Monday, January 18, 2016

In Movie Lines (with 2015 Movies, a Best Picture Blind Spot,...and Links): January 10 - January 16


Movies I've Watched
January 10th - 16th, 2015


Preamble


Now, this has been a slow week for movie-watching. I am co-sponsor of my school's student section, Hawk Nation, and we have one of the best basketball teams in the region this year. Just an amazing group of athletes. Anyway, we're 21-1, heading into our district tournament. Our students have given their all in support of the team this year, and I've been there every step of the way. 

I'm the chubby man on the bottom left, helping out at the end of the game.
With two home games this past week, though, that puts me at work, essentially, from 7:45 AM until about 8:30 PM with only about 2 hours of that away from our students. It is fun...but wrecking, and it leaves little time for movie-watching. C'est la vie. 

2015 Movies

Ant-Man
Dir. Peyton Reed


Sometime while watching this movie, I instantly regretted not seeing it on a huge screen last summer. So. Much. Fun. The action sequences are just insanely unique and a blast. It's not a great movie, but, as superhero movies go, at least there is some solid humor. After the harsh, loud blowing-up-of-shit for two-and-a-half hours in Age of Ultron, this is a breath of fresh air. And that briefcase fight. Coolest action sequence of the year. That's about it though. Just fun. ★★★

Mississippi Grind
Dir. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden


Just saying the phrase Mississippi Grind evokes a sense of both Americana and hard times. Mississippi plays a role here, several roles. So does Iowa and Missouri and Arkansas and Tennessee and Louisiana, all of those states along the Mississippi River, where the gamblers and ramblers of the Midwest and Southeast combine to lose and be losers. So tragic is life, even more so for addicts, yet so redeeming their stories can be, both for them and those who experience them. 

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden have made a name for themselves as uncompromising makers of small films, character studies, pieces that break into the core of human flaws and how they work on us and those around us. They came onto the scene with Half Nelson in 2006, the story of a drug and alcohol addicted high school teacher played by Ryan Gosling. I liked it. Need to see their other two, Sugar and It's Kind of a Funny Story. But this one I loved. 

Ben Mendelsohn is Gerry, a down-and-out gambler/real estate agent in small town, Iowa. He owes money all over town but not to your normal kingpin type characters. Ryan Reynolds is Curtis, a drifter who seems to find things in people hitting bottom. Together, these two will forge a relationship that gives and takes and then heads on to the next spot, all roads leading to a big poker game in New Orleans. The best thing about this film is that Fleck and Boden spend time on these two men. This isn't your normal slick gambling picture, which was the problem with the similar but ultimately maddening failure of 2014's remake of The Gambler. No. this is full on character study, a picture of addiction and friendship and moving on that makes all the right moves. ★★★★

A Blind Spot Selection

Rocky
Dir. John G. Avildsen, 1976


What can be said that hasn't already? I guess we'll see what I can put together for my Blind Spot reaction to this film, one I certainly should have seen by now and finally did, mostly due to the emergence of the spin-off Creed, which finds Sly Stallone back in the shoes of Rocky Balboa, a role that just may win him an acting Oscar, once and for all. 

To tease my future post: I love this movie. I love it for the small scope, the little moments of life this movie shares. It's not about boxing, and I honestly didn't know that about it. 

Re-Watched

Kill Bill Vol. 1
Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2003


I'm hitting the tail-end of my Tarantino retrospective, and I'm finding it hard to pinpoint a moment to highlight as the most significant in Kill Bill Vol. 1. It is way too hard with this one. It is just so full of greatness in story, dialogue, and action direction, all three. The shot above is where I'm at right now. The "Crazy 88" sequence and the switch from color to black-and-white. It is really and truly amazing what Tarantino pulled off in that moment, knowing he would be battling an NC-17 for all the carnage, and making a stylistic choice with that as a base. It's brilliant. And the soundtrack cuts during this segment of the sequence are perfect. This is Tarantino doing a genre exercise and telling a good story. Too bad he forgot his abilities in one of those ares while making The Hateful Eight.  

Links

Mariah does her best and worst of 2015. 

Dell and Jenna & Allie saw Creed. Now, I really need to. 

Brittany has a solid Top 10. 

Fisti comments on the tired #OscarsSoWhite debate.

Khalid reviewed Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and Carol.

The Numbers

I've watched 12 movies this year, so far.

2016 Releases - 0

Re-Watched - 2

First-Timers - 10

What have you been watching?

25 comments:

  1. I, too, regret not seeing Ant-Man on the big screen. I just love the visuals in that one. Glad you got to see Rocky, finally. Looking forward to that Blind Spot post. Hope you get to see Creed soon. It's not "about" boxing, either. Thanks for the link!

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    1. It's just so different, Ant-Man. I like the sort-of low stakes angle for a superhero movie. Not everything has to be about the friggin' end of the world. ya know?

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  2. Thanks for the link! I really liked Ant-Man. I wish I had seen it on the big screen too! I haven't seen Rocky in so long I feel like I need to rewatch it before I see Creed.

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    1. No problem! That was my thing too. All the Creed talk got me beating myself up for never seeing Rocky.

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  3. Thanks for the link! I liked Ant-Man a lot more then I expected to. I'm glad I caught it in theaters. I could listen to Michael Pena's character tell stories all day.

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    1. Yes! Peña was perfect. I love him.

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  4. So glad you liked Ant-Man! It was such a fun movie and a real breath of fresh air when it comes to Marvel. I thought Douglas was outstanding in that

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    1. Agreed. Really liked Michael Douglas in that sort of role.

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  5. I saw Carol, The Revenant, & Anomalisa this weekend. All were excellent.

    Last week, I watched the following films: The Straight Story; Jacob's Ladder; Frances Ha; In the Company of Men; Any Given Sunday; & Beautiful Girls. All were excellent. My favorite out of all of them had to be Beautiful Girls. Love that movie. Laughed so much. Michael Rapaport was excellent in that. Thanks for putting it in one of your posts (which made me look it up & see the trailer, which led me to watch it). It was really good.

    And now, here are my top 20 films of 2015. (Note: these are all 4 out of 4 stars. There were just so many excellent movies this year I couldn't pick only 10. So I had to go with 20).

    20. Love & Mercy
    19. Room
    18. The Hateful Eight
    17. Creed
    16. Joy
    15. Straight Outta Compton
    14. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    13. Anomalisa
    12. Sicario
    11. The End of the Tour
    10. Mad Max: Fury Road
    9. Inside Out
    8. Bridge of Spies
    7. Carol
    6. The Martian
    5. The Revenant
    4. Spotlight
    3. The Big Short
    2. Steve Jobs
    1. Brooklyn

    (I know. You're probably surprised. You probably thought Steve Jobs would be number 1. Well, I looked back & decided that Brooklyn was the best film of 2015).

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    1. Nice! Really jealous you got to see Anomalisa. It still isn't playing around here yet. I'll hopefully get to that one soon. Glad Brooklyn took over that number 1 spot. It's a much more deserving title than Steve Jobs, in my opinion.

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    2. Yeah. There were 2 things keeping Steve Jobs out of the number 1 spot.

      1. David Fincher didn't direct it. If he directed it, it would've been even better. Fincher & Sorkin were excellent working on The Social Network (which I finally watched on Tuesday. Definitely the best film of the decade so far). If they worked together on Steve Jobs, it would've been better.

      2. I LOVE SAOIRSE RONAN! SHE IS MY QUEEN! She's pretty much tied (along with Rooney Mara & Brie Larson) with Jennifer Lawrence as my biggest celebrity crush.

      In fact, I'm seeing Brooklyn again tomorrow. Time to introduce my friend to Saoirse Ronan

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  6. Thanks for the mention! I really liked both Ant-Man and Mississippi Grind. Especially Mississippi Grind which had a really cool 70's old-school vibe to it. It also features the best of Ryan Reynolds I've ever seen.

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    1. No problem, brother! Mississippi Grind definitely worked for me. Love that old school vibe as well, and, yes ,this was a perfect role for Reynolds.

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  7. That’s so great about the basketball team’s success. Sounds like they’re on track to go all the way. Best of luck!

    I didn’t see too much in the theatre last year for one reason or another but Ant-Man was one that I did and it’s just the type that was meant for theatre viewing. I liked it more than I thought I would, though my expectations weren’t high…it is a movie called Ant-Man after all. But it was light and breezy, I am not a fan of dour superhero movies, and Paul Rudd was just the right mix of spunky jock and clueless amateur.

    I’d never heard of Mississippi Grind before but it sounds worth checking out and I liked Rocky well enough when I saw it, it’s not a well that I return to but I’ll watch for your Blind Spot post to delve further into my thoughts on it.

    As for what I watched this week it was a mixed bag. I was trying to plan ahead for a couple of the Thursday Movie pick themes where I was a bit thin and watched two films that I thought would work but neither panned out. I watched Bee Season thinking it was about a spelling bee competition but it turned out to be a mushy drama to which the bees were incidental. The other Back in the Day was about a high school reunion but was such a messy piece of slop I barely made it through, just terrible junk.

    Otherwise my classics watching quest continues and though I didn’t hit the heights of last week I was able to track down 10 titles off my lists. They were:
    Her First Affaire & Ghost Camera (Ida Lupino)
    Look Up and Laugh & Things Are Looking Up (Vivien Leigh)
    Sensations of 1945 (Eleanor Powell)
    Madison Avenue (Eleanor Parker)
    South Riding (This was a decent film. It was Glynis Johns’s screen debut with Ralph Richardson as her father and Edmund Gwenn also in the cast)
    In Search of Gregory (Julie Christie) I was thrilled to find this one, the only film from her major star period that I was missing and VERY obscure. It was odd and rather unfocused but Julie elevated the material and she looked A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in it. As a bonus an extremely young John Hurt played her strange brother.
    And two Joan Crawford silents (I’ve seen all her sound films)
    Twelve Miles Out & Winners of the Wilderness (The last one was an interesting one, though the print was in appalling condition, it was a pre-Revolutionary War drama about the conflict between the French and the English with Crawford a French noblewoman!! Ah the magic of silent film.

    My final number of films to see was also lightened by a less happy circumstance. In researching the various performer’s early films I discovered that at least 9 are lost so far. One each for Claudette Colbert, Jean Simmons and Vivien Leigh and 6 of Joan Crawford’s silents! The Crawford films were apparently lost in the great MGM vault fire of 1967, which also destroyed one of Garbo’s films, three Lon Chaney films and one Norma Shearer picture along with an enormous amount of other silents including all the Our Gang silent comedy shorts. I knew about the Garbo & Shearer films of which only fragments survive, the Chaney films are completely gone but hadn’t realized that Crawford’s filmography had been hit so hard. I haven’t gotten through everyone yet but I suspect when I get to Myrna Loy and a few others who worked in very early film that several of those will be gone as well. It makes it easier for me but what a terrible loss to film history.

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    1. I did not know(or can't recall) about the horrible fire at MGM-that is horrible and so very sad. I hope some of the silents will be found in an former Eastern black country one day...usually in a barn.

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    2. There was an even more devastating fire in 1937 in a Fox film vault in Little Ferry, New Jersey caused by spontaneous combustion that destroyed the entire contents of that facility, most of the silents and many early Fox films prior to 1932. It was apparently quite horrifying since the vault was located in a small community and the explosions were shooting horizontal blast of flames up to 100 feet in different directions.

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    3. Joel, your knowledge of classic Hollywood makes me want to dig into the earlier eras so much. I want to be able to join in your joy. I'm thinking this summer is when I start hitting some older titles. I am seriously, honestly at a huge loss for most things pre-1960. Would love your input on a place to start? Maybe a list to go off of. I try to incorporate older titles into my Blind Spot list, but that only covers a few a year. Anyway, would love your input going forward. I'm starting a list based on some of your Thursday Picks already.

      Sucks to think so many films have been lost over the years due to unforeseen circumstances. Glad you got to see plenty that you wanted last week though, especially that Julie Christie title. (I know how you love her.)

      I can definitely recommend Mississippi Grind. You can get it at a Redbox right now. Would love to what you think. It has a definite 70s vibe, playing like a film that just doesn't get made much anymore.

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    4. I'd be happy to offer up a list of suggestions Kevin! I'll pull something together and let you know once I get it together and you can let me know where to e-mail it. :-)

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  8. Thanks so much for the link, buddy!

    I'm one of those who doesn't like Rocky. I know, I suck...but so does the movie...so...

    :-P

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    1. Rocky certainly does not suck. I wouldn't have voted for it for Best Picture that year though, especially over Network, Taxi Driver, and All the President's Men.

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  9. I have seen Age of Ultron-I found the beginning of the movie to be poor CGI and I thought it was actually an ad for something until I realized it was the actual film. I could never get into watching any Rocky movie. I have watched, so far, Father of the Bride-great Spencer Tracy movie with Liz Taylor. I watched Gorky Park which is good although I am not a fan of William Hurt. I have seen others but my memory banks are slowing down:)

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    1. Yes. Age of Ultron was NOT good. I really need to see the original Father of the Bride. Love Spencer Tracy in the few roles I've seen him in.

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  10. The more I think about it, the more I think Kill Bill (in general, Vol. 1 in particular) is QT's best film. It's certainly the one I've watched the most. It's between that and Inglorious Basterds, with Jackie Brown just behind.

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    1. I am not all the way with you on Kill Bill, but I will say, as they stand alone, Vol. 1 is very near the top of the list. I'm glad it got split into two releases. Over the years, I've found they work better separately and the first is the superior film. My Directed by...Tarantino post drops tomorrow, so be ready, for you'll see my final rankings of his films thus far.

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