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bleary last won the day on October 28 2018

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  1. bleary

    North by Northwest

    I'm very much in agreement with Paul on this one, as I find North By Northwest more fun and watchable than Vertigo, while acknowledging that the latter is probably a better film. I'm voting yes, as I think it's a worthy inclusion, but I do understand the sentiment that we could find a replacement without having to look too hard. I mentioned feeling some Coen DNA in this in my Letterboxd review, and for me, it wasn't even about the superficial. It was all about the tone and in the way they're telling the story for me. North By Northwest is a film where people are murdered in front of our eyes and there feels like a very real threat that either Eve or Roger could be killed as well, and yet it's more comedy than drama. The Coens have played all around that line for their whole careers, sometimes giving more drama than comedy, sometimes more comedy than drama, sometimes treating violence as shocking and abhorrent and sometimes using it for black comedy purposes. So I was thinking about the Coens before realizing any superficial comparisons. I didn't even think of all the plot comparisons to Lebowski before Amy brought it up, but I did draw a line between the interlude when we meet the Professor and the similar interlude when we meet J.K. Simmons as the CIA boss in Burn After Reading (not only do both scenes featuring government underlings expressing concern while the superior seemingly heartlessly urges no action to be taken, but the cuts to those scenes are extremely similar as well, based on my recollection of Burn After Reading). I know that the Coens aren't the only directors famous for mixing comedy with violence or drama, and I can't explain why North By Northwest struck me as more Coen-esque than reminiscent of a Shane Black or Quentin Tarantino film, but it definitely does. At any rate, I have a feeling that my ideal AFI list would have room for both The Big Lebowski and North By Northwest.
  2. bleary

    On The Waterfront

    As I mentioned on Letterboxd, I'm still a bit confused about the ending, though I think that it makes more emotional sense as representing Kazan's political issues. I had known that Kazan saw the film that way, and even on this rewatch I found that read a bit of a stretch, but I think the key is that Kazan didn't actually hate communism. He just hated communists, both in the way the party operated in pre-WWII America and in the way Stalin ran the USSR. So Friendly is Stalin here, ruling with corruption over an organization that's supposed to promote the labor class. And part of me does think that this is what Kazan thought (or made himself believe) he was testifying against, as if outing the political leanings of eight of his former friends would somehow bring down Stalin. And then I see the ending as being a sort of bullshit Hollywood ending, as Amy and Paul talked about, but it is so because it's Kazan's wish fulfillment. He wishes that his actions could take down dictators, and that the people who felt betrayed by his testimony would change their minds and see that his actions were for the greater good. This interpretation fits with the film, but it also paints Kazan as not only delusional, but a little dumb as well, which he does not seem to be. The reality seems to be that Kazan acted in his own self-interest out of self-preservation, and the hardest thing for me to grapple with is that he doesn't seem to feel guilty at all over that. And sure, if he had refused to testify to HUAC, it is unlikely that his taking a stand would have galvanized people to end HUAC. Most likely, if he had refused to testify, he'd have been blacklisted too and wouldn't have gotten to make things like On the Waterfront, East of Eden, or A Face in the Crowd. And sure, his testimony probably didn't directly affect anyone else's lives, since the eight people he named were already known to HUAC anyway. But it bugs me that he seemed to show no remorse for it, and saw himself as the victim instead. He didn't stand up to a bully, like Terry Malloy did. He capitulated to the bully. So overall, my feelings on Kazan are that I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed. I love his work, including this film, which is my favorite of the ones I've seen. And in the realm of directors who have done shitty things, he's far from the shittiest. But it's disappointing that someone whose films show so much empathy and humanity seemed uninterested in empathizing with those who did stand up to the bully of HUAC, only to be silenced. This was another great episode of the podcast, and despite my misgivings about Kazan, this is a great film. I wouldn't put it in my top 10, but I have no hesitation about voting yes for it.
  3. bleary

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Essentially 4 and 5. Basically, as the podcast covers each film, I make my decision about whether I think they're deserving or undeserving of their inclusion on the AFI list. I think this one is deserving, even if it's not one I care for greatly. I haven't seen all 400 films on the ballot, but I'd guess I've seen around 250 of them. (I can't check, since AFI removed the ballot from their website. If anyone has a link to that 2007 ballot elsewhere, I'd like to see it again.)
  4. bleary

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Well, I might be the strongest negative on the board, but I still won't say I'm vehemently against the movie. To start, this was a really great episode to listen to, and while I generally align with Paul in that it's a film I respect more than love, the whole conversation gave me a greater appreciation for the movie and I do think that I'll continue to enjoy it more and more as I watch it more. I was glad to hear them tackle the white savior issue, which I wrote about in my Letterboxd review. However, Amy and Paul mentioned the idea of portrayal of Arabs and Middle Easterners in general as being barbaric in relation to the conversation about hypocrisy, but I don't necessarily know that I forgive the film's portrayal of Arabs just because they also portray the English in a negative way. I don't think it's misleading to say that Lawrence's devolution in violence is portrayed as him essentially falling to the level of the men he's fighting with. He criticized the tribes for letting their personal or familial grudges outweigh their sense of mission, and he does the exact same thing in the end, after he has reason for a personal grudge against the Turks. So yes, it is condemning Lawrence, but it's doing so in a way that's saying "he's as bad as the Arabs," which I think is a bit problematic. Now Paul is right that because this is based in history, if it gets the facts right, it's harder to quibble with. And the film does try to offer a counterbalance in Sherif Ali, whose arc goes in the other direction, as he begins shooting a dude dead over water and ends by protesting against Lawrence's bloodlust. But I think Ali is exceptional, and most of the Arab soldiers are portrayed as savage and/or greedy. So I still take issue with that. I think the character of Lawrence has a shaky arc, since it does trend from childish to barbaric, but it does so in fits and starts. He's confident, then he's not, then he's confident again, then he's not again, etc. Similarly, they bring up his bloodlust just before intermission as something he felt ashamed of, but it's not like he's struggling with that throughout the rest of the film. It just sort of disappears and then reemerges. I would say that Lawrence's defining characteristics never change. He is arrogant and reckless in Cairo when he smarmily explains why he's not being insubordinate, and that arrogance and recklessness propel him throughout the film up to his reckless motorcycle death. So yes, I see the arc, but I also see the stasis, and that's a bummer for a film that's almost 4 hours long. But besides those things, which are relatively minor, I don't really have a super strong negative take on this film. I see the merits, and it'll make my top 100. (I'm staying out of the American or non-American birther controversy. My feeling is that the voters aren't meant to decide eligibility, only to vote on the ballot as it's presented to them. And yes, I think Bonds and Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame even though I hate them.) But I don't especially like watching it, at least through the two or three viewings I've had so far. I don't think it's a screen size problem, because I do feel immersed in the environment when I watch it; I just don't feel immersed in the characters. I'm not baffled by people who love it, but I just find that it's not for me. (And I, too, have similar feelings about Spartacus.)
  5. bleary

    The Philadelphia Story

    This doesn't bother me, as long as there isn't ambiguity over whether they're talking about an aspect of the actor or an aspect of the character, and so far in this podcast, there hasn't been that ambiguity. The converse of this is a bigger pet peeve of mine, when people unironically refer to an actor solely by the name of a character that he/she has played. (Example: "I'm looking forward to seeing Captain America in Knives Out.")
  6. bleary

    The Philadelphia Story

    I voted yes, but as with Amy and Paul, it's a bit of a soft yes. I have it in the category of films that are good enough that I'd be okay with them in the top 100, but that I could easily imagine finding something else I'd prefer to put on the list. (I do still vastly prefer this over His Girl Friday, where Cary Grant's character is too unnecessarily cruel to bear, but I don't want to relitigate that very close Canon vote.)
  7. bleary

    The Maltese Falcon

    This is a no-brainer to put on the list in my opinion. This and Casablanca are the only Bogarts I need on the list, as they tower over the rest of his films, both in terms of his performance and in quality of the film. And after the stretch of super long films we've had, the 100 minute runtime of this feels so breezy, without a wasted second. We don't need to spend extra time introducing the character with a performance as great as Bogart's in this, as we understand his Sam Spade almost immediately. He doesn't quite click in the romantic parts here, just as those parts feel off in The African Queen (to be honest, his only truly great work as a romantic lead that I've seen has been with Lauren Bacall; even in Casablanca his chemistry with Ingrid Bergman works more because of the absence of outward romance). It's an iconic and influential film that is still a remarkably easy and fun watch today, and it'll make my top 50 for sure.
  8. bleary


    I agree. For me, I like the storylines and the themes in theory, but very few of the many characters connected with me, and that's what made it such a drag to watch. Granted, I didn't rewatch it this week since I was on vacation, and the prevailing word seems to be that it gets better with multiple viewings, but the prospect of rewatching it after it felt like such a slog when I saw it for the first time last year was daunting. The only Altman films that I've seen all of are this, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park, and I wasn't enamored with any of them. We'll see how I feel about MASH when that comes around. (It was interesting that Amy and Paul barely mentioned MASH and unless I missed it, they didn't point out that MASH is higher on the list than Nashville when it came to deciding if it deserved to be on the list.)
  9. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    We're really knocking a bunch of the super long ones out of the way in a short bit of time. Deer Hunter, Gone With the Wind, Pulp Fiction, and Nashville span over 12 hours combined.
  10. bleary

    Pulp Fiction

    I really enjoyed this episode of the podcast. I thought Amy and Paul did a great job giving appropriate weight and consideration to both the pros and the cons of this movie, and as I said in my Letterboxd review, I was definitely feeling the cons a little bit more on this rewatch. I did disagree with them about the relationships in this film. I think that although the dialogue is incredible, I don't find much depth in the relationships, and when Amy or Paul mentioned that Tarantino had never had a girlfriend when he wrote True Romance, it made sense to me. In hindsight, Butch and Fabienne's relationship comes off like it was written by a guy who understood the relationship as an outsider rather than as a participant. That relationship isn't him, it's someone he knows or has observed. As Paul pointed out, the best relationship in the film is between Jules and Vincent, and even then, I don't know much about the nature of their relationship. Sure, they make easy conversation and they both know what they're doing, so they've probably worked together at least a half dozen times or so, but are they friends? If Jules found out that Vincent was killed only a few weeks after he quit, how would he feel? Would he feel guilty for leaving? Would he even mourn Vincent at all? And again, as Paul mentioned, there are no character arcs in this film except for Jules. For better or worse, these are characters in stasis. That said, I still really like this film, and I voted for its inclusion, even though it'll probably end up around 70 on my list (it's at 38 right now). I find Tarantino's movies generally to be more fun than what I would categorize as good, but this has always been my favorite. In my opinion, his films fall into three tiers, with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Hateful Eight being his best films; Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds being less good but tons of fun; and Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and Django Unchained being the ones that didn't work for me.
  11. bleary

    Question about a movie theater chain mentioned by Paul?

    I also don't remember which episode it was, so I don't know for sure. But I remember when he described it, I thought it sounded similar to the IPIC in Westwood. Looking at their website, it appears different IPIC theaters have different amenities, but this is what their website says about the IPIC in Pasadena: "Experience an intimate date night or gathering with friends & family in our auditoriums, lounge and bar spaces. Enjoy the latest films reclined in the privacy of our patent pending custom designed Pods where you can dine in the dark and enjoy our chef-driven theater menu and mixology offerings." Again, I'm not 100% sure that this was the chain that Paul mentioned, but I definitely remember thinking about this chain in relation to what Paul said. If you want to know for sure and if no one here can point you to the right episode, your best bet would probably be to tweet at the Unspooled Twitter account and ask.
  12. bleary

    Gone with the Wind

    It's worth mentioning that Amy had A Clockwork Orange rated very high in her rankings during the 50 film check-in special, as she had it at #9 while Paul put it at #38. Despite her criticisms, which I personally thought were largely valid, she still has a very high opinion of that movie. As far as the rest of the conversation, it took me a little while to have the time to read through PureSly's post and the Vulture article by Angelica Jade Bastién that sycasey posted. And my response is essentially word for word what WatchOutForSnakes said, that there is a difference between calling for a ban on a film and calling for a film to not be celebrated in the same way anymore. I would never call for the former, and I don't think it's absurd to call for the latter, particularly since the exact same thing has already happened with Birth of a Nation. I referenced Gone With the Wind in analogy to Confederate statues, a charge that Bastién argued against in her article based mostly on the idea that Gone With the Wind has more to say than a statue does. And while I see her points, my view on Confederate statues is not that they should be destroyed, but that they should not displayed in public squares where they can be viewed free of the hateful context under which they were erected. I think it's more apt that they be put in a museum that explains how the United Daughters of the Confederacy have raised money to create these statues in order to promote a view of history that is racist and factually incorrect. Again, as Bastién says, Gone With the Wind was not created with this purpose, but I truly feel that it has a similar effect. I would never want to ban it, but I think too many people let it off the hook for its propaganda because they realize that it's wrong and they think everyone also realizes it, and that's enough. The problem is that 99% of the times this is aired or screened, there's no one to point out the inaccuracy of the propaganda, and a large amount of the audience does not realize it, which allows it to perpetuate these myths. Even the TCM airings I've seen don't properly address the problematic aspects of the film in their intros and outros. And I know that removing it from the AFI list wouldn't fix this problem, but maybe it would cause some people to ask why this film isn't celebrated in the way it used to be. And I'm in favor of anything that will get people to question this film a little more.
  13. bleary

    Gone with the Wind

    My sincere apologies, I honestly thought you had mentioned on an earlier podcast that you hadn't seen it, but I clearly am remembering something else.
  14. bleary

    Gone with the Wind

    Yeah, this was a tough one to understand. And I'll be slow to criticize Amy for seeing aspects of this film that seemingly no one else agrees with (since I apparently had a similar experience last week with The Deer Hunter), but I would have liked to hear her try to defend the intertitles, which is the clearest example of language consistent with the "Lost Cause of the Confederacy" mentality. It's one thing for the dumb southern white men to be gung-ho about the war, because as Amy said, you can write that off as criticism, since the characters are dumb. But it's another thing for the intertitle cards, which should be as objective as a film can be (not to rehash the subjectivity/objectivity arguments of last week), to call the Confederate soldiers "gallant" and to decry the Southern loss as the destruction of a civilization. Here's the opening intertitle: "There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave." This is blatant glorification of slavery! (Does anyone have screenshots of all the other intertitles? There's a ton of tough stuff in them, but I already deleted the film off my DVR and don't want to re-record tomorrow night's TCM showing just for the title cards.) Also, having the Yankee rich man call the Confederate soldier "Southern scum" is clear demonization of the North. I truly love Amy and her work, but I can't help but feel like she conveniently ignored the parts that she wanted to ignore, except for the racism, which is so blatant that it can't be ignored. As Paul argued in this episode, I also couldn't help but think that excising certain character traits or actions or even this whole Lost Cause point of view would improve the film, and it frustrated me to hear Amy defend these things with an argument that boils down to "you're supposed to feel conflicted, that's what makes it great" which I really don't buy. Because I absolutely see the racism and Lost Cause propaganda (which I shall refer to in this paragraph as "the bullshit") as the fog obscuring what could be an amazing film, not as a special effect contributing to its brilliance. Because I think Scarlett is a fascinating character, even if I don't actually like her. Without all the bullshit, Scarlett's "any means necessary" approach to survival would lead to great conversations about feminism today. Without all the bullshit, the fact that she is filled with foolish pride despite never actually learning anything could be seen today as a metaphor for the stupidity of the Lost Cause movement rather than its glory, as the South clings to stupid arguments that the Confederate flag represents something cultural rather than something racist. Without all the bullshit, we could feel good pointing to this film as one of the most beautifully shot films ever made, which it is. And I can see all those things in this film, and maybe further on in this thread we'll talk about filmmaking and plot choices and performances. But for me, that bullshit fog is always there in view, distracting me like a smudge on the screen. Except this particular smudge happens to incite white nationalists. And I also bristle a bit against Paul trying to make clear that this isn't in the same league as Birth of a Nation. Wherever you land on separating those two things, it's a much more complicated conversation, because both films have the exact same Lost Cause bones in them. And to be completely honest, I haven't seen Birth of a Nation and I don't think Paul has either*, but we know the plot points that have deservedly earned this film a reputation of racism. But I would say that Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind spout the same politics, with Gone With the Wind being the dog-whistle version of Birth of a Nation. So while there's a lot to admire about this, there's zero way that I could in good conscience support glorifying this film anymore than it already is. Like statues of Confederate generals, we need to start tearing down this film. *Edit: Paul replied below to point out that I was wrong about this and that he has seen the film.
  15. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    I'm glad I DVRed Gone With the Wind last time it was on TCM. (It will be on TCM again this Friday, if anyone wants to catch it that way.) It's been a few years since I've seen it, but I recall it being a slog. Maybe I'll watch until the intermission tonight and finish it tomorrow. As for Virginia Woolf, I really hope everyone likes it as much as I do. I don't think my heart can take another Deer Hunter-level opposition. And I agree that Bringing Up Baby is a super enjoyable nutballs film that I don't know how to compare to things like 12 Angry Men or The Sixth Sense, which are literally the two films sandwiching it on the list.