Friday, January 04, 2008

Slate Movie Club

Slate Movie club is back with lots of amusing and insightful comments, as always. There is something in the format perhaps which makes reading it so much more enjoyable. The links to past movie club roundtable are also on the same page in the left sidebar.

Some amusing comments...

On No Country for Old Men
'It blows a hole in our brains, over and over again, without explanation, and then asks us to walk out going, "Wow, that was quite a hole you blew in my brain. Thanks." '

On I'm Not There
"The movie has experimental balls, but I couldn't get the zipper down to really feel them the way other people seemed to be able to. "

And more seriously Scott Foundas about some of the "unresolved", and certainly unconventional, endings of many of the most acclaimed American films of the year..

"What does all this mean? Well, if you follow the logic of Movie Clubber alumnus Jonathan Rosenbaum in his controversial No Country for Old Men review over at the Chicago Reader, our unresolved state of affairs in the Middle East may be partly responsible for the sheer number of psycho killers, psycho evangelists, and psycho oilmen who've been lighting up our movie screens these past 12 months. And perhaps, by extension, it applies to the endings—or lack thereof—of those stories too, as the title of one acclaimed Iraq documentary (No End in Sight) succinctly posits."


Ropheka said...


puccinio said...

What Foundas says is interesting. In that he's saying that the major films of the year don't have clear endings. Well obviously America at this point has to realize that there's no clear ending to anything.

Well, ''I'm Not There'' can't have an ending, since it doesn't have a's subject being Bob Dylan who is after all immortal. That's the best American film of the year, by the way. That and ''The Walker''. I am not sure either are ''masterpieces'' but they felt unquestionably films made for and by today and they're both ambitious creative films.

''The Walker'' is really an essential film, therefore one very few Americans will get a chance to see. But see it when you get a chance.

American cinema is really at a low point this decade. Actually since the eighties. The difference was that back then you had Scorsese in his prime, the Coens,(whose recent movie was good but not like ''Miller's Crossing'') Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen and of course Robert Altman at his peak. Only Jim Jarmusch of the next generation has made really great movies with consistency.

In fact I can't think of many great American movies of this decade. Off the lot, there would be ''Mystic River'', ''Match Point'', ''8 Mile'' and maybe, ''Munich'' which is flawed but still beautiful and of Spielberg's definitely ''AI''.

But then they had the entire 20th Century for themselves so they can't complain, can they?

Coming back to 2008, it's been a really genuinely bad year. In fact it's a miracle that there are some good movies at all. Like the two I mentioned. Of course this is America, outside it's a different story. Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivete two Nouvelle Vague survivors have released beautiful films this year. Bela Tarr and Alexander Sokurov have finished their latest masterpieces. And there are interesting films from around the world.

But then the sad thing is that these films play to a select crowd and have little chance of becoming something the public can share. With each passing year, cinema seems to have lost that special characteristic that the old masters latched on to. And it's very difficult for directors to tap that anymore.

Alok said...

at the end of the year the general critical consensus seems to be that the year was quite good for American films. I had heard about The Walker but I don't know when it came and went from the theatres. I also missed I'm Not There. I did see other acclaimed films, in fact the top three on both village voice and indiewire lists - There Will be Blood, Zodiac, No Country For Old Men. All of these were definitely far, far better than the average dross, even the so-called independent films which routinely get acclaimed as masterpieces, but none of these really bowled me over.

There is also a welcome change. At least Anderson and Fincher both seemed to be consciously emulating the style and themes of 70s new hollywood. Zodiac seemed to follow in the footprints Alan Pakula's films while Anderson was aiming higher - at Altman and Kubrick. All three respect audience's intelligence and assume a certain level of maturity and film knowledge.

puccinio said...

Zodiac seemed to follow in the footprints Alan Pakula's films while Anderson was aiming higher - at Altman and Kubrick. All three respect audience's intelligence and assume a certain level of maturity and film knowledge.

That's a good film. Zodiac. Might be his best one. So that might add another one.

But as for reaching out for influences from the 70's, see influence is really well reading Joyce won't make you a decent author. Influence is really something to use as a jumping off point, something to spur you forward. Like Jazz, comprised off riffs from preceding tunes naturally leads one to another tune with intricate variations and so on and so forth.

For the earlier generation and the French New Wave...that's what referring to film means. If you go to the wikipedia page for Truffaut, at the bottom is a link to an article written to the great man by Scorsese where he talks about how referring to films.

Tarantino changed that by making film references the subjects of his movies. The thing is even among those directors real life was what drove them forward. Like Fassbinder one of the most cinephilic auteurs, drew all his inspiration for content from his own life and West Germany while his form borrowed from and critically engaged with Hollywood, which he loved so much yet was too intelligent not to be aware of it's fallacies.

In any case with Altman and Kubrick, the directors you mentioned film references don't matter. In fact with Kubrick it's a hindrance. The more film history you see, the more he comes off as a pretend Jeremiah. That's why David Thomson, in one of his more penetrative moods, aptly called him, "the right director for people who don't watch too many movies." Of course Kubrick made two genuinely great films, ''2001'' and ''Barry Lyndon'' but that's only because he found the content needed for his very limited philosophy.

Altman whose subject matter was American society and American people on the other hand was more long lasting. Unfortunately Anderson his self-annointed ''heir'' borrows too much from his most superficial elements. The big cast embedded in a loose but connected narrative with patterns for all of them is far too superficial to classify the range of social relations and classes that he managed to capture. So much so that to understand an Altman film, you have to see it three times.