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Best of Half-Decade: Pimping, Shilling and Bribing Thread

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Leo might stare at us indignantly until we rank all of his films at the top of the list.

 

 

Leonardo-DiCaprio-as-Dom-Cobb-in-Incepti

 

 

We will just have to wait and see, Leo. We will just have to wait and see!

 

This thread can probably more appropriately be called "films I am embarrassed that I have yet to see."

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I loved Wolf Of Wall Street also.

 

Nightcrawler keeps sticking in my head also as one of my most memorable films of the last 5 years.

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Relax, Leo, you'll be pretty high on my list for Django at the very least.

-How to Train Your Dragon 2: this is about as "meh" as I can feel about a movie that I technically liked. It starts off mediocre, then slowly improves until it gets shockingly good (the mother and father's reunion scenes) but then the quality sinks back down again until we finally get an ending which is a really poor retread of the previous film's big climax. Doubt it'll make my list.

-13 Assassins is more likely to be on there, despite being really uneven at parts. I never got to know half of the assassins at all; they're mostly a bunch of guys who are the same age who are never given proper introductions or much in the way of character establishment, with the identical haircuts and identical clothing, and way too many of them just blend together into an anonymous horde of topknots and kimonos. Three or four of them stick out, but that's not nearly enough (think of how half the dwarves in the recent Hobbit movies are so hard to tell apart). And then they bring in that bizarro-world immortal hobo, who feels like he walked in from a completely different movie. It's so weird, watching director Takashi Miike's more outlandish tendencies fighting with his obvious desire to make a relatively straightforward samurai flick.

At the very least, it gave us a truly memorable, shudder-inducing villain. The creepiest thing this guy did wasn't even all his horrific abuses of people; it's the way he eats dinner. He takes a carefully-arranged tray full of food which is loaded up with delicate little dishes containing various different gourmet foods, and... turns all the dishes upside down, dumps it all into one big mixed-up pile on the tray, tosses aside his chopsticks and sticks his face into the pile and proceeds to eat his food like an animal, not even using his hands. It might not sound like much, but the handling of the moment makes it so damn clear that this man simply does not give a fuck about even pretending to be a human being or about following any of the seemingly millions of rules about etiquette and propriety that are so important in Japan.

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If anyone wants to make a case for Holy Motors, I'd love to hear it.  Never saw it and currently not planning to, but so many critics rank it highly.

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If anyone wants to make a case for Holy Motors, I'd love to hear it.  Never saw it and currently not planning to, but so many critics rank it highly.

 

Holy Motors is on my "I will watch for this list." I may share a good bit of that list in the next day or two.

 

Another big one for me will be Kiarostami's Certified Copy, which I started late one night a few years ago on Netflix and fell asleep because I shouldn't be starting movies after 11:00 PM at night.

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Holy Motors is also on my list!

 

My To-Watch List (* = most want to see)

A Field in England

*A Separation

A Touch of Sin

Amour

Another Year

Before Midnight

Bird People

Blue Is the Warmest Color

*Carlos

Certified Copy

Computer Chess

Damsels in Distress

*Force Majeure

Frank

Headhunters

*Holy Motors

How to Train Your Dragon

Intouchables

*Leviathan

Lincoln

Margaret

*Meek's Cutoff

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia

Only Lovers Left Alive

Poetry

Secret Sunshine

Selma

Skyfall

Starred Up

Stories We Tell

Submarine

The Cabin in the Woods

The Grey

*The Guest

The Hunt

The Interrupters

The Kid With A Bike

The Loneliest Planet

The Past

*Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tom at the Farm

Two Days, One Night

*Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Your Sister's Sister

 

My Maybe Watch If I Can Track It Down List (i.e. not at the library/Netflix)

Drug War

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Night Moves

Post Tenebras Lux

Tabu

The Color Wheel

Two Years at Sea

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Oh, and no spoiler, but my #1 is quite easily by a beautifully filmed, golden hour sunset-y country mile with lots of big white clouds The Tree of Life

 

 

Somehow this film is able to evoke a real sense of nostalgia, even though it is so period and setting specific.  I did not grow up in Waco, Texas in the 50s, but watching the boys run around and be boys, grow up, love and fight and hate and be jealous and love some more reminds me so much of my own childhood.  

 

I love the fact that you can look at this movie through two entirely different lenses that completely reflect your own viewpoint/belief system and make the movie either a celebration or lament.

 

It can be

A. Almost like a hymn, an ode to God, and all that he's created.  Everything is beautiful, everything hurts, but in the end we all end up in the afterlife together.

B. Looking for God throughout one's entire life, but seeing no sign of him.  All the characters talk to God, beseech him, but he never presents himself to any of them.  And even the afterlife, in the end, is just a dream of Sean Penn's character.

 

Or, it's something in between.  I'm not a religious man, by any means, but this film is as close to a spiritual awakening as I've ever had, am ever likely to have, and it happened watching a movie in a largely-empty cinema of annoyed movie-goers (I vividly remember one guy saying "Uh-huh" then rolling his eyes as he left the theater) on a summer afternoon, not in a church.  For days afterward, everything seemed different, it made me appreciate more than beauty in day-to-day life.  There aren't many movies I can say that about.

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Jingus' review of 13 Assassins gives me some pause.  I was planning to put it in my top 50 without rewatching, but I saw it long enough ago that I have no memory of either the hobo character or the eating style of the chief bad guy that he mentions.  I remember "TOTAL MASSACRE" and a bunch of the stuff that happens in the village ambush (don't want to spoil).

 

caley, Mommy is 2015 if we're still going by Rotten Tomatoes.  It's a weird case, it definitely had public screenings in the second half of 2014, but I think most or all of those were in Canada.  The majority of the reviews for it on RT are from 2015.

 

We'll have to make sure that anyone who votes Leviathan specifies if they're talking about the 2014 Russian movie or the 2013 quasi-documentary about commercial fishing.  I think it'll mostly be the Russian one, but both of those were highly praised.

 

My to-watch list:

After Tiller

Animal Kingdom
Another Year
The Arbor
Bastards
Blue Is The Warmest Color
The Color Wheel
Fill The Void
Four Lions
Frances Ha
The Hunt
Kosmos
Meek's Cutoff
Melancholia
Moebius
Nebraska
Pieta
Point Blank (A Bout Portant)
The Robber
The Strange Little Cat
Tabu
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Turin Horse
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

The Unspeakable Act

 

My to-rewatch list (these are movies that I intend to put in my top 50, just feel that I need to rewatch to make sure):

Happy, Happy

The Ides Of March
Into The Abyss
Lebanon
Margaret
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A Separation
Weekend

The Woman

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Oh, somehow I didn't realize we weren't doing 2010-2015, rather 2010-2014.  A couple of my to-watch movies are probably 2015ers (People Places Things for instance) which is fine, means less to watch for this...more to watch for the Best of 2015, which I hope to launch early January and run concurrently with this one.

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Jingus' review of 13 Assassins gives me some pause.  I was planning to put it in my top 50 without rewatching, but I saw it long enough ago that I have no memory of either the hobo character or the eating style of the chief bad guy that he mentions.  I remember "TOTAL MASSACRE" and a bunch of the stuff that happens in the village ambush (don't want to spoil).

Maybe I wasn't clear: by "hobo", I meant that weird hunter they found in the mountain, who joined their group and became the thirteenth guy. The one who literally fucked everyone in town. And the deal with the food was a ten-second throwaway, I just found it to be one of those tiny little background moments which totally illustrates a whole character if you're paying attention to it.

Since we're all doing it, here's my to-watch list. A few of 'em are rewatches, many are probably not good movies but I'd be willing to take a shot anyway, and it's really long:

dates according to Rotten Tomatoes

100 Yen Love 2014

21 Jump Street 2012

Absentia 2012

The Act of Killing 2013

Adore 2013

Agora 2010

All Cheerleaders Die 2014

All the Light in the Sky 2013

All's Faire in Love 2011

American Hustle 2013

American Mary 2013

An Amish Murder 2013?

Argo 2012

The Artist 2011

As the Gods Will 2014?

Attack the Block 2011

Away from Here 2014?

The Babadook 2014

Bachelorette 2012

Barbara 2012

The Barrens 2012

Barry Monday 2010?

Battleship 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild 2012

Beauty and the Beast 2014

The Beaver 2011

Bedeviled 2010

Before I Go to Sleep 2014

Before Midnight 2013

Begin Again 2014

Bel Ami 2012

Big Eyes 2014

Birdman 2014

Black Rock 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color 2013

Boyhood 2014

Burke and Hare 2011

Byzantium 2013

Calvary 2014

Camp Dread 2014

Camp X-Ray 2014

The Canal 2014

A Cat in Paris 2012

Cat Run 2011

Catch .44 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2011

Children Who Chase Lost Voices 2011

Christmas at Cartwright's 2014

Chronicle 2012

Cloud Atlas 2012

Company 2011?

Confessions 2010

The Congress 2014

The Conjuring 2013

Contagion 2012

Coriolanus 2011

Cowboys & Aliens 2011

Cracks 2011

Curse of Chucky 2013

The Damned 2014

A Dangerous Method 2011

Dead Man Down 2013

Deadheads 2011

Deadline 2012

Despicable Me 2010

Detachment 2012

Detective Dee: Mystery of Phantom Flame 2011

The Dictator 2012

The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! 2010

Dredd 2012

Easy A 2010

Enter the Void 2010

The Equalizer 2014

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele 2010

Faces in the Crowd 2011

The Fairy 2012

A Fantastic Fear of Everything 2014

Faster 2010

Faust 2013

A Field in England 2014

The Fighter 2010

Foxcatcher 2014

Frankenweenie 2012

From Up on Poppy Hill 2013

Frozen 2010

Fury 2014

G.I. Joe: Retaliation 2013

Game of Assassins (The Gauntlet) 2013

Get Him to the Greek 2010

The Ghost Writer 2010

Girl Most Likely 2013

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 2014

Glass Heels 2011?

God Bless America 2012

God's Pocket 2014

Gone 2012

Gone Girl 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird 2010

Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts 2013

Grabbers 2013

The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014

The Grandmaster 2013

Grave Encounters 2011

The Green Hornet 2011

The Grey 2012

Hanna 2011

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 2013

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai 2012

Hateship Loveship 2014

Haunter 2013

Here Comes the Devil 2013

The Homesman 2014

Horrible Bosses 2011

Hugo 2011

I am Love 2010

I Saw the Devil 2011

The Imitation Game 2014

The Innkeepers 2012

Interstellar 2014

The Interview 2014

Into the Abyss 2011

Iron Sky 2012

J. Edgar 2011

Johnny English Reborn 2011

Jug Face 2013

Kill List 2012

The Killer Inside Me 2010

Killer Joe 2012

The King's Speech 2010

Kisses 2010

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride 2010

The Last Stand 2013

The Legend of Hell's Gate 2012

Leonie 2013

The Letter 2012

Life of Pi 2012

The Lifeguard 2013

Lincoln 2012

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax 2014

The Lone Ranger 2013

Lord of Tears 2013

Love & Other Drugs 2011

Love Exposure 2011

Lovelace 2013

Lust for Love 2014

Made in Romania 2010

Maleficent 2014

The Man From Nowhere 2010

Maniac 2013

The Master 2012

Meek's Cutoff 2011

Midnight in Paris 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 2011

The Moment 2014

Moneyball 2011

The Monitor 2012

Monsters 2010

Monsters University 2013

Mood Indigo 2014

Moonrise Kingdom 2012

The Moth Diaries 2012

Mother 2010

Night Moves 2014

No Strings Attached 2011

No Tears for the Dead 2014

Noah 2014

On the Road 2012

Ondine 2010

The One I Love 2014

Open Grave 2014

Outcast 2010

Outrage 2011

Pain & Gain 2013

The Paperboy 2012

ParaNorman 2012

Peacock 2010

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011

Pitch Perfect 2012

Playdate 2013?

Rango 2011

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale 2010

Red Riding Hood 2011

Red: Werewolf Hunter 2010

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011

Robin Hood 2010

Rosewater 2014

Rubber 2011

Ruby Sparks 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed 2012

Save the Date 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 2012

Seven Psychopaths 2012

Shadow Dancer 2013

The Shrine 2010

The Signal 2014

Silver Bullets 2011

The Skin I Live In 2011

Sleeping Beauty 2011

The Social Network 2010

Sold 2014

Somewhere 2010

Source Code 2011

South of Sanity 2012?

Space Battleship Yamamoto 2013

Stoker 2013

Stonehearst Asylum 2014

Struck by Lightning 2013

Styria 2014

Summer Wars 2010

Take Shelter 2011

Takers 2010

Tales from Earthsea 2010

The Tempest 2010

Temple Grandin 2010

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011

The Town 2010

The Town that Dreaded Sundown 2014

The Tree of Life 2011

Trollhunter 2011

The Truth Below 2011?

The Tunnel 2012

The Turin Horse 2012

Twixt 2012

Two Days, One Night 2014

Upstream Color 2013

Vampire 2013

The Victim 2012

Violet & Daisy 2013

War Horse 2011

The Ward 2011

The Warrior's Way 2010

We Are the Night 2011

We Are What We Are 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin 2012

When in Rome 2010

Whiplash 2014

The Whisperer in Darkness 2011

The Whistleblower 2011

White Bird in a Blizzard 2014

Wild Target 2010

The Wind Rises 2014

Wolf Children 2012

WolfCop 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street 2013

The Woman 2011

Womb 2012

Wreckers 2011

Yellowbrickroad 2011

You Again 2010

Young Adult 2011

Zero Dark Thirty 2013

The Zero Theorem 2014

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First two movies off my To-Watch list, er, watched.

 

Selma: It's funny, you sit down to watch this and see the scene of the woman trying to vote and think "Wow, how far we've come! To think that black people couldn't vote then!" and then a few minutes later, you hear speeches by George Wallace and other opponents of the march and you think "You know...I'm pretty sure I heard this exact same argument last week used to criticize the influx of refugees" and then you think "Man...we really haven't come that far at all."  Anyways, this is a good, though I wouldn't quite say great movie, with a great performance by David Oyelowo at its center.  I also felt like the film did a terrific job of showing that MLK was a great man, humanitarian and orator, but also that he was a pretty brilliant politican, as well.   I thought the scene of them attempting to cross the bridge and the police standing aside and the rush of music and when they all drop to pray was really powerful stuff, but then the actual march was kind of done quickly via montage.  A handful of weird things about the film:

-Stephen Root as Col. Al Lingo is one of the more distracting bits of casting I've ever seen, largely because I know him first and foremost for comedic roles.  Not that he's not a good actor, but when he's marshaling his fellow racist cops to go after the marchers, I couldn't help but think of Milton looking for his stapler, Jimmy James with another harebrained scheme, or Bill Dauterive's pre-military career.  Unfair to him, but it would be like casting Joel Hodgson as a villain in a movie, I'm probably going to have a hard time watching it.

-There is one scene where Martin Luther King talks to one of the other leaders of their movement and explains that he can't be present for the first day of the march and the other guy (I'm sorry to sound flip about a historical character, but I'm just not sure which one it was) says that he doesn't need to be there for the first day, he can come in later.  And for some reason the director decides to fade some music into the background, that sounds like jazz flute, which is totally fine, except the flute (or sax or whatever it is) comes in so loud that I had the brief idea that MLK had just picked up the flute and begun playing it in the middle of the phonecall and imagined the guy on the other end going "Martin? Martin?  Put down the damn flute, son, we're trying to have a conversation here."
-I also thought it was really the worst thing ever that Ava DuVernay had to write NEW speeches for the movie, because the estate of MLK wouldn't let them use his original speeches because they want to save them for an unmade MLK biopic.  The idea that they can't use historical speeches in a story of a man's life is completely insane to me.  It would be like if you did a movie about Lincoln and had to write a new speech for him "Some eightyish years ago..."

So, I liked it, I was impressed, but I don't know that it will make my final list.

Also watched The Kid With the Bike and maybe I'm crazy, but I felt like it was a bit of a disappointment.  I'm a big fan of the Dardennes' 'The Son' and 'L'Enfant' but this one just didn't really click with me.  It's about a kid in a group home because his father has abandoned him, trying to track down his father and his bike and receives unexpected kindness from a local hairdresser who returns his bike to him, and begins to foster him on the weekends.  The kid, having to deal with so much shit, is almost feral in that when he's threatened his first instinct is to bite.  Now, I'm not one of these film guys who wants his movies to end depressing all the time, but I felt like this one came together much too quickly and easily.  The performances are really great but the movie paled when compared to the previously mentioned Dardenne flicks.  I also found the use of music (Which I don't recall any of in the two aforementioned films) really heavy-handed, like it was an audible "Cry now" cue.  It's good, but it won't find purchase upon my list.

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Oh yeah, good job Jingus, NOW is the perfect time to fall in marathon-love with a new TV show. Curse you, Outlander, why must you be the most bewitchingly gorgeous and lyrically entrancing program on all of television?!

But I did try to watch... uh... The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie. Sadly, I had a gimpy copy and it kept skipping so badly that I gave up after about twenty minutes. I used to be a fan of the show and I laughed at some of the jokes here, but overall it was clearly not-list-worthy so I won't be trying to watch it again for this project.

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Oh yeah, good job Jingus, NOW is the perfect time to fall in marathon-love with a new TV show. Curse you, Outlander, why must you be the most bewitchingly gorgeous and lyrically entrancing program on all of television?!

But I did try to watch... uh... The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie. Sadly, I had a gimpy copy and it kept skipping so badly that I gave up after about twenty minutes. I used to be a fan of the show and I laughed at some of the jokes here, but overall it was clearly not-list-worthy so I won't be trying to watch it again for this project.

 

I'm in the same boat. I've been catching up on 2015 stuff too. I have the new Mission Impossible, Man from U.N.C.L.E, and Clouds of Sils Maria from Redbox.

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Birdman: nah, probably not on my list. I suppose it's "good", technically, but it rubbed me the wrong way in several areas. Why does so much of the film look like an actor's demo reel, with so many monologues? Why are the seams in the not-really-that-long takes so obvious? And what the HELL is the deal with the several million subplots which are brought up and then forgotten like a Russo undercard angle? The entire first half of the movie makes it look like the whole thing is going to be a contest of wills between Keaton and Norton's characters, but then Norton practically vanishes out of the entire second half. If there was ever an actual point to the whole "Riggan has secret superpowers" bit, then I missed it. And NEVER trust a movie which indulges its actors in a "the main character gets so emotional that he tears apart an entire room", everyone's been copying that shit since Citizen Kane did it and I've never seen it done where it didn't feel like a hey-look-at-me moment of pandering for the performer.

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And NEVER trust a movie which indulges its actors in a "the main character gets so emotional that he tears apart an entire room", everyone's been copying that shit since Citizen Kane did it and I've never seen it done where it didn't feel like a hey-look-at-me moment of pandering for the performer.

You're wrong

 

(Seriously, though, I LOVE 'Birdman'.  Sometimes I just like watching a bunch of good to great actors just acting the shit out of their roles, and even the peripheral characters (the girlfriends, the producer, the critic) are good actors turning in perfect little performances.  But, also, it's funny, it's affecting, it has a great score, and has the crazy manic energy that keeps it from ever getting boring.  To be fair, though, any movie that opens with a Raymond Carver quote (my favourite author, bar none) and bases its entirepremise around an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story is going to resonate with me).

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Walk Hard agrees with me, it was mocking all the times that movies try to pawn that off as a serious moment. Shit, even The Room did it.

And my reaction was damn near the opposite of yours, because:

-I've got no love for Carver. I was repeatedly forced to study his work when I was an English major, and absolutely never saw the big deal about him. He felt like the lite beer version of Flannery O'Connor's pure-grain whiskey, to me.

-I kinda hated the soundtrack. It was cool at first, but what's essentially a two-hour-long drum solo quickly got pretty damn tiresome.

-And much of the time, I don't even think it was that energetic. Afterwards I wanted to wash the taste of NYC indy cutesiness right outta my mouth, so I threw in Expendables 3. And ya know what? Even though it's easily the worst entry in the trilogy and likely shan't appear on my list, Expendables 3 entertained me a hell of a lot more than most of Birdman's "Fellini by way of Woody Allen" routine did. E3 also charged forward with a hell of a lot more kinetic power, which is impressive, considering its cast of characters (all too many of whom get sadly neglected by an overstuffed script) is about triple the size of BM's.

And finally, Birdman's weak attempts at trying to comment on entertainment media really rubbed me the wrong way. I thought they could've done a lot more with the meta-knowledge that Keaton single-handedly kicked off the modern superhero movement, the movie never really did much to mine into that. The scene where he hallucinates the big action sequence was wrong in two different ways: 1.I thought it actually looked cooler than the real movie, which is never a good thing (NEVER have your fake story-within-a-story be better than the main plot: we call that The Number 23 Syndrome) and 2.Birdman's annoying narration over the explosions was the weakest, most banal possible condemnation of said action. He's basically using Kevin Nash's logic of "hey man, I just give the people what they want to see!" and that's really shallow. Same thing with that awful scene with the snooty critic lady, who (like practically every critic in every movie ever) is a joyless humorless old dried-up prune who hates everything that is fun and is always wrong. Hey Birdman, maybe you shouldn't be copying characters and plot points from Lady in the Water.

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And to be fair, I should clarify: I didn't hate this movie. I thought most of the actors were awesome; it even managed to put Emma Stone in two-handed scenes with Ed Norton and she looked entirely comfortable and able to hold her own, which is a small miracle all by itself. But when you've got the label of THE OFFICIAL BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE ENTIRE YEAR tattooed onto a movie's forehead, you expect a lot more from that movie than the average flick. I thought 12 Years a Slave perfectly met (or even exceeded) such expectations, just to name one example. Meanwhile, Birdman was probably my least-favorite Best Picture winner that I've seen since Crash.

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Chances are I'll be pimping films based on comic books more than any other as I'm a big fan of them and comic books. Let's start with these two...

 

X-Men: First Class (2011). I didn’t have much interest in X-Men: First Class when it was first announced even though origin tales are a favourite of mine and how the last two X-Men films turned out. The reviews were very positive for the film. I bought X-Men: First Class on DVD and enjoyed it. The best thing about the film was the relationship between Professor X and Magneto, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.

 

Dredd (2012). Dredd is a well done violent comic book action film, I really enjoyed it. The three leads: Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, Olivia Thirlby as Cassandra Anderson and Lena Headley as Ma-Ma were great. The look of the film from the Judges costumes, Lawgiver, Lawmaster, Mega-City One and the special effects deserve praise, so does the soundtrack. The judges’ costumes are one of my favourite ever comic to film translations. One of the few 3D films I watched when it was worth the format. Shame it didn’t perform better at the box office for the sequel to happen.

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Alright, I'll post my rewatch/revisit list at a later date. I also know that I am missing stuff on my below list (probably mainly in the foreign and probably documentary film categories), thus, I will probably edit and update this at a later date.

 

13 Assassins
A Kid With a Bike
A Prophet
A Touch of Sin
Act of Killing
Amour 
Animal Kingdom
Another Earth
Bellflower
Black Swan
Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue Ruin
Broken Circle Breakdown
Carlos
Certified Copy
Cloud Atlas
Computer Chess
Cosmopolis
Dangerous Method
Dogtooth
Enter the Void
Force Majeur
Frank
Holy Motors
In a World
Incendies
J Edgar
Leviathan (Both Versions)
Life of Pi
Like Someone in Love
Listen Up Philip
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meek's Cutoff
Melancholia
Memphis
Mood Indigo
Night Moves
No
Once Upon A Time in Anatolia
Only God Forgives
Oslo, August 31st
Rust and Bone
Safety Not Guaranteed 
Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Arbor
The Color Wheel
The Double
The Great Beauty
The Grey
The Hunt
The Ides of March
The Interrupters
The Loneliest Planet
The Secret World of Arietty
The Tillman Story
The Turin Horse
To the Wonder
Two Days, One Night
Unbroken
Uncle Boonme: Who Can Recall Past Lives
Upstream Color
War Witch
Win Win
Winter Sleep

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Is there anything that is really better than Whiplash? 

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Dunno. Haven't seen it. It's on the short list. I love me some growly scenery-chewing J.K. Simmons, and it had one of the better trailers I've seen in years.

I have, however, now seen The Homesman; and it'll definitely find a place somewhere upon my list, probably in the middle-ish. Tommy Lee Jones stars in, writes, and directs this pitiless Western. In the Nebraska territory sometime in the 1840s, three different women have coincidentally all gone completely fucking crazy, driven insane by the rigors of Western life. A headstrong spinster (Hilary Swank, giving maybe the finest performance of her career) and a pathetic drifter (Jones) are tasked with taking the women back east to an asylum. What follows is awfully episodic; but that's no complaint in a Western, Stagecoach was an episodic travelogue as well. It's fun for those who like their frontier mythology grounded in reality and dripping with despair, a picture which would be no damn fun whatsoever if it weren't for Mr. Tommy providing such a surprisingly funny character (and unlike most of his roles, he's the butt of the jokes; Jones takes some real risks here, making himself look downright feeble at times).

The movie does suffer from taking a HARD left turn in the last act, smacking us right in the goddamn nose with a sucker-punch of a plot twist that we couldn't possibly see coming and which still feels kinda contrived and unfair. The film is far less steady in its final moments (things such as having James Spader show up with a cartoonish Irish accent are NOT helping) and it ends on such a note of anti-cathartic hopelessness that, I dunno man. But hey... that's art. You take your chances if you wanna make art. And it turns out that, as an auteur, Jones is indeed a first-rate artist. His editing still needs a lot of work (the scene transitions are so jagged that it feels like he just forgot to shoot a lot of the connecting footage) but his cinematography is GORGEOUS, with some of the most beautifully perfect symmetrical framing this side of P.T. Anderson. Very highly recommended to those who enjoy some Cormac McCarthy-style anti-Westerns, and I'd actually argue that it's a better picture than No Country for Old Men and a better star performance from Jones to boot.

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Walk Hard agrees with me, it was mocking all the times that movies try to pawn that off as a serious moment. Shit, even The Room did it.

And my reaction was damn near the opposite of yours, because:

-I've got no love for Carver. I was repeatedly forced to study his work when I was an English major, and absolutely never saw the big deal about him. He felt like the lite beer version of Flannery O'Connor's pure-grain whiskey, to me.

Well, I see Carver as part of understanding the whole movie, I think.  I mean, first of all you have Riggins adapting a short story into a play.  But he only takes part of the short story, really less than a third of the short story and turning it into something else.  If you read 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' the story of the guy who beat up his girlfriend and shot himself is about 4 pages of a 15 page story, the bulk of the actual short story is the real focus of the What it is when we talk about love (The elderly man who is depressed, not because of his and his wife's injuries, but because he can't see his wife through his eye-holes).  But Riggins throws that whole part of the story away, to focus on the more dramatic part.  The fact that he adds a dream sequence and a big confrontation/suicide to the play runs countermand to Raymond Carver's whole raison d'etre: minimalism.  Carver was known for writing a piece, then paring it down, and down and down, until he had the absolute bare-bones required to tell a story.  There's no flourish, no extra description, he was interested in getting down to as little as possible: real gritty realism, real minimalism.  Carver would have been totally against adding a dream sequence to one his story.  So it's clear that Riggins is doing exactly what the critic says he's doing, trying to win over critics with a play he doesn't really understand.  Why does he choose Carver? Simply because Carver once offered a nice review of one of his performances.  He doesn't understand Carver, but he wants to.

-I kinda hated the soundtrack. It was cool at first, but what's essentially a two-hour-long drum solo quickly got pretty damn tiresome.

I loved the score.  It gave the film such a kinetic energy and just a completely different feel from everything else out there.

 

And finally, Birdman's weak attempts at trying to comment on entertainment media really rubbed me the wrong way. I thought they could've done a lot more with the meta-knowledge that Keaton single-handedly kicked off the modern superhero movement, the movie never really did much to mine into that. The scene where he hallucinates the big action sequence was wrong in two different ways: 1.I thought it actually looked cooler than the real movie, which is never a good thing (NEVER have your fake story-within-a-story be better than the main plot: we call that The Number 23 Syndrome)

Well, I think that's the whole point, isn't it?  Riggins wants to be accepted as a serious actor, but it's boring work.  The fantasy is so much more exciting, the whole concept of being Birdman is always going to be more exciting than being the character actor grinding it out in plays.  It's the two sides of him battling it out.  The end seems to suggest he's somehow now found a way to balance the two halves: he's become famous doing good work by a complete accident which

also is a fun call-back to the source material in that the man in the short story actually botches the suicide attempt and lives for a few days in the hospital afterwards, much the way Riggins botches his own accidental suicide attempt

 

I mean, obviously, we're not going to see eye-to-eye on this one, and probably never will.  I kinda feel like I went into this one completely ready to embrace it, largely because of the Raymond Carver angle, while you kinda went into it ready to hate it (phrases like NYC indie cuteness and your dislike of Carver give me that indication).  Who knows, if it was a film framed around another author's work, you might have found yourself more ready to like it, while I would have felt the opposite.

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Watched three films for this, but only one was on my to-watch list.

 

The Guest: This was bad-ass.  Which is this weird thriller/horror hybrid where a family meets an ex-soldier who used to serve in the same unit as their deceased son.  The mother welcomes him instantly, while the rest of the family gradually warms to him as he ingratiates himself in their day-to-day lives.  And that's where the turn comes from, but it's impossible to discuss really without spoilers so...

what makes the film so fascinating is that you really want to like him even after it starts to reveal that he's the antagonist of the film.  Like, after he helps the bullied son, or knocks around the sister's friend's abusive ex, you're all rooting for this guy.  Then, when he kills the sister's friend, I still found myself going "Well, he was going to sell him a gun...so he's not that good of a person he killed" then when he frames the sister's boyfriend I went "Eh, he was a drug dealer". Then when he kills the father's boss and girlfriend I found myself going "Well...that's harder to excuse but maybe they were evil in some way that hasn't been explained yet" and then when he kills the mother I sort of had to go "Ah, well, I guess he's not...the good guy."  It's a fun exercise in how far your audience is willing to go to support your lead before relenting.  I think there will be some people who will still be making excuses for him even late in the film.

Anyways, I loved the John Carpenter-y score, and the way it became almost a slasher film.  This will almost definitely make my list somewhere.

 

Cold in July: I have to apologize to whoever it was I was discussing this movie with on here.  I complained about how I wanted it to be a straight-up revenge film with Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard, and was disappointed when it went in a different direction and never actually finished watching it.  So last night I went back to it, and it's actually really good, and I was completely wrong.  Hall plays a father who finds an intruder in his house and kind-of accidentally shoots and kills him.  The man is identified, Hall feels bad and goes to the funeral, and is confronted by Shepard, playing the father of the deceased, who starts to terrorize the family.  But, soon, Hall realizes everything might not be as it seems, that the man he killed looks completely different from the man whom he was identified as killing, and it becomes a much different film, especially with the introduction of a private investigator, awesomely played by Don Johnson.  This is a good partner to the previous film, as it has the same synthesize-driven score, and plays with some similar issues of masculinity and the like.  This will probably be on my list, too.

 

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: From the box art and previews, I basically thought this was going to be a sorta redneck Evil Dead.  It's not, it's more of a horror comedy that is more comedy than horror.  Tucker (played by an actor I previously really disliked in Tyler Labine, but who is not bad here) and Dale (the always great Alan Tudyk) are two good ol' boys who go out to the woods for a vacation, only to be mistaken by drunk college kids for evil hillbilly killers and the way that the kids end up getting bumped off are one of the more enjoyable parts of the film.  There's lots of gore, and how Tudyk and Labine responds to it is probably my favourite part.  I felt like the plot was a little too convenient and pat in parts, but it was mostly enjoyable.  Won't make my list, though, there are just better comedies.

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I mean, obviously, we're not going to see eye-to-eye on this one, and probably never will.  I kinda feel like I went into this one completely ready to embrace it, largely because of the Raymond Carver angle, while you kinda went into it ready to hate it (phrases like NYC indie cuteness and your dislike of Carver give me that indication).  Who knows, if it was a film framed around another author's work, you might have found yourself more ready to like it, while I would have felt the opposite.

It's entirely possible. But I didn't know anything about the setting or Carver's inclusion before I watched it. All I knew was "it's about a washed-up actor who famously played a superhero, and oh yeah it's THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR" and I was kinda disappointed on both of those fronts. Not TREMENDOUSLY disappointed; Birdman's got nothing on the disgust which I felt while watching The Reader and various other terrible movies which were unworthily nominated for the big Oscar prize. And Lord knows there's plenty of NYC indy-cute movies that I absolutely loved (from Manhattan to Ms. .45), although I do admittedly find myself rather grumpy with Rent-ish movies that just won't shut the fuck up about how New York is the greatest place in the world.

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