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.



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.

A “new movie” is defined herein as any of the following:
– a movie released in 2010 (e.g. Black Swan)
– a non-2010 movie I saw in theaters in 2010 (e.g. The White Ribbon)
– a non-2010 movie I saw on video in 2010 which I couldn’t reasonably have seen sooner (e.g. The Headless Woman)

1. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
The only movie I saw twice in theaters this year, so I am sure about this.

2. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais)
Perhaps if I understood it, I’d enjoy it less. Finally Resnais’s wild sense of mystery has returned.

3. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
One of everybody’s favorite movies of last year is now one of my favorite movies of this year.

4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Maybe only my second-favorite Weerasethakul movie I watched this year, but they’d sure be close. It’s the one on this list which I still think about most often.

5. The Social Network (David Fincher)
Everyone else’s favorite movie of the year is at least my favorite one in the English language.

6. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar)
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
8. Mother (Bong Joon-ho)
9. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
10. A Single Man (Tom Ford)
11. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam)
12. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)

Honorable mentions: Revanche, The Headless Woman, the weirdly awesome It Felt Like a Kiss, music doc It Might Get Loud, Miike’s Yatterman, and Shutter Island.

The plan this year was to watch all the movies listed here (final tally: 53/155), then after I cancelled that plan I instead planned to watch all the movies listed here (a miserable 9/90). I think the plan for 2011 will be not to follow any specific list. Because I have plenty of lists (see also: here and here and here) and they all seem like good ones to follow, but not for an entire year. Theme months are fun though – December was Westerns month and before that came SHOCKtober – so maybe we’ll do more of those.

From other long-term viewing quests: seen 54% of available Criterion DVDs (up 2% from last year – catching up!), 55% of movies on the “They Shoot Pictures” list (somehow down from last year – did my math wrong somewhere), and 46% of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s 1000 favorite films.

Popular filmmakers: I ended up watching six movies by Pedro Costa (only because the seventh is unavailable) this year, and three each by Claude Chabrol, Samuel Fuller, Fritz Lang, Takashi Miike, Frank Borzage and John Ford.

I watched only ten features which IMDB would count as 2010 releases, and added (so far) a hundred more to my must-see list. At least I’ll never run out of movies.

At one point I was trying to watch tons of movies from 1977, the year I was born, but I didn’t manage to watch a single one of those this year – until yesterday with Close Encounters. Seems alright to fall behind on the 1977-movies goal, since they’re not making any more of them.

2010: Katy liked it, too.

Watched this the same night as The Social Network. They both currently rank in the top 150 movies of all time according to IMDB voters, who have no sense of history. I cringed when I saw Aronofsky’s handheld follow-cam from The Wrestler, but he didn’t overdo that stuff this time. He’s always had a knack for filming deteriorating human bodies and creating sustained intensity through editing and music – plenty of opportunity for both in a story about a ballet dancer going mad. Mila “Extract” Kunis was just as good as Natalie Portman. Barbara Hershey (as Portman’s mom) and Winona Ryder (as the washed-up dancer Portman replaces) round out the cast – apparently a very female picture, though it didn’t feel like one. Will Darren ever make a movie in which nobody dies (or suffers massive trauma, whatever) at the end?

Do I detect an Inland Empire influence?

Too bad the song “Black Swan” wasn’t in the movie, but it couldn’t have made a bigger impact than it did over the ending of A Scanner Darkly.

I avoided this because I don’t much care about Facebook, but after it started winning every major year-end award I thought again. Besides, I’ve seen every other David Fincher movie in theaters, so why stop now? And I kinda loved it. What’s strange is that the stylistic flourishes I love in Fincher’s films (didn’t love so much in The Benjamin Buttons) were missing from this one – except in the great scene of the Winklevoss brothers’ big race, a wordless high-energy montage scored to a Reznor version of In the Hall of the Mountain King (better known by me as the Tetris song). Otherwise, Fincher’s style seems to disappear, simply supporting the brilliant writing (Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War) and acting (Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland, Andrew Garfield of Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Justin Timberlake of Southland Tales and Armie Hammer, who recently played Harrison Bergeron).


I think I liked it better than Katy did, but then, she’d seen The Princess and the Frog so I had lower expectations – the most recently-produced Disney animated movie I’d seen was Atlantis (and before that The Lion King). Didn’t find it as edgy and Shrek-like as the poster and trailer promised (which is a Good Thing), just a perfectly-paced, well-animated classic adventure story.

Backstory: the kingdom’s magical rejuvenating flower is used to heal the pregnant queen, so her daughter’s hair takes on the flower’s powers. Evil stepmom witch kidnaps the young princess so that the hair will keep her forever young (by that logic, why doesn’t Rapunzel’s own hair keep her from growing past the age of five?) but Rapunzel yearns to escape in order to see up close the lanterns released in the kingdom each year in memory of the missing princess. That accounts for the classic fairy-tale part, then the thief, a royal guard’s white horse, Rap’s pet chameleon, and the tough bar patrons who wish to be mimes represent the hyperactive post-Aladdin Disney.

Actors: I didn’t recognize Southland Tales star Mandy Moore as Rapunzel, nor the Voice of Chuck as the thief, nor Doc Ock’s wife in Spider-man 2 as the old witch, nor Ron Perlman as the thief’s twin thug associates, nor Pixar regular Brad Garrett, nor Jeffrey Tambor, etc, etc.

Pedigree: One of the directors did Bolt, the writer worked on Cars, and supervising animator Glen Keane (the Family Circus author’s son), who sounds like the main man behind the look of the film, has been a Disney guy since the 70’s.