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bleary

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bleary last won the day on October 28 2018

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. bleary

    Deer Hunter

    Also The African Queen (WW2) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (WW2) are more or less wartime movies. As mentioned, The Best Years of Our Lives is an aftermath of WW2 movie, just like much of The Deer Hunter is an aftermath of Vietnam movie. And who could forget that brutal war fought between Freedonia and Sylvania, depicted so authentically in Duck Soup? Also, one more that isn't a war film but has war scenes is Forrest Gump. (Speaking of the high volume of Vietnam War films, I'll shamelessly plug my Sporcle quiz on sorting famous actors by their Vietnam War films: https://www.sporcle.com/games/bleary0/vietnam-war-film-by-actor ) Yeah, and this is something that's hard to defend. My read is that they're only Asian because it didn't make plot sense for Nick to suddenly be in Australia or South America or something, since they don't have to be Asian for the metaphor for colonialism to work (perhaps if the game is run by Caucasians, the metaphor becomes too heavy-handed, but that's hardly an excuse). I do think a large part of the problem is that these scenes became iconic and have been parodied over and over, so an absurdly false stereotype has been created of Chinese and Vietnamese running backroom Russian roulette games. So it seems even worse in hindsight for initiating this racist stereotype. But it's still something that could have been changed at the time. Michael tells Nick that Steven, Stan, John, and Axel are "all a bunch of assholes" and that he doesn't want to hunt with them. Michael knows that Linda, John, Axel, and Stan are waiting up for his return from Vietnam and he just ditches them without even telling them that he's not coming. Michael tries to leave Steven for dead in Vietnam and has to be talked out of it. Michael jerks Linda around, selfishly disregarding her feelings. And again, I might be harsher on Michael than others because I have zero time for uber-alpha dudes. And comparing him to Mark Wahlberg and 80s actions heroes fits for me, because they're all uber-alpha dudes too, and I largely think that they're assholes. Admittedly, calling it pathological might be a bit of a stretch, but it's certainly delusional. My read is that his "one shot" philosophy is about giving the deer honorable deaths, as he respects their fighting spirit. Now, I'm not making any sort of PETA or anti-PETA stand. I don't care if you view deer as creatures with souls or as walking meat bags, but one thing that deer definitely are not is worthy fucking adversaries. He is deluded in thinking that the fundamentally "predator versus prey" nature of the hunt is actually more of a even-handed duel between gentlemen. This is why when he returns from Vietnam, a place where he became the prey that was toyed with, he no longer felt the same way about hunting. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this aspect of his character. After all, what reason does he give for using only one shot? "Two is pussy." Spoken like a true alpha male asshole.
  5. bleary

    Deer Hunter

    I agree with your general premise, but I disagree that the distinction between objective and subjective works is as clear-cut as you suggest. For one thing, I recall plenty of disagreement over the subjectivity of Taxi Driver. Secondly, regardless of how it is shot, I kind of don't think we're ever supposed to infer accuracy in a fictional story. Do people assume the SFPD is completely incompetent after watching Dirty Harry? Do we believe that the U.S. gave life imprisonments in Alcatraz to any British spies after watching The Rock? What is the different standard that I'm not seeing?
  6. bleary

    Deer Hunter

    I got a late start on the podcast because of the holiday week here, and I am sort of floored that this film doesn't have ardent defenders on this forum. Therefore, I suppose I'll be the first. First, some things that I am not holding against this movie. By all accounts, it seems like Michael Cimino is a huge asshole who used questionable methods at several points of making this film. I readily admit that, but I am not incorporating that into my judgment of this movie. Also, it seemed like Paul wanted to judge the film for being based on a rather ridiculous-sounding Vegas screenplay. If you want to use that as an argument that the brilliance of what made it onto the screen was by accident rather than by plan, I could see that argument, but again, I'm only judging the film as I see it. Next, to address some of the common criticisms. No, there was no Russian roulette being played in Vietnam. I don't believe the film is trying to make you think there was, but perhaps this ambiguity of intention is what people bristle most at, as if this film was somehow purporting itself to be an historically accurate account of the Vietnam War. For one thing, I don't understand how someone could watch this film and think that, but for another, if people do misunderstand this intention, how much of that is the fault of the film? Many Nazis see Starship Troopers as a celebration of facism and race supremacy rather than a critique of such things, which was Verhoeven's intention. Should the film be faulted for not being more transparent? Did The Deer Hunter need a disclaimer that said "This film is completely fiction, and also don't try to play Russian roulette at home, you idiots"? About accusations of racism: I am not Vietnamese, so I have no ability to say that this film should or shouldn't be offensive to a Vietnamese person (or any other Asian ethnicities, for that matter.) So I want to choose my words carefully, because I'm in no way saying that someone is wrong for finding this offensive. However, the cage scene included victims who were South Vietnamese, so it's not true that all the Asian characters were portrayed in a negative light. And while North Vietnamese troops never forced prisoners to play Russian roulette, there are plenty of accounts of the North Vietnamese subjecting their prisoners to different types of physical and psychological torture. And yes, Americans have been guilty of the exact same thing too, and that isn't depicted in this film, and perhaps that's problematic that we only get to see one side. Again, I'm not trying to refute anyone's feelings, I'm just pointing out those things. About Michael as a "perfect" character: what? This dude's a fucking asshole to every in the town but Nick! I find his views on hunting in the beginning to border on ruthless sociopathy, and it's this ruthless sociopathy that gets him through the war. He was so fucked up that going through the war actually makes him a better person, as he realizes that his previous samurai-esque credo was bullshit. I think the film posits that anyone who could make it through a war like that without losing their minds a bit must be a psychopath. Now, I would say that the film clearly sets up that Michael is the alpha male, Steven is the beta male, and Nick is the gamma male. Perhaps someone drawn to alpha male leadership would have a higher opinion of Michael than I do. And to Paul's criticism that the small town feels imagined: having also grown up in a "suburb" of Pittsburgh (I was probably a bit too far away to be considered a suburb, but it was the closest urban area), most of it felt very real to me. Why does Michael make a big deal about Rolling Rock? Because some other yinzer would probably give her an Iron City! But it's completely believable to me that after working at the plant/mill/factory/pick your favorite Rust Belt small-town industry, everyone would ritualistically go to the bar. And I genuinely feel sorry for Paul if he doesn't have any male friends that he can break out in song with after a few beers when something everyone knows comes on the jukebox. As I mentioned in my Letterboxd review, my only major complaint with the depiction of Clairton is that all three male leads speak in THICK NEW YORK ACCENTS which bummed me out as an aficionado of the heavy Pittsburgh accent. Yes! But that's just one way to look at it. While Paul sees the film as muddled, I see it as having many, many layers. I dove into a couple in my Letterboxd review, but the one I'll talk about now is Russian roulette as a metaphor for war, particularly the Vietnam War. Each soldier goes knowing that there's a chance every day that they'll die, and there's a chance their enemy will die, but neither can leave until one side is downed. The prison Russian roulette scene represents the draft; sadistic powers that be force unwilling participates to kill or be killed. Next, the Frenchman plays the part of a military recruiter, trying to incentivize you to willingly gamble with your own life while he reaps the benefits. And ultimately, Nick's addiction to the game stands in for the soldier who volunteers over and over because civilian life seems to be no longer a viable option, which is part of the PTSD thing. But all the spectators are the governments who use people's lives like chess pieces to achieve goals that are far from the minds of those with their fingers on the triggers. As a case in point, the US fought the Vietnam War not against any Vietnamese factions, but against the ideologies of the Soviet Union. So then to this point: I think this is an apt point, but it again goes with the theme. This film is pointing out that the Vietnam War was a literal war fought against a figurative enemy, and the film depicts this using a figurative war with literal casualties. And to refute something else brought up in the podcast: the characters aren't Russian because of Russian roulette, they're Russian to prove a point about the arbitrariness of boundaries and the stupidity of losing so many lives over something so arbitrary. If Nick Chevotarevich's parents or grandparents hadn't immigrated, he'd be on the other side. Maybe he'd be one of the Soviet troops who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, or maybe he'd think about joining the war in Afghanistan in 1979. But the point is, the only difference is that he'd be on the other side of the Russian roulette table. So all in all, I find The Deer Hunter to be one of the richest anti-war films that I've seen, and the final scene of the characters singing "God Bless America" is an all-time cynical ending, turning the cliché 70s downer ending on its head by providing what seems to be an uplifting moment for its characters, but is a gut-punch to the viewer. Look, I could talk about this film as much as anyone wants (I didn't touch on the homoerotic interpretation, which I also think is fascinating), but I've already probably written more than anyone cares to read, and I have another 500 words or so in my Letterboxd review about a couple themes/motifs that I didn't even mention here. And I'm sure that I won't sway anyone's opinion, but I just felt that this movie deserved someone to say that despite the director being an asshole, despite the production issues, despite the controversies, this film is fucking great.
  7. bleary

    Do The Right Thing

    If I might start a new thread in this conversation: What additional films directed by black filmmakers deserve to be on this list? For the record, the only other film on the 400 movie AFI ballot besides Do the Right Thing that had a black director is Boyz N the Hood, which is something certainly deserving of consideration. Since the 2007 ballot, there have been a few that I would think would be shoo-ins for inclusion on the ballot, such as 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight, and likely Selma, Precious, and Get Out would be pushing to make the ballot as well. So what other pre-2007 films with black directors should have contended for the list in the first place, and which other post-2007 films should make the next ballot?
  8. bleary

    Do The Right Thing

    I love the discussion, and I'll add my interpretation of the title, which is a bit more cynical. In terms of fixing what needs to be fixed, there isn't a right thing to do. MLK approached the problem one way, and Malcolm X approached it another way, and while there has been progress made in the 50+ years since their deaths, we still have militant racists marching in American streets, Confederate flags flying over government buildings in the south, and some politicians making every effort to ensure that as few people of color as possible are able to easily vote. None of the efforts by any leaders of any movements in the last 50 years have prevented this. So when Da Mayor tells Mookie to "Always do the right thing," well what is it? If only it were that simple. So in that light, I don't know if any character in the film does the "right thing," because there is no magical "right thing" to do. So all the characters do some shade of a wrong thing, even if it's the best thing they can do in the moment. The destruction of Sal's won't fix anything. It won't bring back Radio Raheem or curb the epidemic of racial police violence. In fact, if anything, it only "justifies" a racist police officer's fears. It probably won't even get rid of Sal, since the insurance money will let him rebuild, and he'd already laid out a convincing argument over why he can make more money there than in a different neighborhood with an oversaturated pizza market. But while what happened doesn't improve anyone's situation, it was still the only thing that made sense to do. One thing I love about Spike Lee (and it was delightful having him on the show) is that I'm sure he has given an interview where he denies this interpretation and clearly states that his intention was that Mookie did the right thing, but what does he know as the writer, director and actor?
  9. bleary

    Do The Right Thing

    I feel like I hear an echo. Anyway, this is one where I already had rated the film pretty highly, but I feel compelled to give it an extra half star (for whatever that's worth) after listening to the podcast. Not that they convinced me of anything or even really brought up anything that I hadn't already considered, but just talking and thinking about the film more made me really come to the realization that it is certainly deserving of being in top 25 or so, as it's top shelf in every possible way. As Amy pointed out, not enough people give Lee credit for being a brilliant director, and for what it's worth, my favorite shot of the film is the closeup silhouette of Mookie and Tina's lips as she chides him for trying to leave.
  10. bleary

    Toy Story

    For the record, the AFI ballot had Toy Story and Finding Nemo as the only Pixar representatives.
  11. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    Another addition, as posted on the website: 6/27 - Do the Right Thing 7/4 - The Deer Hunter 7/11 - Gone With the Wind 7/18 - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 7/25 - Bringing Up Baby
  12. bleary

    Toy Story

    Nice deep cut! I had never heard of this, and the trailer sort of terrifies me. I absolutely agree that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? should be on the list. (Another film with a few anthropomorphized objects. Few things disturbed me as a child more than the shoe dip death scene in Roger Rabbit and the junkyard scene in Brave Little Toaster. So clearly, I'm the right demographic for Toy Story?) But again, my list would have both. I mean, of the first 52 films we've done, there are roughly 15 of them that I would just boot from the list based on a lack of quality, so the what-about-this-film arguments don't sway me, because even if I agree, they don't diminish the quality of Toy Story in my opinion.
  13. bleary

    Toy Story

    You're right, I give you that one. I had ruled them out because the story is that the inanimate objects are inhabited by human souls, so it's less about "what would this object do if it could walk and talk" and more about "what would a person do if they became this object" which I acknowledge is a very thin line. But looking back, they probably did enough object-based puns to qualify in that regard. I also thought about the carpet in Aladdin, but I ruled that out too because it's not fully anthropomorphized, in that its inability to talk separates it from the rest of the characters. But maybe you're right, that "not having to invoke magic" should be my criterion if I'm going to stick with my statement.
  14. bleary

    Toy Story

    But the awards help answer the question "why is this so good?" The Godfather won Oscars for script and for Brando's performance. So why is The Godfather so good? Well, largely because of the script and because of Brando's performance! I think you're interpreting this criterion as saying "the movie is good because it won awards" (which is an implication I disagree with too), whereas I'm interpreting it as "the movie won awards because it is good." And that also doesn't tell the full story, but it tells you something. When the Costume Designers Guild gives out their awards for best costume design every year, you don't believe their expertise should grant that their opinion should be considered when weighing how effective the costume design is? Again, it's not the full story, but I don't see how anyone is better off by ignoring it.
  15. bleary

    Toy Story

    I get what you're saying, but it seems like a matter of semantics and subjectivity to me. What is the difference between a really good movie and a great movie? Is my 5 stars the same as your 5 stars? If not, is there an exchange rate? All of this is a matter of semantics, and if we're talking about weird ways to think about art, using stars and superlative adjectives and lists fits the bill in my book. Experiencing art is intrinsically personal and is often something that can't be quantified or ranked or even put into words. We want to because order tends to be more pleasing than chaos (or maybe that's just a hint of my OCD tendencies), but feelings are chaos and art is about feelings. To this end, I strongly disagree with your conclusion that the fact each person generally only loves about 20% of these films is a failure of the criteria used to select them. It isn't. It's a failure that is intrinsic in the endeavor itself. How did the criteria not give us a set of 100 universally adored and lauded movies? Because there is no set of 100 universally adored and lauded movies! You might think only 20% of these films are great, and I might think only 20% of these films are great, but it's not the same 20%. Sure, there are a few films that are going to be agreed upon by almost everyone, like Citizen Kane, and there are probably some people who think every film on the list is deserving of its position, but the vast majority of people are going to agree with some picks and disagree with others. (To bastardize an Abe Lincoln quote, "You can please all of the people with some of the movies, and you can please some of the people with all of the movies, but you can't please all of the people with all of the movies.") So if someone is going to attempt this foolhardy mission of quantifying the unquantifiable and universalizing the personal, it makes sense to try to wring every possible droplet of objectivity out of this extraordinarily subjective process, and the AFI's criteria seem like a pretty reasonable system to do that. But we, as listeners of this podcast, are not trying to be objective, and that's fine. One of the community things I enjoy most about this podcast/project is seeing how different everyone's personal lists are. I see that a perk rather than a flaw. I objectively see the importance of E.T. and how many people love it and to some degree I understand why they love it, but I don't, so I put it at 41 out of 52. So yeah, be as subjective as you want; that's part of the fun. But again, in terms of trying to make things objective, I think the AFI's criteria are solid. (Also, this isn't necessarily the context you meant, but I don't see how it's weird to consider other people's opinions about something when forming your own opinion, and that includes art, and it includes critics and industry professionals. Sometimes I see their points and it informs my opinion, and sometimes I think they're wrong, but I think it's natural to take those things into consideration.) Interesting! I'm not a fan of 2, but I do appreciate how 1 and 2 go together, with contrasting existential crises from Buzz and Woody respectively. In 1, Buzz realizes he isn't universally valued as unique, and in 2, Woody realizes that he is. And one reason I don't like 2 as much is that it felt like a bit of a retread, in that both films end with the main character realizing that their value lies in how much Andy loves them. So because they have the same emotional beats more or less, it kind of makes sense that either serves as a good intro to 3? I'd still love to hear from someone who started with 3. It's been a long time since I saw it, so I honestly don't know how well it works.
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