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18. Fargo

4 Jul


dir. Joel & Ethan Coen

To many, the best and most purely Coen of all Coen Brothers movies. It’s a ransom bag full of every one of their obsessions, visually and story wise: it contains the exact right mixture of black humor and random violence; it’s predicated, like many of their movies, but this one much more so, on a crime gone horribly wrong; it’s the epitome of their typical slide-rule filmmaking, with precise, classroom-worthy moves and compositions; and it has a merciless stranglehold on place – a frigid, snow-packed landscape populated with characters so specific they’re funny for being so real. And the two stakes that hold the whole tent in place are two of the most well-crafted characters in their entire body of work. William H. Macy is Jerry Lundegaard, the world’s most pathetic man having the worst week of his life, not unlike, say, Larry Gopnik in A Serious Man, only Jerry’s Job-like circumstances are entirely, stupidly self-inflicted. His attempt to salvage a dire financial situation with the aid of dubious criminal elements teaches him the hard way that his skill set in such matters might be limited to pushing TruCoat, and we watch with cringing glee as he scrambles around for any kind of rope out of his self-made quagmire. Meanwhile, Frances McDormand, as sharp, wide-eyed, and very pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson, slowly registers for the first time the depths of depravity some men can go on such a beautiful day. It’s the first, and only one of the few, of the Coens’ movies to move so inexorably along a line of dread and inevitability, so much so that the brand it stamps on your memory is like the darkest, cruelest, and funniest of morality tales. Lesson: you can’t always get what you embezzle.

25. Pulp Fiction

2 Jul

Pulp Fiction

dir. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino, swaggering showman and showoff that he is, made his own anthology movie, shuffling three disparate plot strands into a single, twisting Möbius strip of a story, obliterating death itself as it moves with entertainingly self-conscious fits, then doubles-back into a final story of one man’s redemption. A great deal of the genius and re-watchability of the movie is in the continual laying bare of the banality within the lives of classic noir genre characters, and that banality crashing against random acts of intense and profane violence, and all of it doled out in a never-ending free flow of chatter-boxy, pop-culturally aware dialogue. Everyone feels like it’s their movie because the muscly newness of the mix is so shocking and close, and the overwhelming unpredictability of events nurtures such a level of audience participation that you feel like you’re there – waiting for Travolta to plunge the needle in, having the barrel of a gun and a passage from Ezekiel shoved in your face, being strapped in a chair with a ball-gag in your mouth. You feel this movie in your guts. Nearly every scene has become an indelible reference for filmmakers ever since, even as nearly every scene is itself a reference to this filmmaker’s teeming brain-trove of influences. It might not ultimately have much on its mind but being the ultimate movie for movie lovers, and it may use its characters’ personal plights as mere springboards for eventual disturbing acts of violence, but that doesn’t make those plights any less fascinating. Chief among them is the ongoing spiritual quest of Jules, who comes to believe he’s been rescued from certain death by God Himself – and he has what can only be called a conversion experience over a muffin and coffee. The movie is finally a true collaboration of the sacred and the profane.

Moving Mountains, by Robert Hornak

28 Jun


If you can maneuver around the initial wall of overly-warm sentimentality that stands thick in the middle of Little Boy, and if you don’t mind the multiple themes tossed at you like a juggler trying to impress a children’s birthday party, then you’ll eventually get to a colorful-if-shaky treatment of that most nagging of Christian mandates: “Have faith.”


Episode 165: Inside Llewyn Davis

18 Jun


In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis and Brad Silberling’s Moonlight Mile.

00:00:44- Intro, The MTOL Top 50 Movies
00:03:50- Finding Dory review, Thank God for Scary Movies, VidAngel
00:07:21- Orlando
00:20:30- Inside Llewyn Davis
01:09:10- Moonlight Mile
01:41:27- Tragedy, loss, helping, and Tyler has a breakdown

Episod 161: The Revenant

12 May


In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant and Sean Penn’s The Crossing Guard.

00:00:44- Intro, Civil War review, Out Now appearance
00:08:50- The Revenant
01:40:45- The Crossing Guard
02:20:00- Episode wrap-up

Episode 159: The Lord of the Rings

21 Apr


In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

An Unproductive Meeting, by Robert Hornak

18 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.19.10 PM

Elvis & Nixon, a stumbling fantasia based on a real meeting, the proof of which is a hand-shaking photograph that is famously the most-requested item from the National Archives, puts forth apocryphal assumptions of how and why Elvis Presley managed to maneuver past the wall of paranoia that was the Nixon White House, hoping to become a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in order to go undercover amongst his own celebrity circles – to “protect this country from sliding into anarchy.” The movie, as was the actual event, is set in December 1970, before Nixon had fully installed his now-infamous Oval Office recording system, so the reasons for the granting of the meeting and the content of the eventual conversation are left to the imagination of the screenwriters. Unfortunately for anyone who nurtures a real appreciation for the overwhelming richness of these idiosyncratic monoliths, the writers, who have a supreme opportunity to concoct some choice banter, play it instead as a quick, barely-scratched-surface intersection of awkward groping for common ground, neither one coming off as someone with actual secrets or legitimate motives, and the titular photo-op finally flops, neither funny nor especially interesting.


Episode 156: Hail, Caesar!

17 Mar


In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels.

00:00:44- Intro, International Christian Film Festival
00:03:00- Hail, Caesar!
01:03:05- Sullivan’s Travels
01:22:40- Episode wrap-up

Episode 152: Room

4 Feb

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in "Room." (Ruth Hurl/Element Pictures)

In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood.

00:00:44- Intro, International Christian Film Festival, Oscar season
00:07:10- Paddington
00:15:10- Room
01:31:25- First Blood
02:08:00- Episode wrap-up

Episode 150: Steve Jobs

14 Jan

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.57.16 PM

In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs and Franklin J. Schaffner’s Patton.

00:00:44- Intro, The Hateful Eight, MTOL Survey, Tyler’s Movie Collection
00:09:30- Steve Jobs
01:12:00- Patton
02:01:50- Episode wrap-up