Monday, December 29, 2008

Movies Of The Year: 2008 (Part One)

No, I still haven't seen any of the big ones from this year (though I hope to watch Australia finally tonight. Instead, here's the list of the best movies I saw for the first time in 2008. I don't know how it measures up to previous years (see the 2006 and 2007 lists), but there were a lot of great films regardless. Here's the Top 70:

1. I Am Cuba
2. Sans soleil
3. Johnny Guitar
4. Early Summer
5. The Gang's All here
6. The Passenger
7. Lola
8. Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas
9. Park Row
10. Come Drink With Me
11. Unfaithfully Yours
12. Don't Look Now
13. Shanghai Express
14. The Color Of Pomegranates
15. Tokyo Chorus
16. The Atomic Cafe
17. Howl's Moving Castle
18. Unbreakable
19. Flight Of The Red Balloon
20. Texas Chain-Saw Massacre
21. Popeye
22. The Wind Will Carry Us
23. Passion
24. A Story Of Floating Weeds
25. Wee Willie Winkie

26. Blissfully Yours
27. Earth
28. The End Of Summer
29. Thieves' Highway
30. Jason And The Argonauts
31. Advise And Consent
32. I Was Born But . . .
33. Muhammed Ali: The Greatest
34. Passing Fancy
35. Our Daily Bread
36. My Blueberry Nights
37. Yang Kwei-fei
38. Stolen Kisses
39. A Man Escaped
40. All Aboout Lily Chou-Chou
41. The Thing
42. A Letter To Three Wives
43. Heroes Of The East
44. Fantastic Planet
45. Wonderful Town
46. Eagle Shooting Heroes
47. The Naked Prey
48. Bunny Lake Is Missing
49. Russian Ark
50. Signs

51. Steamboat Round The bend
52. Wings
53. Haxan
54. Crossfire
55. Last Hurrah For Chivalry
56. Nightfall
57. Syndromes And A Century
58. The Iron Horse
59. Purple Rain
60. Bob le flambeur
61. The Village
62. Mysterious Island
63. Boarding Gate
64. The Saddest Music In The World
65. The Threepenny Opera
66. Rififi
67. Slap Shot
68. Legendary Weapons Of China
69. Jezebel
70. Encounters At The End Of The World

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Movie Roundup: Snowed In Edition

I've been trapped in the house with a shockingly small amount of Diet Coke for most of the last week. But I'll be working for most of the rest of the year, regardless of the weather. Ideally, this would be the time when I'd be posting my best of 2008 list. Unfortunately, I've managed to see hardly any of the big end of the year movies (Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Australia, Marley & Me, etc), so a list at this point would be pretty pointless. Look for that sometime around Oscar season.

In the meantime, here's what I've seen over the last several weeks, and where they rank on their respective Movies Of The Year lists.

Muhammed Ali, The Greatest: 6, 1969
The Haunting: 14, 1963
Mystery Of The Wax Museum: 12, 1933
Ashes Of Time Redux: 2008
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife: 7, 1938
Zack And Miri Make A Porno: 2008
The Small Back Room: 10, 1949
Russian Ark: 9, 2002
The Thing: 11, 1982
Quantum Of Solace: 2008
Fight Back To School: 25, 1991
Encounters At the End Of the World: 13, 2007
Popeye: 8, 1980
Slap Shot: 6, 1977
Baby Mama: 2008
Unbreakable: 9, 2000
Shipmates Forever: 13, 1935
Signs: 10, 2002
The Village: 14, 2004
Lady In the Water: 20, 2006
Man On Wire: 2008
Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: 2008
The TV Set: 41, 2006
The Ten: 34, 2007
Boarding Gate: 12, 2007
The Atomic Cafe: 5, 1982
Platinum Blonde: 16, 1931

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Movies Of The 80s

I've spent the last week complaining about snow-related inconveniences while listening to a whole lot of Hilary Hahn. So here's a list of my Top 50 films of the 1980s.

1. Do The Right Thing
2. Ran
3. Sans soleil
4. Stranger Than Paradise
5. The Empire Strikes Back
6. Fitzcarraldo
7. The Raiders Of The Lost Ark
8. The Princess Bride
9. Amadeus
10. Ghostbusters
11. Dangerous Liaisons
12. Hannah And Her Sisters
13. The Shining
14. The Right Stuff
15. The Purple Rose Of Cairo
16. Henry V
17. Bull Durham
18. Zelig
19. Pennies From Heaven
20. The Road Warrior
21. Broadcast News
22. The Mission
23. This Is Spinal Tap
24. Passion
25. Airplane!

26. Platoon
27. The Last Temptation Of Christ
28. Out Of Africa
29. Die Hard
30. Empire Of The Sun
31. Das Boot
32. The Big Red One
33. The Verdict
34. Heaven's Gate
35. Aliens
36. Full Metal Jacket
37. Crimes And Misdemeanors
38. Blade Runner
39. The Killer
40. Police Story
41. Once Upon A Time In America
42. Raising Arizona
43. Glory
44. Salvador
45. Eight Men Out
46. Reds
47. Caddyshack
48. Heathers
49. When Harry Met Sally. . .
50. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music Of The Year: 2008

I don't listen to a lot of music, certainly not relative to how many movies I watch. But I've bought thirteen albums from 2008, and listened to eleven of them enough to give them a ranking (apologies to Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and David Byrne & Brian Eno).

1. Hilary Hahn - Schoenberg & Sibelius: Violin Concertos
2. The Magnetic Fields - Distortion
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
4. Thomas Newman - WALL-E Soundtrack
5. Bob Dylan - Bootleg Series 8: Tell Tale Signs
6. Annette Hanshaw - Sita Sings The Blues Soundtrack
7. Melody Gardot - Worrisome Heart
8. Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy
9. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
10. Noah And The Whale - Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
11. Weezer - The Red Album

Monday, December 08, 2008

Movies Of The 90s

The Top 50 Films from 1990-1999:

1. Chungking Express
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Miller's Crossing
4. Unforgiven
5. Boogie Nights
6. Trainspotting
7. Dead Man
8. Three Colors: Blue
9. LA Story
10. Rushmore
11. The Thin Red Line
12. Eyes Wide Shut
13. Slacker
14. Pulp Fiction
15. The Last Of The Mohicans
16. The Double Life Of Veronique
17. Hard-Boiled
18. Dazed And Confused
19. Fallen Angels
20. Satantango
21. Goodfellas
22. Days Of Being Wild
23. The English Patient
24. Magnolia
25. Big Night

26. Reservoir Dogs
27. Barton Fink
28. True Romance
29. Glengarry Glen Ross
30. Searching For Bobby Fischer
31. Taste Of Cherry
32. Three Colors: Red
33. Kicking And Screaming
34. Six Degrees Of Separation
35. The Matrix
36. Les amants du Pont-Neuf
37. Lost Highway
38. The Wind Will Carry Us
39. Bottle Rocket
40. Seven
41. Drunken Master II
42. Pi
43. Happy Together
44. Heat
45. Fight Club
46. Goodbye South, Goodbye
47. Dreams
48. Starship Troopers
49. Metropolitan
50. April Story

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Movies Of The Millennium

Another list while waiting for the last Metro Classic of the year (or maybe ever this just in: we'll be back in the Spring!), tomorrow night's Cabaret. Here's a Top 50 films of 2000-20008, so far:

1. Millennium Mambo
2. The New World
3. House Of Flying Daggers
5. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
7. Kill Bill Vol. 1
8. The Royal Tenenbaums
9. Punch-Drunk Love
10. 2046
11. Last Life In The Universe
12. Hero
13. The Fellowship Of the Ring
14. Three Times
15. I'm Not There
16. There Will Be Blood
17. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
18. Tropical Malady
19. The Departed
20. In the Mood For Love
21. The Heart Of The World
22. Still Life
23. Sita Sings the Blues
24. Miami Vice
25. AI: Artificial Intelligence

26. Yi yi
27. Ratatouille
28. No Country For Old men
29. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
30. The World
31. Sparrow
32. The Two Towers
33. Spring Summer Fall Winter. . . and Spring
34. Blissfully Yours
35. What Time Is It There?
36. All About Lily Chou-Chou
37. Flight Of The Red Balloon
38. A History Of Violence
39. Grizzly Man
40. Platform
41. Climates
42. Almost Famous
43. Moulin Rouge!
44. Cafe Lumiere
45. Munich
46. Syndromes And A Century
47. 8 Women
48. Anchorman
49. Grindhouse
50. I Don't Want To Sleep Alone

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Movies of the Year Index

This is an index of the Movies of the Year posts I made between 2005 and 2008.  I managed to cover from 1946-the present before totally losing momentum.  Most of them are pretty awful, actually.

1946  Nov 18, 2008
1947  Aug 25, 2008
1948  Aug 06, 2008
1949  June 25, 2008
1950  June 05, 2008
1951  Jan 24, 2008
1952  Sep 26, 2007
1953  June 13, 2007
1954  Apr 12, 2007
1955  Jan 20, 2007
1956  Dec 21, 2006
1957  Oct 25, 2006
1958  Oct 04, 2006
1959  Sep 27, 2006
1960  Sep 04, 2006
1961  July 26, 2006
1962  July 26, 2006
1963  July 19, 2006
1964  June 13, 2006
1965  May 17, 2006
1966  Apr 23, 2006
1967  Apr 02, 2006
1968  Mar 22, 2006
1969  Mar 19, 2006
1970  Mar 15, 2006
1971  Mar 15, 2006
1972  Mar 03, 2006
1973  Mar 01, 2006
1974  Feb 10, 2006
1975  Feb 08, 2006
1976  Aug 31, 2005
1977  Aug 31, 2005
1978  Sep 01, 2005
1979  Sep 02, 2005
1980  Sep 02, 2005
1981  Sep 04, 2005
1982  Sep 12, 2005
1983  Sep 17, 2005
1984  Sep 18, 2005
1985  Sep 24, 2005
1986  Sep 25, 2005
1987  Oct 01, 2005
1988  Oct 05, 2005
1989  Oct 09, 2005
1990  Oct 16, 2005
1991  Oct 29, 2005
1992  Oct 30, 2005
1993  Nov 02, 2005
1994  Nov 06, 2005
1995  Nov 11, 2005
1996  Nov 16, 2005
1997  Nov 21, 2005
1998  Dec 07, 2005
1999  Dec 11, 2005
2000  Dec 15, 2005
2001  Jan 15, 2006
2002  Jan 25, 2006
2003  Jan 27, 2006
2004  Feb 07, 2006
2005  Feb 08, 2006
2006 (part one)  Jan 14, 2007
2006 (part two)  Dec 31, 2006
2007 (part one)  Jan 07, 2008
2007 (part two)  Jan 16, 2008
2008 (part one)  Dec 29, 2008
2008 (part two)  Feb 03, 2009
2009 (part one)  Mar 08, 2010
2009 (part two)  Mar 07, 2010
2010 (part one)  Dec 31, 2010
2010 (part two)  Jan 05, 2011
2011 (part one)  Dec 31, 2011

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Movies Of The Year Awards: 1946

Best Picture:

The End: The Big Sleep
Oscar: The Best Years Of Our Lives

Best Director:

The End: Howard Hawks, The Big Sleep
Oscar: William Wyler, The Best Years Of Our Lives


The End: Frederic March, The Best Years Of Our Lives
Oscar: Frederic March, The Best Years Of Our Lives


The End: Ingrid Bergman, Notorious
Oscar: Olivia de Haviland, To Each His Own

Supporting Actor:

The End: Claude Rains, Notorious
Oscar: Harold Russell, The Best Years Of Our Lives

Supporting Actress:

The End: Rita Hayworth, Gilda
Oscar: Anne Baxter, The Razor's Edge

Original Screenplay:

The End: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, A Matter Of Life And Death
Oscar: Muriel and Sydney Box, The Seventh Veil

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, The Big Sleep
Oscar: Robert Sherwood, The Best Years Of Our Lives

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Paisan

Film Editing:

The End: Claude Ibéria, Beauty And The Beast
Oscar: Daniel mandell, The Best Years Of Our Lives

Black And White Cinematography:

The End: Gregg Toland, The Best Years Of Our Lives
Oscar: Arthur Miller, Anna And The King Of Siam

Color Cinematography:

The End: Lee Garmes, Hal Rosson and Ray Rennahan, Duel In The Sun
Oscar: Charles Rosher, Leonard Smith and Arthur Arling, The Yearling

Black And White Art Direction:

The End: Beauty And The Beast
Oscar: Anna And The King Of Siam

Color Art Direction:

The End: Duel In The Sun
Oscar: The Yearling


The End: Notorious
Oscar: The Jolson Story

Visual Effects:

The End: A Matter Of Life And Death
Oscar: Blithe Spirit

Original Score:

The End: Roy Webb, Notorious
Oscar: Hugo Friedhofer, The Best Years Of Our Lives

Original Song:

The End: "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", Allie Wrubel & Ray Gilbert, Song Of The South
Oscar: "On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe", Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren, The Harvey Girls

Movies Of The Year: 1946

19. A Night In Casablanca
18. The Postman Always Rings Twice
17. Song Of The South
16. Tomorrow Is Forever
15. Bedlam
14. The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers
13. Duel In The Sun
12. Green For Danger
11. Beauty And The Beast

10. The Stranger - Following the disaster that was The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles tried to reconcile himself to the studio system with this little film noir about a Nazi war criminal hiding in a small town. Not especially dissimilar to Alfred Hitchcock's superior Shadow Of A Doubt, the film was a failure and is generally considered Welles's worst as a director. I don't think it's all that bad, Welles gives a nice performance as the bad guy, and he makes the small town creepy enough. Edward G. Robinson costars, and he's as great as he always is.

9. The Killers - Robert Siodmak's noir adaptation of a Hemingway short story stars Burt Lancaster as The Swede (think Miller's Crossing) a former prizefighter who gets rubbed out by the eponymous hitmen. Edmund O'Brien is an insurance investigator who tries to figure out who killed The Swede and why. His investigation takes him through a series of Kane-esque flashbacks where we learn the story of The Swede's last few years, including his association with archetypal femme fatale Kitty Collins, played very well by Ava Gardner. The opening scene is a noir tour de force: a point of view shot of a car driving at night, chiaroscuro headlights leading to a small town diner, scary hitmen looking for their target. The sequence is so great the rest of the film unfortunately pales in comparison.

8. Gilda - Two and a half years ago, I wrote this about Gilda:

Another mediocre film noir, this one featuring a superstar-making performance by Rita Hayworth as the title object of desire. Much like in Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight (#8, 1996), a young gambler is adopted by an older man and shown how to survive. This time it's Glenn Ford who's taken in by George Macready's Buenos Aires casino owner and would-be tungsten magnate. Things fall apart, as they must, when a woman gets involved, Hayworth in this case, Macready's new bride and Ford's ex-girlfriend. There's more than just a hint of a homosexual relationship between Ford and Macready that isn't exactly minimize by the hostility with which Ford treats Hayworth throughout the entire run of the film. Even after Macready fakes his death and he and Hayworth get married, he proceeds to lock her up in an apartment to punish her for her mistreatment of his "friend". Of course, they all live heterosexually ever after, but we know what's really going on. Hayworth, by the way, is as advertised, especially in her famous striptease in which all she manages to remove is a single glove. But I think she looked better in The Lady From Shanghai.

I haven't seen it since then, but the film's dizzying sexual politics sicks in my memory enough that I wouldn't dare call it "mediocre" now. Bizarre and fascinating is closer.

7. The Best Years Of Our Lives - I first saw this over a decade ago when I was trying to watch as many Best Picture winners as I could stand. I really didn't like it then: too long, too dull, too obvious. I watched it again a month ago, though, and while I still think it's a bit too much on the obvious side (the Harold Russell subplot in particular is awfully repetitive), there's a lot more here to love than I remembered. The film is marvelously shot by director William Wyler and cinematographer Gregg Toland, with textbook examples of the benefits of staging in depth and deep focus photography (David Bordwell writes about a particularly fine example in On The History Of Film Style: a single shot bar scene with three different planes of action following three different plot threads simultaneously. Frederic March, Myrna Loy and Dana Andrews all give marvelous performances. March, in particular, is a revelation; I've always found him to be rather stiff and dull as an actor. But he plays a great drunk here, and brings more depth to his returning veteran than either Russell or Andrews can muster. I still think the film is a bit overrated. After the first third (the vets first night home) the momentum slows and stops dead every time Russell appears. But I can better understand now why it's so beloved.

6. Paisan - Six-part Roberto Rossellini film about the conquest of Italy in World War II. Unusual for this type of film, I actually really like every section. Some great action and suspense sequences (the opening story in a castle, the story about a woman attempting to reach her husband) and very moving non-action sequences (the bonding between an African-American soldier and an orphan who steals his shoes, a priest a rabbi and a minister having dinner in a monastery). One of the better war movies of the era, it manages to capture the epic scope of the Italian campaign within its human-scale stories.

5. My Darling Clementine - John Ford's classical counterpart to his 1939 film Stagecoach, together the two films that have defined the genre ever since (and provided the foundation for all the variations and subversions of the genre ever since). Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp in this story of the Gunfight At The OK Corral, but the film has very little to do with action and instead focuses more on community-building (a constant Ford obsession). It's a long way from George P. Cosmatos's 1993 film Tombstone, with its histrionic action movie cliches and overbearing score and pace.

4. Notorious - We just played this Alfred Hitchcock film as part of our Metro Classics series. And of course it is a great film, with Cary Grant pimping his girlfriend (Ingrid Bergman, in possibly her greatest performance) to the CIA in order to ensnare Nazi Claude Rains. But watching it in the theatre this time, what I noticed most were the closeups: there's a delirious amounts of extreme closeups in this film, more than I can recall in any other Hitchcock film. They come in both one and two shots (the famous long kiss between Grant and Bergman almost becomes an abstraction along the lines of the opening shots of Hiroshima, mon amour). I don't know if this is something unique in Hitchcock, or just something I've never noticed before, but it made a great film even more fun to watch.

3. A Matter Of Life And Death - David Niven's bomber pilot dies in a crash moments after meeting Kim Hunter over the radio. But there's a mishap and the angel in charge fails to pick him up and his soul doesn't get picked up. Before the mistake can be noticed, Hunter and Niven are in love, and so they decide to argue in court with the Powers That Be that Niven should be allowed to stay alive. That, or Niven's totally insane due to a severe brain injury. This is one of the finest of Powell & Pressburger films, witty, romantic and profound, with great performances from Niven, Hunter and Roger Livesy as the doctor who diagnoses Niven's injury and also helps him plead his case. P & P cleverly film the real world in Technicolor and heaven in black and white (a reverse-Oz), and their conception of the afterlife as a bureaucracy has become commonplace (Defending Your Life, After-Life).

2. It's A Wonderful Life - Speaking of the afterlife, we have Frank Capra's holiday classic, perhaps the most depressing and disturbing film ever to become an American cliché. James Stewart plays a suicidal bank owner who's lost all his money, can't stand his family, and has been stuck in his podunk town for life despite the fact that all he ever really wanted to do was leave and go somewhere else. So he throws himself off a bridge only to be rescued by an obnoxious angel and be given a vision of an even more hellish world where he never existed. The lesson, as always, is that no matter how much it seems like life sucks, it could actually be even worse.

1. The Big Sleep - Howard Hawks's Raymond Chandler adaptation is one of the strangest of films noir, partially because censorship rules prevented the writers from explaining large sections of the plot, partly because those writers (Leigh Brackett, William Faulkner and Jules Furthman) were more interested in the crackle and spark of their dialogue (and the sexiness with which their actors (Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) delivered it) than any mundane issues like plot or narrative coherence. This, wedded to Hawks's classical, don't let the camera get in the way visual style, combines to make one of the most verbally wild and visually restrained noirs: funnier than most screwball comedies and lighter in tone, despite its many murders, framings, perversions and tortures, than a noir-influenced film like It's A Wonderful Life. This is where the film lives: at the intersection of two of film's most perennially popular genres, both perfected in the 1940s.

Some interesting stuff on my Unseen Movies list from this year, but nothing I feel a really strong desire to see anytime soon:

Great Expectations
The Yearling
The Harvey Girls
The Razor's Edge
No Regrets For Our Youth
Diary Of A Chambermaid
Utamaro And His Women
From This Day Forward
The Blue Dahlia
The Road To Utopia
Till The Clouds Roll By
Cluny Brown

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can!

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Zen Of Beatrix

The House Next Door provides this fascinating reading of the Kill Bill movies as a Zen allegory by Michael K. Crowley. I rewatched the films yesterday, and his theory holds up pretty well, and makes me appreciate Vol. 2 more than I ever have before. I've always defended these films on pure love of cinema grounds, arguing that Tarantino's movies are as pure an expression of cinephilia as anything in film. But it's nice to think that there might be some larger purpose to them as well.

The one question I'd have, is that Crowley leaves out the one scene that has always bothered me in Vol. 2, Beatrix's meeting with the aged pimp Esteban. It doesn't appear to have anything to do with her Zen quest, though it might play a part in a feminist reading of the film, as another example of an evil male/father figure for The Bride to defeat along with Bill, Buck and arguably Pai Mei (Hattori Hanzo being the only unambiguously positive male figure in the films). But Beatrix doesn't actually do anything to stop Esteban's cruelty to women. Either way, the scene really kills the film's momentum leading up to the final confrontation with Bill. I really don't know what purpose it's supposed to serve.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Movie Roundup: Go Rays Edition

I've got a cold coming on, so I'm going to be ever briefer than usual. Here's what I've seen over the last month or so, along with where each film ranks on my Movies Of The Year lists:

Bob le flambeur - 7, 1956
Legendary Weapons Of China - 11, 1982
Paris When It Sizzles - 19, 1964
Khartoum - 24, 1966
The Cobweb - 27, 1955
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town - 11, 1936
The Lady Is Willing - 17, 1942
Gimme Shelter - 8, 1970
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day - 19, 2008
The Last Frontier - 25, 1955
Babes In Arms - 21, 1939
The Major And The Minor - 12, 1942
Across the Pacific - 16, 1942
Adivse And Consent - 8, 1962
Green For Danger - 13, 1946
Libeled Lady - 14, 1936
The Rest Is Silence - 30, 2007
Wonderful Town - 6, 2007
Burn After Reading - 21, 2008
Eagle Shooting Heroes - 16, 1993
W. 24 - 2008
Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist - 25, 2008

And something to entertain you while I try to fight off the bug:

Monday, October 13, 2008

List Roundup

Been putting some lists together for the filmspotting message board lately, I figure I might as well post them here too.

First, My Top 20 (Non-Classical or Jazz) Albums Of All-Time:

20. Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins
19. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
18. Nevermind - Nirvana
17. Rust Never Sleeps - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
16. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Expereince
15. Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan
14. Kid A - Radiohead
13. Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
12. If I Should Fall From Grace With God - The Pogues
11. IV - Led Zeppelin
10. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones
9. Abbey Road - The Beatles
8. Pinkerton - Weezer
7. London Calling - The Clash
6. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement
5. Love And Theft - Bob Dylan
4. Odelay - Beck
3. The White Album - The Beatles
2. Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan
1. 69 Love Songs - The Magnetic Fields

And My Top 20 Books (Not Plays) Of All-Time:

20. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
19. The Red & The Black by Stendhal
18. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
17. The Odyssey by Homer
16. The Song Of Fire & Ice by George R. R. Martin
15. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
14. The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
13. The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein
12. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
11. The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salmon Rushdie
10. One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
9. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
8. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
7. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams
6. The Master & Commander Series by Patrick O'Brien
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
4. Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
3. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
2. Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Movie Roundup: VIFF Edition

The wife and I are just back from the Vancouver International Film Festival, where we say eleven films in four and a half days. It was my first festival ever, I believe she'd seen some films at the Seattle one before, but this was the first outside of our hometown. It was a lot of fun, I only wish I'd bought an umbrella.

Waltz With Bashir - Good, but I expected better from all the buzz around it. The animation is quite nice, not particularly smooth or realistic, but it works for the story. The music is great. At times, the movie feels like it's trying to absolve Israelis of the atrocities in Lebanon by telling them it wasn't their fault, that it was the Christians, that the Israelis were just young and didn't know any better. There's a fine line between coping with guilt over your actions and making excuses to yourself for yourself. I don't know that the film is entirely successful at walking that line.

Sparrow - A tremendous amount of fun from director Johnnie To. It takes the style of the modern HK action film and makes a goofy, lighthearted near-musical out of a gang of pickpockets trying to rescue a pretty girl. The humor isn't over the top in the way a lot of HK comedies I've seen from the 90s are, instead it feels closer to The Young Girls Of Rochefort (without the singing and dancing) than I've seen in a Chinese film. The wife liked it a lot too, its our favorite of the festival so far.

Of Time And The City - Terence Davies documentary about his hometown of Liverpool, feels like his attempt at a My Winnipeg (which I've yet to see). Over mostly archival footage he rectites poetry, muses on the passage of time, makes fun of the Queen and The Beatles and talks a bit about growing up gay and Catholic. The historical shots are fascinating, slice of life images of Liverpudlians going about their rather dull days surrounded by hideously ugly buildings. The narration is alright when Davies is musing, obnoxious when he's being bitchy. The film breaks down near the end, where it had been chronicling the urban decay he grew up with, as soon as he comes out and declares atheism, his personal stoyr ends (sometime in the mid60s) and all of a sudden we're transported from the rundown town of that era to the shiny new metropolis from the present. No explanation, no more personal history. It feels slapped together in the end. The wife disliked it a lot more than I did. At least I enjoyed the reallife documentary images. She just thought it was all pretty pointless.

Happy Go Lucky - I'm with what i think the consensus is: Hawkins is terrific, the film is a lot of fun. It's an interesting study the MPDG character. She starts off as the annoying cliche, but as the film goes along, she becomes more and more an actual character as we see the stereotype deal with actual human problems (and not just movie problems). With this and Topsy-Turvy, I like Mike leigh a lot when he's not trying to be depressing (ahem, Secrets & Lies).

The Rest Is Silence - Entertaining Romanian film about the making of that countries first silent feature. Very mainstream in style (and far away, I imagine, from those Romanian films getting raves at Cannes). There's a twist at the end I didn't like at all.

Sita Sings The Blues - Irreverent animated telling of the Ramayana, interspersed with some great songs of the 20s. Hilarious, the animation (in at least four different styles) is really cool, and a nice message the ways we use narrative to explain and cope with issues in our own lives, at how little this aspect of human nature has changed over the centuries. My wife's favorite of the whole festival, it might be mine too.

Equation Of Love And Death - A well-made Chinese thriller with comic and romantic elements about a taxi driver kidnapped by inept drug runners while almost finding her long lost boyfriend. Zhou Xun is really terrific as the cab driver. It feels more Hong Kong than Chinese, but maybe I've only seen a lot of slow-paced, esoteric Chinese films. The wife liked this one a lot too.

Let The Right One In - Swedish adolescent vampire movie. A 12 year old outcast boy makes friends with the unnaturally pale girl next door. Some nice moments, but all-in-all, a rather depressing film. It's alright, but I was never particularly excited about it.

Wonderful Town - Thai movie about an architect helping to rebuild a coastal resort post-tsunami. He has an affair with the local hotel owner, scandalizing her brother and leading to some small town outrage. It occupies a kind of middle ground between Pen-Ek and Apichatpong, plot-wise. A beautiful film, but I'm a sucker for images of Thai beaches, especially with the weird grey-brown overcast light they seem to have. The wife thought it was pretty dull.

Good Cats - Ultra-low budget Chinese film (video) about a chauffeur for a petty gangster/real-estate developer. His boss' deal with a local village is going badly, the his mentor is really depressed due to debt, his wife hates him for not being more successful, and their apartment appears to be trying to kill him. If that wasn't enough, every 20 minutes or so, a Chinese metal band walks out of the scenery and sings/growls bizarre lyrics somewhat related to the story, Greek Chorus-style. Filmed in the single long motionless take style of Asian minimalism, but with an quite interesting use of depth. Not quite as ornate as Hou's compositions, but still pretty cool. The wife really didn't like this one. It was the rock band that put it over the top for her.

Rachel Getting Married - Anne Hathaway is good. I'm not good with acting, but she created what seemed like a real character for me, although it never really felt spontaneous. The whole film feels kind of planned out like that, if that makes any sense at all. It's often funny, Rosemarie deWitt (from Mad Men is great as Rachel, there's a weird guy who couldn't look (and act) more like George Clooney if he tried (seriously, for while I thought Clooney might have dyed his hair and appeared unbilled, its creepy), I totally failed to spot Roger Corman, despite looking for him the whole movie. I liked it better than Margot as it was less sensationalistic (but still too much so for me), the wife prefers Margot (the message of which, she says and agrees with, is that "some people just shouldn't have children". She believes this is the message of Squid as well). The music is terrific.

All in all, I'd say:

1. Sita Sings The Blues
2. Sparrow
3. Wonderful Town
4. Rachel Getting Married
5. Happy Go Lucky
6. Equation Of Love And Death
7. Good Cats
8. Waltz With Bashir
9. The Rest Is Silence
10. Of Time And The City
11. Let the Right One In

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Metro Classics Returns!

We're back with another repertory series starting next Wednesday, October 8th and continuing every Wednesday night at Seattle's charming Metro Cinemas until December 3rd. The theme this time around is film families, with movies from three sets of father, mother and daughter. Here's the schedule:


Oct. 08 - Rome, Open City
Oct. 15 - Notorious
Oct. 22 - Blue Velvet


Oct. 29 - A Fish Called Wanda
Nov. 05 - The Manchurian Candidate
Nov. 12 - Some Like It Hot


Nov. 19 - The Band Wagon
Nov. 26 - The Wizard Of Oz
Dec. 03 - Cabaret

Meanwhile, I'm going on vacation for a week. But I'll be back next Wednesday for the return of Metro Classics. Family fun for the whole family!

Movies Of The Year Awards: 2007

Best Picture:

The End: I'm Not There
Oscar: No Country For Old Men

Best Director:

The End: Todd Haynes, I'm Not There
Oscar: Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men


The End: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Oscar: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood


The End: Tang Wei, Lust, Caution
Oscar: Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose

Supporting Actor:

The End: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Oscar: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men

Supporting Actress:

The End: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Oscar: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Original Screenplay:

The End: Todd Haynes & Oren Moverman, I'm Not There
Oscar: Diablo Cody, Juno

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Oscar: Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men

Foreign Language Film:

The End: The Flight Of The Red Balloon
Oscar: The Counterfeiters

Documentary Feature:

The End: Helvetica
Oscar: Taxi To The Dark Side

Animated Feature:

The End: Ratatouille
Oscar: Ratatouille

Film Editing:

The End: Jay Rabinowitz, I'm Not There
Oscar: Christopher Rouse, The Bourne Ultimatum


The End: Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and No Country For Old Men
Oscar: Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood

Art Direction:

The End: The Darjeeling Limited
Oscar: Sweeney Todd

Costume Design:

The End: I'm Not There
Oscar: Elizabeth: The Golden Age


The End: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Oscar: La vie en rose


The End: I'm Not There
Oscar: The Bourne Ultimatum

Sound Effects Editing:

The End: No Country For Old Men
Oscar: The Bourne Ultimatum

Visual Effects:

The End: Transformers
Oscar: The Golden Compass

Original Score:

The End: Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood
Oscar: Dario Marianelli, Atonement

Original Song:

The End: Bob Dylan, "I'm Not There", I'm Not There
Oscar: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, "Falling Slowly", Once


The End: I'm Not There

Movies Of The Year Awards: 2006

Best Picture:

The End: The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: The Departed

Best Director:

The End: Ken Loach, The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: Martin Scorsese, The Departed


The End: Cillian Murphy, The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: Forest Whitaker, The Last King Of Scotland


The End: Markéta Irglová, Once
Oscar: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Supporting Actor:

The End: Irfan Kahn, The Namesake
Oscar: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Supporting Actress:

The End: Shiyang-chyi Chen, I Don't Want To Sleep Alone
Oscar: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Original Screenplay:

The End: Paul Laverty, The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: William Monahan, The Departed
Oscar: William Monahan, The Departed

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Still Life
Oscar: The Lives Of Others

Animated Feature:

The End: A Scanner Darkly
Oscar: Happy Feet

Film Editing:

The End: Takeshi Seyama, Paprika
Oscar: Thelma Schoonmaker, The Departed


The End: Dion Beebe, Miami Vice
Oscar: Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth

Art Direction:

The End: The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: Pan's Labyrinth

Costume Design:

The End: The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Oscar: Marie Antoinette


The End: Pan's Labyrinth
Oscar: Pan's Labyrinth


The End: Miami Vice
Oscar: Dreamgirls

Sound Effects Editing:

The End: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Oscar: Letters From Iwo Jima

Visual Effects:

The End: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Oscar: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Original Score:

The End: Susumu Hirasawa, Paprika
Oscar: Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel

Original Song:

The End: Radiohead, "Arpeggi", A Scanner Darkly
Oscar: Melissa Etheridge. "I Need To Wake Up", An Inconvenient Truth


The End: Once

Movies Of The Year Awards: 2005

Best Picture:

The End: The New World
Oscar: Crash

Best Director:

The End: Terrence Malick, The New World
Oscar: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain


The End: Eric Bana, Munich
Oscar: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote


The End: Q'orianka Kilcher, The New World
Oscar: Reese Witherspoon, Walk The Line

Supporting Actor:

The End: Mickey Rourke, Sin City
Oscar: George Clooney, Syriana

Supporting Actress:

The End: Maria Bello, A History Of Violence
Oscar: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

Original Screenplay:

The End: Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chu T'ien-wen, Three Times
Oscar: Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco, Crash

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Tristram Shandy
Oscar: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Three Times
Oscar: Tsotsi

Documentary Feature:

The End: Grizzly Man
Oscar: March Of The Penguins

Live-Action Short Film:

The End: My Dad Is 100 Years Old
Oscar: Six Shooter

Film Editing:

The End: Michael Kahn, Munich
Oscar: Hughes Winborne, Crash


The End: Emmanuel Lubezki, The New World
Oscar: Dion Beebe, Memoirs Of A Geisha

Art Direction:

The End: Princess Raccoon
Oscar: Memoirs Of A Geisha

Costume Design:

The End: Princess Raccoon
Oscar: Memoirs Of A Geisha


The End: Sin City
Oscar: Chronicles Of Narnia


The End: Munich
Oscar: King Kong

Sound Effects Editing:

The End: The War Of The Worlds
Oscar: King Kong

Visual Effects:

The End: King Kong
Oscar: King Kong

Original Score:

The End: Michiru Ôshima , Princess Raccoon
Oscar: Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain

Original Song:

The End: Tom Petty, "Square One", Elizabethtown
Oscar: Three 6 Mafia, "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp", Hustle & Flow


The End: No Direction Home