loss of one of his stars, made a series of superb decisions -- choosing Lizzie, switching to black and white, and using the wider frame. And let me interject that Brooke Batley as camera and editor, and Leaman Valentine as writer, both were involved heavily in the project and it's probably safe to say that when i refer to Ryan, i'm also referring to the others. At this point i have no way to know who did what exactly, but the creativity in the three heavily weighs on the film.

There is a fine poetic eye in this film. Ultimately what one will remember, besides the fine story and stunning ending, is the black and white scenes that are nothing if not classy. There are a number of shots that were made literally in the dark and brought out in post that have a cutout/watercolor effect that changes the mood of the scenes, and at the opposite extreme there are scenes that are completely whited out by the camera's automatic light sensor that only darken into normal lighting when someone steps into the screen. It is a halo effect gone wild and it works magic.

I have long been a fan of long cuts that establish either time, place or mood or any combination of those. It's not something i'd discussed with Ryan that i recall, although i knew of the young filmmaker Olli Bettesworth by then who has made a complete art of this. Nevertheless, there are a couple of scenes where the length of the cut itself tells a different story, an effective one, than would have been told by Hollywood style jumpcuts. Thank goodness in private filmmaking you're not at the mercy of someone hollering "time is money". In particular a long cut of Jake's dad, played by Dan Groat, driving along a Hill Country highway is most effective at establishing place, time, and the simmering anger we seen begin to build at the top of the scene. Filmed with a wide-angle lens it also has the effect of suggesting a circling caged lion thereby heightening the tension.

There are also several camera angles, tilted just so, that seem to telegraph that something is off-kilter. It's a nice touch. And there are some cases where it appears that funky angles are the result of filming in tight spots, or of odd moments, where the angle helps elucidate the situation -- filming from the far end of a tunnel, or from above in the confines of a shower. And more is made of the wide frame than is usual for a project of this nature. It took a fine eye to know this in advance since it's one of those things that can't be fixed in post, at least on a PC.

Finally, Ryan Bailey's score is a gem. Around these parts we know about Ryan's talent -- he's scored some shows at The Point Theatre, but this is his first film work. He'll be working on my Dragons coming up, and doing the underscoring for my film Diogenes/Dionysus. After hearing his score on Zerosum i'd have to say i'm very anxious to get him working on my projects. Throughout this film he managed the mood without being either overbearing or obvious, and he never strayed into sound that felt faked. In some way it was anither serendipitous choice by Ryan et al. that paid off handsomely.

Most amazing of all is that this lyrical film was produced on a small digital camera and put together with a standard issue production package. In the end it is quite an achievement, and a most enjoyable film to watch.

Technical Issues
Well, at this level it is always hard to quibble with details, expecially technical ones when someone is working with no budget, but . . . just so you know.

The sound is not Hollywood quality, but overall it is pretty good. Some of the issues are still being worked out and i'd expect that once a version hits festivals it'll be perfectly audible.

In total the acting is exceptional for a bunch of friends working together. There are a couple of performances over the top, but they're noticeable and easily to dismiss once you know who. More than likely you'll be so into the excellent performances that the others will have little effect.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Apocalypto (2006)

Apocalypto (2006) [dir. Mel Gibson]
Review based on the first teaser trailer, released in mid-December 2005

Preview review
Okay here's the deal: Mel Gibson has a new film in the mill. For some reason the discovery and early days of the Western Hemisphere are all the rage, and young Mel just figured out he'd like to jump on the bandwagon too. At least he's wary enough to pick an underutilized tribal community for his plot and a little used part of the world as a setting. And while he might have used a possibly more ancient Mayan dialect (Lacandona is still spoken by an ever-dwindling number of folks in Chiapas) he at least settled for the modern day dialect in the fictional setting he's using -- Yucatec in the Peninsula. Although that sure looks the Palace at Palenque flitting amongst all the poorly CGed landscapes.

We're here today though only to muse on the teaser -- not even the full-blown trailer that will eventually issue from this spawning. And why, you might ask? Because like so many fine films before it, the teaser already exposes some egregious errors, my favorite biotargets as it were, and some other iffiness of the kind that will likely make the film a laughing stock among certain patrons. Not that anyone of any import reads me, but there is still time Mel, time to make amends!

First, one has to actually care i suppose, but as is the purpose of my Biospoilers Project, these warnings come in knowing that an awful lot more people than you would ever suspect are bothered by mistakes in the biological realm of picture-making. Would someone, for instance, drop a 1971 Challenger R/T into a film about the Roaring 20's? Only, if you're looking for a Lemonade Joe-style flop.

So, why then would someone use an Old-World Monkey, a species of guenon, in a movie with a centuries-ago New World location?

Worse is the one they tried to pull off, likely quite well knowing it wasn't right -- in the quick scene of a "black panther" leaping at the camera.

Well, "black panthers" are known from the New World, indeed ranging from the southern U.S. prior to the 20th century, and still range through Mexico down into southern South America. But "black panthers" are not a species of large cat, but a mutation known as a melano, a beast in which there is a saturation of black pigment (it is sorta the opposite of an albino -- for a full explanation of the biology of these forms see my essay here).

The large cat that occupies this range is the Jaguar (Panthera onca). Unfortunately the cat used in the film (likely because it was the only trained one they could find) is an African Leopard (Panthera pardus), which also has these melano mutations known as "black panthers". Too bad for accuracy that they resorted to this.

In any case, i'm whetting my appetite for the film now -- but i'm more interested in what other biospoilers i can find than in whether the film represents anything close to reality.

Trailer at Official Site
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Monday, December 12, 2005

Movie Meme Deconstructions

Many regular readers of this blog will know that, for the last week, i've been compiling a list of obscure-but-great movies via reader and blogger nominations. I really thought it had about run its course and so i sent out a thanks email to contributors and others on my email list. Well almost immediately i received about 25 more nominations! Anyway, the compilation is below, but if you'd like an easily printable document that you can keep in the car for trips to Hastings or Blockbuster etc. just drop me an email here and i'll get it right off to you. I'm keeping it constantly updated -- there's now about 170 films there, some of them truly, truly obscure.

P.s. the idea was to generate a list of movies that were first great/outstanding movies, and secondarily that were obscure enough that the average moviegoer (not the average cinephile) would not have heard of. Well, as in any venture this size, we did get a number of films that i not only would have judged not obscure, but there are even a couple of well-known major award winners. But i didn't turn anyone down -- and in any case those movies are well worth seeing if you haven't already. The more intersting thing to me is that in a couple of places the idea morphed into an obscure-first mode, and the quality of film took a backseat, which then further morphed into a bad enough to laugh at mode. There's not many films in that category, but i'd suggest that you might look at some of the descriptive materials on the various sites as part of the educational process. As i said, i didn't turn anyone down, and i'm game to try just about anything myself.

One film that wasn't nominated here, but showed up on a favorite site about the same time, and worth looking at the original site to see what it's about, is Calamari Warrior -- check out Pharyngula here.

Speaking of the movie meme, here's a few intersting stats:
[I'm appending an update here that includes the films added since the initial big publication]

Total films nominated -- 157 (total of these i've seen, embarrassingly -- 19) [229/46]

Number of films with a corresponding IMdB page -- 156 [228]

Number of nominating blogs -- 27 [32]

Number of languages used in these films -- 35 [38]

Another of my continuing best/obscure movie notes: Year-end lists are already floating about – here’s a massive compilation in its early throes. From that i gleaned a list of the top-20 recommended films of the year. Although several are on my list, i have to see a single one on the 2005 list! That’s pitiful. Except that some of these are definitely obscure, several are documentaries which generally don’t play here, some aren’t due for release until today – so i’ll eventually see quite a few. But then they also list the top-20s dating back to 2000, and from that compilation of 100 films i’ve seen only 25. Although, once again, considering the obscurity of many, a quarter of them is not terrible. Most interesting is that a number of the films, 17 to be exact, on the Obscure Movie Meme list are on there, showing once again the good taste of the nominators. And remember those are supposed to be “obscure”.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Just Friends (2005)

Just Friends (2005) [dir. Roger Kumble]

Chris is a guy you know. He’s the overweight class clown, life-of-the-party, always-fun-guy-to-be-around that your mother adores. He’s also the ultra-sensitive guy who ends every party he’s been the life of by getting his feelings hurt, crying and leaving in a huff. And if you’re the girl he’s always had a crush on, you’re completely oblivious of that until that one fateful night when he botches his attempt to let you know and disappears into the fog of the future.

In this Chris’ case that future is running off to LA, shedding 80 pounds and becoming the darkly handsome Mr. Bigshot girls die for. That means you have supermodels clinging at your elbow, any car you’d like to drive, and the world at your fingertips. What Chris doesn’t manage to have is a soulmate, a love life, though he seems by all indications to have a “love” life.

We walked into the movie about three minutes late, sorry to say, and i think i may have missed the set up for several things happening in the movie, so if i blow something here, that’s my excuse.

Let me start out by saying that i was completely lost at the segue from fat Chris to faux-suave Chris. It took me a while to understand that this new guy who’d been on screen was the same guy who bicycled off into the snow after thoroughly embarrassing himself. Once figured out, it started to make sense. As i said, this may have been part of the setup that i missed. Or perhaps we were supposed to be completely baffled for a while.

Chris gets an order from his stereotypical and over-the-top record magnate boss to sign the blazing hot model-of-the-moment, Samantha James (Anna Faris) to a record deal (CD actually, but record deal sounds so much more substantial). Problem is, he knows her, and has dated her, once, and according to him she licked his skin off. She’s crazy, to hear him tell it.

They head off on a private jet to make her famous(er) in Paris and she sets the plane on fire, they land in his old stomping grounds (New Jersey) and have to call on dear old mom for a night to wait for a commercial flight. Chris (Ryan Reynolds) trying to escape little Miss Perky visits the neighborhood bar and finds friends he hasn’t seen in 10 years. Enter Deus ex Machina. There’s a flash of confusion before everyone recgonizes old buddy old pal and then it’s like no time has elapsed. And lo, there in that one bar are best pal and best pal’s longtime sweetheart, now wife, best old tormenter football captain (Ty Olsson), and old crush Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart; is that palomino because she's blond, or perhaps just friends-like pal-o' mine-o?). Best pal and wife are dentist partners, captain is the archetypal drunken lout (with a ridiculously shaved head meant to look like he’s bald; think Biff in Back to the Future), and crushee is archetypal barmaid/education-with-a-roomful-of-cute-kids student.

We spend the next short hour watching klutz-turned-self-centered-jerk trying to wend his way into the heart of the girl he thinks he let get away (but who really, really, really was “just friends” in all the shallow meanings of the term).

If there are problems with this movie, and there are depending on what you walk in expecting to see, they have more to do with execution than with the storyline or how it ends up, both of which are predictable, but pleasant enough in their arrival.

First, the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a romance. You’re thinking “okay, so it’s a Romantic Comedy!” Well, yeah it is, but in general you have to lean one way or another.

This film apparently aspires to the romantic end of the spectrum. Where it fails here is in never developing any real screen hots between the dweeb-come-home and the crush-of-his-life. The payoff would have come if they never quite connect because of their foibles but it’s obvious that they were meant for one another. Unfortunately i never bought that they were meant for one another, and the various foibles only seem to underscore that.

Then you have the comedy part. There are some extremely funny moments in the film, and a number of genuine laughs. The superbly funny moments are the kind that make my temples hurt, that make me nearly pass out. And the genuine laughs, especially the comeuppance laughs are both worth the payoff, and largely the result of the antics of Chris’ improbably young little brother Mike (who, although they apparently rarely if ever have seen each other over the years, carry on as though they are eight and ten year olds sharing a bunk bed – which is actually quite funny most of the time, but still incongruous).

The comedy issue is that too many of the bits are contrived and surreally filmed. They detract very strongly from the film. It's the contrivance and surrealness i think that actually are the causes for their failure -- they are not funny (not that every bit in every comedy works, but if it's because of technique, well then that's an easily solved problem). That’s the romance/comedy intersection at its worst. In a pure comedy we expect that some things will test our beliefs, but in a romance you expect things to be “real” and the comedy to ensue from the humainty of the characters. The schizophrenic nature of this film is jarring.

The three most interesting characters in the film are tangential to the plotline. Samantha, the fringe talent Chris is escorting across the country is refreshingly flaky, and just hits the notes enough that we partly can’t wait to see what horrifying thing she’ll do next, and then can’t wait for her exit once we determine what it’s going to be. By the end of the movie i’d decided she was just like Chris – someone who was once a terminal dweeb and reinvented herself, and was now just plain obnoxious – obnoxious enough that we could revel in her various misfortunes.

Chris and Mike’s mom, Julie Hagerty (a veteran of dozens of second-rate and/or over-the-top comedies), is also on the fingernails-on-the-blackboard scale at about a nine. Her whiny, unintentionally condescending mother's voice is not only perfect but will drive you crazy. Which means “well done.” Now get off the screen.

Finally, Mike is the real comedian of the film (Marquette is someone i've never seen, he has a short and recent film resume, but i suppose everyone else knows who he is since he has an extensive TV resume, including dozens of guest shots), though we suspect that Reynolds, cast against type, is supposed to be the funny one. Mike is that smartaleck little brother who knows far more than you ever did at his age, and isn’t afraid to let you know that. He’s a whiz at the parent-proof metaphor, and is physically twice the comedian of anyone else in the film. The film might could have used more of him.

Chris Klein, the “name” in the film and a secondary character, is not quite the hateable slick operator he’s intended to be. Mostly he’s flat as Romeo, and over the top as Lothario.

In the end, the movie has a very obvious progenitor, a film it aspires to, and among myriad pop culture references (Ashton Kutcher, the Subway guy) manages to do some lip service to (although the most obvious is the worst it could have borrowed). The film it idolizes and plagiarizes is Groundhog Day. A romantic comdey that not only worked, but is an achievement – it actually uses the surreal in service to the real and nails it.

Unfortunately the pretender doesn’t. The most obvious device borrowed, and the one which strikes the falsest note is the use of four strolling carolers -- three times. People don’t stroll around at delicious moments singing in perfect four part harmony as they walk; go to a house and sing maybe, but aimlessly stroll – no. And then of course there they are at a concert too. They are ripoffs of the same perfect carolers from Groundhog Day – where they also were obnoxious but were meant to establish a particular moment in time that we relive. In Just Friends, i felt like i was in Groundhog Day myself having to relive the moment every time they passed by.

Then of course there’s the idea that Chris has failed with Jamie, and even though he doesn’t repeat the failed day, he does manage to keep avoiding the flight home and stay another day to try again. There’s more.

In any case, the payoff is the same. Chris was the lovable dweeb, becomes the arrogant personality, and has to revert to becoming a retainer-wearing dweeb, i.e. “himself", in order to win the girl. In the end, the arrogant personality wasn’t all that unlikable, and the lovable dweeb not all that lovable, and we understand, perhaps better than they do, why they were “just friends” all through high school. And it wasn’t the weight.

Technical Issues
I've so far been unable to find any info on this, but i suppose that Reynolds actually played the part of "fat" Chris [okay, i found it, he did, it's a fat suit, my bad]. I can't imagine him putting on that kind of weight for the film, so whether they CGI'd the part, or otherwise manipulated him i don't know. I would have to think that they at least had a stand-in for some of the scenes but i find no credit for that either. In any case the resemblance is uncanny enough that it eventually makes it entirely believable once you catch on.

Reynolds has a longer film resume than i'd suspect although most are films i've never heard of. And after reading his bio, it feels a bit queasy to get too down on him for this film, he's had a run of pretty sorry luck over the years. On the happy side though, he's engaged to Alanis Morrisette (which is weird because i saw The Chronicles of Narnia right after this and she's on that soundtrack). He's also filming five more films at the moment. Let's hope he's cast in type for some because he obviously has potential.

Was it really necessary to use a greenscreen for a simple front yard shot?

And i might point out that this may be the first film in which intentionally bad singing had be looped. And not once, but twice, by two different singers doing intentionally awful songs.

And to have only two late segments with an internal dialogue as narration just blares “Scipt Error” to cover.

And on the subject of Pet Peeves, there is one of those motivated light issues, only this time instead of originating from the glovebox of a car, it’s in an airplane. Possible, but funny that it’s the only reading light directed straight into someone’s face.

If you do decide to go, stay through the credits. There is a quite funny track running alongside the credits of Reynolds/fat Chris singing some godawful pop crap. I think the funniest part is his trying to sing more than one vocal part at a time.

One crying baby, six high-schoolers back and forth for popcorn.

Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
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Monday, December 05, 2005

Early Oscar Ideas

We're still a month-plus away from announcement of Oscar contenders, but as usual this time of year, i'm trying to catch up on the possibilities ahead of time so that i can make a list of my favorites. Having not seen a number of the buzzworthy flicks out there for now i'm just going to start listing the performances i've seen that i really liked. I'm also not sure at this point which films are candidates so i'm going with the stuff i've seen this year.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Bill Murray, Angelica Huston)[this one is apparently not in the running with a 2004 release date]

Sin City (cinematography)

Jarhead (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Saarsgard)

Walk the Line (Reese Witherspoon)

Lords of Dogtown (cinematography, Heath Ledger)

Rent (musical, Taye Digges)

Movies that i haven't seen that i think will be in the running: Good Night and Good Luck, Munich, Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Memories of a Geisha, Take the Lead

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rent (2005)

Rent (2005) [dir. Chris Columbus]

I went to see Rent for one basic purpose -- so that i'd know what goes on in those conversations at the right parties where everyone has been goo-goo about the play for ever.

You know i'm not a musical kind of guy. Period. Just don't like 'em. Maybe it's my Led Zeppelinish background or something. I don't know. All i do know is that to get me to approach the concept of like about a musical is to produce one that's about the story and not the songs. And even there you're treading a thin line.

So i went to see this thing knowing a) the storyline roughly, and b) it was most likely firmly entrenched in the very category of things i most dislike as a film/theatre genre.

Yep. It was.

But i have some good things to say about it. And it's going to be looks at the parts, and scene-by-scenes -- it seems the only way to look at it since the story has little to recommend it, and the focus is on the set pieces.

Some of the characters were truly likable, however shallow. Chief among them were Joann the lawyer, played by , and Collins/Tom played by Taye Digges. They earned the same cred from me here as i've heard about them from the stage version.

Everyone else though ranged from bland to in&out of character to preposterous.

The set, for what it was and was supposed to be was mostly effective, althouhg the exteriors lit like a stage were annoying.

And the music . . .

Well, i thought there were some soaring pieces here; some truly likable pieces of music. Unfortunately the ones i liked best were not major film pieces. And the ones that were set up to be the defining sections of score did not achieve the level necessaryt o make them household singalongs. IMHO. It's a shame that the script (and perhaps the playscript as well) does not tend to enthuse Red-State America or a few of the pieces might be pop radio fare. Oh well, opportunity missed.

Among the occasionally effective portions of the film are the once-in-a-while dance scenes. Two in particular stand out (in fact some of the others are just plain miserable mostly to having several main characters with zero dancing chops trying to pretend otherwise). The first is the dream sequence tango. While Mark is no dancer at all, he is at least solid enough to allow XXX to use him as a pedestal. More effective is the use of the other dancers. The group choreography is very tasty.

The second scene is the one aboard the subway with Taye Digges and James Heredia. It's a bit off the wall, but nicely done. There is an odd vector-cross in the sequence that, even for someone who doesn't know what a vector-cross is, is enough to make anyone to stop and go "What the heck happened." It was intentional but a bit jarring.

Beyond those good cop/bad cop comments i can only say the the entire movie seemed overly shallow. I never felt comfortable that there was any kind of real relationship under the melody, except maybe the Collins/Angel thing. Couple that with a plotline that has about three Shyamalan-like false endings and you have an evening of unknown pop-diva vehicle pieces that goes on way too long.

At least now i know what it's about, and can avoid those conversations.

Technical Issues
P.s. In my never-ending critique of CG-garbage: Never have i seen a worse example of the inanity of CG fire FX. Please. Burning books, scripts, trash floating gently to the street like autumn leaves. Cute. But so obviously fake as to be distracting. Of course, it's a musical. Everything is fake.

One note on physically seeing the film. There was a total of four of us in the theatre tonight. Myself. One young lady who sat behind me and sniffled all night, and a couple of boys who not only sang every word of every song, but whispered every line of dialogue to each other. Oy.

I propose that part of the slump in movie attendance has to do with the disappearance of theatre etiquette. It's much more pleasant to sit at home and watch on dvd and have only your own bodily dysfunctions to distract.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol (Israel Horovitz adaptation)
The Point Theatre, Ingram, Texas (dir. Kyle Andrews)

Well, this was most different. And most charming!

Over the past ten years The Point Theatre (Elizabeth Huth Coates Indoor Theatre) has put on A Christmas Carol several times. Most often this has been Dan Groat's fascinating personal adaptation and one-man show in which he plays 35+ characters from Tiny Tim to both Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley. That show is hard to match.

But no full-scale production tries. It's a different animal. And so, just a scant few years ago (2002 actually) Holly Riedel mounted just such an event. Now, i'm not going to wax about that production because a certain old codger i know was in it, however, it got great press, and was a very tight production. Certain elements of it linger in my mind long after -- especially the performance of George Stieren as Scrooge, and a range of extremely talented youngsters, many now off at college pursuing acting as a vocation.

And so, with friends Chris Snell and Travis Haring, we went to tonight's production featuring the return of one of The Point's original incarnations of Marley (Horovitz's adaptation relies on Marley almost as much as Scrooge) -- Andy Ritch.

It was extremely well directed, acted and produced. And before i go any further, let me say that, although it just opened Thursday, it sold out this weekend, and only runs through next Saturday. That means i'm urging you, if the Christmas Spirit is something you attend to, to get your reservations in now.

Let's look at the show.

First, a word about the atmosphere. The last full production viewed the piece as a drama -- there were laughs, but they were based entirely on character. No effort was made to create laughs by stretching a character. Tonight's production though looked at the whole as a comedy -- not as in a cartoon, but as a way of seeing the folly of miserliness, and as a way of keeping the mood light as we smugly watched the travails of the beset upon Scrooge. It was everything but over the top at times.

For that reason alone this show seemed to be an entirely different beast than the last. And for that reason, i can't say one was better than the other, or that either was my favorite. They both excelled at what they did.

Andy Ritch as Marley was superb. I particularly like his vocally inflective style and the way it edged toward the top without ever going over. Add to that his mannerisms and you have a fully-blown enchanting character. I believe it was this that was key in keeping the kids in the audience rapt the entire evening.

Jim Boman is new to Kerrville, and while i have already heard folks speak of him, his performance here as Scrooge was my first chance to see him. He too was excellent. His crotchetiness gave way grudgingly at first, but after his first visit with a ghost by his side it was easy to see him soften and begin the slide into the giddiness that would possess him by the final act.

Karl Bajoris, whom i first met in The Diviners and have since watched grow part by part, was note perfect as the Ghost of Christmas Past. He is majestic and bit pranksterish all at once. The designer of his hair should get an award.

Phil Kuhlmann is one of my favorite young actors -- here he plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, Old Joe and some assorted others. He has just the right facial expressions to make me crack up whenever he comes on stage, and his Old Joe did just that before he'd ever said a word. I for one am glad he expanded himself from techie.

Joe Homer does a fine job of inhabiting a wide range of characters in the play, but his Ghost of Christmas Future is so adroitly solemn that i didn't realize until afterward that it was the same person as played Old Fezziwig.

Brian Bondy i met a year ago in another capacity and i was surprised to find him onstage tonight. I'd had no idea he was an actor. He was Bob Cratchit and carried the part very, very well, including executing some difficult pratfalls. He is sincerely believable as the harried employee of Scrooge and as the warm patriarch of a desperately struggling family.

The three scavenger women are always a highlight of this piece -- they sometimes are the sole levity of the show in their scene with Old Joe -- and tonight was no exception. Joan Bryson was excellent, and the other two were as well. I'm having trouble sorting out who was who by the program and can only acknowledge Anna Weidhaft as one of them. Nevertheless, quite a riot.

I expected to see Emily Houghton as Fred's wife tonight, but i suppose she was somehow indisposed as the part was played by Stage Manager Sarah Tacey. Of course Sarah is a dynamite actress and was as sweet and charming and dismissive as the character calls for. Couple her with Charles Bryant as Fred the nephew and you have another perfect pairing. Charles is another fairly new youngster who has a substantial career ahead. The playhouse is at its most quiet when he trods onstage; he is that mesmerizing. And here, he takes what can be a rather dry character and breathes enormous vivacity into him. He and stunning Sarah simply raise the level of everything happening around them.

Among the various youngsters playing a wide range of roles, several of them playing multiple parts, there was not a single poor performance. There were some exceptional ones though -- the girls who trailed the Ghosts, the girls who always had a scream ready, were always catching us way off guard. Martha and Faith Danielson, and Emily Hensley stick out in my mind, as does Hannah Taylor as Martha Cratchit. And then there's Jeff Widener and Shelby Mossman as young Scrooge and his fiance in a truly heart-rending scene. Ethan Muhlstein as young Scrooge eloquently stole his scene; that boy has some chops. Alas, i fear that to go farther would denigrate the work of a fine cast of young players, and there is no way any of them should no be recognized for their work. Special congrats to them, and i apologize for not being able to single out all.

The set was very functional and attractive and the props time-appropriate and used continuously (all too often props just collect dust). The lighting plot was especially well-designed -- kudos to new Tech Director Dion Denevan. And Josh O'Brien's music set just the right tone throughout. Whoever's choice it was to play music as background through much of the play should also be commended. It's not a common device and has the potential to be highly distracting -- but, coupled with an excellent choice of music and just the right volume level, tonight it was a significant addition.

Finally, i'd just make a couple of notes -- critics will be critics. I was seated in the fourth row, close considering, and yet i almost completely lost the scenes that were played near to the floor -- an early scene with Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past, some of the scavenger's scene, etc. Secondly, there were some set changes that got in the way of the action on the stage -- those may have been timing errors only, but were still most obtrusive. And finally, and i know how hard this can be, but some of the younger kids need to learn not to break the wall, even while simply helping with set changes. That too occasionally distracted.

Again, a wonderful show, one i highly recommend not only because it's a fine story to begin, but because this production brought it to another level. Which makes three productions at this little theatre that have done just that, IMHO. Thanks and congrats to director Kyle Andrews, his assistant Emily Houghton and everyone associated with it.

Gunner Palace (2005)

Gunner Palace (2005) [dir.Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker]

You never know what you're getting into in a war doc -- there's always surprises. And there's always angles. This one, shot of members of the 2/3 FA in Baghdad -- a group of gunners doomed to daily security runs and insurgent raids -- is as open as i think one is likely to get with military coverage. And it comes across telling a story you wouldn't expect all right -- soldiers committed to doing a job, but not necessarily, dare i say rarely, committed to the mission.

They're boys, and they wanna go home.

Gunner Palace is one of those movies that's been on my list for a long time. I finally got a chance to sit down with it and not only see the movie but watch all the extras.

There is plenty of gunfire and explosions in the film -- but none are on film -- no blood, no death or dying. The firefights are just background noise. And that's the bulk of the daily life of a soldier there i suspect. And in that regard one is reminded of Jarhead -- a meditation on the inanity of waiting for fear.

The piece also reminds of Apocalypse Now in the simmering glances thrown at soldiers whenever their backs are turned, reminds of Good Morning Vietnam in the throngs of happy helpful people perhaps hiding assassins, reminds of Platoon in the sweet-faced young men playing Hendrix and riffing freestyle who turn into Dirty Harry whenever they enter a home.

The film is glimpses of evil lurking beneath the surface in striking ways, it is hatred hovering just above the surface, it is futility in every action, every word, but most surprisingly it is drenched with humanity. Who cannot imagine becoming evil when the time dictates, and crying about it later.

Be sure to watch the deleted scenes.

Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Hotel Rwanda (2004)[dir. Terry George]

I never reviewed Hotel Rwanda when it first came out. It's a deeply personal and moving film, and i really can't say much except wow about the film itself. About the project, i was stunned.

Now i have gotten and watched the dvd, which includes a documentary. I have not yet brought myself to the point where i can watch the film with commentary but i will.

In the meantime let me say the doc is as heart-rending as the film. And the film itself wields the same, if not more, power than it did on my first viewing. It must go down as one of the great conscience films of our time. It already is one of the great films.

Just wanted to talk about my respect for the entire production before i move on.

Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
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Obscure but Great Movies

The last week of November 2005 i started a movie meme akin to what i did months before with a book meme -- i'm compiling bloggers' choices of their favorite "great but obscure" movies into one long post.

I wrote a mass email challenging bloggers i knew and their (and my) readers to post titles of films they have seen that they think are wonderful, that they would watch over and over, but which are obscure enough that the average person probably would not know them by name.

I have compiled these also into a handy word document. If you'd like one just email me and i'll send you the most current version.

Finally, thanks to all the participating blogs!

Which reminds me that most of the fun (besides watching the movies) will be in reading the summaries and justifications each of the bloggers has posted at their sites. The link to the blogs below go straight to their movie postings -- so check 'em out, and then spend some time scouting around the rest of their sites.

The list
I'm linking films here to their IMdB page. Several of the nominating blogs link their movies to other sites, many of them far more extensive and enlightening than IMdB.

Great But Obscure Movies (blogs/posts/commenters nominating)

Alien Avengers/Welcome to Planet Earth (US/1996) (Science & Politics)
American Splendor (US/2003) (
Words & Pictures)
Antonio Gaudi** (Japan/1984) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Apple -- see Sib
La Ardilla Roja/The Red Squirrel** (Spain/1993) (Greg A. on
Cosmic Variance)
Atanarjuat** (Canada/2001) (The House & other Arctic musings)
Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob/The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob** (France/Italy/1973) (
Snail’s Tales)
Badkonake Sefid/The White Balloon** (Iran/1995) (Skookum Talk)
The Bag of Knees (US) (John Farrell on Cosmic Variance)
The Barbarian Brothers (US/Italy/1987) (deniz on
Snail’s Tales)
Battleship Potemkin -- see Bronenosets Potyomkin
Belizaire the Cajun (US/1986) (The Corpus Callosum)
Beyond Silence -- see Jenseits der Stille
Black Cat, White Cat -- see Crna Macka, Beli Macor
Blackboards -- see Takhte Siah
Bliss (Australia/1985) (Spyder on
Cosmic Variance)
Blue -- see Trois Couleurs:Bleu
Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom/Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring (South Korea/Germany/2003) (suzannagig-jig)
Brazil (UK/1985) (Words & Pictures/ Firefly Forest Blog)
Bronenosets Potyomkin/Battleship Potemkin*** (Russia/1925) (Skookum Talk)
The Business of Fancydancing (US/2002) (milkriverblog/10,000 Birds)
Cane Toads, An Unnatural History (Australia/1988) (
Words & Pictures)
Chong Qin Sen Lin/Chungking Express** (Hong Kong/1994) (223 on
Cosmic Variance)
Cinema Paradiso – see Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
Cidade de Deus/City of God** (Brazil/France/US/2002) (Hacienda del Gringo)
Cité des Enfants Perdus/City of Lost Children** (France/Germany/Spain/1995) (
Skookum Talk)
The Color of Pomegranates -- see Sayat Nova
The Commitments (Ireland/1991) (milkriverblog)
Como Agua para Chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate** (Mexico/1992) (
The Corn is Green (US/1945) (deniz on
Snail’s Tales)
The Corporation (Canada/2003) (Thomasburg Walks)
Crna Macka, Beli Macor/Black Cat, White Cat** (France/Germany/Yugoslavia/1998) (points of departure)
Dark City (Australia/US/1998) (
points of departure)
The Day I Became a Woman -- see Roozi Ke Zan Shodan
Dead Man (US/Germany/Japan/1995) (
Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray/Sundays and Cybele (France/1962) (suzanne via email)
Dirty, Filthy Love (UK/2004) (
Dirty Weekend (UK/1993) (Diane on
Musings on story and life)
Diva (France/1981) (Shadan07 on
Cosmic Variance/Words & Pictures)
Dongdong de Jiaqi/A Summer at Grandpa’s** (Taiwan/1984) (223 on
Cosmic Variance)
Don't Look Now (Italy/UK/1973) (Mike Molloy on
Cosmic Variance)
La Double Vie de Veronique/The Double Life of Veronique** (France/Poland/Norway/1991) (223 on
Cosmic Variance)
Eat Drink Man Woman -- see Yin Shi Nan Mu
Edwin (UK/1984) (
Snail’s Tales)
Escanaba in da Moonlight (US/2001) (
Musings on story and life)
El Espiritu de la Colmena/The Spirit of the Beehive** (Spain/1973) (223 on
Cosmic Variance)
Être et Avoir** (France/2002) (
Words & Pictures)
Everyman (US/2002) (John Farrell on Cosmic Variance)
Faces (US/1968) (Ijon Tichy on Cosmic Variance)
A Family Thing (US/1996) (
Skookum Talk)
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (US/1997) (Thoughts from Kansas/Science & Politics)
The Fisher King (US/1991) (
Fitzcarraldo (Peru/Germany/1982) (Shadan07 on
Cosmic Variance/Words & Pictures)
Floating Weeds -- see Ukigusa
The Fog of War (US/2003) (
Thoughts from Kansas)
French Twist -- see Gazon Maudit
Funny Ha Ha (US/2003) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Gabbeh** (Iran/France/1997) (
Skookum Talk)
Gates of Heaven (US/1980) (Nils on
Thoughts from Kansas)
Gazon Maudit/French Twist** (France/1995) (
Cosmic Variance/aszter on Cosmic Variance)
Geronimo: An American Legend (US/1993) (Mike the Mad Biologist)
Gertrud** (Denmark/1964) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Die Geschichte vom Weinenden Kamel/The Story of the Weeping Camel** (Germany/Mongolia/2003) (
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (France/Germany/UK/Japan/1999) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace)
Les Glaneurs et al Glaneuse/The Gleaners & I** (France/2000) (Skookum Talk)
God of Cookery -- see Sik San
Grateful Dawg (US/2000) (
Crows Really Are Wise)
Greaser’s Palace (US/1972) (Shadan07 on
Cosmic Variance)
Green Card (Australia/France/US/1990) (Jane Swanson on
Musings on story and life)
The Hanging Garden (UK/Canada/1997) (
In the Common Hours)
Harold and Maude (US/1971) (
10,000 Birds/rosagirl on Musings on story and life/Words & Pictures)
Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko/Pom Poko** (Japan/1994) (
Skookum Talk)
Himalaya – le Enfance d’un Chef** (France/UK/Switzerland/Nepal/1999) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace)
Der Himmel Uber Berlin/Wings of Desire** (Germany/France/1987) (Banana Slug)
Institute Benjamenta (UK/Japan/Germany/1995) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Jenseits der Stille/Beyond Silence** (Germany/1996) (
In the Common Hours)
Johnny Stechino** (Italy/1991) (Sheila on
Musings on story and life)
Kakushi Toride no san Akunin/Hidden Fortress** (Japan/1958) (
Skookum Talk)
Kandahar -- see Safar e Ghandehar
Kelid/The Key** (Iran/1987) (
Skookum Talk)
Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?/Where is the Friend's House?** (Iran/1987) (Skookum Talk)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (US/1976) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
The King of Comedy (US/1983) (betsy on
Musings on story and life)
The King of Hearts -- see Le Roi de Coeur
Koroshi no Rakuin/Branded to Kill** (Japan/1967) (Skookum Talk)
Laws of Gravity (US/1993) (Mike the Mad Biologist)
Liberty Heights (US/1999) (milkriverblog)
The Life of Birds (UK/1998) (
10,000 Birds)
Like Water for Chocolate -- see Como Agua para Chocolate
Liquid Sky (US/1982) (serial catowner on
Cosmic Variance)
Little Big Man (US/1970) (Rurality)
Lola Rennt/Run Lola Run (Germany/1998) (
The House & other Arctic musings/Beth on The House & other Arctic musings)
Lost in La Mancha (UK/US/2002) (
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (US/2001) (anonymous on
Love Streams (US/1984) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob -- see Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob
The Magic Christian (UK/1969) (
Words & Pictures)
The Magnetic Monster (US/1953) (
The Man in the White Suit (UK/1951) (
Snail’s Tales)
El Mariachi** (Mexico/US/1992) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace)
Matewan (US/1987) (Levi on
Cosmic Variance/Skookum Talk)
Ma Vie en Rose/My Life in Pink (France/Belgium/UK/1997) (
Skookum Talk)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (US/1971) (suzannagig-jig)
Me, Myself, I (Australia/France/1999) (
In the Common Hours)
Messer im Kopf** (Germany/1978) (Words & Pictures)
The Mission (UK/1986) (Court on
Musings on story and life)
The Music of Chance (US/1993) (Levi on
Cosmic Variance)
Mutual Appreciation (US/2005) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
My Architect (US/2003) (Banana Slug)
My Dinner With Andre (US/1981) (Crows Really Are Wise/Science & Politics)
My Life in Pink -- see Ma Vie en Rose
Nueve Reinas** (Argentina/2000) (Hacienda del Gringo)
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Italy/France) (rani on
Musings on story and life)
O Brother Where Art Thou? (UK/France/US/2000) (
Skookum Talk)
Once Were Warriors (New Zealand/1994) (
The House & other Arctic musings/Deirdre on The House & other Arctic musings/suzannagig-jig)
Ordet** (Denmark/1955) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Otesanek** (Czech Republic/UK/Japan/2000) (OutEast on
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc*** (France/1928) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
The Phantom from Space (US/1953) (
Pom Poko -- see Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko
A Prayer for the Dying (US/1987) (Mike the Mad Biologist)
Prospero’s Books (France/Italy/Netherlands/UK/Japan/1991) (
Firefly Forest Blog)
Rabbit-proof Fence (Australia/2002) (
Ravenous (Czech Republic/UK/Mexico/US/Slovakia/1999) (Banana Slug)
The Red Squirrel -- see La Ardilla Roja
The Replacement Killers (US/1998) (Mike the Mad Biologist)
Richard the Second (US/2001) (John Farrell on Cosmic Variance)
Robin and the 7 Hoods (US/1964) (Shell on
Musings on story and life)
Le Roi de Coeur/The King of Hearts (France/Italy/1966) (Carol Perry via email)
Romero (US/1989) (Mike the Mad Biologist)
Roozi Ke Zan Shodan/The Day I Became a Woman** (Iran/2000) (
Skookum Talk)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (UK/US/1990) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace)
Ruben and Ed (UK/1991) (rosagirl on
Musings on story and life)
Run Lola Run -- see Lola Rennt
Safar e Ghandehar/Kandahar** (Iran/France/2001) (
Skookum Talk)
Salesman (US/1969) (Levi on
Cosmic Variance)
Sans Soleil** (France/1983) (Robin on
Cosmic Variance)
Sayat Nova/The Color of Pomegranates** (Armenia/1968) (Ijon Tichy on Cosmic Variance)
Secondhand Lions (US/2003) (
Skookum Talk)
Secrets of the Roan Innish (US/Ireland/1994) (afarensis)
Shadows (US/1959) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors -- see Tini Zabutykh Predkiv
Shall We Dansu?/Shall We Dance? (Japan/1996) (
Sib/Apple** (Iran/France/1998) (
Skookum Talk)
Sik San/God of Cookery** (Hong Kong/1996) (
Birdchick Blog)
Six Degrees of Separation (US/1993) (Missy on
Musings on story and life)
Slacker (US/1991) (Moshe on
Cosmic Variance)
Smoke Signals (US/1998) (milkriverblog/10,000 Birds/WoodSong/In the Common Hours)
The Snapper (UK/Ireland/1993) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace)
Solomon and Gaenor (UK/1999) (deniz on
Snail’s Tales)
Solyaris ** (Russia/1972) (
Firefly Forest Blog)
Some Kind of Wonderful (US/1987) (Becca on
Musings on story and life)
Sono Otoko, Kiyobo Ni Tsuki/Violent Cop** (Japan/1989) (Banana Slug)
The Spirit of the Beehive -- see El Espiritu de la Colmena
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring -- see Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom
Stranger than Paradise (US/Germany/1984) (Levi on
Cosmic Variance)
The Story of the Weeping Camel -- see Die Geschichte vom Weinenden Kamel
Street of Crocodiles (UK/1986) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Sullivan's Travels (US/1941) (Banana Slug)
A Summer at Grandpa's -- see Dongdong de Jiaqi
Suna No Onna/Woman in the Dunes** (Japan/1964) (Ijon Tichy on Cosmic Variance)
Sundays and Cybele -- see Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray
Sweet Sixteen* (Scotland/2002) (milkriverblog)
Sympathy for the Devil (UK/1968) (Spyder on
Cosmic Variance)
Takhte Siah/Blackboards** (Iran/Italy/Japan/2000) (Skookum Talk)
The Thin Man (US/1934) (
Skookum Talk)
Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines (UK/1965) (Erin Curra-Spurger on
Tini Zabutykh Predkiv/Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors** (Ukraine/1964) (Ijon Tichy on Cosmic Variance)
Tokyo Monogatari/Tokyo Story** (Japan/1953) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Tortilla Soup (US/2001) (
Trois Couleurs:Bleu/Blue** (France/Poland/Switerland/UK/1993) (Amara on
Cosmic Variance)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (UK/1991) (
In the Common Hours/The House & other Arctic musings)
Tully (US/2000) (
In the Common Hours)
Twelve Monkeys (US/1995) (
Skookum Talk)
Ukigusa/Floating Weeds** (Japan/1959) (Ijon Tichy on Cosmic Variance)
Vanya on 42nd Street (UK/US/1994) (
Cosmic Variance/Levi on Cosmic Variance)
Vernon, Florida (US/Germany/1981) (Nils on
Thoughts from Kansas)
Violent Cop -- see Sono Otoko, Kiyobo Ni Tsuki
Waking Ned Devine (Ireland/UK/France/US/1998) (
Musings on story and life)
Welcome to Planet Earth – see Alien Avengers
Whale Rider* (New Zealand/2002) (milkriverblog/The House & other Arctic musings/Deirdre on The House & other Arctic musings)
Where is the Friend's House? -- see Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?
The White Balloon -- see Badkonake Sefid
Wings of Desire -- see Der Himmel Uber Berlin
Woman in the Dunes -- see Suna No Onna
The Woman in the Window (US/1945) (Levi on
Cosmic Variance)
A Woman Under the Influence (US/1974) (Ijon Tichy on
Cosmic Variance)
Yin Shi Nan Mu/Eat Drink Man Woman** (Taiwan/US/1994) (
Research at a Snail’s Pace/suzannagig-jig)
Yojimbo (Japan/1961) (Skookum Talk)
Zatoichi** (Japan/2003) (Banana Slug/Science & Politics)

[* These films are in English, but the dialect is so strong that you may need to use the English subtitles]
[**These films are in the language of the home country. Unless you speak that language, you'll need subtitles]
[Languages in these films include: German, French, Japanese, Ukrainian, Armenian, Washoe, Inuktitut, Danish, Mongolian, Romany, Serbo-Croatian, Gaelic, Maori, Spanish, Italian, German Sign, Latin, Russian, Spokane, Cantonese, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Welsh, Tibetan, Mandarin, Shanghainese, Portuguese, Lakota, Persian, Pashtu, Kurdish]

Many thanks to these participating or responding blogs: Words & Pictures, Crows Really Are Wise, Dharma Bums, Snail's Tales, The Corpus Callosum, Cosmic Variance, Banana Slug, Mike the Mad Biologist, Thoughts from Kansas, The House and other Arctic musings, WoodSong, Musings on story and life, 10,000 Birds, Firefly Forest Blog, evolgen, afarensis, In the Common Hours, Science & Politics, Birdchick Blog, Research at a Snail's Pace, 6th International, Hacienda del Gringo, Rurality, Fragments from Floyd, suzannagig-jig, Skookum Talk, and Carol Perry, Erin Curra-Spurger, Tammy Criswell and all the commenters on the various blogs.

It turns out that the Obscure Movie Meme is still a living, breathing beast. I'm going to start posting new additions here as i find them (including two new excellent posts today), with only minimal details, but links to the original posts for you to find out more. Then, i am going to add all the new nominees to the printable document list i have compiled.

So if you'd like that, just drop me a line at hurricane(a)hotmail and i'll zip it off to you.

So, first we have a fine set of additions from polymania. Be sure to check out the post there. Here are his recommendations: Brazil, Donnie Darko, Live from Shiva's Dance Floor, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Roger Dodger, Stir of Echoes, Hable con Ella/Talk to Her, Unknown White Male, Waking Life, Whale Rider.

Then we have a fine long list from Bora Zivkovic at Science And Politics. Bora had seconded some earlier recommendations but came back and added a slew of his own. I agree completely with him that the best indication of a good movie is whether or not you'd watch it again. I use that as my own guideline when buying dvds -- will it be worth it in multiple watchings to do so. Here are his recommendations: Kwaidan, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Tampopo, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Aristocats, Fiddler on the Roof, Midnight Express, Hair, Seventh Seal, Ko to Tamo Peva/Who's Singing Over There, Spaceballs, (Susan and) Jeremy, Shane, Dom za Vesanje/Time of the Gypsies, Wild Things, Good, Bad and Ugly, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Dark Star, Dr.Strangelove, Easy Rider, Mars Attacks, Charlotte's Web, Love Story, History of the World, Part I, Clash of the Titans, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Soylent Green, Deliverance, Sleeper, Underground, WR: Mysteries of Orga(ni)sm, Animal Farm, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, Young Frankenstein, Serendipity, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother.

Karen at Rurality wrote to add some movies. She also suggested a couple other memes and i'll likely take her up on them later (after things calm here in a couple of weeks) -- Cult Movies and Like-It-Even-If-It's-Dumb Movies, the latter for which she's already suggested Overboard (US/1987).

Here's her additions to the big meme:
Powwow Highway (UK/1989) (Rurality)
Eating Raoul (US/1982) (
Start the Revolution Without Me (US/1970) (
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (US/1984) (Rurality)

And Tammy Criswell inquired about finding some obscure movies. We assume she likes them well enough to nominate them:
Stardust (UK/1974)
Lisztomania (UK/1975)
Sparkle (US/1976)