Koko’s Earth Control (1928, Dave Fleischer)
Koko the Clown walks the planet with his dog until they find the Earth Control station. The dog willfully and maliciously pulls the end-of-the-world switch and then acts all panicked when the world begins to end. What did he think would happen? Fun mix of live-action (tilt camera while people pretend to fall to the side, the dog skittering atop an animation table) and animation (earthquakes, volcanoes, the sun melts the moon).

Dutch Bird (2004, Kirk Weddell)
Ridiculous comedy – old man is sad and alone, so his friends convince him to go out again by pranking him with a story about drugged racing pigeons. On my TV the color was way off, which was really the main interest in the movie. In the below shot, everyone had green skin against a pinkish sky. It was eerie – as the 20 minutes stretched on and on, I liked to imagine that green-faced aliens had gotten a hold of The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine and were producing Brit-com films of their own. Sadly, getting screenshots on my PC the color turned out normal.

Tale of Tales (1979, Yuri Norshteyn)
At least two jury competitions have named this the greatest animated film of all time. It is really good, but we all wished it’d been half its 30 minute length, and its symbolism was extremely obvious. Not that I ever get less-than-obvious symbolism, so that’s not something I ought to complain about. Wild Things are playing jump rope and a little dog kidnaps a baby, and there’s war and peace and what not. Supposedly the director has been working on his film of Gogol’s The Overcoat ever since – for 30 years. He must be the Jeff Mangum of Russian animated films.

Harpy (1978, Raoul Servais)
Kind of an absurd, funnier Tales from the Darkside episode. Guy saves a poor harpy from being beaten to death by an angry man and takes it home. But it keeps eating and eating and making his life hell. Finally it eats his legs off when he tries to escape, so he attempts to beat it to death, it gets saved by another man, etc. Same ending as Argento’s Jenifer, then. Mostly appealing for the crazy harpy visuals. The Belgian director has also made films called Siren and Pegasus, must find those sometime.

Grasshoppers (1990, Bruno Bozzetto)
Cute, no-frills cartoon that looked like something out of Mad Magazine. Civilization rises out of the grass only to fight war after war after war, represented by a few dudes at a time, not by whole armies. The kind of thing that would’ve played on O Canada if it wasn’t Italian.

Out of Print (2008, Danny Plotnick)
A dude yearns for the days when cult movies were actually rare and you could only get crappy unwatchable dubbed versions if you knew a guy who knew a guy. As someone who enjoys being able to see cult movies easily and in relatively good quality, I don’t see the dude’s point.

World Cinema (2007, Joel Coen)
Llewelyn from No Country stops at an arthouse movie theater playing Rules of the Game and Climates. Gets advice from the ticket guy, watches Climates and likes it. Having seen Climates myself I’m not sure this is too realistic. Also not sure why it was cut from the DVD of To Each His Cinema.

If you go by the IMDB date of original release, nearly all the 2008 movies I’ve seen have sucked. Good stuff like My Blueberry Nights, Paranoid Park and The Edge of Heaven count as last year’s movies. Why is there always a year delay on quality movies, while crap is available immediately? And why do I ask questions on a blog nobody reads?

I never intended for the new Coens comedy to be lumped in with the 2008 crap, but there you have it. This would probably be below Intolerable Cruelty in their pile of late-career misfires, but I’m not about to rewatch that one to find out for sure. Katy “detested” this movie. I thought it was pretty okay, watchable for a few good performances and favorite actors but certainly not for story or humor. I heard this was supposed to be a comedy, so where was the funny?

Plot rundown so I don’t forget everything and feel compelled to watch this again soon: Bearded G. Clooney has seemingly good relationship with wife, but he’s also a huge sex addict, sleeping with Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand, so his wife has hired private investigators to catch him (which is not too hard). John Malkovich is a gov’t flunky who is getting demoted at work and divorced by wife Tilda Swinton and locked out of his house and bank accounts. Frances McD works at a gym with Brad Pitt and wants surgery to look younger. An energetic Pitt accidentally gets a disk of Malkie’s private files and tries to blackmail him with Frances in tow. When blackmail fails, Pitt breaks into Malkie’s house to get more files to sell to the Russians, and is memorably killed by Clooney. Pitt/Frances’ nice boss visits the house trying to help and gets killed by Malkie. Then some bunch of mid-rank government fellas puzzle over what has happened, and tell us about some stuff we did not see, then end the movie with a big godlike zoom-out mirroring the zoom-in at the start, either to show us how far above this story the filmmakers consider themselves, or to point out that nothing of significance actually happened.

Music, recognizably, by Carter Burwell. Good cinematography by Coen newbie Emmanuel Lubezki, who just finished shooting two of the most amazing films of the decade, The New World and Children of Men. Lubezki keeps the film looking alive even when it’s set in a series of depressing buildings (a gym, McDormand’s apartment, government offices), and adds touches of comic terror to the scenes of Malkovich obsessing on his boat or Clooney getting paranoid in the park. He does all he can, I guess. Everyone did all they could… it’s a high-quality production with good acting, but to serve an empty story. The Coens think it’s hilarious to create an amoral world populated by a couple likeable people, then have the rest of the cast bloodily murder those likeable people. I’m aware that they’ve done this plenty of times before, but when the story is tight (Miller’s Crossing, Man Who Wasn’t There) or the humor is funny (Hudsucker Proxy, Raising Arizona) I give their sociopathic tendencies a pass. Not here, bros. Better luck next time.

Happy 10th anniversary to the funniest comedy of the 90’s!

In honor of this anniversary, I intended to post pictures of Jeff Bridges’ smiling eyes, but the DVD crashes my VLC player on both computers, so I will abandon this post before I am tempted to start quoting lines.

Not quite what I’d expected. Thrilling, tense, exciting movie. Brolin and Bardem are impassive Western types, TL Jones is unexpectedly the protagonist. Hardly any music. Good chase scenes in river (brolin vs. a dog) and on abandoned city streets at night (vs. bardem).

TV star Garret Dillahunt played Tommy’s deputy. Kelly Macdonald, who I did not recognize from “Tristram Shandy”, was Brolin’s wife. I knew I’d seen Brolin somewhere… he was a lead in “Planet Terror” (and in The Goonies). Stephen Root as “man who hires Wells”.

On the way home, I was pondering the storyline, decided out loud that while most movies tell you “these are some things that happened”, this movie instead says “this is the way things are.” But I don’t remember what I meant by that.

P. Nugent of Screengrab says about the Coens/Fargo:
“I tend to think of the Coens as surface guys who put an incredible amount of conscious planning into the physical details of their movies, and who are inhumanly aware of how they expect both critics and audiences to respond to their cleverness. It might sound as if I’m one of those people who sometimes badmouth the Coens for being ‘merely’ clever, but cleverness is something I’m all for; at the very least, it sure beats lack of imagination. … Fargo is a smart, impressive movie, but it is also a movie outside what I think of as their best range, and a movie that I think they made for the outside world, a movie pitched at the mainstream.”

Great paragraph from E. Kuersten from his year-end roundup in Bright Lights:
“The Coens love circles… who doesn’t? In NO COUNTRY, locks come flying off in all directions leaving beautiful round holes in which to have light issue, peeping tom doors of perception through which one is able to read at least one thing: a circle! The hula hoops in HUDSUCKER, the hair cream tins in BROTHER; the hubcaps in MAN WHO WASN’T THERE… What do they mean? Exactly! Take ZODIAC, the amazing police procedural that disappears into the same plot void which drowned the old LEBOWSKI. Again, all you’re left with in the end is the shuddering realization that “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is the scariest song ever written. And then in the other corner, you’ve got Tommy Lee Jones playing more or less the same character in both NO COUNTRY and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, that is to say, the leather face of America as it looks off from the Medusa-eye view of the circular zodiac watch screen and crumbles to dust. There’s no easy answers, not no more.”

UPDATE: Watched again April ’08 under slightly adverse conditions. Not as caught up in the tension of the thing this time. I admire it as a technical achievement, great acting and direction, but I’ve been veering more towards Black Book because BB has all of those things as well as Something To Say. I’m not sure that No Country is saying anything valuable, and I’m not sure that the Tommy Lee Jones bits pondering the death of decent human behavior offers enough food for thought to outweigh the rest of the film’s constant reveling in human misbehavior.

Wonderful anthology film, bunch of episodes connected with unexceptional cityscapes shot by one of the producers. I don’t know anything about the neighborhoods of Paris, but I guess each short is supposed to have its own local tone to it.

Man is cursing traffic, cursing everyone, alone and angry, then woman walks by and passes out next to his car. He acts the husband to other onlookers and lays her down in the backseat. She wakes up, they kinda like each other, she’s off to her tobaccologist (?) but they’ll meet up later. A nice opening piece, more like the kind of short that plays the film festivals than most of the other segments turned out to be… they were more episodes, excerpts, not stand-alone stories.
Director Bruno Podalydès starred himself, along with Florence Muller of Resnais’s Coeurs.

Quais de Seine
Boy’s friends are yelling insulting things to every woman who walks by, so boy gets away from them and helps up muslim girl. They like each other, it’s cute, her grandfather is nice to him, awww.
Director Guriner Chadha made Bride & Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham.

La Marais
Jokey bit where dude helping artist Marianne Faithful at a press falls immediately for guy sitting on floor. Dude talks to him forever, tells him how they were destined to meet, gives his phone number, walks off, turns out guy on floor speaks no French, har!
Director Gus Van Sant lovingly photographs Gaspard (the boyfriend in A Very Long Engagement) and Elias (Elephant) in mostly long takes.

American tourist Steve Buscemi is waiting for his subway train and breaking the rules in his tour guide (“don’t make eye contact”), getting himself involved in the power games of two young lovers across the station and leading to his being beaten up with his souvenirs dumped all over him. Poor guy.
Directors Joel & Ethan Coen almost make up for The Ladykillers with this one. Katy was defeated by too-high expectations.

Loin du 16ème
Girl puts her own baby down at the babysitting place, then rides public transit to her job taking case of some rich lady’s baby, sings the same sweet song to both babies. One of the more obvious message-movies, but nice.
Director Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries) cast Catalina Sandino Moreno, of Fast Food Nation and Maria Full of Grace.

Porte de Choisy
Okay, Barbet Schroeder is a bald hair-care product salesman who goes to hardass Madame Li’s place to sell her stuff. First meeting doesn’t go well but she tries the stuff and calls him back, delighted. Sort of a choreographed musical comedy. Makes no damn sense. Best part is when he’s between meetings, bowling at a monastery and monks take away his cell phone.
Directed by Christopher Doyle, who I see is shooting a Rufus Sewell thriller and Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park next.

Guy meets his wife for lunch, intending to tell her he’s leaving her for his mistress, but first she hands over a doctor’s note saying she has terminal leukemia. So he “rises to the occasion”, dumps his girlfriend, and spends the rest of his wife’s life doing things they used to love to do together, falls back in love with her and is destroyed when she dies. The only piece with a 3rd-party narrator, and one of my favorites.
Director Isabel Coixet made The Secret Life of Words and My Life Without Me… stars a guy from Va Savoir as the husband, the girl in a coma in Talk To Her as the mistress, and Miranda Richardson as the wife.

Place des Victoires
Kinda crappy despite two fave stars Willem Dafoe and Juliette Binoche. Her son died a week ago and she follows his phantom voice out to the plaza where Dafoe is a cowboy on a horse who lets her see her son once more. Katy liked it, I thought it was David Lynch-derivative.
Director Nobuhiro Suwa made some well-regarded Japanese movies I’ve never heard of before.

Tour Eiffel
Kid describes how his mime parents first met. Awesome, funny, features identical twins, imaginary cars and lots of miming… the one short that the whole movie would be worth seeing just to catch.
Director Sylvain Chomet’s follow-up to the perfect Triplets of Belleville.

Parc Monceau
In a single shot, father Nick Nolte walks down the street with his daughter to where a friend is watching her son. He takes over babysitting and the friends go off together. Jokey because the dialogue at first makes it sound like she’s cheating on her husband (actually the son) with Nolte.
Director Alfonso Cuarón is into long takes now. I told Katy I was waiting for something to explode but she didn’t get me.

Quartier des Enfants Rouges
One of the better ones… Maggie Gyllenhaal has a kinda cute encounter with her drug dealer, then calls him up to order more (really to see him again), but he sends a flunky instead who steals her watch.
Director Olivier Assayas has apparently completed his new Asia Argento / Michael Madsen thriller.

Place des Fêtes
Another great one, man gets stabbed and as he’s dying, a girl he recognizes is trying to help him. He flashes back to his not-so-easy life in Paris and all the times he’s tried to talk to her. Sad movie.
Director Oliver Schmitz has made a buncha German films. The girl is Aïssa Maïga, the lead (bar singer) in Bamako and also appeared in Caché.

Guy is trying to have a role-playing night out with his wife – it doesn’t go as planned but they’re still alright.
Director Richard LaGravenese made Freedom Writers, seems a weird choice for this. Bob Hoskins stars with Fanny Ardant, whom Katy recognized from 8 Women.

Quartier de la Madeleine
On a creepy street with desaturated colors except for bright-red blood, model Olga Kurylenko is devouring Wes Craven when Elijah Wood interrupts her. Vampire love ensues.
Director Vincenzo Natali made Cube and Nothing, and has seen Sin City more than once.

Spacey, businesslike guy’s on a pre-wedding honeymoon with cute girl, she kisses Oscar Wilde’s grave then decides he’s not romantic enough for her and storms off. He talks to Wilde’s ghost briefly then runs after her and quotes her some Wilde, which idiotically makes her fall back in love with him.
Director Wes Craven isn’t known for this kind of thing. Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer are the couple, Alex Payne plays Wilde.

Faubourg Saint-Denis
Blind boy gets phone call from girlfriend, apparently breaking up with him. He flashes back in high-energy Lola-style through their relationship, how he first met her thinking she was in trouble, falling for her rehearsal performance (she’s an actress). He’s fallen for it again and she’s not really breaking up with him. One of my faves.
Director Tom Tykwer made Perfume. Natalie Portman is the girl. This apparently existed as a separate short back in 2004.

Quartier Latin
Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara get together at a cafe to talk over their divorce at the end of a long marriage. Good one, Rowlands wrote.
Director Gérard Depardieu is probably a big John Cassavetes fan, appears himself as the waiter.

14th arrondissement
Another really nice one, American woman is narrating to her French class (?) about her trip to Paris. She’s kind of lonely and jetlagged, but everything falls into place for her at the end.
Director Alexander Payne made Sideways and Election, and actress Margo Martindale is in Rocket Science and played Swank’s mom in Million Dollar Baby.

Katy liked it, too.

Good ol’ Fargo.

I remembered reading a discussion about Marge’s Japanese classmate and what exactly he’s doing in the movie, but now I uselessly can’t remember any of it.