Sunday, March 7, 2010

Now I Want One More Than Ever!

It's that time of year, people. No matter how hard one tries, it's virtually impossible to avoid discussion of the Oscars - love 'em or hate 'em, they're the movies' equivalent of the Olympics, World Series, or Super Bowl, a cinematic decathlon. Some love them, some hate them, some are indifferent, but I think just about every movie lover goes through the five stages of Oscar, and it ends with acceptance - for better or worse (mostly worse), the inclusive, pretentious, self congratulatory circle jerk is what it is. Truthfully, depending on the host, I enjoy the show more often than not. I accepted long ago that it's not about art and it never will be, so I try to focus on the positive in that, if a good movie is at least nominated, then I'm a happy person.

And the Academy has implemented a major face lift this year that I think makes the awards more interesting than usual (not saying much): in something of an homage to the Oscar's past, they opened up the Best Picture nominees to ten films. Some have objected to this, saying that this and the new weighted voting process (where the films are ranked 1-10 and every movie gets something from every ballot) will open the door to film's not worthy, to which I can only reply: "So the eff what?" Undeserving films winning the biggest prize in Hollywood isn't exactly a new development. The major plus side of the 10 nominees is that it opens the door to more populist films being nominated, and to dark horse candidates winning; especially after the stiflingly self important garbage that was nominated last year, this is especially refreshing. If the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences is going to validate crap, they should at least validate popular taste as well.

Anyway, not to make too much of a production out of this post, I just want to share my thoughts on the 10 nominees, toss down some (probably way off) predictions, and call it a day.

James Cameron's long awaited and highly-touted Avatar has almost everything the Oscars could want: large-scale spectacle, melodramatic romance, and heavy handed social import (bonus points for anti-American social import), plus everyone out in Hollywood seems to like James Cameron and his wavy, silver hair. Reviewed here.

Though it occupies a Hallmark card universe, there is an earnestness and depth of feeling in The Blind Side that I find it a difficult film to dismiss. Sandra Bullock does just fine with her role, but almost anyone would be nominated for this performance, full of snappy one-liners and sassy attitude. Most remarkable, to my eyes, is the performance Quinton Aaron as first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens (23rd overall) Michael Oher; he does not have too much to work with in the dialogue sense, and has to be expressive with his eyes and face. Because of this, he naturally was not nominated.

Still, it is not a bad film at all, certainly not a racist one as some have suggested. The Blind Side strikes me as more accentuating the class differences between Oher and the Tuohy family than the racial ones.

Though it feigns a socially driven subtext, District 9 is a big screen video game that doesn't have much to say about anything. Unlike The Hurt Locker, which used fast editing and hand held camera work to make a statement on the existential nature of the rush of combat, District 9 wants you to feel that rush instead of ponder it.

An Education mercifully avoids typical coming-of-age cliches for the most part, with the exception of a few speeches designed to sum up any point that you were supposed to take away from it. But Nick Hornsby's screenplay is well written and the leading performances by Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard are excellent, and Alfred Molina is memorable in a supporting role as Mulligan's father.

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is a visceral, gripping war film - one that grabs a hold from the opening frames and doesn't let go for its entire 2 hour duration. Using handheld 16mm cameras, The Hurt Locker brings us directly into the action unfolding onscreen, without trying to approximate a documentary style (the film is above such gimmicks). Rather, the movie's quick cutting and hand-held camera work allows us to enter the subjective mind frame of the characters, who work as part of an E.O.D. (explosive ordinance disposal) squad and could easily be killed at any moment. However, this technique is never used gratuitously; The Hurt Locker is exciting without being exploitative and political without being partisan. While this is among the most exciting films to come out in 2009, it's also among the most contemplative, and this is because the film is more interested in portraying the way men relate to one another than it is in polemics. The result is among the first movies to approach the Iraqi Occupation in the manner it needs to be approached, which would be on the same level it's waged: with the men who fight it. The Hurt Locker shows that Kathryn Bigelow has unique insight and understanding into the kind of mentality that would travel half-way across the globe to fight in this conflict, which actually makes it more politically relevant than the cheap partisan movies on the subject.

Tarantino's gleeful, anarchic take on World War II and its cinematic representations has just enough pristine polish to be accepted by the Academy. I'm thrilled it was even nominated. Review here.

A grotesque freak show that masquerades itself as a valuable social commentary, Precious is an exercise in sheer cinematic torture. The critics throwing claims of racism are only doing themselves a major disservice; the film does not trivialize racial relations, but rather it misrepresents the plight of the lower class in the most cliched, obvious of ways, confusing dark subject matter and gritty filming from depth and meaning. Surely if Precious were about white people (which it could have been), no critic would claim that it was racist or supposed to be representative of all white people everywhere. It's a fairly typical white liberal trap to fall into: any artistic representation of a black person must represent an entire race. And what makes it especially dubious in the case of Precious is that there are many black characters from various backgrounds depicted.

Oh boy. This movie. This fucking movie. I remember the day that I saw A Serious Man at Manhattan's Sunshine quite vividly, though the film hangs over that day like a storm cloud. Not to say that I think it's a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but the worldview that it seems to be endorsing is not one that I empathize with, let alone understand. What bothers me most about A Serious Man is that the Coens not only suggest that existence is meaningless, but that they mock the very idea of the search for meaning (a Rabbi's condescending and patronizing speech about the beauty and wonder of a parking lot being the most offensive). I don't wish to take anything away from the Coens, film makers I have felt a strong personal connection with in the past, but A Serious Man helped kick start a season's long depression that I am only recently starting to pull myself out of.

Pixar, under the watchful eye of The Walt Disney Company, continues with the same old formula instead of expanding perceptions of our world. Reviewed here.

What I find most repulsive about Up in the Air is the way it capitalizes on the economic hardships our country currently faces yet doesn't say anything meaningful about them. It simply patronizes the people who are currently suffering and calls it a day. Did the film makers honestly think this would make anyone feel better?

And, as promised, my annual way off predictions:

Best Picture: Avatar (potential Hurt Locker upset, probably not)
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Best Adapted Screenplay: Nick Hornsby, An Education
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Art Direction: Avatar
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Best Documentary: Food, Inc.
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon
Best Makeup: Star Trek
Best Original Score: James Horner, Avatar
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Sound Editing: Avatar
Best Sound Mixing: Avatar

Damn, writing Avatar over and over got really boring. It's just one of those years.

Oh, and some live blogging to follow during the ceremony from great writers will make the proceeds that much more enjoyable, be sure to check out Roger Ebert, Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running, and Ali Arikan at Cerebral Mastication. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.


Adam Zanzie said...

Ryan, I am glad you went forth to spill out your thoughts on these films. I actually had to do this myself with Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker, before I could finally be at peace with both.

I've stopped berating Bigelow's film for its refusal to take an immediate stance; after seeing her speeches tonight about hoping for the troops to come home safely, I agree with her. Even though I'm a sucker for political films as well, I think it's only right that she and Mark Boal made a film entirely devoted to combat in the trenches. Remembering my own appreciation for films like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan and The Deer Hunter, I remembered that these weren't inherently political films, either. Spielberg once said that all great war movies are anti-war. In a way, by taking the troops' neutral point of view, Bigelow and Boal found an original way to express their thoughts on the conflict.

With regards to Basterds, I'm getting better at warming up to it. It's definitely a film that I think can be much more appreciated once the questionable politics surrounding it have vanished from the public talk. There was a critic somewhere who hypothesized that generations from now will be laughing that we made such a fuss over the possible Guantanamo-related messages. Hopefully!

I liked District 9, and am happy for Neil Blompkamp. He's clearly a talented filmmaker. The film, alas, could have been so much richer. It was going so well until that Big Robot Fight at the end.

Adam Zanzie said...

But Ryan, I'm wounded by those blistering comments of yours towards A Serious Man. You say that you don't think it's a bad film, but I clearly remember during our Basterds argument that you declared you had no admiration for the film at all.

I have to ask you, first of all, about your claim that the film has a 100% bleak view. How is it any bleaker than No Country for Old Men? That was an infinitively more pessimistic film, if you ask me. Ed Tom Bell realizes he's outmatched in an America that's become obscenely corrupt, so he throws in the towel. He lets the serial killer wipe his feet all over the country and get away, scott-free. The hero loses.

I understand why you might have been appalled by the dark comedy of A Serious Man. Indeed, the funniest scenes in the film occur at the expenses of Larry's misfortunes. But I think the Coens, who are Jewish, are simply trying to deconstruct the notion that a man needs to be completely shackled by his faith, whatever it may be. Tony Kushner played around with this notion, too, in Angels in America, when the Rabbi claims to the Ben Shenkman character that "Catholics believe in forgiveness, and Jews believe in guilt". And if you've read David Mamet's Talmud-quoting statements about how Jews shouldn't constantly mourn over losses, this kind of tradition certainly sounds correct.

The Coens are basically to Judaism what Scorsese is to Catholicism. They have great love for their heritage. Yet by telling a story about Larry's brief suffering, I thought their commentaries really exorcised the anxieties of some of the audience members (including myself). You talk about the "condescending advice" of the Rabbis, but I think the point of the film is that Larry ultimately doesn't need their advice. By the end of the film, his troubles start going away: his son has officially transitioned from a stoner to a man, he and his wife are beginning to reconcile, and his family appears to have been saved. I interpreted this as a hopeful ending. True, when we last see Larry, he is on the phone possibly about to be told something negative about his health, but what he won't need anymore is to ask a Rabbi for help. At long last, he is finally strong enough to manage for himself.

Ryan Kelly said...

Yes, let's hope everyone serving over there comes home safe. No one needs or deserves to die over this. But what else was she going to say - could she have said 'bring them home now' without being booed off stage?

I'd agree with Spielebrg's sentiment, if only because off hand I can't think of any films that are pro-war or support war that are great. Though most Hollywood films remain neutral on the subject so as to avoid offending any potential customers. War is both a necessary and unnecessary evil at the same time.

But I honestly don't think The Hurt Locker placates in that way. It's strictly concerned with the state of mind of people waging the conflict, which is more valuable than almost any political statement you could make. The thing that usually makes the war films concerned strictly with politics fail is that the characters are more symbols than they are human beings. What I think is fascinating about The Hurt Locker is the way it's fascinated with approximating the rush of combat yet analyzing the existentialist side of battle. I'm not so sure a man director could have struck that balance.

As for IB's political implications, I think it's hard to divorce these images from a modern political context, even if the images aren't necessarily meant to evoke our current political state of affairs. Again, I think Basterds is primarily concerned with cinematic representations of politics, as opposed to trying to be a cinematic representation of politics, if that makes sense.

And I knew I should have skipped writing up A Serious Man. It's nothing personal and I respect your opinion on it and a lot of people I admire very deeply love it very much. But what I've found frustrating about the discourse surrounding ASM is the way the admirers - and I'm not saying you did this, because you did not - make it out like a detractor is crazy. All I can tell you is that I'd never had a serious suicidal thought in my life before I saw that movie, and when I was waiting for the train in the subway station on the way home I was ready to hurl myself onto the train tracks. Yeah, this movie fucked me up bad.

Though I don't know how you can say that his troubles are going away. He was only with his wife at the Bah Mitzvah because the man she was cheating on him with died and they were keeping up a show. He gets a grim, perhaps fatal prognosis if his fate is tied into the film's final shot of the tornado, which I think the film implies it is.

Again, I was not trying to wound you. I'm not trying to take anything away from anyone who liked it, which is why I didn't review it. If I thought it was a bad movie I would have reviewed it, torn into it, and had a grand ol' time shitting in everyone's cereal. All I can tell you is the effect the film had on me, which was akin to being sucked into a black hole, and I finally feel myself coming out of it.

And just out of curiosity Adam, and you don't have to answer if this is too personal, but have you ever fallen into a depression in your life? It sucks. I'm not saying ASM is the only reason I was depressed for the entire final quarter of last year but it didn't exactly help.

Adam Zanzie said...

Despite my obsession with A Serious Man, I only got to see it once. Truthfully, I haven't bothered trying to look philosophically at the tornado sequence; I'm wondering if it would be a waste of time. Just as I've never really tried to understand the point of Ed Tom Bell's dream speech at the end of NCFOM. I believe the Coens really just want to exhilarate us with the sheer unexpectedness of the visuals and the dialogue. As for the reunion between Larry and Judith at the Bar Mitzvah, it's true that their reconciliation is not set in stone. They may very well get a divorce anyway. But there's something Judith whispers to Larry during the sequence that I remember smiling at- I'll need to revisit the film. The hope for their marriage that is somewhat recovered in this scene reminded me of the finale of Baumbasch's The Squid and the Whale. We don't know if Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney will get back together, but when Daniels has that accident on the street at the end, it offers a chance for him and Linney to briefly recover the love they thought they'd lost. Just as Sy's death (and their son's adulthood) kind of brings Larry and Judith back together.

Now, about the depression subject. If we're looking at films from this year alone, Basterds really damaged my peace of mind for about eight months. Remember back when the film was released in August and a friend of mine on Facebook said that he "felt sorry" for me because I wasn't able to enjoy the film as much as most were? It didn't help, either, when this same friend of mine (who is a conservative) recently tweeted, "I'm sure QT is a right-winger" when Tarantino appeared on Maddow a couple weeks ago.

You know me: I'm a bleeding-heart lefty. I couldn't understand why so many liberal friends of mine were endorsing a movie that was crafted by... THE ENEMY!!!! No, but seriously: despite the insistence of you and the other bloggers who loved the film that Basterds critiques audience love for traditional Nazi slaughtering, all I kept hearing were the enthusiasms of the more conservative friends of mine over why they thought that everything that happens to the Nazis in the film is absolutely just. Again- this worried the bejesus out of me. Let's say, for example, if we asked QT which of the two theories is correct. I'm not sure he would say that the more conservative audience members are wrong for appreciating the movie in that deranged sort of way (not saying he would say they're right, of course).

But after I briefly spilled some thoughts on Basterds over at my own blog, recently, I think I've made peace with it. And the Oscars are over, too, so I'm no longer expected to root for it to win anything. I truly think it's the kind of film that will look astonishing once it's free from all the political banter.

There are a couple of films out there that honestly did depress me because of what they endorsed- and I've been terminally embittered by their support. A Time to Kill, for example? Obviously it's a horrible movie, but here in the West County of Missouri, majorities would likely sympathize with its theme that it's okay for a father to murder his daughter's rapists in court (the people here would happily gas Roman Polanski!). Or Hathaway's True Grit, the movie that the Duke won Best Actor for: I hate the fact that everybody says it's a classic, as they probably don't even realize that it makes a big case for capital punishment. See, it's always these partisan, extremist films that really bring out my demons. I won't deny that I've probably had suicidal thoughts over my frustration at not being able to find somebody else who understands what I'm talking about (in West County, at least).

Adam Zanzie said...

and I'm kind of laughing at my own trajectory from loving The Hurt Locker to merely liking it (and constantly criticizing it), and now sort of loving it again. At the same time, I do think that films like Redacted are necessary. It's good to have two kinds of war films: one that actually seeks to make a difference, and another that can help weather the storms that arouse from such a difference. If De Palma really spearheaded the firestorm, then Bigelow effectively cooled off the burns. I don't think it's okay to have simply one of those two films- it wouldn't be progressive for that kind of cinema.

Ryan Kelly said...

But I think Tom Bell's speech at the end of No Country is more than just the Coens being anti-climactic, I think it's a pretty vital element of the movie - when you look at the movie as being about that character, and his hunt for an almost God like figure as being his kind of spiritual awakening, then it's all pretty poignant. And I think the speech touches on a rather beautiful sentiment about fathers and sons. So I think the speech is absolutely essential to the main point of the movie,t hat is getting to the point in your life where you no longer understand the world you live in. Some looked at that and saw nihilism, but I don't think that's quite accurate.

But I think they took the charges of nihilism and being anti-climactic to heart, and thus their follow-up Burn After Reading feels like almost a fuck you to its predecessor's critics. They're giving us a nihilistic movie with no resolution, in effect the movie NCFOM was accused of being, but they're doing it under the guise of a star-studded comedy. While I appreciate the idea of being spiteful to one's critics, Burn After Reading ultimate tone strikes me as nasty.

But A Serious Man is really the first time I've really understood the nihilistic label. But I understand it with A Serious Man, though I've been grappling with one question since I saw it: Are they endorsing the idea of existence as meaningless and chaotic, or are they poking fun at it? When I first saw it I would have that it was most certainly endorsing it, but considering it as I have been I'm honestly not sure. But I'll be honest, I'm not ready to watch it again. And I'm not sure when I will be.

And I was asking you if you've ever felt a movie send you into a whirlwind depression because I wanted to know if you thought I was nuts for allowing ASM to take me to such dark places. Your comments about Inglourious Basterds certainly help illuminate what I thought was a weird grudge against the movie/all things Tarantino. Again, I think if we were to make a criticsm of him, we could argue that a world-view that is informed largely by movies is dubious when dealing with something like WWII, but I don't think Tarantino is aiming to make a statement larger than movies. If he's making a statement about WWII, he's only doing it through the prism of movies on the subject.

But yes, I remember the incredibly condescending things that people were saying to you when you expressed your thoughts on the film. And I wasn't quite sure what to make of it the first time, either, and even if I wasn't as bothered by it as you were I certainly understood where you were coming from. But I do agree with your prediction that when you have some distance from the political discourse surrounding the film (that I'm not sure is entirely relevant) and can appreciate it as a work unto itself you'll enjoy it that much more.

And you do know that the Coens are remaking True Grit, yes? Maybe this one will depress both of us!

Ryan Kelly said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I agree that films that seek to make a point are necessary, and sometimes they're the most valuable. But so much of the discourse around the Iraqi Occupation has been so shallow, it was refreshing to be told a story about the men who fight it and for a film to find these characters interesting instead of mouthpieces for a political point or just plain shallow archetypes.

Adam Zanzie said...

When I first heard the Coens were remaking True Grit, the first thing that occurred to me was: NOOOO!!!! But knowing that these were the same filmmakers who made Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing and Fargo- films that empathized with bad criminals- I can't see them electing to do with True Grit what Hathaway and Wayne did with it, and simply tell a weakly-plotted story about a girl who hires a bounty hunter to find and eliminate the man who accidentally killed her father in a drunken rage. I just can't see the Coens being so banal. However, from what I hear, their adaptation is going to be more true to the novel (which I haven't read), and I'm hoping they'll make it a little more complex. Fingers crossed.

Actually, Rooster Cogburn was, for my money, the worst character Wayne ever played. After he had already folded onto his own stereotype with that dark portrayal of Ethan Edwards, it was disappointing to see him reverting back to his more conventional, thickskulled self. To be sure, the sequel, Rooster Cogburn and the Lady, is even worse- and that one had Katherine Hepburn in it!

Back to Basterds and the depression it led me to, though. There were some early mornings when I was driving to work, and just thinking about how much the film angered me was really, really painful. I literally had to start watching more of the kinds of films that I liked in order to get myself to chill out. I had a similar ugly reaction to Kill Bill Vol. 1- which I'm not sure I could ever honestly enjoy, because as a narrative it does nothing for me (I like Vol. 2 a heck of a lot, however). The strangest thing of all was that other people I met who had issues with the film were just mad because of stupid little things like "subtitles" or "long scenes of dialogue". These things were the foundation for the best parts of the film, for crying out loud! I felt like the only one who actually took issue with the film from a morally objective point of view. Thankfully, I seem to be done with that.

I thought Burn After Reading was decent, but minor Coen Bros. Now, I thought it was merrily clever of them to use that film as a way of telling their NCFOM critics to shove it- but aside from that, I didn't see it as one of their stronger efforts. I find ASM to be a more illuminating film that addresses ideas they care about (Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "this is the kind of movie you get to make after you've won an Oscar").

One of the best reviews I've read about what the film is going for is, ironically, the one by Armond White. He compares the film to Munich and The Darjeeling Limited, which I found surprising and sort of agree with. A few parts of his review are typical of his usual condescending self, but the overall tone seems dead on. When he talks about how the hot chick next door asks Larry, "Do you take advantage of the new freedoms?", that makes me think that the film isn't so nihilistic about Larry's future as it certainly ran the risk of being. You can read White's review here:

rob humanick said...

Nice write-ups, Ryan. I'm sorry that I never realized how DEEPLY "A Serious Man" hit you, in that you've been in a black hole somewhat/largely/entirely thanks to it for some time now. Wish I'd have known, or been more receptive, to knowing; having dealt with depression quite a bit in my own life (not trying to compare or compete here, all I know is that you remind me of times, long passages of time I felt powerless, pointless, suicidal, etc.), I feel capable of helping others, and of course close friends. In regards to the film itself, I wanted to point out that I agree with your thought that "A Serious Man" is poking fun at the idea of needing to find a purpose, at least in the concrete sense (typing "concrete" just made me laugh-- parking lot). If I felt the movie was suggesting that existence was meaningless, I'd probable be in the same boat as yourself.

Quentin Tarantino, conservative? "Basterds", republican? AHAHAHAHAAHA! Adam, know this: I'm about as lefty as they come (who wants to go kill some lobbyists with me? Like, seriously, murder), small d Democrat, bring on the socialism, but this thought never even crossed my mind as legitimate. I think "Basterds" is far more ambivalent than people tend to realize or give it credit for.

Consider the many scenes in which German characters, often just before death, are given an aching dose of humanity-- the officer in the Bear Jew scene, Willy in the basement, negotiating with Aldo so his son won't grow up an orphan.

During the Bear Jew scene, that the camera pulls back during the actual swinging is key; they, the basterds, get off on it, the camera recoils in horror. Aldo's "watching Donnie beat Nazi's to death is the closest we ever get to going to the movies" is also a pivotal inclusion, and though this sounds a lot like Quentin having his cake and eating it too [something, in the moment, he does, and I think he's good enough to actually balance the two], it's a moment that comes full circle when "Nation's Pride" is playing to a crowd of whooping Nazis.

The basterds are the comical, exaggerating, inherently "movie"-esque flipside to the serious, emotionally-grounded historical riff that is Shosanna and her planned Nazi barbecue, and all in all, I think it amounts to a lot of wonderful food for thought more than a singular position or statement on the wartime and political matter the movie invokes. It's timely to right now, yes, but also very universal.

I need to comment here more often.

Ryan Kelly said...

Adam, I'm sure that, if nothing else, their take on True Grit will be complex. I've always loved the Coens so I hope their next movie doesn't fuck me up quite so royally.

For what it's worth, lots of critics objected to the morality, or lack thereof, of Basterds. But a fellow film maker (Frank Darabont, I think) said of Tarantino that while his films may take occupy an immoral, nihilistic world, his characters are essentially moral, or trying to make moral decisions, at least. If I honestly thought Tarantino was immoral, or condoned being immoral, I would have been fighting the good fight right there with you.

And yes, I read White's review of ASM back when the movie came out. I do agree that the prologue is the most daring movie opening since Anderson opened The Darjeeling Limited with Hotel Chevalier. I really loved that opening and was jazzed up for the movie. I never expected to feel about it the way I did.

And Adam, I'd like to thank you for doing what I thought was impossible: I'm enjoying talking about A Serious Man.

Ryan Kelly said...

Rob, it's perfectly alright, as I'm the kind of person who tends to keep feelings locked away. Again, it was a combination of not being in school, not working much, general winter blues... and of course A Serious Man. I'm certainly most receptive to the idea of the movie as poking fun at the idea of the search for existence, but I'm still not sure how I feel about that. That is, the search for the 'meaning' of life is what has guided human kind's most worthwhile endeavors: science, math, the arts - all things that help us comprehend the world around us. Are the brothers really suggesting that this is all just a big punchline? Are they trying to tell us that the sum of human progress is just silly? If that is indeed their aim, then I cry bullshit.

And I agree with your observations on Basterds, and that 'closest we get to going to the movies' line is one that made me roll my eyes the first time, but it really is valuable in the context of the Nation's Pride sequence. I still think the stuff with Raine & Co. is not as strong as it could have been, mostly because I think Pitt is simply wretched in it. His broad caricature is out of a completely different movie. All the dialects in that movie are pretty perfect, so why did Tarantino let Pitt get away with that horrid southern drawl?

Stephen said...

This is brilliant, Ryan, perceptive and funny.

I'll be looking through the individual reviews soon.

Ryan Kelly said...

Thank you very much, Stephen!

Adam Zanzie said...

I watched Crimes and Misdemeanors for the first time today, and the soul-searching that Martin Landau does throughout the film reminded me plenty of A Serious Man- mostly with those scenes of him conversing with the rabbi, and those flashbacks of his father talking about how God has top priority over everything else, and that even if he does not exist, a man could not live with himself if he does something evil. It's a great film, but the theme is certainly a hopeless one, since the Landau character actually ends up happier than Woody's character.

Funny how Allen and the Coens are always wrestling with how exactly they're supposed to live in the eyes of God. Maybe this is a Jewish thing? I wouldn't know; I was baptized a Catholic (although there's no way I've ever taken it seriously... I abandoned my religious roots years ago).

Ryan Kelly said...

Adam, that's a great observation, though I don't think Crimes and Misdemeanors occupies the same Godless terrain that A Serious Man does. In fact, one of the film's few flaws to my eyes is that it rams down your throat that Sam Waterson's Rabbi symbolizes God in the story. But it's still effective, and the whole thing with the Rabbi going blind is an inspired channeling of religious metaphor even if, again, Allen lays it on a tad thick.

Ryan Kelly said...

And yeah, Match Point is basically a humorless remake of Crimes.