Robert Patterson’s Polish immigrant parents die “at the very moment his final exam begins. His professors couldn’t have waited a mere two hours to tell him the bad news, thus allowing him to graduate? Not in a story this devoted to broad strokes and contrived barriers.” (AV Club)

So RP, looking remarkably more like a real person with normal hair than he does in those Twilight trailers, hops a train and joins the circus, meets ringmaster Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, barely recognized him until he started talking with his bad-guy voice, and come to think of it, he should participate in a bad-guy voice-off contest with John Malkovich) with beautiful performing wife Reese Witherspoon (highlight of the movie was that my dream of having someone grab Witherspoon by her pointy chin was finally realized).

Anyway, Robert and Reese fall for each other but Waltz is crazy jealous and likes to murder his workers and hurt the poor, Polish-speaking elephant who comes along halfway through the movie and was the reason I agreed to go see it. Reese’s elephant tricks were nifty indeed, but maybe didn’t make up for all the dour, overwrought period drama surrounding them.

And look, Ken Foree of From Beyond plays one of Waltz’s enforcers – but not the one who’s so evil that he has to be killed off-camera at the end. Also, the whole movie is narrated by Hal Holbrook to Mark Brendanawicz. And it’s the second movie I’ve seen so far this year where somebody runs away from a circus after a traumatic event, only to return just as the circus is on the verge of failing. Rivette’s film had more clown acts and tightrope walking, and therefore wins. From the director of I Am Legend and Constantine, screenwriter of Fisher King and Freedom Writers and DP of 25th Hour and Brokeback Mountain.

War doc, watched with Katy because co-director Tim was just killed. Less explanation than usual in these sorts of things, and more combat than usual. The cameraman likes to be right there in the action during firing and bombing – which makes for good footage, but is probably why he’s dead now. Movie makes a good argument for the futility of war, pointing out that another unit failed because it didn’t build a forward outpost like these guys do (named after killed comrade Restrepo), then dealing obliquely with civilian deaths and disappearances, finally noting that this outpost was abandoned soon after filming. More impressive than the movie was a gallery of Tim’s still photographs which the NY Times showed online this week.

Juliette Binoche takes her impatient son to a reading by an author (opera singer William Shimell), though she doesn’t seem to like his book much. Then she goes out with the author, just a couple of strangers on a tour of historic Tuscany for a couple hours. A shop keeper talks to Binoche as if the author was her husband, and Binoche plays along and then – in a disturbing Lynchian shift – he is her husband. It’s a bit of playful make-believe between them at first, but it quickly turns real.

A perfect story for Kiarostami, who loves to blend fact with fiction. I’m glad that I read a little bit about this beforehand, had been told about the movie’s many “copies”, so I knew to look for them from the beginning – for instance, when Shimell first appears at the reading he tells the crowd a variation on the same lame joke that the man introducing him had just told. And there’s a breathtaking edit towards the end of the movie, a shot of the couple leaving a church, a copy of the shot preceding it. Funny that Kiarostami’s first feature outside his home country (was Tickets also shot in Italy?) is a copy of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s first foreign feature – a mixture of playful fantasy and domestic drama starring Binoche as a mother. Even though he’s making a marketable narrative film for the first time in a decade or so, Kiarostami still has some recognizable signature elements. The most comfortable conversation between our characters takes place in a moving car (below) and there are some good shots of trees, hills, roads, just enough to be recognizable if you’re looking for them, maybe even inserted slyly as a self-conscious trademark for the auteurists to hang onto.

Some of the writings online seem to think that the two were actually married, that the author may in fact be Binoche’s son’s father, and that it’s not as mysterious as all that… suppose I need to watch again.

New Yorker:

It’s … a tribute to the freedoms that Kiarostami considers essential yet also a warning to those who might consider political and social freedom to be a self-fulfilling and self-sufficient liberation. The film breathes the air of freedom from outer constraints … suggests a range of romantic and erotic options that can’t be depicted in Iran. Yet other constraints are at the core of the film—there’s the bond of marriage, which the couple may or may not have undertaken, and which a host of other newlywed couples seen in the village (famed for bringing good luck) hopefully choose. And there’s the bond of the self, the inescapable and apparently immutable force of character, which seems to compel the free-spirited, unconstrained man, out on a spree, to choose as a mistress the same woman as the one he was, or is, married to.

NY Times:

… such a conspicuous leap from neo-Realism to European modernism, it sometimes feels like a dry comic parody. As the movie goes along, it begins to deconstruct itself by posing as a cinematic homage, or copy, if you will, of European art films of the 1950s and ’60s, with contemporary echoes. Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy, in which a couple played by George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman travel to Naples to sell a house, is the most obvious forerunner. Also alluded to are Michelangelo Antonioni’s Avventura, with its stark juxtapositions of ancient and modern images, and Alain Resnais’s elegant, memory-obsessed mind bender, Last Year at Marienbad. It has also been suggested that more recent antecedents like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are role models. In any case, Certified Copy virtually announces itself as a deliberate stylistic composite.

Watched again with Katy in September. She thought I was showing it as a comment on the state of our relationship, which doesn’t even make sense. Anyway, movies about couples fighting make Katy sad, so she didn’t enjoy it much. Second time through I was thinking about the two ellipses in the movie. The opening sequence during the author’s reading is real-time, as is the entire rest of the movie beginning when he visits her shop, and an unknown amount of time passes between those segments (probably no more than a few hours). Then there’s the character ellipsis, when suddenly they change from a couple who has just met into one who has been married fifteen years.

This post has been released under the Movie Journal Amnesty Act of March 2011, which states that blog entries may be short and crappy, since I am too busy to write up proper ones.

Machete (2010, Robert Rodriguez)

I loved the Machete fake trailer in Grindhouse, but felt R.R. was stretching the joke too far by making this. It didn’t get stellar reviews, so I skipped it in theaters. Oops. So wonderful, probably better than Planet Terror. Baddies Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal and Jeff Fahey all get brutally killed, along with Cheech Marin and about two hundred others. I don’t know how Rodriguez stays on the cool/fun side of the campy comic-action tightrope, instead of stumbling like Sukiyaki Western Django or falling clear off like Tokyo Gore Police. Dude is good.

Hatchet 2 (2010, Adam Green)

Ugh, a boring waste of time. Good for you if you make a self-aware, post-Scream horror movie full of fun references, movie veterans and tons of humor and gore. But boo on you for throwing away all accumulated goodwill on an obvious rehash sequel. Boooooo.

Frozen (2010, Adam Green)

Watched to give Green another chance after Hatchet II. Full of “why don’t they try…” and “why wouldn’t they just…” moments, and I thought the cinematography was boring, but the story and acting are undeniable… quite a good little horror flick.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, John Carpenter)

When bad horror gets me down, I like to watch this again. It’s clunky at times and likes to montage itself (each cool shot is shown three times or more) but Sam Neill is great, and it’s one of few horrors I’ve seen that takes its Lovecraftian apocalyptic premise all the way to a satisfying conclusion.

Barres (1984, Luc Moullet)

A whole movie about dodging payment in the Paris subway – only 15 minutes long with no spoken dialogue. Cute and instructive. Told myself I’d finally check out Moullet but this is all I’ve gotten to so far.

Barres:

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

Watched with Katy. What’s this new cleaning song doing in here? Must all Disney movies have a cleaning/work song?

The Clash: Westway to the World (2000, Don Letts)

A member of Big Audio Dynamite makes an interview film with some concert footage about The Clash. Very conventional, would’ve rather read The Clash’s wikipedia page and watched a full concert DVD.

Marty (1953, Delbert Mann)

The TV version from that rad Criterion DVD. I enjoyed Mann’s smooth Jimmy Stewart voice on the DVD commentary. He died two years before the DVD came out. A big shot in television through the early 50’s, he started working in cinema beginning with the film version of Marty, reaching the heights of a Cary Grant/Doris Day rom-com in ’62, then by the early 80’s he came back full-time to TV. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, acclaimed for this and Network, and also surprisingly the author of Altered States.

I’m still not clear on the kinescope process – so it was a camera aimed at a TV screen during broadcast? And this was done by the network, not by some enthusiast at home with a proto-VCR setup? And it was set up for time-shifting to the west coast? How did they get the film developed and send it to LA in an hour? Is the kinescope the reason why lateral camera moves make the movie suddenly looks like I’m watching it inside a cylinder?

“Girls: Dance with the man who asks you. Remember men have feelings too.” Marty is bored, has no luck with ladies, finally meets one who is his own speed. Meanwhile his mother is worrying over him and his aunt is moving in and his friends are telling him to forget the girl. Will love conquer all? Yes. A very small-scale but wonderful movie.

Rod Steiger would go on to star in Run of the Arrow and In The Heat of the Night, and more importantly, as the warmongering general of Mars Attacks!. He was recast as Borgnine in the feature film, but his mother and aunt made the cinema transition – the mother (Esther Minciotti) also played mother to Cornel Wilde and Henry Fonda in Shockproof and The Wrong Man, respectively. I had to subtitle her thick accent at times on the DVD here.

Parks & Recreation season 1

Now maybe I’ll be able to remember who Amy Poehler is, even though I’ve seen her in four movies. Also good to see Aziz again after Human Giant, but this was surprisingly not too funny/brilliant a season. Things have already picked up at the start of s2, so hopes are high.

Lars/Real Girl’s well-meaning brother Paul Schneider is low-key ladies’ man Mark. Nick Offerman of The Men Who Stare at Goats is mustachioed manager Ron. Bored receptionist April is Aubrey Plaza, a minor hostile character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Poehler’s new friend Ann is Rashida Jones, the lawyer (?) who talks to Mark Zuckerberg after-hours in The Social Network, and her boyfriend Andy is Chris Pratt of nothing I’ve seen yet.

Saxondale season 1

Steve Coogan plays less of a buffoon than usual, actually kind of a bright and capable guy. He’s not super classy though, an ex-roadie for various rock groups turned independent exterminator with anger management issues, with a new young assistant whom he and his wife Mags (Ruth Jones of Little Britain and Nighty Night) somewhat adopt. Not a masterpiece of a show, but a happy diversion with some sharp comic bits.

Stella (2005)

The only season of Michael & Michael & David Wain’s show. Once I learned to tolerate how awful and stupid it is, I started to appreciate its stupid, awful, brilliant sense of humor. Or maybe I’m just stupid. Still to see: Michael & Michael Have Issues and rival series Wainy Days. Plus I never watched Reno 911, and maybe Viva Variety will come out on DVD some day.

Flight of the Conchords season 2
The Mighty Boosh season 2

These two are currently competing for best musical comedy series of the decade. Metalocalypse doesn’t stand a chance. Conchords may have the edge, because the music in Boosh season 2 was less prominent and awesome than in its first season.

Romantic comedy. Ashton Kutcher is perfect in every way, and Natalie Portman is perfect except for very minor psychological issues. Each has a promising career, a close family and a few supportive friends. Together they form a perfect couple, having excellent sex (hooray for the R-rating) and fall in love. Will she overcome her minor psychological issues in time, or will she lose Kutcher between a valentine’s day fight and her sister’s wedding? I’m not telling!

Embarrassingly it’s the third Ashton Kutcher movie I’ve seen in theaters, but not the worst. In fact, after the first twenty minutes of sex comedy was followed by a half hour of unexciting relationship discussions I started paying attention to my nerdy film details instead of the dialogue, and found it to be a pretty well-made movie. No horribly looped dialogue (until the penultimate line), no jaunty music or ever-gliding camera turning it into a glossy music video.

Reitman cast his ol’ Dave costar Kevin Kline as Kutcher’s dad, trying to stay young by taking the latest drugs and sleeping with his son’s latest girlfriends. Can’t remember a disguised Cary Elwes having any lines at all, and I’m not sure whish one was Greta Gerwig of Baghead and LOL.

Saw some screen shots from this movie and decided I must watch it immediately. Then I found out there are seemingly unrelated films named Finisterrae and Finis Terrae (“ends of the earth” in Latin) and decided I must watch them both. And they were both pretty spectacular, but I can’t pretend that I found any similarities beyond the titles.

Forest of ears:

Two ghosts (played by men wearing sheets) go on a journey. I did not like the high pitched noise produced by the forest of ears, but I liked every other single thing. There are Garrel references, spoken credits, very nice music by Jimi Tenor (also “Ghost Rider” by Suicide), a hippie joke, and it’s all super-quirky in a high-art-film sort of way. Seems like the kind of thing that’s made just for viewers like me, but could fall right on its face if not done perfectly, like that sad attempt at a cult movie, Buckaroo Banzai. But I fell for this one completely, and I’m not the only one; Rotterdam gave it an award a couple days after I watched it.

Cataluña:

Hippie:

The ghosts are Russian, and I think they’re in Cataluña – not sure where Chile and Germany fit in. One rides a horse (later, a wheelchair) and they meet other animal friends: deer, an owl and various stuffed creatures in a museum exhibit where they spend the night. Sometimes their horse turns into a mechanical puppet, and sometimes he is on fire.

It might all make sense in some way, be a huge metaphor for some Spanish thing or other, but I didn’t get any of that. I focused on the surreal fun of it all, the and the beautifully composed images by Caballero and d.p. Edward Grau (also of A Single Man, who at age 30 has made more indelible images than I ever will).

After the ghost thing fizzles out, there is a frog princess story, then a moose or reindeer walking through a fancy house, and back to the museum animals. I would watch this again right now if I supposed that anyone I know would sit through it.

Only two people to mention here: Chomet, creator of Triplets of Belleville, and Jacques Tati, who wrote the partly autobiographical script. Having just watched a couple of Tati movies and gotten a feel for his comedy, this seemed about 10% Tati and 90% Chomet. Maybe that’s underselling it, since Chomet’s previous film was obviously Tati-influenced, with its dialogue-free physical comedy (not to mention the clip from Jour de Fete the triplets watch in bed).

There is a Tatiesque magician, tall guy, somewhat shabby, with an umbrella, a pretty good act and a fed-up rabbit. Rock and roll is in, and magic acts are out, so he finds himself unemployed. Invited to Scotland by a drunken fan, he meets a young girl named Alice, takes her to Edinburgh, but she has expensive tastes so he takes night jobs while trying to continue his magic career. Movie takes place around 1958-60, I think (Mon Oncle is in theaters), while the events on which it’s based would have been in the 40’s. In the end, the magician does not get the girl pregnant then abandon her. Instead she meets a nice boy closer to her own age and goes off with him, the illusionist quietly leaving town unmissed by his now-destitute vaudeville friends.

No spoken dialogue in any real language, just mumblings, like those animated shorts from weird countries that purposely include no dialogue so their movie can play festivals without need for subtitles or dubbing. Katy liked it alright but found it too sad, told me it’s at least better than Triplets, complimented the animation remarking on the characters’ physical presence, the heaviness of their steps.

The least Coeny of the Coens’ string of remakes and adaptations. It’s got their perfectly-timed dialogue, comic tone with brief bursts of violence, cinematography by the gifted Roger Deakins, and Dude Lebowski in a major role, but it doesn’t have their mark all over it. This isn’t a complaint – it’s an excellent Western, exciting and well-acted. Plus Matt Damon. He is kinda weird in it. The little girl who had to carry the whole movie, Hailee Steinfeld, got nominated for an oscar for her troubles. Her character is dedicated – shooting unrepentant daddy-killer Josh Brolin once when she first meets him, then again (to his death) at the end. Part of the film was set in my former family home of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The place hasn’t changed.

Nolan is going for auteur status, taking his mega-budget action comic Batman movies and his multi-layered reality-questioning Memento and making a mega-budget multi-layered action comic reality-questioning super-movie. Seems to have paid off for him – this is in the IMDB top ten at the moment, barely above his own The Dark Knight.

We’ll miss you, Pete Postlethwaite

I should have known Inception wouldn’t be as awesomely complex as I’ve heard it is. It’s not my love for Alain Resnais that makes me feel like a condescending art film snob, it’s breezing through a movie like this one, which the whole world thought was so confusing. I was never in doubt as to what was happening, or which level of dream/reality our heroes were haunting, and thought the ending, while somewhat emotionally satisfying, was the most obvious one possible. Does that make me an asshole?

Why does this shot look so familiar?

Anyway, it’s a fun action dream flick with bang-on performances by Leo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, good support by Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard and Ken Watanabe, and some overqualified actors wasted in minor roles.