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Exiles of the New York Times
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Author Topic: Movies  (Read 38413 times)
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harrie
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« Reply #3030 on: January 03, 2008, 10:34:53 PM »

They're uh....different.
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madupont
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« Reply #3031 on: January 03, 2008, 10:35:58 PM »

Harrie,

"...but I really disliked the characters, so left it for Magnolia."

and, that's the beauty part on this movie. I hope you "left it" before it went too much into  Judi Dench's fixations.   I'm a big Bill Nighy fan, so found him the only character getting the short end.  It really was a bit too much "lower UK" but there are many of these on the loose and they show up on odd nights when nothing interesting is available and you put a reminder on the tv because either the director is a known, or the writer from whom it was adapted, and maybe you haven't yet met all the actors in other roles, so you opt to watch without knowing what you have gotten into.  I think it may even be a certain kind of warped British sense of humor in some strata (at the risk of sounding very,very biased on my part).
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madupont
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« Reply #3032 on: January 03, 2008, 10:38:49 PM »

Yes, I know; but, I'm wondering when I gave up on expecting Tom Cruise to live up to the potential the public seemed to think he possibly had back when?   It's like the interim has shown me that Daryl Hannah is the more accomplished actor with an ability to adapt herself to roles/characters that are widely varied.
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harrie
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« Reply #3033 on: January 03, 2008, 10:58:46 PM »

Yes, I know; but, ....

I know you know -- I was being humorously understated; but I just looked at it now and noticed it looks kind of nasty and/or sarcastic.  So my apologies, that was not my intent. 

You're right about Hannah vs. Cruise.  It's like Cruise arrived at the fork in the road and took the turn turned for the dark side (major movie stardom!), while Hannah has quietly been working on sometimes strange but usually interesting stuff.

**Tiny Possible Spoiler Ahead from a 2006 Film**And I got to the point (in Notes) where Dench's cat had kicked the bucket and she was burying the picture frame (and cat? I had a distraction).  Call it American sensibility, call it immaturity, call it lack of artistic whatever, but I disliked Blanchett's and Dench's characters so much that I was like "You both deserve each other, enjoy!"  I never knew I had any feelings on the topic (ie, Mary Whoever LeTourneau, etc.), but I was seriously icked out by Blanchett's character's actions.  Bill Nighy is always excellent -- as were Blanchett and Dench, it was just the story I really hated -- but he was on for about five minutes. 
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madupont
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« Reply #3034 on: January 04, 2008, 12:38:39 AM »

I realize.  It is one of your hall-marks, Harrie. The three-word understatement. No offense taken.

"...but I disliked Blanchett's and Dench's characters so much that I was like "You both deserve each other, "

Exactly. I knew that I had quite definite feelings on the inappropriate attraction and succumbing to that little (s) (h) (i) (t) who kept the adolescent upper hand because she was susceptible to impulse that is inappropriate in a teacher of minors.  You see, I discovered that was occurring when I shared a household in the suburban-rural change of the landscape in about 1969 and what had been horse-country. Nobody seemed to notice the disappearance of farms and the conversion to a suburban life-style by newcomers which exacerbated a low-grade cultural clash.

My sister lived in the neighborhood about a quarter mile away, and I was having a hard time finding a suitable apartment in my urban locale, when a friend suggested that she had a classmate in art at the university(both of them were taking their master's to qualify for the next pay-grade of teaching status)and that this friend had a job position in a rural school, would I consider moving out of the city into the next county which would be a kind of mid-point from which her acquaintance could drive each morning to her job and I would be approximately the same distance from the present apartment whenever I wanted to bus into the city for whatever? That proved to be the case, as I eventually made three-day runs into the city, although it only took half an hour to get there (the cut-backs in services reduced transportation availability) there were no return buses after I took classes in new studies that were becoming available. I was however able to make arrangement with old friends who allowed me to stay over at their home, to fit my class schedule.

I do not know exactly who it was that spilled the beans eventually. The sharing of the farmhouse was a cosigned lease of one year. I renewed as my son was enrolled in junior-high.  My co-signer house partner planned to leave (also leaving long distance telephone bills to be paid so that the service was not cut off; oh, there were many little things that had not come to light in the excitement of taking the house to start with...)she was lonely for her sister in Colorado,and suddenly she announced that she would be getting married.  I really hope that it wasn't my Avon lady who broached the matter; I may have totally blanked out on where the news came from. The position at the rural school where she taught art had been terminated, the contract unrenewed, which I'd never thought to ask about when the "house-mate" announced a fiance would be helping her move as they were getting married.

The moving of items and belongings was such a rush that she forgot some rather large articles like:  the cushions from a pull out sofa bed! and -- I had no idea where to contact her, other than to wait to hear from her; no doubt she had left a forwarding address with the post-office.

You already know what this was about, having her masters degree just short of about age Thirty or being a Thirty-something in the low thirties, she had a relationship with a thirteen year old highschool boy. When and where, I have no idea. The school knew. And, the information filtered back to me from one source  or another; but, that was many years ago. Meanwhile I had an eleven year old son in the house. I did not enroll for my classes at the university, however until about a year following her departure from the house.

So nothing surprises me. This was before most of us even knew about Le Tourneau syndrome!  one wonders how often this happens? Yet, as the film, Notes on a Scandal, rather well conveys, it probably happens more often than we might have supposed ever likely. It has to do with the emotional set-up, some kind of emotional deprivation that makes the person malleable to manipulation.

I suppose you saw the 2005 tv production of: The Girl in the Cafe, where Billy Nighy is a "mature" hold-out who meets a charmingly naif young thing and on the spur of the moment, awkward as he is, invites her on a trip to a conference he has to attend in Iceland? It is a delightful package deal chockful of insights about youth that he had never before imagined; and besides, he was not forward enough to take advantage of her in anyway.  Nonetheless there is a tug on the heart, that they really were not meant for each other but it was nice that they met when they did.  World of difference here, in how this was written about an entirely different slice of life where they agreed that they both had to each take care of their own growing up in their separate ways.

So, it was a let down to see him, in -- Notes....
« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 12:46:10 AM by madupont » Logged
law120b
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« Reply #3035 on: January 04, 2008, 10:57:30 AM »

since when is liking the characters the determinant of liking the movie?  Notes was brilliantly nuanced, every glance, every lip movement a small masterpiece as between these two actresses.

you want student-teacher?  read 'sabbath's theater,' philip roth at his peak.
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oilcanboyd23
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« Reply #3036 on: January 04, 2008, 11:13:05 AM »

philip roth at his peak.

I didn't know he had one.
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barton
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« Reply #3037 on: January 04, 2008, 11:16:53 AM »

Harrie, I don't know where you've been hearing about "Magnolia" in terms of being a failure.  There are plenty who think it's a terrific film and one more reason to view PTA as a Director God.  

Oilcan, if one did look further than "Ravenous" for evidence of Pearce's talent, one might look in the direction of LA Confidential.  

Re liking characters -- here's my two cents -- you don't have to like the principal characters in a film, but you have to make some kind of connection in which you can make sense of their actions and feel, at a gut level, that there is some ring of truth to them.  I've seen films where I despised characters, but certainly enjoyed doing so because I was given that nuanced performance that made them real enough.  When people say they hated a film because they hated the characters, often what is meant is that the characters came off as lurching caricatures that could only inspire contempt.




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"History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes."
harrie
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« Reply #3038 on: January 04, 2008, 11:23:28 AM »

since when is liking the characters the determinant of liking the movie? 

For me it is when I stop caring what happens in the movie because of my dislike for the characters.

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Notes was brilliantly nuanced, every glance, every lip movement a small masterpiece as between these two actresses.
Agreed.

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you want student-teacher?  read 'sabbath's theater,' philip roth at his peak.
Well no, not really.  Though I very much enjoyed his The Plot Against America.
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madupont
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« Reply #3039 on: January 04, 2008, 11:45:36 AM »

law120b, re:#3058

I think, I tried. I went through a Roth thing  early to mid-1990s and could not understand why people hate him so much (his current, student-teacher latest novel apparently takes in a much different perception; but you've to admit his writing is dense --not in the colloquial "dumb"attribution, but thick with outrageous comments which is probably actually the reason that I have just stumbled upon why people get WASpy around him. He pushes their limitations.

I ended up being delighted with his Lindbergh America Firster little novel that he used to cast a reflection on the new Bush administration but part of the joy of it was living in Hopewell, and in sight of the Lindbergh Highfields' house during the mid-'90's plunge into his particular style. I don't even know what caused me to take the plunge? Possibly because there was an excellent little library just about three blocks down the street which always bought the newest best sellers and kept ahold of their authors' collections.  I also read Gore Vidal's,Palimpsests, at that time(as well as their Edith Whartons)but throw in a little Ondaatje as well and my former Greenwich Village room-mate's autobiography by Barbara Grizzuti; and they had Vidal's complete works( possibly because so many of them really are historic-novels, and Hopewell is simply the northwestern hamlet --not the prince-- of Princeton, from where you can get a perspective on things).

We are going to be reading American Prometheus:The Triumph and Tragedy of J.Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird,  over in American History forum, and I'm most interested in his period of time teaching there. I've begun to recognize Olden House in particular in one of the illustrating photos.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 11:54:21 AM by madupont » Logged
oilcanboyd23
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« Reply #3040 on: January 04, 2008, 11:46:52 AM »

Re liking characters -- here's my two cents --

My favorite movie is "Barton Fink", so obviously a likeable main character isn't a prerequisite for me to like a movie.

However, it's hard to like a movie in which: (1) you do not find the main character to be likeable, and (2) you get the impression that the movie thinks (I know, movies cannot "think," but you know what I mean) that you should like the main character.  "Knocked Up" is a recent example of such a movie, for me anyway.  
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harrie
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« Reply #3041 on: January 04, 2008, 12:37:29 PM »

I'm thinking he was a nemesis of Mighty Mouse.  Or Felix the Cat. But I think it's the mouse.
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barton
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« Reply #3042 on: January 04, 2008, 12:47:14 PM »

Oilcan (a baseball double-entendre, as "oilcan" means both a can of beer and also a literal can of oil which is used to grease up a baseball before pitching it) -- a good point about the film which "wants" you to like a certain character -- the author/director intent is there and it grates.  I call this "petting the dog till he's bald" -- i.e. we are shown an abundance of scenes that are meant to manipulate us into feeling someone is okay, like:  look, he's petting the dog!  He likes dogs!  Man, he really likes dogs!  We should like him!

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jbottle
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« Reply #3043 on: January 04, 2008, 01:29:40 PM »

"I'm still digesting, figuring out, and deciding what I think about it, so I don't mean to ask in a confrontational way, just curious..."

Yeah, I think that after "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" was a letdown for me but to be more specific, the first hour and a half or hour and fifteen minutes is absolutely bravura ensemble storytelling and then, I think I described it at the time as watching a guy juggle 15 balls and then having them all fall to the floor, but the parallel is that how can you expect somebody to do that for 2.5 hrs., anyway?  So when I say "failure," I'm talking about a pretty high bar that PTA had set for himself not only with BN, but with the first 1.5 hrs. or so of "Magnolia" as well. 

That's why I said failure/masterpiece because it's a little bit of both or one or the other, but I didn't mean to suggest it's a bad film the way, say, agreed, "Notes on a Scandal" is...when there's really no there, there, and despite Densh's portrayal of the "antagonist" that I guess you sorta begin to root for in a way, or Blanchett's unsympathetic "protagonist," just a nothing story that's barely worthy of "Lifetime" or "We" or you get the drift. 

So, "Magnolia" is a failure because it ultimately failed to cohere for me, an "artistic" failure, but an interesting film that almost was great.  But here's the thing:  I've only seen it one time.  I'd like to revisit the movie, and applaud you for continuing to think about whether you like it or not, because that's exactly the reaction that I had, more WTF? than any sort of specific criticism, other than of course the overwrought and distracting Cruise "performance," simply another demonstration of how bad he can be when getting outside the Cruise/Wagner paradigm that had worked so well for so long and is now going broke as "United Artists," with the box-office disaster "Lions for Lambs," a Rasberry contender by all accounts.

I don't think anything you said about "Magnolia" is wrong, I just hate to give it three stars like most people did when it came out, or 2.5 out of 4, I kind of want on a five-point scale to give it either a two or a four and a half and decide whether I think it's an ambitious failure or a near-masterpiece, because it doesn't seem like a three star film, good story competently told, etc., simply on a filmmaking competency level it's great the way "Mission to Mars" is great, which you do not need the sound on to appreciate DePalma showing off.....

"Boogie Nights" had a brilliant conceit at the outset, to approach the Golden Age of pornography when many wanted to be taken seriously as filmmakers and actors, which is funny, and then for PTA to take them seriously as people, and tell a story about people that is compelling, heartbreaking, funny and as authentic as possible.  By making the lurid parts boring and the struggle to succeed and "grow up" so interesting, to explore a very specific period of time in a specific place the way PTA did asserting that the introduction of videotape and cocaine killed an era of that type of filmmaking, and it's certainly true, and to approach it the way he did was incredible.

I'm not sure that "Magnolia," a sort of less-depressing "Short Cuts," had the type of focused theme or particular idea to communicate, which is fine, but it certainly makes it harder to understand.  A lot of Altman's lesser films are vexing in the same way, but I didn't mean to suggest that it was really a failure type failure, dumb idea poorly executed, but that it lacked something essential for me anyway that could help it cohere, but maybe it wasn't supposed to really.  In "Short Cuts" you have Carver's voice there, however grim his disposition about the ordinariness of things, and "Magnolia" may be a master work, but I feel like I haven't unlocked the puzzle or that maybe the puzzle is missing a few pieces, at any rate, I need to see it again.

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jbottle
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« Reply #3044 on: January 04, 2008, 01:43:00 PM »

I think Fink is a likable character because of his self-delusion, it's almost endearing, but...

SPOILER

...when it comes down to the "...because YOU DON'T LISTEN" it ends up being the most damning thing to say about a person in the film, it's about his failure to connect with people on a human level and as a result it's not surprising that he has "writer's block" because he knows nothing about what people really do and so can't come up with an idea for a boxing picture (interesting that PTA describes his new film as "...a boxing picture where...") that should be ordinary and real rather than grandiose and unreal.  I don't think the Coens want us to dislike Barton, but to dislike that quality of "not listening" in ourselves, because that's what they are saying they dislike about themselves most, I would guess.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 02:09:00 PM by jbottle » Logged
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