Criticism

Ray Charles = Johnny Cash = Ian Curtis

It occurred to be while watching Anton Corbijn’s Control that maybe the reason I don’t like spending time or making friends with artists has something to do with all the biopics I’ve seen in my life.

Ian Curtis – a vocalist and songwriter whose music I admire and occasionally get down to, and would never confuse with, say, the soulful songs of Ray Charles or the melancholy ballads of Johnny Cash – comes off in Control like the same person as Ray Charles in Ray and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

The funny thing about biopics is that they usually intend to elevate their subject above other people – the one man who stood out, who was too much of a genius and a retard to play well with others, who couldn’t be a good artist and a good husband let alone a good dad, etc. And yet, the stupefying similarity of all biopics to one another seems to suggest that these great men aren’t so special after all.

The 35mm Afterlife

I've recently seen the best movie of 2007. It's called I'm Not There, and I'm sure you will be hearing a lot about it in the oncoming months. But let's hope that the Weinsteins' academy campaign for Cate Blanchett doesn't obscure what's really going on here... Todd Haynes and his actors have done something truly amazing.

Excuse me for saying so, but not since Citizen Kane has a film reveled in such endless innovation, in the interest of contemplating identity and mortality, as I'm Not There.

The difference between the two masterpieces - aside from 66 years - is that the first film is a cynical epitaph that comes closer than any other film - before or after - to capturing a man's life on celluloid and then boldly proclaims such a feat impossible. It was a profound statement in 1941 that thematically and aesthetically ushered in the era of noir, but its detective narrative was a gentle way of teaching audiences a harsh truth: identity is very slippery and probably unattainable.

Reasons to Go to the Movies Again in 07: Summer Update

RE-UPPED as of 6/27

Here is a look ahead at 2007... not everything that is coming out, just everything that might actually be worth your $12. These are the movies that you can expect people to be talking about, critics to be putting on their year-end lists NEXT January, and Cosmodrome to be regretting having missed. I'll continually update the list throughout the year, as release dates get changed and as new things pop up.

To Put on the Netflix Queue
An Unreasonable Man (dir. Henriette Mantel & Steve Skrovan)
The Lives of Others (dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
Zodiac (dir. David Fincher)
The Host (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (dir. Ken Loach)
The Page Turner (dir. Denis Dercourt)
After the Wedding (dir. Susanne Bier)
Black Book (dir. Paul Verhoeven)
Grind House (dir. Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez)
Private Fears in Public Places (dir. Alain Resnais)
Red Road (dir. Andrea Arnold)
Syndromes and a Century (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethaku)
Triad Election (dir. Johnny To)
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (dir. Tsai Ming-liang)
The Brand Upon the Brain! (dir. Guy Maddin)
Away From Her (dir. Sarah Polley)
Day Night Day Night (dir. Julia Loktev)
28 Weeks Later (dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)
Flanders (dir. Bruno Dumont)

Read on...

Second Life is to me what MySpace is to my grandparents.

This weekend, they referred to it as MyFace or MyPlace. MySpace just wasn’t clicking with the septuagenarians. In response to a recent report they must have seen on Dateline or 60 Minutes or the like, they drummed up a quick plan to wipe out the internet of sexual predators by “censoring MyFace.” Not kidding.

And I’m not even kidding when I tell you that SecondLife is to me what MySpace is to my grandparents. It isn’t that I think we can save the world by passing laws that make Second Life a safer place for our children to inhabit online. It’s the ocean that separates me from even bothering to care what Second Life is about.

Now my grandparents would be happy to learn that a new “virtual environment” has emerged for Second Life. It is called www.vles.com, and it represents “The virtual Lower East Side.” And I could not think of anything lamer. Everything about it so “cool.” The Bands. The clubs. The whole environment is just swimming in a big pool of coolness. And it’s all branded, either by Vice, who seems to have provided much of the preliminary, up front content, and MTV through Viacom. Of course, none of that is really obvious. In fact, the virtuality of the environment comes across as virtually unchanged, or “ridiculously realistic,” as the only tip off that this is a marketers conception is through the ads and copyright information.

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.

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.

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

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:

1:united>prop>oldjoy>enfant>battle>miami>tzameti>marie>apoc>mr
1:ddj>united>letters>whywe>enfant>mutual>borat>queen>children>puffy
1:children>enfant>united>queen>volver>letters>iraq>borat>mutual>departed
1:departed>united>inside>children>dave>prestige>wordplay>queen

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.

The Santa Clause 4: The Title-Rentention Clause

Was 2006 a great year for movies? Well, it was no 1995. Where was 2006's Sudden Death? Its Virtuosity? Maybe I don't know because I spent a quarter of 2006 in England, a country where Judge Dredd is just starting to make the rounds. So I've missed some notables, such as Volver, The Last King of Scotland and Pan's Labyrinth. Since I only spent 3/4 of 2006 in the civilized world, I am only going to offer 3/4 of a top ten.

THE TOP 7.5 OF 2006:

1. The Departed
2. United 93
3. Inside Man
4. Children of Men
5. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
6. The Prestige
7. Wordplay
7.5 The Queen (I saw the first half on a plane)

Better than I thought it would be:

Click

Worse than I thought it would be:

13 (Tzameti)

About as good as I thought it would be:

Lucky Number Slevin

20 Favorite Movies of 2006

Nate's Favorite 20 Films of 2006
Top 15:
Borat
Dave Chapelle's Block Party
The Descent
Devil and Daniel Johnston
Half Nelson
Inside Man
Jackass Number Two
L'Enfant
Miami Vice
Old Joy
Pan's Labyrinth
Scanner Darkly
Slither
Tristram Shandy: Cock and Bull Story
Volver

5 Runners-Up:
The Aura
Brick
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Superman Returns
Thank You For Smoking

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