So, a little while ago (checks calendar, shakes head in shame) Okay, so, two years ago I accepted Tyler’s invitation to take part in a project that would allow me to blog about the analytical and personal nuance of each film that made up my Top Ten Favorite Films. The distinction, if you remember, between what I was classifying as my Top Ten Favorites and not Top Ten Best was that the former was almost entirely informed by personal, emotionally, and chronologically subjectivity – what some would call “intangible factors” – whereas the latter was and is completely beyond my knowledge and exposure to even contemplate attempting. Titles on this list would not necessarily contain those to which the AFI or AMPAS would hand out awards, but would contain titles that I return to again and again no matter where I am in my life geographically or emotionally.
Thus, in November 2014 I began my list with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film widely considered a classic of its genre, albeit a genre that is largely still looked down upon in traditional critical circles. What followed was a partially completed list distributed sporadically across 11 months that took an indefinite hiatus after my seventh favorite film, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Where was the rest of the list? Why the delay? What happened?
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them. – T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding
You can trace every wrinkle on her face. She speaks carefully, measuring each word. Every now and then, she strokes the necklace around her throat. Surrounded by nothing but the studio’s pitch blackness, she seems suspended timelessly in time and space. She looks ahead with now sightless eyes, her vision fixed on something we cannot see. Her words hang in the still air, unpunctuated by narration, music or sound effects. She is 105 years old. She is Brunhilde Pomsel, former stenographer for Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
The Soloist is one of those movies that should have been Oscar-level big, yet somehow never cleared the bar with critics or fans. In the spirit of Rain Man, you had one big-name actor doing a single-note virtuoso savant impression (Jamie Foxx), while another big-name actor took the more nuanced role of the protagonist who grows and changes through his encounter with the savant (Robert Downey, Jr.). Plus, this too-good-to-be-true story of a homeless, schizophrenic Juilliard drop-out and the journalist who discovered him had the benefit of actually being true, albeit a little fictionalized. But Joe Wright’s jerky direction, coupled with a sometimes cryptic script that went out of its way to avoid hitting sentimental beats, left this would-be Oscar bait hanging without so much as a nomination. Yet, despite its flaws, it’s a movie that’s stuck with me ever since I first saw it.
We all had movie characters we wanted to be as children; adventures we wanted to live for ourselves and for many of us, it was the start of our lifelong love of film. Like so many other kids in the early 1980s, when Chris Strompolos of Mississippi first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, he wanted to be Indiana Jones. His friend Eric Zala loved the film with just as much enthusiasm, wanting to further understand the nuts and bolts of how it was made. What separated these 12-year old boys from the rest of us was the adventure they decided to embark on together. With storyboards Eric (who directed and played Belloq) created from memory and an audio tape smuggled in to a screening to record the film’s dialogue, the boys set out to shoot their version of Raiders over their summer vacation in 1982.
It’s clear even before we see the faces of Toby and Tanner Howard- both wearing ski masks- that we are witnessing their first attempted bank robbery. While some of the action and dialogue that follows is funny, it’s plain that Hell or High Water isn’t a comedy. Without being told why, we know that there is something very much at stake here, conveyed by nothing more than Toby and Tanner’s eyes. The film retains that tone throughout most of its runtime, and when it changes it’s because things have changed for its characters; characters we have come to care about very much because the filmmakers do.
In this episode, Tyler and Reed discuss Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.
00:00:44- Intro, The Fear of God
01:04:20- Mystic River
01:37:00- Episode wrap-up
During the summer movie season, many of us- even those of us who view film as art- want nothing more than to be entertained. We want movies this time of year to be fun. Certainly we want a film about a group of convicts being cobbled together for a mission that puts their criminal skills to use for good to be fun. Unfortunately, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad commits a crime worthy of a stint in movie jail. The simple truth is it’s just dull. Considering the potential this movie had, it’s that much more of a shame.
Over the past several months I had avoided writing or saying anything about this topic because it is absurdly hot button at this point and there seems to be no way to express an honest opinion about it without people from one side or the other jumping down your throat and trying to internet-kill you. But after speaking with a friend of mine, she encouraged me to just go ahead and share my many thoughts because, boy, do I have them. As you may have guessed I am referring to the remake of Ghostbusters.