Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I've heard of Max. I remember Roger Ebert saying he had taken some flack from readers for recommending a movie which treats Hitler as a human and not as some raving lunatic monster, but he said he liked it because you could see how some of the groundwork was laid (in Hitler) for what was to come later. Sounded interesting, but didn't see it.

Boogie Nights is my 2nd favorite Julianne Moore movie, but it's close. They're both by Paul Thomas Anderson, and similar in structure, so it's a tough call.

But that's the point. Nicholson WAS out of touch with the rest of the world. Up until he became bored during his retirement, he'd never really thought about poor starving children in Africa. I think he's supposed to represent "us" -- after all, how many of us really have an appreciation for what the kid goes through every day. And I loved the part where he tried to explain to his daughter that he wanted the best for his wife -- hence the upgrades in the RV. i.e. "Your mother wouldn't settle for the plain old run-of-the-mill RV. No sir. I got all the upgrades." When it was really him who wanted the classy RV. Typical guy. Also loved when he took Kathy Bates' expired medication and totally zoned at the wedding rehearsal. I still love Jack Nicholson. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

I liked The Shining, but then I saw it before reading it, which always helps. If you read the book first, you'll always be disappointed. And Nicholson was perfect for the role of a man going crazy. So again, a disagreement. But I'm with you, the book was better. And both Kubrick & Nicholson have done much better.

Ooh. Never saw Deloras Claiborne, but wanted to. Shit, you're expanding my list faster than I can rent stuff.

I agree that Ruth Gordon kicked ass in Harold & Maude, and what evidence do you have that people don't have a passion for living these days. If they really didn't, they'd be committing suicide right & left -- or lining up like lemmings to fall of some cliff.

I agree. Ed Harris was great. Also, in Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. And Places In The Heart.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Well, yeah - I'd totally do Charlize Theron.

Max is a movie about this art dealer post World War I who strikes up a relationship with a struggling young artist named Adolf Hitler. It's what Fred Nelson used to call la piece bien fait. Neatly tied up... But still interesting, and risky in its portrayal of Hitler as human, as opposed to a madman.

Still haven't seen Magnolia. My favorite Julianne Moore still remains Boogie Nights, though.

Sorry not to like About Schmidt. I liked Nicholson okay in As Good as it Gets, but really that was Greg Kinnear's movie. I think the thing I didn't like about his writing to his foster child in About Schmidt is that it's hard for me to empathize with a character who's lived in the world for 65 years and is that out of touch with the rest of the world. I also didn't find his relationship with his daughter particularly satisfying. She was just kind of icky, and the whole thing left me just cold. I guess the only part where I chuckled a little was when he wrote the kid and said "I have some sad news. Your foster mother is dead." Ugh. He reminded me of my grandfather a little in this movie, and his out of touchness was so extreme that it almost had to be intentional. I just thought it was depressing. And I still hate Jack Nicholson.

I really hated the Shining. Here's the thing about that. Oh, nevermind. Some shit about reading the book first. Blah blah - hoity toity high fallutin shit. Okay. It's just that the book was quite different. In the book, the hotel was not haunted, as much as possessed... The actual building was evil. And in the movie - not so much... It was just a big haunted house movie. The other thing I thought was lost in the film is what I see as the big theme running through most of Stephen King's work. (And I am not saying that Stephen King is high art, but what he does, he does well, and he says some stuff about the human condition that is valuable). In the end, in every King novel I have read, it is not the scary horrifying outside forces that do the main characters in, so much as some quality, some thing that they have inside them to begin with. The film version of the Shining to me was about this guy that gets a really bad case of cabin fever in a haunted hotel, and loses it. I would argue that what Stephen King's story is about is a guy who has all this stuff that he brings with him, and ultimately uses his environment as a cop out to melt down, give up and go nuts. Nicholson just doesn't have the subtlety as an actor in my opinion to carry that off.

And, for my money, Delores Claiborne is hands down the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Kathy Bates acts her ass off in that movie.

I think the passion for living is the part that got me about Harold and Maude. I just think Ruth Gordon kicked ass in that film. I didn't catch the last time, but did catch this time, that she is a holocaust survivor. The way it's handled in the film is so subtle that, like I said, I missed it before. And I love his final act of running his car off the cliff, which felt to me like, once and for all, he'd made a conscious decision to live. I don't think most people have a passion for living these days. What planet are you on?

As for the Hours, I think I disagree. I do think the Woolf story was the least interesting, but I still think it was integral to the film. I think it tied things together in a way that talking about the story wouldn't have done. My favorite story, though, was the Julianne Moore story. I love the scene where the friend comes to tell her she's got cancer, and the level of denial that was palpable, from the illness to the kiss, and the reactions of the little boy. My daugter watched it with me, though, and did say "What is with all the lesbians in this movie?"

Okay, here's why I think the Woolf story line was important, albeit not as interesting. I think, at it's core, that was a movie about choices and freedom, about women's choices in particular. I think, in the end, all three women are left with choices to make and exercise their freedom in very different ways. I love the fact that the mom is the only other person who's read the book and comments on something other than its difficulty. And Ed Harris was astoundingly good.

He can do anything, though.
I hate Adam Sandler too, but Punch Drunk Love was a huge step up for him. At first I was shocked that Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") would waste his talents fooling around with an Adam Sandler movie. But, you know, if I were a great director, I might want to do it too, just to prove I can make a decent movie with Adam Sandler in it. =) I thought the whole thing was sweet. While it's by far my favorite Adam Sandler movie (and I've admittedly tried to avoid most of them), I'll have to admit it's been my least favorite P.T. Anderson movie. Sort of like The Shining -- it was the best adaptation of a Steven King novel I've ever seen, yet at the same time, it was probably my least favorite Stanley Kubrick movie.

I can't BELIEVE you didn't like About Schmidt. But first, let me reiterate that Nicholson is my favorite actor of my parents' generation. He's sort of their Humphrey Bogart. I believe he proved he was a great actor during his younger years, when he churned out classic performance after classic performance -- Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, Chinatown, Cukoo's Nest, etc. He was on cruise control during the '80's, when he did some really bad movies (like Prizzi's Honor), some caricatures of himself (like Batman, or Witches of Eastwick), and some funny movies where he was basically just playing himself (like Terms of Endearment). His one great performance of the '80's was Ironweed (with Meryl Streep) where he played a dillusional homeless man. REcently however, he's turned in some more classic performances as an older man. I think his "retired man" roles are going to be the 2nd best era of his career.

I liked the one where he was a writer who babysits his gay neighbor's little dog (I can never remember the name of it), but I absolutely LOVED About Schmidt! I especially loved the relationship between Old Man Schmidt & the little African boy. I laughed so hard when he was writing those letters that I almost peed in my pants. First, he tells the kid he's recently retired as an actuary at a major insurance provider. The kid's not even gonna know what insurance is, let alone an actuary! Then, he complains about how his wife gets on him for leaving the toilet seat up. Here's a kid whose "toilet" (if you will) is probably the act of digging a hole, and he's complaining about his wife & the toilet lid. Hilarious! But the true gem was when he recommends the kid join a fraternity! Nicholson & the kid were so obviously on two different wavelengths, yet his letters somehow touched this kid's heart, and I loved how the kid touched Nicholson at the very end. It was one of my favorite movies of last year, and I'm shocked that you didn't find it the least bit funny or inspiring.

I liked Harold & Maude, but like most Hal Ashby movies, it looks very dated now. The whole concept of "What Is Life Worth?" and consideration of suicide is so rooted in the Viet Nam era that it's hard to watch this movie now and take it seriously, the way it was back then. Now, it just seems mildly humorous, but nothing more. And Ruth Gordon is still great, and the Cat Stevens music is still great, and I still enjoy the "Passion For Living" business, although I think in this day & age, most people do have a passion for living, since MOST people don't have brothers or sisters being killed in a foreign country (and at least President Bush hasn't reinstituted the draft -- although if John Ashcroft had his way...)

I didn't LOVE The Hours either, but I at least respected it. I thought the Virginia Woolf story was the least interesting of the three (which makes it ironic that Nicole Kidman won the Oscar). My favorite story was the present-day story. I would've liked to have seen more of the relationship between Meryl Streep & Ed Harris. Of course, you'd have to keep the Julianne Moore story, for it to make sense, but I would've scrapped the Virginia Woolf story. The others could TALK about the Woolf story, but I don't think anything was gained with that part of the movie.

Another recent very good Julianne Moore movie (also set in the '50's) was DAMN! I forgot the name. She was married to Dennis Quaid. He had an extra-marital affair, and she had a non-sexual relationship with Dennis Haysbert, her black gardener & handyman. My favorite performance she's ever given was when she played a woman addicted to prescription medication in "Magnolia."

Never heard of "Max." When was that out? What was it about? And BTW, I'd totally do Charlize Theron, so there.

Monday, December 08, 2003


Okay - well, now, we've got to talk.

I saw two movies this weekend that I think you recommended, and I pretty much hated them both.

1) Punch Drunk Love. Even if I liked Adam Sandler I don't think I would have liked this movie. Maybe that's too harsh. I hate Adam Sandler, normally. I hate the guts out of him. There was something very sweet about the love story in this movie. And something very sweet about his vulnerability in the moment when he goes up to kiss her after their first date. One good moment does not a 90 minute movie make.

2) About Schmidt. AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH. I can not tell you how very VERY much I hated this movie. First, I hate Jack Nicholson. That's a given. I always hate Jack Nicholson. I suspect, and have long suspected that he is NOT a good actor, but actually just a really nasty guy who has lucked into several parts of several nasty guys. ALSO this looked like a comedy from the previews. This movie was not even a little bit funny. Fuck Jack Nicholson. I mean it.

BUT - here's what I saw that I did like.

1. Harold & Maude, which I have seen before. Charlie ended up watching this with us, and LOVED it. My son is a weird little person. I have explained to him fifty times since we saw this that that was all fake, and you can't really do that stuff and live. He keeps singing that one Cat Stevens tune over and over. LOVED it. He is really odd.

2. The Hours. I didn't LOVE it, but thought it was kind of interesting. It's really kind of a chick flick, I guess, but it's so rare that chick flicks don't suck. Julianne Moore, I think, stole this movie, but I don't know if it was noticed, on accounta who she was working with. I really enjoy her in just about everything. Thought she was terrific in Boogie nights.

3. Max - A little too easy with the point it was trying to make, BUT, I think very very brave to try to make the point. And John Cusack? Well, I would totally do him.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Okay, it was a break in practice. Some used the restroom, others talked amongst themselves. A couple of us were talking about "Pulp Fiction." Heck, I didn't even bring it up. And I loved the Samuel L. Jackson scenes too. But I'll still take the watch/ass. I'm guessing that scene is a little uncomfortable for those who've had sooooo many things up their asses during their lifetimes. For me, it was funny. My next favorite scenes were the shot through the breastplate, and when John Travolta accidentally shot that guy in the back seat & splattered his guts & blood all over the car.

Okay, I think I get "penis movies" now, but I don't like them either -- superhero movies, Schwarzenegger flicks, "Con-Air," "Independence Day," that kind of shit. And no, "Lone Star" is sort of like the Texas version of "Fargo," if you need a description. "Sunshine State" would be the Florida version. Sayles is like the movie version of James Mitchener. When you see one of his movies, you feel like you live there. He does a great job with making you feel the setting.

I'll agree that "Adaptation" is about the only movie you could possibly make about "The Orchid Thief," although I still don't think I would've tried.

My wife, Catherine, has an oversized tee-shirt she sleeps in sometimes, which says "GRUMPY" and has a picture of Grumpy, the dwarf from "Snow White." It's cute. You should get one.

It's been piddling today (mixture of drizzly rain & drizzly snow). Probably raining like a mutherfucker in Greencastle, though.

Actually, "And Justice For All" was out in summer of '79, so it's not really one of those '80s movies, but I hear your complaint that it was campy. Still, it's one of the best jobs of acting I've ever seen out of Pacino, and that's saying something. I also liked him in "Serpico," but I think "Dog Day Afternoon," or "Justice" have been my faves.

Okay - dipwad... My new favorite sentence is "A few of us were talking about 'pulp fiction' last night a choir practice..." The hell? See, I didn't really care for that Walken scene. Not even a little. In fact, that whole second section just left me cold. Again - penisy. I think the best was really all scenes with Samuel L. Jackson in them. We must agree to disagree.

Rent Once Were Warriors at your earliest convenience. Definitely not a kid flick, though. It's about poverty and domestic violence in an Urban Maori family. Quite depressing, on many levels, but also a little hope. You should see it.

By penis movies I just meant guy movies. I don't know... Anything called "Lone Star" kind of makes me think of gunslinging. I am judging just by the titles. Is "sunshine state" about a retirement community or something?

Nick Cage rocked the house in Adaptation, but I don't think the film would've been the same without the book crap, as you so eloquently put it. It was the whole point. Like he came of "Being John Malkovich" so hot that he'd hit the end of his rope. I think the Orchid Thief was just something that you couldn't make into a movie, really. It's a non-fiction book about orchids, for god's sake. So I sort of suspect that Adaptation is really the only film you could make about "The Orchid Thief." I could be wrong. I haven't read it.

Ugh. I'm not really thinking about killing myself. I've just been extremely frustrated this year, and tense and anxious and grumpy all the time. I'm getting a little bit sick of me.

It is snowing like a motherfucker here. If, you know, motherfuckers snowed. A lot.

Love love love And Justice For All. Completely campy goofy 80s movie. But I love the way that Pacino just does whatever he does with gusto. Even the crap. And really, And Justice for All is crap. But I even loved Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, which was also largely crap. Serpico's still my favorite Pacino film though, or maybe Donnie Brasco. He reminds me a little of my Dad in Donnie Brasco. A guy who does what he's supposed to do, is frustrated that he'll never be more than he is, but still keeps hoping. I don't know. My dad's not in the mob or anything. Politics, actually. Potayto Potahto.
Ooh. Catherine & I saw "Whale Rider" too -- very good. Probably will be overlooked come Oscar time, which is a shame. Same with "Bend It Like Beckham." Movies like these never get a fair shake. Never saw "Once Were Warriors," but liked "The Emerald Forest" -- John Boorman movie, early '80s, had forgotten about it. Good call on the comparison, Amos.

I'm not too sure about "Adaptation" either. I liked Spike Jonz' first movie, "Being John Malkovich" better. They were both weird, but "Malkovich" I could understand. "Adaptation" made me feel like I should read the book to "get it," and I don't like that. Heck, if a movie can't stand on its own w/o support material, fuck it. Remember "Kilroy Was Here" -- Styx album from 1983 with "Mr. Roboto?" It had all these liner notes, explaining the "story" the album was trying to tell. And I figured, hey, if it's that damned complicated to understand this album, fuck it. Seems to me, I had "The Wall" all figured out a time or two when I was in a drugged stupor, and I did that without liner notes, so why the hell can't Styx do the same?

My favorite part of "Adaptation" was Nick Cage. He played two very different characters, basically without make-up, yet I always knew which one he was supposed to be, and I never got them mixed up. I would've liked for the movie to be solely about him/them, and forget all that crap about Meryl Streep's book. Just make it about a good writer with writer's block & his more successful but less intelligent brother.

Never saw "The Emperor's Club," although I usually like Kevin Kline. Looked an awful lot like "Dead Poet's Society," which I loved, so I figured I wouldn't like "Emperor's Club" as well. BTW, the new Julia Roberts flick looks like the female version of both of the above.

Never saw "Igby Goes Down," but I'll trust your recommendation. Sounds good. A few of us were talking about "Pulp Fiction" last night at choir practice, and our conclusion was that despite all the GREAT scenes in that movie, the best was the Christopher Walken scene, where he explains how he kept his dad's watch up his ass for two years during Viet Nam, so he wouldn't lose it. A movie is almost always good (or at least intriguing) if Walken's in it. And I used to absolutely LOVE him on SNL. Most people don't realize his training is actually as a song & dance man, and he likes to show that off on SNL. I'm glad he does, since his movie characters aren't really the singing/dancing type.

I've seen the other Culkin kid in a movie or two, and he really seems like a good little actor.

All of us recently saw "Brother Bear," and I don't know how Disney does it. They make such good movies nowadays. This isn't in the class with "Finding Nemo," but damn, it was good. I'd like to see it again. OUr kids are 15, 12, & 10, and they LOVE the Disney shit. When we were that age, Disney movies were as "out" as "Sesame Street." Nowadays, Disney is REALLY kewl. They've apparently invested in some great writers, and they seem to be writing on two levels -- one for the parents & another for the kids.

You've been thinking about killing yourself? What the hell for? Don't you have kids? And you want to abandon them, and deprive them of having a mother, from this point in their young lives forward? Come on, whatever it is, it can't be that bad.

And now you say catching up with me will make you all suicidal??? Look, you can't lay all that shit on me. What the hell did I do to make you suicidal??? Homicidal maybe, but since you no longer live in Indy, I don't worry too much about it. =) BTW, I've been on Effexor & Busparone for the last four years. These are anti-depression drugs, although I use them for anger management (which is basically just an extension of depression). I never considered myself depressed, but then Catherine & I had a fight 2.5 months after we got married in 1999, and I threw a pair of scissors at her. Then I had to take her to the emergency room. That's when I went on the medication, and now I'm "happy" again -- not liked "stoned" happy, just "normal." So whatever shit you're going thru, I can probably relate, actually -- although I've never felt suicidal, but I have felt like killing various people -- mostly my customers, but occasionally my mom or my wife. But as I say, with the medicine, I'm back to the old, normal, relatively boring & insignificant me.

Don't expect a "typical" movie with "The Station Agent." It moves slow, and has no real plot. That said, it's one of the most memorable movies I've seen this year. Probably my third favorite, after "Finding Nemo" and "Thirteen."

Duh. It is Julia Roberts. Must've been a typo. My favorite lawyer movies are still "And Justice For All" (which was admittedly over-the-top) and "Presumed Innocent" (which was understated). Both tops in their field.

What do you mean, John Sayles makes "penis movies?" Do you mean porn? If so, you're wrong. Go rent "Sunshine State." It's my favorite of his, so far, and it's new -- not some "ancient" thing like most Stanley Kubrick movies.

"Midnight Cowboy" is also not porno. When the rating system was first devised, the "X" was given to adult movies which children should not see at all. It later became corrupted by the porn industry, so the MPAA scrapped the "X" in favor of the "NC17." Unfortunately, directors are now cutting important scenes from their movies so that they DON'T receive the dreaded "NC17," which is considered to be "death at the box office." Thus, real adult movies are now far & few between. Once again, the MPAA fucks up the movie-going experience. And what the hell was "Whale Rider" doing with a "PG13?" It should've been "PG" if not "G" -- it was a family film, dammit!

Sorry about the turning you off to Kubrick. Drop acid & watch "2001: A Space Oddesey" sometime. You'll change your tune.

You're right about the security tape scene in "Columbine." VERY powerful.

Never saw "Pleasantville," but wanted to. Maybe I won't now.

You're right, I guess I didn't get what you meant by relating to film on a gut level. Maybe I still don't, but if I understand where you're coming from, I'll pick "Stand By Me." That reminded me of some of the shit my friends and I used to do at that age.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Okay. Also - here's what I saw recently:

1. Whale Rider - very cool Maori story. Had a guy in it who was in another movie about Maori that I loved called Once Were Warriors. This one, though was quite the allegory, and reminded me a bit of The Emerald Forest. Seen it?

2. Also - Adaptation. What the fuck was that all about. Nick Cage was great in both roles but what the HELL? It got really weird when Nick Cage 1 started taking Nick Cage 2's advice. Thought Chris Cooper was great, but you just have to wonder what Susan Orlean thought about the second half.

3. Some pretty unremarkable shit in The Emperor's Club, and I usually like Kevin Kline's choice of roles more. This was your average private school teacher learns important life lessons from his students kind of flick. Nothing remarkable to recommend it.

4. Also - Igby Goes Down. Cracked my shit up, and it's the best weirdly dark coming of age flick I've seen since Harold and Maude. Susan Sarandon, as always was absolutely wonderful. Jeff Goldblum always freaks me out, and is kind of as creepy as Christopher Walken without, you know, talent. Something about Christopher Walken I love, because, really, if you're going to be born that creepy looking, why not exploit the hell out of it. (Carly one time yelled to me that "there's a really creepy guy on Saturday Night Live." Without even having to look, I felt comfortable saying "Don't be alarmed, it's just Christopher Walken") And the Culkin kid that's not that icky Home Alone one? Just terrific. If you haven't seen it, do it now.

If I saw anything else over the Thanksgiving Holiday I don't remember it. Which doesn't speak well for "bringing down the house."
Also, I just noticed this - beforehand should be one word.
Okay - I suck. Sorry. Have been thinking about killing myself for the last couple of months. Decided against it today. Sometimes, being indecisive is a very good thing.

I have to try to catch up with you of course, which will likely leave me all suicidal and shit again. Whatever, I guess.

The station agent looked really good to me. Still might see it.

It's Julia Roberts, not Julie, you dolt. Erin Brockovich was pretty good, I guess, though, as you might imagine, when I saw it (in law school) I was pretty damned sick of law-themed movies. I still, however, hope one day to give the opening that Joe Pesci gives in My Cousin Vinnie - "Everything he just said is Bullshit."

I had to actually look John Sayles up on imdb. That looks mostly like penis movies. The one thing of his, however, that I've seen, The Secret of Roan Innish, it turns out, is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Never seen Midnight Cowboy - but leave it to you to pick a porno to talk about.

I really love Michael Moore. Because he makes me laugh and think at the same time. But he's not subtle, not even a little bit.

You and your Stanley Kubrick obsession make me tired. Too damn weird and thinky. As a matter of fact, I think your college obsession with Clockwork Orange turned me off of Kubrick altogether. Maybe I'll rethink it, but, you know, I'm pretty rigid and shit, so I may not. By the way... Crap. I forget. PS - fuck you for pointing out to me that Michael Moore makes documentaries. I'm a little worn out, and I don't have a penis, but that doesn't make me stupid.

Really for me, the most powerful scene in Columbine was probably the one with the Columbine security tapes. I know it's all you heard about before hand, but at the same time I was really tense waiting for it (I really don't do well with violence in film) and then it happened and it was almost as if it was choreographed. I thought it was really artfully done. The tensest scene in that film was with the wingnut with the loaded gun....

Really The Natural didn't do much for me either, nor did Pleasantville, but they are my bizarro little eight year old's two favorite movies. You should see the tapdancing I do in the scene where the mom's masturbating in Pleasantville....

I don't think you got what I meant about relating to film on a gut level. You gave me a piece of filmmaking that you found really powerful. I think the question I was asking was more about who YOU are.

Finding Nemo, by the way - yes, rocked. Now I am posting this. I could write a page or two about how I'm a big pussy like the fish dad in Nemo.... God I hate the vulnerability of my kids. See? That's what I mean about relating to something on a gut level.

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