The Great American Movie

It has come to Cosmodrome’s attention that the AFI (American Film Institute) will unveil a new list of the 100 greatest American films in a June 20th, star-laden broadcast on CBS (the first list was announced in 1998). So as we countdown the hours and minutes until we hear the new list (and hear the string of obligatory celebrity soundbites that, according to the AFI’s website, will include the likes of Peter Bogdonavich, Eva Mendes, and M. Night Shyamalan), we would like to do some of our own reflecting about great American movies.

There are many directions that our discussion might go. How do tastes in cinema evolve (both in regards to the AFI and ourselves on a personal level)? What value (if any) do these lists and canons actually have? And when we talk about the greatest American films, should these be movies that reveal some truth about this country we live in, movies that are not just shot in America or financed by U.S. dollars but that address the historical themes of America?

I hope we will be able to touch on many of these issues in our discussion, and I think things gets most interesting at the places where these concerns intersect. So how to get this discussion started? Rather than launching a pre-emptive strike on the AFI by posting my own list of the100 American greatest films (a list which I have never created and don’t know if I could), I instead would like to focus on one particular movie I love and that seems indispensable to any canon of American cinema. Others can disagree with my choice, suggest their own films, or take a completely different approach.

6/13/07: Eric Hoyt on MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

6/14/07: Jon Lefkovitz on HIS GIRL FRIDAY

6/14/07: Jeff Deutchman on MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO

6/18/07: Eric Hoyt on ACE IN THE HOLE

6/19/07: Nihal on L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

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Human. Robot.

Based on the trailer, Daft Punk seems to be attempting to channel Kubrick in their upcoming movie, Electroma.

You can view Daft Punk's previous movie, Interstella 5555, IN ITS ENTIRETY below.

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Oscar Winner Helen Mirren Stars in a Nic Cage Sequel

We love Nic Cage.

I mean, we love Nic Cage. Jesus. So much.

Every one of his movies is pure genius, from Fire Birds to Captain Corelli's Mandolin to the patriotically baffling National Treasure. So when I found out that the latter had a sequel planned, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, in which Nic's character Ben Gates finds out that one of his ancestors may have been involved in the Lincoln assassination plot, I realized I too had an ancestor that was involved in the Lincoln assassination plot. Which means his fictional character might be related to me.... so i dreamed up this potential family tree:

The beauty of this family tree is that not only is Nic Cage like, sort of my cousin, I feel like Helen Mirren is far enough removed in this family tree that I can still be wildly attracted to her without any creepy repercussions. Rowr.

Bonus Nic Cage action below

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Cobra Verde (y Loco)

I don't care what the movie is about or what the reviews said. Any movie with the screen shot above must be amazing.

Werner Herzog's other movie to be screened this year, Rescue Dawn (cited in our 2007 in movies preview, and opening at unknown date (was originally slated for next week)) looks better and more mainstream than Cobra Verde.

But who could resist that look of "You wanna get nuts?! Let's get nuts!! Actually, I'm already nuts!!!!!!!" on Klaus Kinski's face?

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Oscars: The Goldilocks Problem and.... Can Crash Repeat?

Low-brow: Currently #1 at the box office is Nicolas Cage's future-Razzie award winning "heavy Faustian tale", Ghost Rider.

High-brow (?): Cosmodrome already completed its review of 2006 in film.

Uni-brow: See right.

Best brow(s): Peter Gallagher.

Middle-brow: The Academy Awards.

In film today, there seems to be a Goldilocks conundrum. Too low-brow? Too high-brow? Thankfully, we have the consistently middle-brow Oscars. They always act with the noblest of intentions: to please the most people. And they always fail by pleasing no one but Paul Haggis. (Incidentally, how the fuck was Paul Haggis nominated for best adapted screenplay for something entirely in Japanese??!?!?!? Moreover, can you believe that the Goldilocks page on Wikipedia has Spoiler Warnings?!?!?!)

Check back around 8:00 Eastern (5:00 in the land where "all they do is snort coke and talk.") for a review of the night's events. We promise it won't be as gay as last year's. It also won't be as stupid, since none of the Best Picture nominees are as bad as Crash (including Crash 2: Babel). And since there's nothing really to cheer for or against, expect drunken rants to be kept to a (relative) minimum.

Read on for the blow-by-blow...

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Day Three: Not THAT Bad...

Though the preference here is to continue yesterday's discussion, one brief comment (couldn't resist) about today's Oscar nominations: not that bad. Sure, there were the usual odd choices and omissions; but looking at the five best picture nominations, you can make a decent case for all of them (even though two of the five were completely shut of this pub's top ten lists).

We live in an age of diminished expectations.

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Day Two: Dystopia Has No Future

...Day One of the Conversation...

Though I share Nate's enthusiasm for genre pictures, I'm not entirely sure that Dana Stevens was trying to make a point about Oscar bait so much as about the war genre specifically. And I think that by ignoring "Oscar bait" movies wholesale, we become just as guilty as those who succumb to them wholesale, when what we should be doing is not accepting them as a real category. The other risk is that we wind up missing out on the occasional great film that shines through the PR/marketing blitz. (In fact, these occasional great films are often directed by Clint Eastwood *cough.)

So I think it is more useful to discuss these categories and genres specifically, as Dana Stevens did about war films. For me, the genre du jour that warrants some scrutiny is the dystopia film. Long a narrative conveniently suited for message-artists, dystopias are frequently used as a fusion of the sci-fi and social problem genres. 2006 was filled with them.

First there was V for Vendetta, a movie that took place in the future, but was so steeped in the aesthetics of mid-twentieth century visions of the future that it played like a period film. One can imagine that the Wachowski brothers and whoever directed the film were vaguely interested in applying the fascist imagery - leather outfits and all - to the current administration, Patriot Act, etc. But it really was as simple and shallow as that: a kind of cut-and-paste application of the most kneejerk variety. V, the film's terrorist-hero, couldn't begin to bear any resemblance to a twenty-first century terrorist because he is a class hero, not a religious hero (and therefore, his mission abides by a certain degree of logic - he's trying to change the world, not enter a new one). The reason the film could play in a multiplex was precisely because its (purportedly subversive) glorification of a terrorist is safely irrelevant to the modern world. Terrorists that make sense no longer exist.

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Twilight Cinema 2006 - For Your Consideration (Day One: Jan. 19, 2007)

Welcome to Cosmo-club 2006. I’ll leave Jeff to introducing our Twilight Cinema of 2006 and instead get into the meat an’ potatoes of our cinema buffet…

On our spiritual kin, this year's Movie Club, Dana Stevens began by proposing that she doesn't like war movies. The subtext, in my mind, was that she didn't like (*cough* Eastwood *cough*) Oscar-bait. Or, I'd like to take the opportunity to extend her comment to that. I've received many notes "for my consideration" in the past three months and for the majority of those movies, I considered and passed. I think the rub for me is that a project like “Babel,” conceived almost strictly for award season, exhausts its own ambitions in the same logic that belittles this year’s genre movies - the difference is that the conventions aren’t built into the film itself but instead into how the movie is presented to the public.

And I don’t mean to bring this up as an antagonist or populist slant on the end-of-the-year list-making process, but instead as a prompt to understand what makes genre movies like "The Descent" or "Inside Man" get passed over for “L’Enfant” when compiling the year in film for 2006. I certainly had a hard time deciding where to place the Dardenne brothers’ provoca-cinema, and the result of that meant pushing the third installment of the “Fast and the Furious” to the sidelines. I know I’ll shed a tear alone for that sacrifice.

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Aggregated Movies Of 2006 List

Here's an aggregation of the group's scores. Methodology is inexact (Ben's vote of The Departed as #1 was the most valuable vote, since he only chose 7.5 movies - yes, the formula took into account the 0.5).

Honorable mentions were also included in the formula. See the full points breakdown after the jump. Note that Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World came in dead last among those receiving votes - even lower than Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Fuck you Robot King.

1. United 93
2. L'Enfant
3. The Departed
4. The Queen
5. Children of Men
6. Borat
7. Letters From Iwo Jima
8. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
9. Miami Vice
10. Old Joy
11. Inside Man
12t. Volver
12t. The Devil & Daniel Johnston
14. 13 (Tzameti)
15. The Proposition
16. Mutual Appreciation
17. Tristram Shandy
18. Casino Royale
19. Battle in Heaven
20. Why We Fight

Back to Movies 2006 Home

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now as one...

In the spirit of Progress and Ideas, I decided to kick off this party by running our lists through a ranked-ballot election calculator to determine what is the best movie of 2006 according to a few jews, an indian guy and two really tall guys.

Watch this Educational and Informative flash animation to learn about ranked-ballot voting and to find out why we will live in a Fascist Police State until we get some real election reform.

Anyway, I used this impressive javascript ranked-ballot calculator to calculate winner. I used the input below:


I had to leave nate and nihal out for now because they refused to follow to the rules and rank their preferences. The results may also be slightly skewed by my only ranking 7.5 movies. If nate and nihal get their acts together, I will incorporate their lists.

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