Oops, I thought this Bujalski dude was our indie cinema saviour or the new Wes Anderson or something. Nothing more than a grainy portrait of a few young white people in new york, one of ’em trying to be an indie rocker, and mutually attracted to his best bud’s girl [best bud is played by the director]. Manages not to be annoyingly quirky, situations seem pretty real and characters have a non-fakey awkwardness about them, but also not much to recommend the movie and doesn’t feel very memorable.

AV Club said it first: “All this intrigue sets up a romantic encounter between Rice and Clift, and a serious rupture in their relationship with Bujalski, but nothing in Mutual Appreciation goes according to the usual script. The scene in which Rice and Clift finally vocalize their feelings for each other is the perfect example of what Bujalski does so well: Any other romantic melodrama would have them bubbling over with passion, but these characters are painfully tentative and believably so, given that they’re both betraying someone they care about. What ends up happening between them is completely unexpected, yet entirely true to who they are and to how most caring people would act. But such things rarely happen onscreen, and Bujalski’s willingness to follow through makes him a singular talent.”

I guess after reading the AV Club bit and some Indiewire articles I can appreciate the thing more. Still don’t know whether it’s an authentic new york indie rock scene document, or a comedy/mockery of that scene. Given the levels of irony involved in the “scene”, is there a difference?

Bunnies – quick, great, 30 seconds long.
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Guard Dog by Bill Plympton, the beginning of his new period of good stuff (also: Guide Dog, Fan and the Flower) after a long tiring stretch of mediocre junk.
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The FEDS by Jen Drummond. I think she talked about this one at the atlanta film festival a few years ago. Not that there’s anything to say. She’s a roto-animator on the Linklater films and in her spare time she made this little doc about her crappy job at a grocery store. Not exactly Clerks, but good enough for what it is.
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Pan With Us by David Russo, director of POPULI and one of my favorite animators ever. Watched this about ten times. Stop-motion with highly controlled animated foreground and wildly variating backgrounds… so animation without a set, in a live environment. Uses giant rolls of animation paper, cut-outs, translucent slides, metal sculptures, everything. Best short of this bunch, probably of the surrounding few years.
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Ward 13 – awesome claymation action flick about a horror hospital, so impressive. Director’s doing live-action horror next, I guess.
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Hello – Tape deck gets nervous around hot CD player, gets advice from old gramophone. Cute, neat sound effects.
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Rockfish – tiresome indie 3D action sequence about hard dude and pet jarjar in badass moon rover fishing beneath rocky planet for giant dune sandworm.
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Magda – stop motion puppetry where a contortionist and her biggest fan fall in love, then commerce turns romance into ritual and they fall back out. Pretty neat.
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Fallen Art – by the guy who made Cathedral, and a strong improvement. The 3D is less serious and arty and dreamy this time, whole feel is cartoonish. Big soldier pushes little soldiers off a cliff, photographs are taken and sent to mad fat scientist who projects the photos to form a dance, and dances along. Surely some political commentary on the futility of war, but I just liked the dancing.
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When The Day Breaks – one of those serious/sad shorts that’s always gumming up the otherwise fun/ny presentations. Since it’s hand-drawn and not intended to make kids squeal with glee, it’d probably be one of my co-workers’ favorites of this bunch. I thought was alright. Lady pig sees uptight rooster hit by car, goes home and thinks about it.
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Fireworks by PES
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The Meaning of Life by Don Hertzfeldt, big ol’ WTF here. So glad I saw this after his redemptive Everything Will Be OK. He worked 4 years using only handmade effects and 150 voices to form a film with no meaning of its own. Maybe the filming of this dull short was a performance art piece about the futility of life, hence the title?
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Starting with the twist-ending back-story… Lesbian entomologist Ida (see, it’s already unique) can’t find a date because her bugs scare people, cute girl sits in her office lobby stalking her for years, cute girl is daughter of Ida’s ex-prof super bug guy who ships scary bug from brazil or someplace to infect brain of Ida and lay eggs in her so daughter won’t date her, but they start dating first, then bug gets daughter, and finally bug gets ’em both, kills Ida’s male friend, and they are happy and pregnant with 1000’s of bugs together. Sort of like that episode of Creepshow except instead of an unappealing dude there’s two girls kissing… a marked improvement.

Effects are silly, plastic bugs and full-body bug-suits, but all well used. Ida is May from the movie May, has a cool voice, and stalker girlfriend is softcore porn star Misty Mundae. Fun flick, not bad at all.

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Yaaaay, a good funnyish movie starring the guy from Dream On (Brian Benben, who I haven’t seen in too long) as a burned-out detective. He accidentally killed his partner years before, got depressed, wife left him, now just handles cases involving animals. Gory deaths apparently caused by deer trampling in strange locations (inside a truck, a hotel room) lead Brian and his makeshift partner Anthony Griffith (Charlie’s Angels 2) stumped. Brian tries on many theories (funny bit where he imagines ridiculous scenarios then mutters “stupid”), meets a native in a casino who tells him about the Deer Woman, beautiful woman with hoofs who seduces then kills guys. Partner gets trampled, Brian finds he can’t kill her with his gun, so takes to the car and runs her down, with obvious in-the-headlights reference.

Landis was great in the 80’s, with Twilight Zone, Coming To America, Spies Like Us and American Werewolf In London (fat reference to that movie in this episode), didn’t realize how he has disappeared since then. Looking forward to his next MoH episode.

Co-written with Landis’s 21-year-old son, awesome.

Who you callin’ Martin Tupper?
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Your nudity:
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Your fantasy sequence:
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Your gag ending:
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An amazingly good movie. Can’t recommend to anyone or they’ll laugh at me (tried a few times already).

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Plot is too convoluted to go through. Crockett is sad-faced Colin Farrell and Tubbs is determined Jamie Foxx. Gong Li is on the drug lords’ team, falls in love with Crockett. Tubbs has a lovely wife who is inevitably kidnapped by neo-nazis. Supposedly our heroes are rooting out a mole in the FBI / DEA / System but get sidetracked by so many other things. Shot on crazy-looking HD by Dion Beebe, guy who did Collateral and Holy Smoke.

Didn’t really know what to say about this one until I read an article about it in Senses of Cinema (see below). I loved the movie, loved the unique beauty of the images and the out-of-control propulsion of the plot, but hadn’t thought about what, if anything, Mann was trying to express, what deeper meaning lay behind all the gunfights and high-tech drug deals. The article (written by a french M. Mann biographer and translated by Sally Shafto) brings a lot to light. Reading it feels like I’ve been given permission by a film scholar to love a big-bang action flick that even the general public didn’t like (or just didn’t see).

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From Jean-Baptiste Thoret’s analysis in Senses of Cinema:
Miami Vice is above all a great film on the human condition in a time of flux. Everything progresses at top speed (the meetings, the love affairs, the reversals, the cars) but essentially nothing really moves forward. … In the blurred passage from the cop’s face to the re-framing of the camera on the flow of the traffic, the man has thrown himself under a truck, leaving only a scarlet stain on the pavement. To become integrated in the flux is also to lose oneself therein. … The film closes as abruptly as it opened: Isabella escapes from the flux by the sea (the eternal utopia of Mann’s characters), Sonny turns his back on the sea and returns to the flux. And loses himself therein. Life suspended on one side, perpetual flux on the other. No dead time or respite: the system runs at full speed but on empty, and possesses no other end than that of its own stability. … In the world in flux that Miami Vice follows, the human is only an event, a lost atom in the multitude, similar to the one described by the hired killer in Collateral. It is either arrogance and/or naïveté of the couple, Sonny-Isabella, to have believed that the human could be stronger than the flux. … The men of Miami Dade only conform to the programs that pre-exist them, to respond to the electronic stimuli (a telephone call, a reaction). They turn out to be incapable of taking control of a disarticulated narrative. … The disappearance of the human, its dematerialization in the heart of an urban universe governed by technology, and thus its capacity for resistance, constitutes one of the central themes of Mann’s cinema and finds in Miami Vice its most accomplished extension.”

He also talks convincingly about women being “the only ones to possess the power to divert the narrative”, about flux being technology “and technology is death”, and sums up the ending with Isabella (Gong Li) driving away from Sonny in the speedboat, Sonny’s returning to the flux: “The world rediscovers its balance but loses a little more of its humanity.”

So Amanda, the worst actor in the movie, is Jigsaw’s apprentice here, but she’s a cutter and a killer and an ex druggie and can’t be trusted despite her having once survived a beartrap and pledged her life to his games. And Jigsaw’s deathly sick with brain cancer.

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Now Jeff is Angus Macfayden, better known as Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock. Retaining his hammy pained expressions from that movie, here he’s the dad of a living daughter and dead son on a revenge quest to kill the killer, judge and witness from the son’s car accident. His estranged wife (twist ending spoiler alert) is doctor lady Lynn, kidnapped and forced to take care of Jigsaw and operate on his brain or else he’ll blow her head up.

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Saw’s rounded up the witness, judge and killer and strapped ’em into terrible devices, and Orson/Angus saves some of ’em sort of but pretty much ends up getting them all killed, then stumbles into a mess of a time in the operating dungeon and everyone dies but him. No more sequels then, hooray (just kidding, part 4’s out this halloween).

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Not too good a movie, obviously, with too many flash cuts and flashbacks. Lots of nudity and gore (obviously), neither of them worth a damn, and nothing to make it all worthwhile unless you care about Amanda’s character development or whether Jigsaw lives or dies. Looking forward to part 4, obviously.

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Not as interesting as Sam Fuller’s later I Shot Jesse James, but a lot better than I’d expected. Maybe I can enjoy a Western more than I’d thought. Some story differences, too… for instance, Fuller’s movie has Bob Ford re-enacting the murder as a play pretty much the same way it happened, while Lang’s has the Fords camping it up onstage and acting the heroes. Don’t know which really happened, but each version was well-suited to its own movie.

Henry Fonda is James, hears news of Jesse’s death and sets out with young Jackie Cooper (not Jackie Coogan) to get Bob Ford (a nervous bearded John Carradine) and brother Charlie.

Not technically the last Fritz Lang film I have to see, but the last one available until Human Desire shows up on cable again. That’s 36 down, 1 to go! Guess I’ve been trying to watch all of Lang’s movies since college, so seven years. At around five per year, it didn’t go nearly as fast as my Sam Fuller quest. Even if I didn’t pick up on the geometric patterns hidden within Lang’s mise-en-scene that auteurists wet themselves over, it was neat to see forty years of cinema from one director’s perspective. He covered 1920 to 1960, the period I know least about, and Sam Fuller was 1950 to 1990. And they both made so many movies… gives me a convenient handle on chronology. Oh, 1953, that was the year Pickup On South Street and The Big Heat came out. Anyway, on now to Bunuel, Rivette, Marker and Resnais for a western european perspective.

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