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bleary

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Everything posted by bleary

  1. bleary

    Best Of The Decade Pt. 1

    Sure, I definitely do, but not particularly from 2010-2012. We'll talk about Ryan Coogler and Steve McQueen in 2013, Ava DuVernay and Damien Chazelle in 2014, Sean Baker and Marielle Heller in 2015, Barry Jenkins in 2016, Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele and Chloe Zhao in 2017, etc. And I'll definitely be throwing support behind some of those films in later episodes. But at the same time, in the context of 2000s vs 2010s, there are some people on this list that I love, but from whom I still think their best work is yet to come. For example, I think Ava DuVernay is an incredible director, but I don't think she's made her masterpiece yet. Ditto for Ryan Coogler and, to a lesser extent, Sean Baker (I don't think we'll be disappointed in the long run if we find out that Tangerine and The Florida Project were his masterpieces, but I'm still hoping for more on the horizon).
  2. bleary

    Best Of The Decade Pt. 1

    This was my thought process, and you even nailed a few of the movies I was thinking about. Mulholland Dr is my favorite film of the 21st century so far, so I very heavily feel the lack of David Lynch films in this decade. Similarly but from the writing side, Charlie Kaufman wrote Adaptation., Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York in the 2000s, possibly all of which would land in my top 25 films of the century. Now, when 2015 comes up for discussion, I'm going to ride hard for Anomalisa, but it's still tremendously disappointing that only one of his scripts got made in the 2010s. So there's this category of filmmakers whose output just got completely shut off in the 2010s. Next, there are filmmakers whose work just seemed to get precipitously worse from 2000s to 2010s. I'm thinking of Cameron Crowe here, who started the century with Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky and has devolved into We Bought A Zoo and Aloha. I'm thinking of Ang Lee, who went from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and Gemini Man. I'm thinking of Christopher Nolan, who made Memento and The Prestige in the 2000s, which I find leaps and bounds better than Inception and Interstellar (Dunkirk was solid, but I'm not sure I'd take it over either of his better two Batman movies, which were 2000s). Then there are a lot of filmmakers who produced solid work in both decades, but for whatever reason, I'm just more drawn to the 2000s work. For the Coens, I loved Inside Llewyn Davis, but the run they went on in the late 2000s with No Country For Old Men followed by Burn After Reading followed by A Serious Man is just insane. For Fincher, I take Zodiac over The Social Network. So that's where I'm at. (The notables that I didn't mention like PTA or Wes Anderson were left out because I think their outputs across the two decades are roughly the same in quality.) I won't wade into the 2005 vs 2011 debate except to say that I do slightly prefer 2005.
  3. bleary

    Best Of The Decade Pt. 1

    Does anyone else think the films in this decade are far inferior to the films of the previous decade? I remember in June 2017 when Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott of the New York Times published their list of the top 25 films of the 21st century so far, they had a pretty even split between years, but my personal top 25 had 21 films from 2000-2009 and only 4 films from 2010-2017. Maybe it's a lack of mid-budget original films getting made, as many filmmakers would claim. Maybe it's not an issue of quality and it's more an issue of how being a decade older has changed the way I perceive and interact with culture. And to that end, although I enjoyed this episode of the podcast, I'm of the mind that 2011 and 2012 were terrible years for movies, and that 2010 looks overrated now with the benefit of hindsight. The 2011 Oscar Best Picture nominees are so bad, they almost made people second guess expanding the number of nominees. Of those, I enjoyed Hugo and Midnight in Paris, but I'd hardly go out on a limb to stump for either. Yeah, I know some people love The Tree of Life (beautifully shot, but left me empty and bored), or Moneyball (meh, Billy Beane never made a World Series; come at me), or War Horse (it's weird how much some people love horses). And while I don't hate The Artist, I have to imagine it was left off the AFI list because it doesn't qualify as an American film (not that I'd vote for it on the list anyway). And of the non-Oscar-lauded films, I see the love for Drive, but I found it all style and far too little substance. I still haven't seen Bernie and Young Adult, but the support for those makes me want to check them out. If I'm being honest, I'm not inclined to float anything from 2011 for inclusion on the AFI list, but if I must, it sort of has to be Bridesmaids, for all the reasons mentioned here and on the podcast. 2012 is better, but Argo winning Best Picture still leaves it with a bad taste in my mouth. Of the 10 films picked by the AFI in 2012, I think Moonrise Kingdom is great, but not the Wes Anderson I'd most support for inclusion. I enjoyed Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild, but not passionately enough to push for them. I did, however, really love what Kathryn Bigelow did with Zero Dark Thirty, controversies and all. Besides the AFI top 10 and Best Picture nominees, I loved The Master (which should have been both on the AFI top 10 and a Best Picture nominee), but it wouldn't be my top PTA pick, even of this decade. Similarly, Skyfall was great, but I'm not sure Bond movies qualify for the list, and it'd be hard to pick this one as the representative even if they did. I don't think they mentioned The Avengers on this episode, and while the quality of that film has been wildly debated, it's undeniable that its success has changed the entire film industry. So my nominees, if I had to pick any, would be Zero Dark Thirty for its quality and The Avengers for its impact, though I also like AlmostAGhost's endorsement of Frances Ha as being a mumblecore rep. And then let me circle back to 2010, a traditionally celebrated year in cinema. The AFI top 10 are exactly the 10 Best Picture nominees, except with The Town replacing The King's Speech which apparently was judged to not be an American film. The lineup looked great at the time, with Fincher, Aronofsky, Russell, Nolan, and the Coens all putting up serious films. But in retrospect, the films by Russell, Nolan, and the Coens were nowhere near their best. Now, Black Swan is actually my favorite Aronofsky film, so I was happy to hear Paul speak in favor of it. But The Social Network is hard for me to get behind, for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is just my absolute fatigue with Aaron Sorkin. The overwhelming sameness of the dialogue in his scripts is tiresome to me, as is his tendency to insert himself into all his recent screenplays. Mark Zuckerberg doesn't speak in The Social Network with Mark Zuckerberg's voice, but with Aaron Sorkin's. So I might not love this film even if it were a story about a fictional stand-in for Zuckerberg. But then in addition, it bugs me that this has become scripture in a lot of people's eyes on who Zuckerberg is. The reality is that Sorkin's version of Zuckerberg is nothing like the real Zuckerberg, on both sides of the spectrum. It goes too hard on him by portraying him as a love-sick loser when in reality he was in a committed relationship (albeit with some STEM-dude weirdness, which, speaking as a STEM dude, is not atypical). But more than that, it goes way too easy on him in a few ways. It portrays him as a Randian genius who deserves all the money he made, and it decries those who seek to get their hands on what is rightfully his, as well as the system that allows it. It portrays him as someone whose motivations were sympathetic, as his company sought to connect people, as he personally had troubling connecting with people. It portrays him as someone not fueled by greed, but someone manipulated into it by Sean Parker, to whom he wanted to seem cool. I mean, it's such a sympathetic view of Zuckerberg that he screened it for Facebook employees when it came out. So despite it being an extremely well-made film, I reject the notion that it's important or timely or representative of the decade. At any rate, my 2010 nominee would be Scott Pilgrim vs. the World because it's super fucking rad. Also, Easy A still holds up really well. I'm looking forward to hearing the episodes to come though, because I think 2013-2016 are all considerably better years.
  4. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    Hmm, interesting that they're doing Star Wars before the 75 film check-in. I wonder if they're just going to skip it this quarter.
  5. bleary

    Annie Hall

    Paul & Amy clear their throat for 1977's Woody Allen breakthrough "Annie Hall"! They ask how autobiographical the film is, learn who else was considered for that Marshall McLuhan cameo, and decide if the list absolutely needs a Woody Allen film. Plus: Tony Roberts, who plays Rob in the film, talks about his relationship with Woody. Pitch us your "Raging ___" film! Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer. Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall This episode is brought to you by Invitae (www.invitae.com) and Amex.
  6. bleary

    Annie Hall

    I definitely felt that way about a lot of Alvy's jokes on this rewatch. I do think that much of the character-based humor still works, but it's a bummer when Alvy has the last line and it's something unnecessarily negative. (A couple quick examples: When the dude on the street says that he and his wife use a large vibrating egg, that's a fantastic laugh line, so it's a little uncalled for when Alvy immediately calls him a psychopath. The gag with Christopher Walken's monologue leading into him driving them to the airport is great, and doesn't need Alvy's "due back on the planet Earth" retort.) And although the character is made to be unlikeable, I actually don't think that was Allen's intention in these situations, since as Tony Roberts said in the interview, Allen always saw himself capable of having the funniest final word, but that wasn't the case a lot of times. As you said, and as we've said over and over on this podcast and forum when discussing comedies, finding humor is subjective and personal. But that said, I still find so many of the side characters to be incredibly funny, particularly Shelley Duvall's and Janet Margolin's characters and how they show a sort of farcical intellectualism. A lot of the LA party humor still works (what with the discussions of taking meetings and Jeff Goldblum's fantastic single line). And a lot of Alvy's humor works when it's pointed at himself rather than at others. I want to say that leaving all of Allen's controversies aside, I really love this film, as Amy and Paul do. My biggest issue is my own difficulty at leaving Allen's controversies aside. Whether he's innocent or guilty of what he's been accused of, the fact of the matter is that I can imagine him being guilty, and that sours my view of his work at least a little. I also understand how people who believe he's not guilty would view his work differently, or even people who take the position that this work occurred before his alleged actions. I still voted for inclusion, because I do love the film, but unfortunately, I don't see myself returning to it as much as I did before 2014.
  7. bleary

    Annie Hall

    I'm quite a bit surprised that the first reaction to how Paul and Amy treated the controversial aspects of Woody Allen was that they went too hard on him. I personally think they handled the situation well, but if anything, they mostly let him off. Granted, I'm someone who also struggles to reconcile with how much I love so much of Woody Allen's work, even up to and including the relatively recent Midnight in Paris. And I wasn't exactly following Woody Allen in 1992 (my cinematic highlight of the year was seeing Aladdin in a theater), so I didn't know about the Dylan accusations until they resurfaced in 2014. This week's rewatch of Annie Hall was the first time I've tried watching one of his films since then. But first, about the Soon-Yi bits: I agree with everything said here, and I just want to mention Ronan in relation to the Soon-Yi thing. Because sure, Soon-Yi was not Woody Allen's adopted daughter, and sure, he wasn't even married to the woman who did adopt her. But here's another fact (as Ronan himself has pointed out): Ronan Farrow's father married Ronan's sister. I don't get why anyone wants to die on the hill of defending that as anything but abnormal behavior. As far as the Dylan accusations, I don't have much to say, except: First, thanks to sycasey for sharing these links. The problem with these cases is usually a lack of verifiable facts. But this is something that stuck out to me. From Ronan Farrow's Hollywood Reporter op-ed: "My mother and the prosecutor decided not to subject my sister to more years of mayhem. In a rare step, the prosecutor announced publicly that he had "probable cause" to prosecute Allen, and attributed the decision not to do so to "the fragility of the child victim."" And from Robert Weide's rebuttal: "The fact is that these lengthy investigations — which were ordered by the prosecution, by the way — concluded that the abuse did not take place. Consequently, no charges were ever brought against Allen. That’s the reason it went away for all those years. A legal determination had been made, after which everyone went about their business." It seems to me that one of those statements has to be verifiably false, in that the prosecution either had probable cause to go ahead with the case or they didn't. Weide bends the facts a bit, in that while the Yale/New Haven clinic investigation gave an opinion that the abuse did not take place, the other investigation he cites didn't actually give a conclusion besides a lack of evidence. But ultimately, if "facts" as basic as this can't be verified or disputed, the truth about what actually happened will never be revealed and uncontended. But like AlmostAGhost said, Allen has ultimately dug his own grave in regards to public perception by repeatedly dating (or trying to date) teenagers. And then he didn't help himself a couple years ago during the Weinstein ouster when he used the term "witch hunt" in regards to workplace sexual harassment. The sum of it all leaves me where Amy seemed to be in this episode: despite how I feel about his earlier films, I will probably never watch another of his new films, and I sort of wish he'd just stop, or fade away.
  8. bleary

    The Best Years Of Our Lives

    One thing I really appreciate about this film is that, although it seems to basically give its characters classic Hollywood happy endings, it still implies that all of them are works in progress. Fred finds someone who loves him for who he is instead of what uniform he wears, and he may have had some catharsis sitting in the plane at the end, but I doubt his nightmares have altogether stopped. Homer marries Wilma, who also seems to accept him for who he is, but there are still questions about whether his family is able to accept him, and ultimately whether he can fully accept his own limitations. And as mentioned on the podcast, Al's alcoholism is obviously a major concern of his wife, but it's not even addressed in the film as something that he may have to face. I voted yes, because there's so much about the story that I love, even if I'm on the fence about the Peggy and Fred bits in the middle. I assume it would be some standard Red Scare reporting, which would mutate later in the decade into McCarthyism. If it's a legitimate newspaper, perhaps it was reporting on Canada's Kellock-Taschereau Commission, which investigated the possibility that Soviet spies existed in the Canadian government, a fear that many Americans shared. But I don't think we ever actually see what the newspaper is, so it could have been less objective and skewing more towards hard-right propaganda, which would seem to fit with the guy's attitude.
  9. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    I had this thought too, but really, outside of his uncanny valley trilogy (Polar Express, Beowulf, and Christmas Carol) and a couple other stinkers, his filmography contains a bunch of movies I really love. I'll ride and die for both Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Contact, and Back to the Future is great. I don't love the BTTF sequels, but I respect them. And while I'm not super enthusiastic about Cast Away or Flight, I'm not sure I'd call them passionless. I think it's fair to say that Zemeckis seems to choose projects based on the technological hurdles he can overcome rather than what he can bring to the story or characters. But I have a difficult time coming down hard against him, because I do think he makes as many good movies as bad movies.
  10. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    You're right, and I definitely didn't choose my words properly here. What I was really thinking about was all of these so-called counter-culture things in relation specifically to Jenny's arc. The surface level reading of the film's depiction is that Jenny's life kept getting worse and worse the more she delved into these parts of society, and she only found happiness when she took the more conservative woman's role of mother and wife. Now, I completely understand that this is just surface level and it's ignoring the context, which is that Jenny's life keeps getting worse because of her own self-destructive behavior stemming from her past as a victim of abuse, and doesn't actually have much to do with the individual aspects of counter-culture (besides maybe the drug use). But on the surface, it seems to suggest that the things Jenny did were a gateway to sadness. As far as the conservative aspects of the movie, right or wrong, I'm not the only one talking about it. Eric Kohn at IndieWire lambasted the film for its conservatism on its 25th anniversary: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/07/forrest-gump-bad-movie-25-anniversary-1202154214/ while the National Review celebrated the film as the 4th best conservative movie of all-time: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2009/02/23/best-conservative-movies/ My personal feeling is that the film plays it pretty straight down the middle, which then comes off as slightly conservative to me. In the particular case of the DC protest, I do disagree with the idea that the film is speaking out more against conservatives than liberals. The military guy seems to be the only one with a plan, while the protesters are totally bumbling. So while I see the military guy's action as childish and petty, I could easily imagine someone watching that scene and gleefully enjoying how the military guy was able to so easily troll the libs.
  11. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    My view of the film seemed to align pretty directly with Paul's, in that I have so much disdain for this film, and yet it works. Unlike Paul, I have no qualms about kicking this off the list, though I agree with his assessment of how ingrained in popular knowledge it is. If I had to make a food analogy, I would say my feelings for this film basically parallel my feelings about eating shrimp, which are that I enjoyed it a lot more when I was younger, before I realized they're just underwater insects and it's sort of weird how many people fucking love it. On this rewatch, I can't say those metaphorical shrimp weren't tasty, but I still couldn't get past the thought of the beady black eyes, the long antennae, the exoskeletons, and those super weird mouthparts. I liked the episode of the podcast though, and I also appreciated the mentions of Being There and Zelig, which are the two superior films that seem like natural antecedents of Forrest Gump. I was glad Amy mentioned the politics a little, about how all the people doing things associated with liberalism (protesters, hippies, Black Panthers) are all judged to be bad. Amy and Paul probably could have gone even further into this (I'm 80% sure that Forrest Gump would have voted for Trump, but I'm 100% sure he would have worn a MAGA hat), but perhaps didn't want to alienate the callers who do like this movie. I didn't read the book, but when I read the wikipedia page about the differences, I found the bit about Forrest's college career interesting. Apparently in the book, he flunked out of University of Alabama after his first semester, whereas in the film, he graduates in five years. (I have so many questions, but the first thing I need to know is what Forrest majored in.) In this case, the latter is the bigger indictment of society. But to your point, it's another case in which the film seems to be driving towards making a statement, then steers away in time to avoid taking a stance.
  12. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    I stopped posting where to stream these because justwatch.com makes it so easy, but it's worth mentioning that The Best Years of Our Lives will be shown on TCM on Veterans Day (November 11, which is presumably why Paul and Amy scheduled this one here) and will likely be available to stream on demand from TCM for a few days afterwards. And while I'm mentioning it, TCM has an insanely good month of programming in November, including a whopping 25% of the AFI Top 100 list: Chinatown, Casablanca, On the Waterfront, North By Northwest, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, Sunrise, Tootsie, Shane, Dr. Strangelove, To Kill a Mockingbird, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cabaret, The Last Picture Show, The Wild Bunch, The Maltese Falcon, All About Eve, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sullivan’s Travels, and Spartacus are yet to air on TCM this month. Plus they're showing a few that got booted from the 1998 list, like Giant, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, and Doctor Zhivago, plus some that I think should be on the list, like Dog Day Afternoon. It's a dream month for anyone with TCM and a DVR.
  13. bleary

    The Godfather Pt. II

    I'm much more with Amy on this one, as I gain nothing from watching Godfather Part II that I didn't have from watching Godfather: that's no enlightenment, no knowledge, no inspiration, Mr. Coppola. And while I would be sad to kick a great John Cazale performance off the list, this film is honestly my least favorite of all his films, and I'd be happy to throw on both The Conversation and especially Dog Day Afternoon in place of this.
  14. bleary

    The Godfather

    I can only speak for myself, but for me, the problem isn't with the ambiguity over why something is happening, it's with the unevenness with which it happens. Why does Michael propose marriage to Apollonia before he even knows her name? It's not about ambiguity in plotting, it's about the emotional truth of that decision not matching with what we've seen from the character. Again, this is a minor quibble, and I agree with most of what you said. It's a remarkable film, and I currently have it as #4 in my list, though it'll probably end up at #5 or #6 when all is said and done.
  15. bleary

    The Godfather

    I was with Paul on this one. It's one of my favorite films and will almost certainly make my top 10 of films covered by the pod (and would probably make my top 10 in general), but I see it as more in the #5-#10 range than #2. I thought Amy and Paul did a great job pinpointing the movie's only weakness in my opinion, which is the discontinuity in Michael's emotional arc, particularly when it comes to his feelings about Kay and Apollonia. I've always vastly preferred this to the sequel, so I'm interested in seeing if that holds up on rewatch.
  16. bleary

    Bonus Reel: Joker & Taxi Driver

    Amy mentioned that the Joker isn't funny, but honestly, I thought that "nobody's laughing now" was a pretty good joke, even if it lacked delivery. That made me question De Niro's reaction, since I would think most comedians would feel a little sympathy for a guy who had a decent idea for a joke and needs more reps on stage to work it out. The choice to make De Niro's character unnecessarily callous in that moment is another example of the script spelling something out in black and white when it could have been more gray. (And this reminds me of the thing that infuriates me most about the script: why was there video of Fleck's performance at all? In 1981, none of the audience members are going to be bootlegging open mic night with their huge 1981 camcorders. So are we to believe the club takes video of all their open mic nights? For what purpose? Just in case someone bombs so bad, they can send the tape to late night shows? That seems like an incredible waste of tape. I needed an explanation for this, because it felt like lazy writing by someone who wanted to ret-con a typical 21st century occurrence into a point in history where it didn't belong.)
  17. bleary

    American Graffiti

    I was glad to hear that my view of this film seems to mostly align with Paul and Amy (and Pauline Kael for that matter). I'm a firm no, and this one is currently in my bottom 5 of movies covered on the podcast. And for the record, this is the 2nd or 3rd time I've seen American Graffiti, and I am not appreciating it any more upon rewatches, unfortunately. Great music though!
  18. bleary

    Some Like It Hot

    I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but as far as alternate titles for Some Like It Hot, I was curious about the title in other countries, so I threw them into Google Translate. So here is the list of translated international titles of Some Like It Hot: Nobody Is Perfect The Hotter the Better Small Places One Eve and Two Adams Hot on the Ears Half Jokingly, Half Seriously In the Hottest Layer Jazz Only Girls Some People Like Jazz There Are Only Girls in Jazz In Jazz, Only Girls Are Girly With Skirts and Being Crazy (I feel like a better translation of this would be solid; it's "Con Faldas y a lo Loco" in Spanish) Edit: After listening to the podcast, this is even more relevant than I expected it to be!
  19. bleary

    Spartacus

    I'm late to the pod this week since I had to wait until Saturday's showing of Spartacus on TCM to rewatch it. (It's up on WatchTCM for the next two weeks now, in case free availability was a hindrance to anyone seeing it.) Going along with what FictionIsntReal has said, it was funny to hear Paul say that he didn't see it as Marxist propaganda, because that's all I could see on this rewatch. (Or at least communist propaganda in general. I used to know more about the different "isms" specifically, but it's been a couple decades since I read "The Communist Manifesto" and biographies of the early Soviet revolutionaries. Also, the word "propaganda" is probably a bit too pejorative to really use here, but oh well.) In particular, the Romans are portrayed as the epitome of ruling class apathy and selfishness, as every one of them makes every single decision out of complete self-interest. Even Ustinov's Batiatus helps to free Varinia out of greed more than compassion, as he's given a hefty sum of money for his trouble. His nobility is simply in not reneging on his end of the deal when the money was in hand, as the Cilician pirate captain did. Gracchus freed Varinia because he had nothing to lose and acts outs of spite to hurt Crassus more than out of compassion to help Varinia. But I think the story works well because of the influence of these aspects. As Marx saw, the story of Spartacus is one of class struggle, and having authors with real knowledge of communism like Howard Fast and Dalton Trumbo is what makes the spirit of the story work, in my opinion. (Somewhat relatedly, back in 2015 I saw a screening of Trumbo at the Egyptian Theater with a friend who identifies as a communist, and at the Q&A after the film, screenwriter John McNamara was almost bragging about how he didn't know anything about Marxism, which was pretty irritating to my friend. But that's probably why the screenplay for that film sucked, which (a) tanked a film that's full of solid performances and (b) probably explains why McNamara never had a screenplay for any other feature film made.) On the film as a whole, I also mostly enjoy it, but it feels borderline for inclusion. It's not a truly amazing film; it's flabby at times, dull at others. It falls far short of On the Waterfront and High Noon in my book as far as Black List related films, and genre-wise, I don't feel the need to have a sword-and-sandals epic even if this is the best one. So while I like it, I'm voting no.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.)
  23. 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.)
  24. 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.")
  25. 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.)
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