Current viewing

(Not including operas - Tosca, Cosi Fan Tutti, etc.
For some reason, it never occurred to me to include them.)

Movies I want to see:
      Army of Shadows. French Resistance in WWII.
      Factory Girl. Biopic of Edie Sedgwick.
      Pan's Labyrinth. Fantasmagoria in Fascist Spain.
      Deliver Us From Evil.
      Away from her.
      After the wedding.
      Across the Universe.
      Taxi to the Dark Side.
      No End in Sight.
      The Machine that Made Us.

Movies, DVDs, TV and plays I've been watching:

Kon-Tiki. Movie. Huge disappointment. The book was one of my favorites as a boy: six guys sailing a raft across the Pacific, having a ball risking their lives. The movie is probably more like what really happened: someone's always mad at someone else, and they make a lot of mistakes. Another disillusionment.

Parker. Movie. Jason Statham plays his usual character: the good bad guy who kicks butt when crossed.

The Best of Comedy Central Presents. DVD. Mike Berbiglia, Zack Galifianakis, etc.

Weapons of Self Destruction. DVD. Robin Williams.

Sarah Silverman Show, Season Two. DVD.

Be More Cynical. DVD. Bill Maher.

Objectified. DVD. Can't remember a damn thing about this.

Waltz with Bashir. DVD. If this doesn't turn you against war, then you're hopeless and you should be sentenced to a life of exile on a desert island. Beautiful animation, horrifying scenes.

Live 2002. DVD. Robin Williams.

Inside Job. DVD.

The 2000 year old man. DVD.

Helvetica. DVD.

Lars and the Real Girl. TV. The best-scripted movie I've seen in years. Howlingly funny in places, touching in others, and completely consistent while being surprising. The writer loves her characters, and that's always a long step toward a good movie.

The Bad Sleep Well. DVD. Kurosawa had the guts to avoid the easy, happy ending here.

Oscar Animated Shorts (2011). Movie.

Made in Dagenham. Movie. English women working for Ford in 1968 get fed up and go on strike for equal pay.

The Notebook. DVD. Watched this because someone told me I'd agreed to. It was a rather pedestrian love story.

Unstoppable. Movie. Not usually my sort of thing -- a runaway-train flick -- but this one was involving. Couldn't stop watching it, the story line was so well put-together. Talked to an ex-railroad guy afterward, and he said it was accurate, with a couple of minor exceptions.

The Girl Who Played with Fire. Movie. Final movie in the series.

Never Let Me Go. Movie. Poignant in the extreme.

The Girl Who Played with Fire. Movie. Another gripper in the series.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Movie. You never see any people but the three characters, you never see anyone on the street, not even a moving car. This movie is stripped to the essentials, and it does the essentials perfectly. This is a plot- and character-driven movie, full of plot reversals and the unfolding of character. With the last shot you will understand the meaning of the movie's name.

Iron Man 2. Movie. More of the same, but this time mostly just an excuse for blowing stuff up. A lot of pyrotechnics, but not much soul.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Movie. Faithful to the book and nicely made. The only problem is the body of the actress who plays Lisbeth Salinger -- instead of being skinny and frail, she obviously works out a lot with weights.

The Punisher. Cable. Thomas Janes kicks bad-guy ass, says it's not revenge, but justice. Whatever.

La Dolce Vita. DVD. Fellini. I never know why I like him. His movies should seem haphazard, but somehow they aren't -- there's an internal consistency that entirely escapes definition, or even apprehension, but it's apparent while watching. Still, three hours of this movie and I was ready for it to be over.

Lolita. TV. The original, with Sue Lyon. If ever there was a teen hottie who could tempt a man to sin, she's it. And James Mason did a damn good job of portraying a man under her spell. Forget Shelly Winters and Peter whatshisname; see it for Mason and Lyon.

Samurai Rebellion. Streaming video. Another Toshiro Mifune medieval swordfighting epic; he's in them all, isn't he? I love these things above all other movie genres.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall. TV. Except for the final scene with the Dracula puppet theater, this movie lacks imagination, characters, narrative, and anything else that might compel the viewer. It's a waste of film, of air time, of the producer's money, and it's a blight on our collective pop culture. It is typical of its lameness that the writer, who stars, should have written scenes of full frontal nudity for himself, at the start and the end. This is the tipoff that this movie is an ego vehicle. He seems to be proud of his penis, and to want to show it off. As for the rest of him, it all needs to go to the gym. The sight of that flabby flesh is an offense to the eye. And another thing: I notice that the vast majority of the movie was filmed in Hawaii, unnecessarily, probably so they could all have a nice little working vacation.

An Education. Movie. 16-year-old girl, back when they were naive (1960?), gets involved with an older man. Unsurprisingly, disaster ensues. This movie makes no compromises; it is painful to watch.

Art & Copy. Movie. Documentary on the advertising biz, which confirms my loathing of it. They're moral midgets pimping for big corporations, and instead of "first kill the lawyers", the saying should be "first kill the ad men". They're one of the top three or four reasons for the deterioration of our public life, and (worse) the corruption and impoverishment of our inner lives. Send them to the gulag. What their imaginations have developed in shilling products and services has withered their moral imaginations.

9. Movie. Strange, to see a sci-fi animation named "9" with the movie previous a sci-fi named "District 9". Whatever. Like "District 9" this movie was utterly original and beautifully accomplished.

District 9. Movie. Hellbanging sci-fi from South Africa. Aliens come to earth and we abuse them. They love cat food and have weapons we can't fire, until one of us becomes one of them and takes on the commandos. Hoo-ah!

Adam. Movie. Asperger's Syndrome man gets involved with his neighbor. The tag line is something about "two strangers, one much stranger than the other". This movie's a lot more than that -- it has empathy for its characters. I walked out feeling that this time I hadn't wasted my money and my evening.

Away We Go. Movie. Couple discovers they're less of a mess than all the couples they thought were not. It wasn't until after I left the movie that I realized how good it was. In particular, the two leads were pitch perfect, and their relationship was full and credible.

Ong-Bak. DVD. Watched the fights and stunts repeatedly. Tony Jaa is clearly the best martial artist I've ever seen -- a genius with his body. Supposedly he works out eight hours a day at gymnastics, kung fu, and muay thai. It shows. So what if the plot is lame and they indulge themselves with slow-motion repeats so you can admire the work? The man is good enough to get away with it.

Riding the Rails. DVD. Doc about kids who rode the rails in the 1930s.

Kung Fu Panda. DVD. Lame high-concept animation. Not lame -- crippled.

Tulpan. Movie. Russian sailor tries to become a shepherd on the Kazakh steppe. A very odd movie indeed.

Up. Movie. Animated, from Pixar. Old man, voiced by Ed Asner, floats his house to South America. Adventures ensue.

Sin Nombre. Mexican gang-banger gets involved with immigrants heading for the U.S. Much violence.

Sunshine Cleaning. Movie. Amy Adams, down on her luck, starts a business cleaning up after suicides, murders, etc.

Oscar-nominated Shorts (animated). Movie. A disappointing batch this year, with a bunch of repeats thrown in.

Oscar-nominated Shorts (live action). Movie. Uniformly good, and the French movie was perfect.

He's Not That Into You. Movie. Formulaic chick flick with big-name cast.

The Wrestler. Movie. Mickey Rourke plays washed-up professional wrestler.

Let the Right One In. Movie. Swedish vampire flick. Ultra creepy.

The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio. Movie. Documentary on getting together a multinational orchestra of traditional instruments in a Rome neighborhood.

Slumdog Millionaire. Movie. Wildly improbable storytelling, saved by the details. Appealing hero, despicable villains. Love story with a happy sappy ending (take two hankies for the ending).

Happy-Go-Lucky. Movie. Could have been formulaic, but the writing and the performances are so top-notch that it comes across authentic.

Wall-E. Movie. Robot fulfills his mission despite seemingly insuperable obstacles, and finds love in the process.

Ugetsu. Movie. Japanese peasants and their troubles during the medieval period when the country was in chaos. I love these Japanese black-and-white movies about that period of Japanese history. They're always worth seeing.

Religulous. Movie. Sometimes the people I agree with embarrass me so much I don't want to admit I'm on their side. Bill Maher is too heavy-handed, didactic, and downright rude through much of the movie. The point should be to sabotage the faith of believers, and this sort of thing will only piss them off and make them cling to it more firmly. The man is supposed to be a comedian, but you wouldn't know it here. Curiously, only the two Catholic priests he talked to were sophisticated and interesting on the subject of religion.

Vicky Christina Barcelona. Movie. I haven't been to that town in a long time. Seeing it made me want to go back again.

Random Lunacy: Scenes from the Road Less Taken. Movie. Documentary. Poppa Neutrino spends his life without a job, but raises a family. They travel around the U.S., Mexico, and Europe, busking on the street for spare change. Often, they live on boats they've made out of junk. One of these rafts he sails to Europe. Truly incredible. If you put this in a novel, it would be too improbable and no one would be willing to suspend disbelief.

Roman de Gare. Movie. Metafiction about a ghost writer, a successful novelist, a serial killer, and whatever else they could jam in. For the first half, it seems contrived, but eventually it more or less gels.

The Edge of Heaven. Movie. Consistently surprising and interesting plotting, and wonderful summing-up scenes at the end.

The Red Balloon. DVD. Retail therapy: I bought and watched to cheer meself up. Worked, it did.

Layer Cake. DVD. Fabulous the first time I saw it, not so the second. It relies on surprise, and I knew the plot second time around. Definitely worth seeing once, if you like surprises.

Wanted. Movie. The less said about this turkey, the better.

Iron Man. Movie. Ex-drug addict plays a superhero. Not bad for brain candy.

The Visitor. Movie. Emotionally frozen college professor meets illegal aliens.

How I See the World. Videotape. Bio of Einstein; the use of first person in the title is misleading.

Into Great Silence. DVD. Documentary. Carthusian monks in the Alps, who live mostly in silence.

Young@Heart. Movie. Chorus of oldsters sing rock songs. Strange and entertaining.

Copenhagen. Stage play. The meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg during WWII.
A play about the brand of chew would have been more interesting.

Yojimbo. Movie. A long-time favorite movie of mine.

Crank. DVD.
Jason Statham shoot-em-up/chase/suspense flick.

Cries and Whispers. Movie. Almost as powerful as the first time I saw it, decades ago.

Lust, Caution. DVD. Period epic -- the Japanese occupation of China -- by Ang Lee.

Antonio Gaudi. Movie. Un-narrated shots of Gaudi's buildings, parks, colonnades, etc., in all their ineluctable, protean strangeness.

The Matador. DVD. Pierce Brosnan plays against type: an assassin who's falling apart.

The Seventh Seal. DVD. Only someone trying to think of himself as an intellectual could like this movie.
It's like a politician with nothing to say, but a lot of tricks that cover up the lack of content. It's the Barack Obama of movies.

Oscar-nominated shorts (animation). Movie. Peter and the Wolf; Russian first-love; a strange woman on a train;
a man who gets trapped in a machine that's supposed to take him to heaven.

Persepolis. Movie. Animated autobiography by an Iranian woman who went through the revolution and a great deal else.

Bonneville. Movie. Grieving widow Jessica Lange battles evil daughter-in-law by taking a road trip and ignoring her phone calls.

In Bruges. Movie. Shootout in the medieval Belgian town. Uniformly good acting. Suspension of disbelief is stretched past the snapping point near the end, though.

Steep. Movie. Should be titled "steeee". Documentary on extreme skiing.

The Kite Runner. Movie.
Nicely crafted story line.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Movie. Most deeply affecting movie I've seen in a long time, though nothing much happens.
Quite an accomplishment, to make a film about a man who can't move, and succeed in making it engrossing and touching -- and somehow make it say something important.

Untraceable. Movie. Hacker starts murdering people online. Technical details are correct, except where they'd get in the way of the plot.

The Bucket List. Movie. Stale, predictable, uninspired vehicle for two movie stars mailing in their performances.

The Battle of Algiers. DVD. The movie about the Algerian revolution.

I Am Legend. Movie. Will Smith can carry a movie -- he's a star because he's watchable, even though his acting ability is only middling.

Lost Civilizations of Anatolia. DVD. The Hittites and other long-gone groups.

Juno. Movie. Went to see it because I'd read Diablo Cody's book. She's still going for the laughs.

Enchanted. Movie. Updating of the Disney movies like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Kids can take it literally, but it winks over their heads at the adults.
There are a lot of references to earlier movies. But it's charming. As a bonus, the lead actress is a goddess, and convincing in her role, too.

Dan in Real Life. Movie. Steve Carrell does his shy dweeb routine again. He must be getting bored with this -- he mailed in his performance.

Ratatouille. Movie.
Delightful animated flick about a French rat who wants to be a chef.
By the guy who made "The Incredibles".

Once. Movie.
Indie about two musicians in Dublin. They meet and connect.
If you want to know more, you'll have to see it. I'll never tell.

Nights of Cabiria. DVD.
Fellini. Hugely depressing.

Gattaca. Videotape.
Started out to be a thoughtful movie, then turned into something more standard
and Hollywood. But well-conceived; lots of nice little details. Still, it lacked
authenticity in key respects -- the two doppelgangers, who were supposed to look
just alike, were Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. They don't even look like brothers.
Uma Thurman is to yearn for, at least, and Gore Vidal plays his part nicely.

Waitress. Movie.
Chick flick. Andy Griffith was the only actor who made much out of his part.
And here I thought the guy was dead. He has more talent than the rest of the
cast put together. The reason for his role was pretty obvious, though, and the
alert viewer will figure it out early... There were several scenes that reminded
me of those cartoons where a scientist or mathematician is working out something
incredibly complex on the blackboard, and right in the middle of the vast series
of equations you see the words “Then a miracle occurs”.

Sin City. DVD. Three interesting stories badly stitched together,
like three pieces of interesting fabric that make a fucked-up shirt.

The Host. Movie. Korean sci-fi/monster flick. The monster is pretty nifty,
though not like anything I would have expected. There are a few good twists in the
plot. Character development is good. The treatment in general is a bit heavy-handed,
but I guess that comes with the monster-flick territory. The best thing about the
movie, surprisingly, is the little girl: a great actress in a good part. Most kids
can't act worth a damn, but this one is superb, especially in her last big scene.

The Namesake. Movie. I don't quite know yet how to review this movie.
It affected me deeply. It's as good as the book, and that's saying a great deal.

Planet Earth. TV (Discovery Channel).

300. Movie.
Less a movie than a cartoon. If that's what you like, then indulge.
It's also something like a music video: the emphasis is on visual
drama, regardless of whether it makes sense. Still, it styles.
And it's probably the future of movies -- there will be a lot
more like this (completely computer-generated). Even the actors will
eventually be virtual. In the credits, I guessed the number of
people for visual effects to be about 100... They certainly didn't
pay much heed to credibility -- Leonidas has a Scots accent, not to
mention a lisp, and he pronounces his "r"s as "w"s. So it's obvious
he's from the British Isles, and if you have much of an ear for
speech, his oratory will jar you all the way through the movie.
He's not the only bad actor: most of the cast were lousy.
There's also the small matter of historical accuracy, which is
noticeably absent... says the film is 117 minutes, and
there are 1500 cuts in the film. That's 12.8 cuts per minute,
or one every less-than-5 seconds. 1300 of the cuts involve some
sort of visual effect. There was only one day of location shooting,
and the rest was (mostly) bluescreened or (some) greenscreened.
Welcome to the future, where what counts is visual impact,
not meaning. But, hey, it's enjoyable, even if it's only brain candy.

The Second Life of 20 West 9th. Video.
The restoration of the building I work in. First built in the
late 19th century, it's beautiful and functional again. In the
morning, I walk through a hall with terazzo floors and marble
walls. There are chillers in the basement that make ice, which
is used to cool the building during the day. The building now
combines the best of the old and the new. It's a gorgeous building
to work in, and when the company is sold, I'll miss the place.

Love, Janis. Stage play.
Two actresses play the part of Janis Joplin -- a speaking part, and a singing part.
The singer was amazingly like Joplin (whom I saw in concert, so I know whereof
I speak). Taken, apparently, verbatim from her letters and interviews.

The Lives of Others. Movie. This movie deserves all its rave reviews, and its Oscar. It feels utterly authentic.
This is a serious work; see it when you feel strong. Set in East Germany, it has the menacing feel that one always associates with police states.

Sweet Land. Movie.
Young German woman, a mail-order bride, comes to the Midwest after WWI.
Has a tough time of it.

Best Animated Shorts and Best Live Action Shorts. Movies.
The Oscar nominees. Not nearly as good as last year.

Children of Men. Movie.
Got me thinking about what the world would really be like without children --
a pretty depressing place.
Like the man says, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."

Nature. TV.
25 years of the program.

The Queen. Movie.
Uniformly first-rate acting throughout, by everyone, but especially
by Helen Mirren. One has to wonder, though, how accurate the movie
actually is. Since I'm not much interested in the royal family, and
even less so in Princess Diana, and scarcely at all in Tony Blair,
I lacked emotional involvement in the story. It was simply pictures
on a screen.

Citizen Kane. Movie.
Saw this at the Screenland with friends, as part of the free movie series
(best 10 American films ever made). How this made the list of the best
ten baffles me. I'm not enough of a film buff to pick up the subtleties
that establish its greatness. It struck me as just another old movie.
Somehow it got mindshare with the critics and they anointed it.

Ecstasy. DVD.
The famous Hedy Lamarr (credited as Hedy Kiesler) movie.
It felt a lot longer than 89 minutes, though the Netflix sleeve describes
it as a "beloved classic". Most of it's filler: shots of grass waving in
the wind, of bare-chested men at work, of flies on flypaper, etc.
There's a lot of repetitive symbolism, too -- where her husband kills a
bee, followed by her lover-to-be handing her a flower with a bee he's put
in it, and she lets the bee fly free. Then there's the whole thing with
the horses, of course. And the necklace.
The scene of her skinny dipping and running around nude in the woods was tame.

Casino Royale. Movie.
More straightforward than past Bond movies, and more honest about the character.
The insufferable archness, and the reliance on gimmickry, is gone. High time, too.
Not to mention that Daniel Craig acts his heart out. Great stunts, too.
Mostly, it has some emotional depth, a quality lacking in the other Bond movies.

Flushed Away. Movie.
More good entertainment from the folks responsible for Wallace and Grommit.
This one, though, is obviously CGI, though it genuflects to the way Claymation looks.

Can we be Friends? DVD.
Discussion of beliefs among different types of Quakers in North Carolina.

Stranger than Fiction. Movie.
First-rate script and direction; the acting's often somnambulistic (Will Ferrell),
overly quirky (Emma Thompson), or hyper (Maggie Gyllenhaal). And Dustin Hoffman
plays his role a bit flat. But the movie's beautifully thought-out and worked-out.

Broken Flowers. DVD.
Bill Murray plays an affectless guy visiting old girlfriends.
A character named "Lolita" is too obvious, but was so farfetched
that she actually worked.

Tarnation. DVD.
Another twisted family story, like Crumb, but this one autobiographical.

Hard Candy. DVD.
Teenage girl turns the tables on a pedophile. I didn't expect
anything this extreme. I can't get it out of my head.

The Incredibles. DVD.
Incredibly entertaining.

Million Dollar Baby. TV.
I only caught half of this. Not your conventional boxing flick, eh?

Raging Bull. DVD.
Watched this for the boxing scenes, which seemed merely melodramatic.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. DVD.
Too many damn cars and not enough girls.

Drunken Master. DVD.
Early Jackie Chan humor kung fu.

Kung Fu Hustle. DVD.

The Protector. Movie.
Another Tony Jaa nonstop slug fest, much like Ong-Bak.
I don't usually like violent movies, but I love this guy.
The man is a physical genius; he puts Jackie Chan in the shade.

Withnail and I. Video.
If you want to know what the 1960s were like, at least for those who
were young then, this movie pretty much catches the craziness.

The 40-year-old Virgin. Video.
The premise could have been hackneyed (a remake of "Get a Life", say),
but superb performances from Steve Carrell and Catherine Keener save it.
My wife says I laughed so hard I shook the house and woke her from her sleep.
(I had the door closed, and she was around the corner in a different room.)
The condom scene is worth the price of admission by itself.

An Inconvenient Truth. Movie.
Gore's global-warming slide show, in movie form. Convincing and scary,
if a bit simplistic -- though movies don't lend themselves to this form,
Gore has done an absolutely brilliant job of exposition and argumentation.

Elmer Gantry. Video.
Burt Lancaster, more histrionic than usual.

Nine Lives. DVD.
A movie for movie people -- arty and conceptual.

Japanese Story. DVD.
Australian flick. Appears to have been shot largely in the
outback and motel rooms and such, to save money.
As usual, Toni Collette is superb.

Layer Cake. DVD.
Stylish thriller with more twists than Madonna's mind.

X-Men. Movie.
I was surprised. I actually enjoyed this lame Hollywood
high-concept transparent attempt to fleece the public.

Matrix Reloaded. DVD.
Watched with my son. Stylish, but full of holes.
I've read that one of the brothers who made these movies is a
transvestite undergoing a sex change; he lives with a dominatrix.
Somehow, I'm not surprised.

Friends with Money. Movie.
This is the laziest moviemaking I've seen in years.
With a cast of superb actresses, all of whom seem to
be sleepwalking, and a pointless, fragmented story,
I have to conclude that the writing and direction
were somnambulistic.

Best Animated Short Films. Movies.
Remarkable, every year. There's always something that's like
nothing I've ever seen or imagined.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Movie.
This movie must have been a Cormac McCarthy story before it was
made into a film; it has that McCarthy feel and story line.

In Her Shoes. DVD.
My wife was watching this, so I sat and watched some of it with her.
It was so formulaic that I recognized the plot as derived from the
book, though I'd read only a couple of dozen pages of the book...
Cameron Diaz is remarkably unattractive for a beautiful woman, isn't she?

Die Another Day. TV.
Caught maybe half of this. The Bond movies are usually reliable
escapist brain candy. I'm glad to see they've tapped Daniel Craig
as the next Bond. He should be a good one... The movies have become
such a touchstone that I heard an hour-long program on the radio
the other day with two local guys discussing the Bond movie franchise.

Transamerica. Movie.
All the way through this movie, I kept thinking "This guy is a
great actor", and having to remind myself that Felicity Huffman
is a woman in real life. She gives an astonishing performance.

Transporter II. DVD.
Enjoyable, in much the same way the first one was.
Some clever stuff, and not entirely predictable.
Lots of Hong-Kong style action. I give it a 7,
like a forgettable song with a good hook.

Being John Malkovich. DVD.
Watched part of this with my son. I'd forgotten how hilariously
original, clever, and funny it was.

Waterworld. DVD.
Watched part of this with my son. I'd forgotten how bad it was,
in every imaginable way.

The Day the Earth Stood Still. DVD.
This movie was made when I was a tiny child, but it looks as if it
were made much longer ago. It seems to come from a different culture,
this country has changed so. Corny and slovenly moviemaking, with
a lot of bad acting, but engrossing nevertheless. The special effects,
though, are sure not what you'd call special. The Christ theme was
sort of interesting, and not overplayed.

Pirates of the Caribbean. Video.
Fun, clever, but too contrived for me.

Soldier's Pay. DVD.
A short (35 min.) in which a friend of mine is interviewed
several times. About problems American soldiers have had
in Iraq, and because of Iraq; and their theft of Iraqi money.

Shopgirl. Movie.
Went to this because I'd read and admired the book. The interiority
of the book didn't quite translate to the screen, which is as you'd
expect, but it was still quite watchable: good script, good acting.
As a bonus, it followed the book quite nicely, too. The movie caught
the leisurely sensibility and the poignant -- what? nostalgia's not
quite the right word. The Japanese "yugen" is the closest notion I
can find: the sense of something beautiful always passing, the
sense that that beauty can't quite be grasped, and certainly can't
be owned, though in this case the word would apply less to the
beauty of the physical world than to some quality of human feeling
and relations.

A History of Violence. Movie.
The title sums up the story. A tragedy, in the classic sense of
the ancients: pity and terror, the hero's fatal flaw. Not one of
those Hollywood Rambo cartoons, because the violence is genuine
and convincing. The scene that shows the guy on the floor of
the diner, for instance; or the scene in the hallway at school.
Superb script.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Video.
Got halfway through this and it was too painful, so I
quit watching. Didn't even ask my wife how it ended.

Some Kind of Soldier. Movie.
Movie by a friend of mine, based on an Ambrose Bierce story.
The strange thing was, that I was out in the middle of a weekday,
running an errand, which I do maybe once every other month,
and was listening to a program on the radio and heard the
announcement, so attended the premier that night and naturally
ran into Don (the filmmaker), whom I hadn't seen in a couple
of years. Seems to be par for our course: bump into each
other every two or three years, have a long, intense, interesting
conversation, and that's it for us until the next time we run
into each other.

Wallace and Grommit, Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Movie.
The film has a sagging middle, but gets funny toward the end,
especially the climactic chase scenes.

Wedding Crashers. Movie.
Could have been a good premise for a movie, had it not been
so utterly predictable.

Howl's Moving Castle. Movie.
Another beautiful movie from the maker of Spirited Away.
Again the story is about a young girl who's struggling against
great odds (especially magic). Again the animation is stunning.
The story is a bit contrived, as before. But once more I got
the feeling of a deeply humane man trying to show his viewers
how we have corrupted and polluted our world, and how beautiful
it could be if we would simply wake up and be decent to each other.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Movie.
Charming little documentary, well structured and appealing.
I liked it also because I used to live on Telegraph Hill,
and because it mentioned the flock of parrots that startled
me in Chicago once.

Ong-Bak, Thai Warrior. Movie.
Amateurish, but so what? These Thai guys make the chop-socky
boys look like wimps. Great action.

Oscar-nominated Shorts. Movie.
Mostly animation, with a couple of live-action short movies.

Bride and Prejudice. Movie.
Bollywood spectacle. The lead actress is totally hot.

Breakfast with Hunter. DVD.
What an asshole. He's been pretending to be himself for so long
that he has even himself fooled. He's a poster boy for parents
who say, "See? This is what happens if you take too many drugs."
The best thing about being famous is not having to suck up to
devolved celebrities like Hunter S. Thompson.

Cellular. DVD.
Great action, plotting, pacing.

No Man's Land. DVD.
Works both as a story, and as an allegory, and as a comment on
the Bosnian mess.

House of Flying Daggers. Movie.
They started the movie early, so I missed 10 minutes of beauty.

In the Heat of the Night. TV movie.
Hadn't seen this one in so long I'd forgotten it existed.

Sideways. Movie.
Starts slow, but gets engrossing past the midpoint.
Keeps coming back to mind. Super performances by all the actors.

About A Boy. DVD.
Hugh Grant does his Hugh Grant aw-shucks impersonation.
The movie's rather different from the way I remember the book.

Y Tu Mama Tambien. Video.
Sexy, hilarious, believable.

Remember the Titans. TV.
Yet another formula movie.

Heathers. DVD.
Not your standard teen movie. Stylish, entertaining, original.

After Sunset. Movie.
Hollywood caper movie, cranked out by the formula mill
and untouched by human hands.

Pusher. Video.
Danish movie about a heroin dealer in dire straits.
Violent, well scripted (except for one giant hole in the plot,
near the end), and very well acted. Strong stuff.

42 Up. Video.
Individual interviews with a group of people, every seven years.
They grew up in public, followed by all of England.

Secretary. Video.
One of the odder movies I've seen: girls gets job
as secretary to a lawyer, relationship becomes master/slave.

Antonio Gaudi. DVD.
Unnarrated; nothing but shots of architecture. I fell asleep, on average,
more than once a minute, though Gaudi's my favorite architect.
Cinematic narcolepsy.

Seven Samurai. DVD.
Probably my favorite movie. Every time, my reaction changes.
What interested me most this time was the sociology: the attitudes
of the samurai and the villagers, and their relationships.

Pirates of Penzance. Operetta, on stage.
I am the very model of a modern major General...

Diva. Video.
It was better twenty years ago, when I was young and less critical.
Now I watch, and see all the inconsistencies and gaps in the plot.

Ringu. DVD.
The Japanese original, on which "The Ring" was based (see next entry).
The American movie has denser plotting and faster action, but the
Japanese version feels physically truer, less virtual -- which is
exactly what you'd expect, given the cultural differences. Also as
you'd expect, the Japanese version is subtler about the characters'
feelings, and the female protagonist is less self-sufficient.
Also, the way the ghost moves near the end is way cool.

The Ring. Video.

The Pledge. Video.
Jack Nicholson plays ex-cop obsessed with finding a man who kills
little girls.

2Fast 2Furious. DVD.
It wasn't as bad as I expected, but that's not saying much.

The Fast Runner. DVD.
Eskimo movie. Had some trouble following the plot, early on.
Also, various characters looked alike to me, especially bundled
up in those bulky anoraks they wear to keep warm.

Hidalgo. DVD.
Standard Hollywood Western, set in the East -- the Middle East.
(BTW, Why is the Midwest in the U.S., and the Mideast on a different continent?)
Though it's a horse race in a hot climate, this movie reminds me of
Iron Will -- a dog race in a cold climate.

The Stepford Wives. Movie.
I know which one was Nicole Kidman, but which was Faith Hill?

Saved. Movie.
Mary, a student at a Christian high school, gets pregnant
by her gay boyfriend. Subtext? Naaaah!

October Sky. Video.
Supposedly true, but obviously touched up to make a more appealing plot.

Bicentennial Man. TV.
Unsurprising robot movie.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Movie.
Korean Buddhist movie about an old monk who lives in a floating
temple in the middle of a lake, and his protege.

Life of Brian. Movie (re-release).
These guys never take anything seriously. I'm glad.
This movie is screamingly funny because true.
("Things are funny when they're true.")

Late Nite Catechism. One-woman stage show.
Liked this so much I saw it twice. Actress plays a nun
teaching adults (the audience) on Catholic dogma and
mores. I won a glow-in-the-dark rosary.

Terminator 3. DVD.
These movies have become a franchise,
and a series of self-referential in-jokes.
Months later: I can't remember anything about this movie now...

In America. Movie.
Irish family struggles in New York City.

Wadaiko Yamato drummers. Live show.
Amazing and very enjoyable; Japanese drumming.

Lost in Translation. Movie.
One of the rare movies that's both well-written and well-directed
by one person. The acting's good, too.

The Blues. TV (PBS).
Wildly uneven, but worth watching the good parts.

American Splendor. Movie.
Finally: a movie that's original in form, and genuine in content.

Casablanca. DVD.
Watched the movie, and all the extra stuff too.

Manon of the Spring. DVD.
This is at least the third time I've watched this movie.
It's the best film storytelling I've ever seen.

Swimming Pool. Movie.
Plays with your mind, this movie does.

Daredevil. DVD.
Better than I expected, which is damning with faint praise.

Winged Migration. Movie.
From the man who directed microcosmos. Bird migrations.
This is the fifth movie in a row I've seen at the Tivoli,
which says something about the junk most other movie houses show.

Spellbound. Movie.
National spelling competition.

Central America Close-Up, Guatemala. Video.

Whale rider. Movie.
The scene just before the end is visionary and astonishing.

Nowhere in Africa. Movie.
German Jews flee Nazis, have tough time adapting to Kenya.

The Transporter. Video.
I usually don't like violent movies. Among the few exceptions are
the first Die Hard, and The Matrix -- films that do
something unexpected. Likewise for The Transporter.
The fight scene in the oil was worth the price of admission alone.
Also, that Chinese girl was incredibly hot.

Amelie. DVD.
Liked it so much that though I'd seen it at the movies, I bought it,
something I never do. The sound on the bonus tracks is screwed up...

The Shape of Things. Movie.
By Neil LaBute, who did In the Company of Men.
Cruelty seems to be his field.

Spirited Away. Video.
Beautiful animation, though the story fractures a bit under
the weight of everything that's going on. Not all the plot
devices are well motivated. Still, the best animation I've seen in years.

Bend It Like Beckham. Movie.
I went to this movie hoping to enjoy it because it was praised by
many whose judgments I respect. Instead, I found that I don't seem
to be able to enjoy movies any longer. They're too obvious.
This one, for instance, was nothing but a long string of contrived
turns of plot. I constantly thought, "Here I'm being manipulated
by the music", or by the events. They tried too hard to get to
the audience, they tried too hard to involve the audience with the
heroine, and they ended up by pandering. At every point in the
movie it was obvious what the filmmakers were trying to do.
And the last ten minutes or so were not credible -- at all.
If this and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are the kind of
movies that get the praise now, then films are in abysmal shape.

The Bridges of Madison County. TV.
Better than the book, which was lame beyond belief.
Better mainly because of good performances by Eastwood and Streep.

About Schmidt. Movie.
Perfect characterization of Midwesterners, their cliches, their
politeness, their awkwardnesses. But that's the least of it.
Beautifully written, wonderful acting, and a perfect resolution.

The Bourne Identity. DVD.
Ashamed to admit I watched this piece of shit.
Still, it did have Franka Potente in it.

Donnie Darko. DVD.
My son loves this movie. Got it for Christmas and wanted
us to watch it with him. Forced us to watch it.

Real Women Have Curves. Movie.
Good, except for the editorials, of which there were many.

Waking Life. DVD.
Trippy, but full of crackerbarrel philosophy.
It's the visual technique that makes this riveting.

Tadpole. Movie.
Teenager falls in love with his stepmom.
Not bad, but veers between seriousness and humor,
and the ending is too pat. Has Bebe Neuwirth, Sigourney
Weaver, and John Ritter (for once not playing himself).

Kurt and Courtney. Video.
Did Kurt Cobain kill himself, or did Courtney Love?
The movie posits the latter -- and makes it persuasive.

Lovely and Amazing. Movie.
Everyone's lives go wrong simultaneously.

Vakvagany. Movie.
The most disturbing family documentary ever, except Crumb.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Movie.
Fun and funny, though it was played a bit broad and the
characters were types (the eccentric, authoritative
father; the SNAG boyfriend; and so on), and the plot
didn't have any surprises.

The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser. Video.
Werner Herzog's retelling of the famous story.
He cast a schizophrenic in the lead role --
which was a brilliant and successful choice.
Hadn't seen this movie in decades.

Psycho Beach Party. Movie on cable.
Sends up several genres: beach movies, slasher movies,
and more. Has a sixties look, but it goes way beyond
what you expect, occasionally stepping outside the frame
in a funny, imaginative fashion.

Boiling Point. Video.
Another Japanese gangster flick, with "Beat" Takeshi.
I'm not watching any more Jap gangster movies.
While I'm watching, I think "I don't get it".
Later, I continue to think the same thing.

The Sixth Sense. Movie.
Figured it out about 2/3 of the way through. Nice twist.

Kissing Jessica Stein. Movie.
One of those quirky little indies. Cute,
but a bit contrived. The ending wasn't
what I expected. Definitely worth the
price of the ticket.

Monsoon Wedding. Movie.
Indian, but not your typical Bollywood production.
About a wedding plagued with scandals and conflict.

Italian for Beginners. Movie.
Danish movie (adhering to the Dogma 95 notions of moviemaking).
It's confusing at first - jarring cuts back and forth between
the characters, and everything seems muddled. The connections
between the characters seem contrived. But then the movie
hit its stride, all the people gelled, and I found myself
caring a lot about these men and women, as ordinary as they
could possibly be, and about their needs and struggles. Plus,
the movie has a happy ending - not one of those preposterous
deus ex machina Hollywood endings, but a simple, sweet
and ordinary one. It all comes right in the end.

Girlfight. Video.
The lead actress gives the most convincing performance I've seen
in years. The script is top-notch, too.

Branded to Kill. Video.
A Japanese gangster movie. Unintelligible. And could someone tell me
how you shoot someone through the windshield of a car without putting
a hole in the glass?

Dogma. DVD.
You'd never guess this movie was made by a believing Catholic.

Ghost World. Video.
I wish I'd seen this at a theater - the look is interesting,
and probably loses a lot on the T.V. screen. The script is
superb, the acting pitch-perfect. Everything about this
movie is first-rate. There's just one problem: a major
plot premise isn't credible. Enid would never fall in
love with Seymour.

Split Lip Rayfield. Live performance.
Hillbillies from hell. Bluegrass with attitude.
Speed metal picking. Songs about murdering girlfriends:
"You gotta love 'em, and leave 'em in the ground".
Songs about murdering cars: "I am the kiss of death".
The show was in Lawrence, at the Granada. Bought their
latest CD, which was also recorded in Lawrence. Except
for Joe Walsh, this band may be the only talent ever
to come out of Wichita.

The Vagina Monologues. Live performance.
We happened to see this on Valentine's day, which is known as
"V-day" to V.M. aficionados, when performances are given all over
the place to raise money (presumably including the HBO showing
at the same time we were at the theater). Sheer coincidence.
I wish I'd stayed home. It was boring: self-congratulatory,
repetitive, inane, cliched. The audience was tittering at the
start because of the constant use of the word "vagina". I guess
I'm not that easily amused. The damn thing was simply overbearing.
It was like listening to bad spoken-word poetry.

Ikiru. DVD.
Hadn't seen this one in decades.

Yojimbo. DVD.
One of my favorites, for more than 30 years.

The Thin Red Line. Video.
Internal monologue belongs in novels, not movies.

A Beautiful Mind. Movie.
Difficult to watch - it reminds me of someone dear to me.

Memento. Video.
The most interesting narrative strategy I've ever seen.

Malena. Video.
Simple, beautiful, sad and wise.

Amelie. Movie.
The most charming, appealing, whimsical, beautiful little movie
I've seen in years. Funny, too.

The Fine Art of Separating People from their Money. Video.
Inane and shallow.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Video.
For a change, a movie that's better than the book.
But that's a bonus - the main reason for watching
is that Lena Olin's in it.

This Old Pyramid. Video.
How to build a pyramid, the old-fashioned way -
and I do mean old-fashioned.

Sydney. Video.
A Lonely Planet travelogue. It sucked.

Winter Sleepers. Video.
The slow weaving together of half-a-dozen lives.
By the director of Run, Lola, Run, but as slow
as that movie was fast. Could be titled "karma".
I bet not one viewer in 10 catches the meaning
of the way this movie ends.

She. Video.
The novel was better.

The Best Mind since Einstein. Video.
Feynman biography: interviews with his friends.

This is Spinal Tap. Video.
Funniest movie I've seen in years.

Night of the Shooting Stars. Video.
Overrated. A lot of unconvincing overacting.

Pollock. Video.
Ed Harris is one hell of an actor.

Nosferatu. Video.
The original one, by W. F. Murnau, not the Herzog remake,
though I've seen that, too.

White. Video.
Now I've seen all three of Kiezlowski's trilogy.
This one was as unconvincing as the other two,
although the plot twists are always interesting.

Woman in the Dunes. Video.
Japanese. Existential. Camus could have written this movie.

Songcatcher. Movie.
Superb movie about a musicologist collecting songs in Appalachia.

The Gilmore Girls. Television.
I like the dialogue, and the characters.

Crocodile Dundee in L.A. and Shreck. In-flight.
I was captive above the Atlantic Ocean and couldn't escape.

Brother, where art thou? DVD.
Watched this in Ireland, at Charles' house. Not bad.

Weather woman. Video.
A Japanese cult movie. Don't see it if you're offended
by scenes of female masturbation - there are several.
They're hilarious. So is everything else in this movie.

Kikujiro. Video.
Japanese movie about a boy in search of his mother.
That's the least of it.

The Color of Paradise. Movie.
Iranian movie about a blind boy.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Movie.
Great plot, acting, effects. Takes the kung-fu movie
to a new plane of being.

Requiem for a Dream. Movie.
Devastating. Don't see it if you're in a fragile mood.

Pi. Movie theater.
About as bogus as it gets.

Run, Lola, Run. Video.
Turbocharged. Very engrossing, very original.

A Hard Day's Night. Movie.
The clothes! God, what were people thinking?

Fantasia. Movie (IMAX!).
The new version. Wow. As good as the original movie.
It isn't often that perfection repeats itself.