Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Top 25 of the Aughts, #22

Or 10% of the decade's most accomplished shot.

(Sorry, Alfonso Cuaron. Not sorry at all, Juan Jose Campanella.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Top 25 of the Aughts, #23


(Sorry for the subs and poor quality, which you'll just have to deal with for some of these. This is an awesome scene that isn't as ubiquitous as some of the other famous ones in the movie, so I figured I'd post it here.)

Also, honestly in retrospect I feel a little bad that I've placed this one so low. Not so much because damn near everyone else is putting it at or near the top of their decade lists, but more because it contains more flat-out awesome scenes than any movie of the past decade. And this one isn't even the best- there's also Club Silencio, the audition, the Castigliane brothers meeting, the Winkies incident, the opening jitterbug, "something bit me BAD!", and even the little phone conversation that immediately precedes and set up this scene. And let's not forget the bedroom scene- "have you ever done this before?" "I... don't know!" But on balance, as awesome as these scenes are, I'm not sure they really build up very well. Of course, that's sort of the nature of the beast, since it's a pilot that Lynch later retrofit into a movie. But consider that none of the scenes I just rattled off without so much as a second thought- oh wait, I forgot "Sixteen Reasons"- come in its final third, and that as much as anything else is my reason why this isn't in the top 5.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Top 25 of the Aughts, #24

A one and a two...

(English subs available through the CC function, I guess)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My top 25 of the Aughts: The Countdown Begins!

It's either too late or too early for me to make a list of my favorite films of the past decade- too late because it seems like everyone else has done that already, too early because I'm pretty sure I've missed at least one major title that would warrant inclusion here. However, in the interest of posting fresh content here I figured that now was as good a time as any to do this. So for the next few weeks, I'll be posting video of my top 25 films of the 2000s, beginning at the bottom and working up. We'll start off with one we all know by now- the only Best Picture Oscar-winner to make my list. Here goes, friendo:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

R.I.P. Victoria

When I brought Muriel home on Halloween 2006, it was because I needed a furry companion in my life. By contrast, I brought Victoria home so that Muriel would have a friend of her own. When I bought Victoria, I imagined that she and Muriel would get along swimmingly, chasing each other playfully around their shared cage and snuggling up next to each other when it time to sleep, which would essentially double the adorability factor of one of nature’s most adorable sights, a sleeping guinea pig. Well, that didn’t happen. From the beginning, the two new “friends” didn’t get along. I couldn’t put them together for more than a minute or so before some kind of dust-up would begin. As it turns out, this was because Victoria had her own friends that she brought with her- including the late Charlotte- to be born a month or so later.

Likewise, it took Victoria longer to get used to living with me. At the pet store, she was a sweetheart, even falling asleep in my hand while I held her. But after I brought her home, she became restless. She would take hours to fall asleep at night, and eventually I had to start putting a towel on top of her cage to help her fall asleep and turn on a fan so her late-night activity wouldn’t keep me awake. Also, there were a few instances when I was holding her that she actually jumped out of my hands and tried to run away. More than once I had to (carefully, of course) move around all my furniture in order to find her.

But eventually, she settled down. Having babies helped, I think. And once she did, I was better able to appreciate Victoria in terms of her own personality rather than as a would-be accessory for Muriel. It’s funny how guinea pigs, which seem to be little more than fur, squeak, and appetite, can fit so much personality into those tiny bodies. While Muriel was bright-eyed and ornery and Charlotte was curious, Victoria was always warm and affectionate. Of the three, Victoria was the one who enjoyed being held the most. Sometimes I would prop her front paws up on my finger and raise up her front end so that I could rub her belly, which was her favorite spot. Other times, I would simply lie her down on my chest and cradle her. Unlike Muriel and Charlotte, she wouldn’t try to jump off or poke her nose about, but simply relax in my hands.

Victoria and Charlotte were an inseparable team until Charlotte passed away earlier this year. But after Charlotte died, I began to notice Victoria open herself up more to the world. While she had previously been skittish around our dogs, she became more comfortable with them. And she even seemed to warm up to Muriel. I even began to notice her chomping on the bars of her cage when she was hungry, just like Muriel does.

Alas, that’s part of the past now, since Victoria passed on over the weekend. I buried her yesterday in our backyard under a tree, right next to her baby. It’s strange to think that a year ago I had three guinea pigs, and now I only have the one, and that one only has one eye. For the time being, I think that rather than buying a new guinea pig to replace the ones I’ve lost, I’ll content myself with Muriel. I have plenty of others to love in my life now, of both the human and furry variety. But as Angela eloquently put it, Victoria and Charlotte were there when I needed them, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."

There’s a certain paradox to the notion of Christopher Nolan making a “dream-film.” Nolan’s work has always been distinguished by a Swiss-watch precision and intricacy, and this springs from his writer’s need to focus on those aspects of the film that are relevant to the story. But dreams, as most anyone can tell you, aren’t so coherent. Often, the content of dreams is born less out of specific situations in one’s life than from deep-seated desires and anxieties which manifest themselves in strange ways. As a result, Nolan’s multi-level dream narrative doesn’t come off as a dive into the unconscious so much as a complex multi-player video game, in which the participants join in with an ostensibly unified purpose but are at the mercy of their own skill sets, personalities, and limitations.

But if Inception isn’t really convincing as an according-to-Hoyle dream film, it thrills on just about every other front.

Click here for the full review.

Also, here's my review of Everyone Else.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Banner Weekend, continued

In many ways, the Ozarks world of Winter’s Bone harbors a way of life that seems to have changed little since the Great Depression. Oh sure, the cars and clothes are newer, and the local underground industry has switched from moonshine to crystal meth. But the mentality feels mostly the same- fierce territoriality, a strained-at-best relationship to the Law, and tenuous blood ties that only hold up to the point where they stop being useful. It’s a pocket of America that feels like a distant planet compared to the contemporary suburban sprawl, to say nothing of the big city, and it’s the kind of place where those who hail from elsewhere thank the heavens that they weren’t born, and where those who were born there rarely manage to escape.

Click here for the full review.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Banner weekend

After six and a half lean months of cinema here in Central Ohio, last weekend was jam-packed with goodness. Most visible was, of course, Inception, but this weekend also saw the local releases of such acclaimed titles as I Am Love, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Winter's Bone, and Father of My Children. Unfortunately, when you're as busy as I am, weekends like this force you to make choices. And believe me, it's tough. However, I decided to wait on Inception so that I could watch it with Ang, and instead I chose two of the most promising arthouse releases before they blew town altogether. As it turns out I made the right choice, since one is my favorite movie so far this year, and the other one's pretty damn good as well. My reviews of both can be found at the links below.

Click here for my review of The Father of My Children.

No, wait! Click here for my review of Exit Through the Gift Shop!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Dark and Lonely Places

An exciting announcement came this weekend from the hometown heroes at the Wexner Center for the Arts and their stalwart Film/Video Department. To wit: on October 22, the Wex will be hosting A.V. Club film editor, pug enthusiast, and all-around good dude Scott Tobias. Scott is set to introduce a screening of, and lead a discussion following, one of his- and my- favorite New Cult Canon titles, George Armitage’s Miami Blues. In addition to finally catching this great and sadly underloved proto-Tarantino dark crime comedy, this will also give me a chance to meet Scott and possibly even buy him a drink and swap funny pug stories, much to the dismay of those around us. Or not, who knows.

Anyway, this promises to be a sweet event, especially since it bookends a great week for the Wex that will also include a talk by one of this year’s Wexner Residency Award winners, the great graphic novelist Art Spiegelman.

So mark your calendars for Friday, October 22, at 7 PM, where you can catch an awesome movie introduced by one of the coolest critics out there. Hopefully I won’t waste too much of his time recommending future New Cult Canon titles, but I make no promises.

"Nice penis."

Watching Cyrus, the latest from indie-world favorites the Duplass brothers, I was reminded of George Ratliff’s awesome Joshua, one of my favorite films of 2007. Not that the two movies were similar in look or feel, mind you, but both movies use popular genres to address anxieties that are fairly common. In Joshua, Ratliff tackled the worry faced by many fathers that the apple may fall disconcertingly far from the tree, while here the Duplasses take as their premise the anxiety faced by would-be stepfathers that they might not blend into their future families quite so smoothly as they had hoped. But the differences stop there, since Joshua is a sure-footed work from a filmmaker in full control, while Cyrus has been made by a pair of directing brothers who don’t seem to know where to progress from their promising idea.

Click here for the complete review.

Also, click here for my thoughts on Despicable Me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Note on comments moderation

Due to a rather annoying influx of spam on this and my other blogs of late, I'll be enabling comment moderation here. This means that if you post a comment here, it won't be available for viewing until I've had a chance to OK it. Sorry if this is a pain, but I'm just kind of sick of people I don't know leaving links to sites I couldn't care less about just to reel in web business. I'm committed to keeping Silly Hats Only non-commercial, and I just can't abide people trying to hijack the thread like this. Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience buds. I don't plan on deleting any posts other than obvious spam, and I might even allow one or two of those if they happen to be as amusing as this one.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup of Cinema: The Championship Game!

Tomorrow, FIFA and Silly Hats Only will proudly present the World Cup of Cinema Championship Game, in which will finally be decided which film I'll watch and review. The match will take place, as you know, between the following competitors:

The Netherlands (Soldier of Orange), and

Spain (Blood Wedding).

Now, that infamous psychic German octopus has predicted Spain to take this one, but I think the Netherlands could pull it off as well. They beat Brazil, after all, so anything's possible. Anyway, check out the game tomorrow at 2:30 PM Eastern.

Also, as a bonus, here's this month's Criterion hint, which took some time for me to figure out.

Once you know that those are gnus on the TV (as compared to bulls, yaks, or what have you) it seems so obvious...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"I kissed Bella. And she broke her hand... punching me in the face. It was a complete misunderstanding."

Who is Bella Swan, really? I’m not talking about the role she plays in the Twilight saga. What I’m asking is who she is when she’s alone. Does she have any hobbies? Does she keep a journal, or doodle in a sketch pad, or enjoy going to hear live music? I only ask because there doesn’t seem to be much to her, at least not in the movies (I haven’t read the books, so I couldn’t make a judgment on that front). Hell, even the memorably antisocial Travis Bickle watched TV and went to porn theatres. To these eyes, Twilight heroine and lip-biting enthusiast Bella is perhaps the least compelling protagonist in a Hollywood blockbuster in many a moon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Please Give (part the second)

And just so you can rest easy that I’m not just going to shill for myself around here (that was a one-time thing, I’m guessing), I’d like to throw a little love to my bud and fellow Muriels voter, Lucas McNelly. When he’s not participating in the Muriels festivities, Lucas is an independent filmmaker. A few years ago, I even reviewed one of his previous films, Gravida, for the blog.

Anyway, Lucas is currently preparing for his next project, entitled Up Country, which he pitches as a Hitchcock-meets-Malick thriller set in the woods of Maine. Most of Lucas’ previous projects were relatively intimate efforts, but Up Country is more ambitious. Consequently, it’s also more expensive, with more money required to rent and transport additional equipment as well as secure the use of the film’s location. All told, Lucas has budgeted Up Country at roughly $4,000.

Here’s where you folks come in. Over at the “crowd-funding” site Kickstarter, Lucas is currently soliciting backers for Up Country. The idea is that if you’d be interested in seeing this film come to fruition, you can pledge an amount of your choice (well, $1 minimum) for the cause. As with any good fundraiser, there are rewards in store for anyone who contributes. For example, anyone who pledges $5 or more will receive a “thank you” in the film’s credits. I’ve already contributed $25- which entitles me to a thank-you credit, plus a DVD and a downloadable copy of the film- but people can pledge up to $2,500, for which they’ll receive Executive Producer credit, a weekly fishing trip in Maine, and a treasure trove of swag. As further motivation, Lucas is has transcribed the Up Country screenplay into prose form, and will be posting a chapter with every $500 that is pledged.

However, there’s a catch. The deadline for Lucas to reach his goal of $4,000 is Friday, July 16. At that point, unless he’s hit his goal, the film isn’t going to happen due to the availability of his chosen location, and all the pledges will be refunded. But I know I don’t want that to happen. So check out the Up Country page on Kickstarter by clicking the widget I’ve embedded at the top of this post, and if you’re intrigued by what you find there please do your part to help a talented independent filmmaker keep working. And if you get a free DVD or fishing trip out of the deal, so much the better.

Please Give (part the first)

As most of you already know, once upon a time I was actually a paid critic. Granted, I wasn’t rolling in the dough, but I was able to make a few extra bucks by writing about movies for The Screengrab. Then, a little over a year ago, the Screengrab’s corporate overlord’s decided to shutter the site and let go of its writing staff. Since then, the archived content has disappeared into the ether, and the writers who once toiled for the Screengrab have been scattered.

Since then, things have been different for me. As I said before, I didn’t make a whole lot of money with my writing- hell, it was merely a part-time job for me. However, I definitely felt the pinch financially once they let me go. The loss of my Screengrab income didn’t break me, but it certainly required me to scrape in order to enjoy some of the comforts I’d had before.

Eventually, I decided that I couldn’t afford to do without that second income, so I took a part-time job. However, between the part-time job, my current full-time job, and the college courses I’m taking, it’s all begun to wear me down. I’m getting fewer chances to spend time with Ang and the Offspring, and even when we do spend time together I’m often too weary to do much or anything. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to juggle these aspects of my life while maintaining a solid relationship with the Offspring. Oh sure- he understands where I go in the evenings and on weekends, but it’s just not the same for him when I’m gone.

Likewise, my writing output has suffered drastically since I started the second job. I’m sure you noticed that this blog was more or less dead for several months after the Muriels concluded this spring. I managed to liven things up with the White Elephant Blogathon, and since then I’ve tried to keep the content fresh. But I can’t say how long I’ll be able to keep this going, especially since classes started up again last week.

You get my point, and I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Now, I’m not going to ask you guys for money. I’m just glad that you enjoy my writing, and I’m grateful that you’ve stuck with me all this time. However, I just want to put it out there that I’m on the lookout for some freelance film critic work, and if anyone reading this knows of a site or publication that’s looking for paid content, I’m available. I’m not necessarily looking to make lots of money out of this- Screengrab only paid me $10 a post, after all- but if I could find someone who’d pay me a couple of hundred per month to write about movies that would be awesome.

For better or worse, I think that if you sift through the blog you'll find my writing speaks for itself. So if you’d like me to write for you, drop me a line. And for everyone else, thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ll soon be able to read me elsewhere as well.

Monday, July 05, 2010

World Cup of Cinema: The Final Four

So I guess Argentina wasn't as formidable as I'd originally thought. Still, this is an interesting foursome going into the semifinals. There's a part of me that wants the Cup to go to someone who hasn't won yet- namely, Spain or Netherlands- although my affinity for underdogs has me rooting for Uruguay as well. Either way, now that Brazil is going things are looking far less assured for anyone.

Anyway, here are this week's matchups:

Tuesday, July 6
Netherlands (Soldier of Orange) vs. Uruguay (The Pope's Toilet)

Wednesday, July 7
Germany (In a Year of 13 Moons) vs. Spain (Blood Wedding)

As for the movies that are still in the hunt, I'm fairly happy with all of them. The ones that intrigue me most are the Fassbinder and Verhoeven films. Then again, Blood Wedding is probably the one that Ang is most likely to enjoy. And The Pope's Toilet should be entertaining as well. Not really a clunker in the bunch- thank goodness.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

World Cup of Cinema - Upset!

After today’s first World Cup quarterfinals, I’ve decided to change my World Cup of Cinema selection. Here’s my choice now:

Only kidding, folks. But still, with Brazil getting ousted long before anyone expected them to be, things just got a whole lot more interesting. Or at least they did unless you’re not into soccer, in which case you didn’t really care anyway.

But with Brazil out, it’s looking like South America’s spot in the final game is going to be much less assured. Argentina’s looking pretty strong, but anything can happen. Then of course there’s the possibility that everyone’s just going to throw the tourney in favor of Paraguay in order to make Paraguayan model/futbol fan Larisa Riquelme follow through on her promise to parade around in nothing but body paint if her country’s team takes home the Cup. But somehow I don’t see that happening.

Also, at right I’ve posted a link to my 2010 ratings, in case you’re curious about what I’ve seen/haven’t seen/liked/haven’t liked so far this year. Warning: it’s pretty meager pickings so far. But as always, any help would be greatly appreciated. Hint hint.