90 days, 90 movies – we are back on pace, people! Though these huge monthly posts seem rather cumbersome. What’s a better pace to post these things: Weekly? Daily? We’ll try weekly first, starting in April.

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WOULD YOU RATHER (2013)

One of the things that most annoys me in films is people acting as if nothing they do matters. It’s realistic to have people trying to lose themselves in a moment and forget that tomorrow there will be consequences. I understand that, I just don’t like it. I like things that matter. I want things to matter. Consequences are not to be feared, and they certainly can’t be dismissed. Decisions are there to be made, and if you don’t make them, someone else will – and there’s no guarantee they’ll have your best interests at heart when they make it. All of which makes Would You Rather a movie right up my alley.

The conceit is simple: A group of strangers are called to be part of a dinner party. All of them are enduring some sort of financial and personal hardship. They are told that there will be a game, and whoever wins the game will be freed from their troubles. So clearly some shit is about to go down. The game, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Would You Rather.

One of my favorite memories of LA is the time my girlfriend, Amy, and I went to the Steve Allen Theater to see “Nevermore,” Jeffrey Combs’ one man show about Edgar Allen Poe. I insisted we sit in the front row, as I am a bit of a Jeffrey Combs fan. The show was excellent, but the highlight for me was when Edgar gives chase to his fiancé briefly, then stops and returns to the stage. Before he gets back up on stage, however, he stops and delivers a monologue (I suppose technically the whole thing is a monologue, but shut up) of incredible emotional anguish. And because I had insisted we sit in the front row, Combs delivered this monologue looking me right in the eye, looming over me, not three feet away. It was amazing.

I recount this because Jeffrey Combs is the male lead and villain in Would You Rather, and he is spectacular. Brittany Snow is the female lead and hero, and is also very good. The whole cast is good, actually, though I might qualify that when it comes to Sasha Grey, who I think might be good, but also might be wholly unqualified to be an actress.

Those with a general awareness of her story know that she made her name as a porn star, then transitioned into dramatic work via Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience and a couple seasons of Entourage. I stopped watching Entourage in the third season, but I saw The Girlfriend Experience and didn’t think she was horrible. That was then. Now, it feels like whenever I see her she’s wearing that same smirk that seems to reek of unearned wisdom. Remember in Full Metal Jacket when the soldiers are practicing their thousand-yard stare because they’re told that’s the mark of a guy who’s seen some shit? That’s what Sasha Grey reminds me of, people trying to affect the look of a person who earned their perspective. Now, in the course of this story, it kind of works for the character: She’s the Tough Girl. She’s endured something horrible, and has shut herself off, thinking that no one can ever possibly understand what it means to be her. She keeps her cards close to her chest, because somewhere behind those eyes she knows how easily it can all come tumbling down. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m projecting, because I want to find something to like in her performance.

In any case, this movie was pretty awesome. This is what the Saw franchise could have been if the filmmakers cared a bit more.

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DEAD RINGERS (1988)

I think it’s fair to say that David Cronenberg has inched into my Top Ten Filmmakers of All Time list. I’m sure the technology that allowed Jeremy Irons to play twins was revolutionary at the time of production, but that it still works some twenty-five years later serves as a pretty clear explanation for why you can’t tie your film’s legacy to its visual effects. The speed of progress is eclipsed only by the speed of acclimation. Of course, were this merely an exercise in VFX, I doubt Cronenberg would have wasted his time. One can always count on Cronenberg to make a film bristling with ideas.

I found particularly resonant the idea of what it is that separates us from each other, especially when it comes to Love. Here, we have two identical twins, so similar that they can share women. This comes to a halt when one of the twins falls in love with an actress, and she with him. Before she even knows the truth of the matter, which is mercifully not drawn out, she knows that something is amiss. How can he be so different from one day to the next? She suspects, as politely as one can, schizophrenia. It’s a truth widely known that in matters of love and intimacy, certain people – a random lot at the mercy of a damnable fickleness – are an almost tactile representation of home. Taste, touch, smell, all serve to undo a lock whose combination we don’t even know.

But, of course, it’s not enough to stand on the outside, looking in and wondering why that’s not you. The burden of self-awareness is also on those inside, wondering what it was that separated them from the pack. With someone so similar standing at their side, what made them special? This question, also damnable, has ended more than its fair share of relationships, I’d wager. Trust is a strange thing, elusive to many of us. In some cases, it is viewed in a sort of binary way, where one can either fully trust themselves or fully trust someone else. Either is done at the expense of the other, and neither of these ends particularly well.

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TEMPLE GRANDIN (2010)

Chances are, this is the sort of movie I would usually deride for being manipulative and schmaltzy and all that. But there’s something about stories regarding the various forms of autism, that I find enormously effecting. Maybe it’s because I think we all learn systems in order to facilitate social interaction. We start the day, if only for a brief moment, as ourselves. Then we remember that there are external demands on us – partner, job, children, etc – and we must curb our most self-centered impulses in order to exist in the larger context of a functional society. Chris Rock has a fantastic bit about how when we meet someone, we’re actually meeting their representative. As usual, the prophet is absolutely correct. And in the case of autistic people, these little dishonesties are baffling and often insurmountable. Because really, shouldn’t they always be? Why do we have to be someone else in our quest to find someone with whom we can age and die?

Not that Temple Grandin is about that. I just say all of that to explain that while some might find this movie too manipulative, I was very moved by it. Also, Claire Danes kicks an immense amount of ass.

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DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

Spike Lee said he won’t watch this movie. Spike Lee is missing out. (I wonder how many of his friends have told him that.)

Quentin Tarantino made the film that convinced me I want to spend my life making films and telling stories (Pulp Fiction, which I’m sure I’ll watch and write about sometime this year), so he’ll always have a place in my heart. Over the years, his films have become more exciting and impressive to me and less great and inspiring. That being said, this movie has elements of greatness: most notably, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. Christoph Waltz won the Oscar, and he is very good in it, but the other two are doing some next-level shit here. Will Smith was originally supposed to play the titular Django, but backed out reportedly due to discomfort with the period language that caused such consternation upon the film’s release. Maybe he should join Spike’s “See No Django” club, because Jamie Foxx took over his role and is fantastic.

And then there’s the lynch mob scene. Tarantino made a lynch mob hilarious. That’s skill.

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ROBOT AND FRANK (2012)

I dug this film. It’s small and quiet, with Frank Langella delivering a hell of a performance opposite a robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, who turns in a wonderful vocal performance. Frank is starting to suffer from dementia, so his son gives him a robot companion to help him stay active and organized. Frank is also a career thief, and he quickly realizes that the robot is more corruptible than previously thought. It’s a caring portrayal of someone losing their mind – and by extension their sense of self – and doesn’t grasp beyond its reach. I heartily endorse this film, if you’re in the mood for a minor key film with heart.

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ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)

William Miller, I wish I didn’t identify with you so much.

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TRUE LIES (1994)

It’s safe to call this “Lesser Cameron,” right? I mean, it’s still a tremendously fun film that moves swiftly, but given that we’ve seen what the man is capable of (T2, Aliens, etc), we can call this a solid B for him, right? Similar to Woody Allen – and find me another blog comparing James Cameron to Woody Allen – whose solid-but-unexceptional films would stand as the best work of most other filmmakers, Cameron has shown he has a tremendously high ceiling for cinematic excellence. Seriously, his two aforementioned films have aged insanely well, and that’s saying nothing of the original Terminator (somehow still underrated), The Abyss, and Titanic (yeah, the script leaves a lot to be desired, but he directed the hell out of that movie and it totally works). I don’t like Avatar, but will readily concede that he had a bold vision and executed it in a way I’m not sure anyone else could have. The man works towards tomorrow like he’s afraid of today.

But this film has not aged well at all. I appreciate the desire to make an action film about the work it takes to keep a marriage afloat, though I’m far more likely to throw in Mr. and Mrs. Smith when I’m in the mood for that particular tale. Also, there were several times when he seemed to be doing his own riff on the cinema of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, especially when Jamie Lee Curtis drops the Uzi down some stairs and it goes off, killing all the bad guys.

The casual sexism/racism/xenophobia/etc grated on me pretty much the entire time. I think I’ll stick with the rest of his oeuvre when I feel like digging on some Cameron.

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PROMISED LAND (2012)

Message movies need not suck. At least, I think they need not suck. I really dug this movie, and the turn at the end was surprising and compelling and made the filmmakers’ point in a way that didn’t strike me as didactic. Then the speech happened. Ah well.

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THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001)

Good lord, Guillermo del Toro can craft atmosphere. Not that I think this movie is anywhere near as awesome as his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, but I do have an urge to start calling ghosts “Santi” now.

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BUG (2006)

I had no idea what to expect from this movie. I watched it mostly because I’d recently seen Killer Joe and felt I needed to see what else Friedkin had been up to lately. This movie fascinated me. Ashley Judd traversing the fine line between physical and emotional abuse, and the way this is manifested by Tracy Letts’ immensely troubling script, will not be forgotten.

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REBECCA (1940)

I need another Hitchcock phase. I watched a bunch of his movies when I was young, and I remember liking them, but those memories don’t feel as essential as my Stanley Kubrick phase or my Ingmar Bergman phase. I remember loving Vertigo and Notorious, and really digging Rear Window. I have no lasting memory of Psycho or North by Northwest, aside from I know I watched them. I definitely need to revisit him.

I liked this movie, particularly the sequence wherein the camera tracks the story our male lead is telling his wife. Or at least where the story took place, in another time.

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VINCENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF VINCENT VAN GOGH (1988)

A fascinating little film. Much has been made already of Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo, but here Paul Cox takes the words and puts them against the sights and sounds Vincent was experiencing while he wrote them. By the end, you’ve been transported to his mindset – which seems to me the ultimate goal of most filmmaking.

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THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

A few years ago, I met Jonathan Nolan and told him that The Dark Knight opened the same weekend as a Godard retrospective at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. I was psyched for the Godard retrospective, but I knew I had to see his movie opening day. So I did, and it ruined me for Godard. I loved The Dark Knight. I still love it. This is not that.

I cannot, in good conscience, call this a good movie. There are just too many weird leaps and contradictions. In the previous two films, you could feel Nolan wanting to tell a story, but also wanting to be invisible. He was surrendering to a greater presence than himself. Some years back, a survey found that the most internationally recognized symbol is that of Batman. Nolan was playing in a sandbox, the size of which he could not conceive. Here, though, he’d become synonymous with that sandbox, and every bit of the film feels like him talking to you.

But I will say this: I watched the movie with my Dad the other night, and that was fantastic. Few things make me as happy as spending time with my Dad. He and I went to the Tim Burton Batman movies together, except for Batman and Robin, and saw Batman Begins together. Distance prevented us from seeing The Dark Knight together, so it was nice to sit with him and watch this one.

After Bane has broken Batman and blown up the football field and just generally screwed everyone’s day up, Dad looks over at me and asks, “Is this ending soon?” I told him he had about another hour, to which he replied by turning it off and going to bed. We finished it the next day.

The movie was not good, but the time with Dad sure was.

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OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)

“More fun than good” seems a pretty good description of this movie. I enjoyed it, for the most part, while watching it. Then, later, while discussing it with my friend John, I found more and more parts troubling. It may not sit with the best Raimi has ever made, but it doesn’t sit with his worst either.

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TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011)

It took me a while to see the point of this movie. I like Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, so it wasn’t the most difficult thing in the world to sit there and watch them, but it also didn’t feel essential. And then she’d run off with the other dude for an afternoon and the movie felt more engaged and essential. And then I saw the point: The film had put me in the mindset of Williams, bored at home and looking for something to excite her. And it had the good sense to know the awful truth of entropy in human relationships. The speed of progress is eclipsed only by the speed of acclimation. We always grow bored. We must accept this, or we’ll just keep chasing something that only exists in fiction and dreams. And there is no satisfaction to be found in that.

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MILLER’S CROSSING (1990)

“There’s nothing more foolish than a man chasing his own hat.”

The Coen Brothers are just damn talented filmmakers. This may not be my favorite of theirs, or even in the top five, but it’s definitely a solid bit of filmmaking.

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THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2008)

This was the first Rian Johnson film I saw in the theater. I was on a date, which was going horribly. We were sitting at the bar in the Sherman Oaks Arclight. She went to the bathroom and I called for the check. You want to know how badly the date went? The bartender comped my check. He looked at her chair and shook his head and sighed a little before saying “Sorry, man.” That is how bad the date went.

And by the time Stephen tells Bloom that the structural flaw in fake blood is that it stays red when it dries, as opposed to real blood which turns brown, I had forgotten all about the horribleness that had just happened. I was in love.

Some people seem to consider the weakest of Rian Johnson’s oeuvre, but I think this might be my favorite. I like letting go of myself and getting swept up in this world he imagines and captures with infectious joy. The world of this movie is the world I imagined growing up reading globetrotting adventures and gazing at the horizon, wondering what might lie beyond it.

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SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957)

This movie screened as part of the first TCM Festival. I covered the festival that year, but was unable to attend this particular screening. I kept hearing about it, though, especially the line “The cat is in the bag, and the bag is in the river.” This is how the movie came to be on my radar. Then I read an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson wherein he was asked if there was a movie he wished he’d written and he answered “Sweet Smell of Success.” My curiosity was piqued.

It’s safe to say that I’m going to have make Film Noir a big part of this project. Not that I always want to watch movies with a cynical worldview, but when they’re this good, I am game.

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THE SUNSET LIMITED (2011)

It is an abiding goal of mine to one day adapt Yasmena Reza’s play “Art” into a film. As a play, it is wonderfully minimalist. Three men on a stage that bears only a couch and sometimes a piece of art. It is my favorite play, and I welcome the challenge of making so theatrical into something cinematic.

The Sunset Limited is a play by Cormac McCarthy. As a film, it is still a play written by Cormac McCarthy. Tommy Lee Jones directs it as a play: Just he and Samuel L. Jackson in a single location. Not that you really need more when you’re working from a text by Cormac. Dad suggested this one. Dad was right.

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FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)

I was in the mood to watch a Steve Martin movie I hadn’t seen in a while the other night. This instantly disqualified The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which I watch fairly frequently. I have no great connection to this movie, but it’s certainly a pleasant, inoffensive way to spend 105 minutes. Which I don’t think I can say for any other film Nancy Meyers has touched (she co-wrote this screenplay).

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THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)

Intense. Intense is a word I could use to describe this movie. An American Gothic Thriller as told through German Expressionism? Yep, intense is a word.

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BRICK (2005)

I rewatched Rian Johnson’s movies because I had been asked onto a radio show to discuss my own career as well as that of Rian Johnson. So rather than write yet another glowing post about him, I’ll just link to that episode:

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PURPLE RAIN (1984)

How the hell does this movie work? Oh, right, Prince is magic.

This movie is bizarre, and somehow it’s greatest strength is also a kind of weakness. I think the story is supposed to be that Prince – sorry, The Kid – isn’t a great musician at first, and only becomes one when he opens himself up to the world around him. The problem here is that Prince IS a great musician, and not a very good actor. The movie opens with Prince and the Revolution playing “Let’s Go Crazy” and IT. IS. AWESOME. And then they play a few more songs throughout the movie, and they’re all awesome because they’re Prince songs from Prince’s peak period. But then, yeah, he incorporates some music other people wrote and it’s “Purple Rain” and it’s EVEN MORE AWESOME THAN THE AWESOME THAT CAME BEFORE. Seriously, that “Purple Rain” sequence might be perfect cinema, and all it’s really just the director pointing the camera at Prince while he sings, then getting coverage of some extras listening to the song. But holy crap, it’s perfect. Like I said, Prince is magic.

Also, you get Morris Day and his right-hand man Jerome share a “Who’s On First” scene.

The 80s were weird, man.

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360 (2011)

Fernando Meirelles is a fascinating visual artist, and I really dig him as a director. That said, I found this movie mostly boring. Ben Foster shows up to make his fifteen minutes compelling, and then the ending sequence is well-done. But overall, there’s no real cohesion as a story, just a bunch of stuff that happens.

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BLAST OF SILENCE (1961)

I took an acting class back in high school, and in this class was a guy who we will call James. James did not have much of an acting range. Really, it was more of an acting sliver. He was the kind of kid who carried himself like he was in a Scorsese movie, because that’s how he thought men were supposed to act. Any assignment we were given would be shot through this prism. Typically, it went worse than you’re thinking. But for the final, we were given a great deal of freedom in choosing our performance piece. I don’t remember what exact scene he chose, I just remember that he killed it. It didn’t just exist within his sliver, it WAS his sliver. He was so present, so immediate…it kinda blew us all away.

That’s pretty much how I feel about this movie. There are times when the filmmaking seems, well, let’s say “limited” and leave it at that. But the movie has a voice – hell, the movie is ALL VOICE. Sometimes I watch a movie and I wonder why the filmmakers felt they needed to make the film. With Blast of Silence, this is never in question. I don’t even know necessarily what they’re saying, but they mean every damn word. I respect that.

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BLINDNESS (2008)

Now, this Meirelles film I found quite interesting. In it, a bunch of people go blind and put into blind ghettos or something. One woman lies and says she’s blind so she can stay with her husband and take care of him. She is our surrogate, literally our eyes in a dystopia. It’s nowhere near Meirelles’ masterpiece City of God, nor his The Constant Gardener. But I found it effective, as there were times when I was horribly uncomfortable. Which is a recommendation, coming from me.

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KALIFORNIA (1993)

I have now seen this movie. In high school, and then again just after I returned from my time in the Army, I worked at a video store. I would see this box all the time and hear people talk about how much they liked it, and always thought I should sit down at some point and watch it. And now I have. Juliette Lewis is really, really good in this, and Brad Pitt is just plum AWESOME. Knowing he’s from Springfield, MO, and having spent some time in Springfield, MO, makes it even better, too. I didn’t connect to the movie, really, but was fascinated by him.

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THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952)

Nick suggested I see this. Somehow, I’ve made it this far never having seen a movie with Young Kirk Douglas.

This movie is lovely. Douglas is a movie producer who inspires in his friends and colleagues the best work of their careers, and inevitably destroyed their relationships with his ego. Now they are all old, and he needs to assemble his greatest collaborators and friends to get a movie made, and none of them will take his call. It’s a simple thing, a series of flashbacks that tell the stories of these triumphs and dissolutions. But if Hollywood has proven anything, it needn’t be complicated to be enjoyable.

One moment in particular stood out to me: A line of actresses are brought into his office, and without any of them saying a word, he chooses the one we’ve previously met as the daughter of an old actor he revered. This makes sense in the narrative, but I couldn’t help but think of the psychology of those other actresses. They had gone through a series of auditions and all that stuff, then paraded into an office where they were dismissed in an instant, without even having the chance to utter a word. Man, I could not be an actor.

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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)

Another Nick recommendation. About this one, he said: “It’s a two-and-a-half hour movie about an old man who doesn’t change.” Yeah, that sounds like an Adam Movie.

And it was! I loved this movie. It’s the second film of The Archers that I have seen – the first being The Red Shoes – and I need to see more. I love that they made a movie about how age is something that sneaks up on you. And I LOOOOOOOOOVED that they manifested this through General Candy loving one woman, and spending his life chasing her in the iteration that he knew her. It never occurs to him that she grew old, that she evolved, that she was a dynamic person, a world unto herself. She will always be exactly as he saw her, because he always be exactly who he was when he knew her: A Young Man.

This movie is gonna fill me with existential terror from time to time, I can feel it.

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STOKER (2013)

There is a visual language that audiences have come to expect from film, a way in which they expect information to be conveyed. This film goes to great lengths in its cinematography, editing, and sound design, to ensure the audience is never comfortable – and in doing so, forces the audience to surrender and experience the film on the film’s terms. I understand that not everyone is going to like this, but for someone who watches entirely too many films, this acts as a sort of palate cleanser, a shot in the arm that inspires me and reminds me why I love movies in the first place.

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BABETTE’S FEAST (1988)

Emily loves this movie, so I knew I needed to watch it. It reminded me of Bergman or Kurosawa, in that things happen so organically that you forget there’s a camera there capturing it all. It is a film about kindness, mercy, and the transcendent power of a truly great meal. I can see why Emily loves this movie, I think I might love it too.

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THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOSIE (1972)

A bunch of people get together for a dinner party. Then they leave, having not eaten. So they get together for another dinner party, but don’t eat then either. Then lunch, but not. Tea, coffee, water in the afternoon, but nothing is drank. They eat and drink in their dreams. They also die. Basically, if something is actually happening, you can bet someone is dreaming. Usually the person to whom something is happening.

This probably doesn’t sound like I liked this movie, but that would be false. It took me a while to fall into Bunuel’s rhythm, but once I found it I was hooked. I have heard that I need to his The Exterminating Angel, and after seeing this I will definitely make that happen soon.

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THE WAR ROOM (1993)

I was in 8th grade when I volunteered for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. My parents were both very Republican, which I’m sure had something to do with it. (Yeah! My rebellious streak was to take a civic interest and try to get out the vote! Lock up your daughters!)

For those interested in the coal that keeps the campaign engine burning, check this out. It’s cool to catch a glimpse of history from an angle you didn’t see at the time. That, and James Carville is the man. He gives a speech late in the film wherein he tries to keep from crying as he atta-boy’s the staff. I am paraphrasing here, but he says something along the lines of “I was 33 before I ever made it to Washington or New York. I was 42 before I won my first campaign. We changed something here tonight.” Now, obviously the election of William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 did not spell the end of muckraking politics. But it’s cool to look back on something so familiar to me, and be reminded of how hopeful we were just a quarter century ago.

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A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)

I love Peter Sellers. People I like and respect have been telling me I should see this movie for some time now, so I expected to really dig it. But I didn’t. I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t connect to it at all. Personally, I think slapstick works best when it exists simply as the world throwing physical law at a character who simply wants to do something or go somewhere. Here, slapstick seemed to exist because the filmmakers had discovered in the first one that Sellers is quite good at it. None of it needs to happen, and yet it does. Constantly. For some reason.

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IKIRU (1952)

Ikiru makes me want to walk out the door in the clothes that I am wearing and walk until I cannot walk anymore, then sit down. When I sit, maybe I will reflect on where I am in the world, or maybe I will just sit and rest. I may engage with the world around me, or I may remain an island in this new place. In either case, I will remain quiet. I think, maybe, for a year. No words. Just walking, and sitting, and whatever else the universe presents.

This was another Nick suggestion, and again Nick was right. I loved this movie. I loved this movie – loved this movie – loved this movie. From the opening narration, to the hospital scene where we are given the decoder ring to a code that has not yet been used, to “Let me be your good Mephistophiles” to “I work and I sleep” to everything else. Especially the Wake scene. Oh my, that wake. I could go on and on about how amazing this movie is, but I’ve already told you that it makes me want to wander the world in silence. What else really need be said?

I look forward to watching this film many, many more times in my life.

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DARK SKIES (2013)

Boy, this was a surprise. My brother-in-law wrote a nice piece about this film – which you can read here: http://veryaware.com/2013/03/why-did-dimension-dump-dark-skies/ — so I went in expecting to like it. Still, I was surprised by how much I liked it.

The film opens with a card bearing a quote from Arthur C. Clarke about the potential for life on other planets. It struck me as odd that they’d go to that immediately, giving away what I imagined to be the point of the film. I was wrong. I was so very wrong. Dark Skies is not found-footage at all, but it uses some of the language we’ve learned from films like Paranormal Activity to tell it’s almost Spielbergian tale of a family dealing with a threat they cannot understand or predict. While Spielberg started small and built to a famously epic scope in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this is a film that starts small and stays there. For most of us, the news remains a distant thing. Were humanity to make contact with, or be contacted by, beings from another planet, we would be interested, but then we would go to work or school the next day, talk about it briefly, and then turn our attention back to the petty minutiae of day-to-day existence. But what, the film asks, if the news was happening in your house? To you and your family?

The writing of this film is pretty tight. The direction of this film is incredibly tight. It is shot well, cut well, and scored well. It is a damn dirty shame that Dimension dumped it with so little fanfare. This film deserves a bigger audience. Go see it.

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ADMISSION (2013)

I have nothing really to say about this one. It was competently made, though not really remarkable in any way. I expect it will be perfectly suited to people finding it on Netflix some lazy Sunday afternoon.

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SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

James Franco. James Franco, James Franco, James Franco. If you’re wondering why you’re hearing about this movie, and why you should see it, the answer is simple: James Franco. Dude is doing some next level shit here. And just as Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Killer Joe last year was completely overlooked by organizations ostensibly trying to reward the best in performances, I have to think Franco’s immersion into the character of Alien will go similarly overlooked.

Not that Franco is the only good thing happening here. Harmony Korine has produced a piece of fairly incredible cinema here. It’s far from flawless, or even consistent, but the peaks it gets to are incredible. Early in the film, there is a robbery of a restaurant, and the ways he chooses to show it and tell it are both awesome. Using the screeching strains of Skrillex to score the masses of undulating bodies on their own spring break provides a perfect Greek Chorus for the myriad horrible decisions happening every moment on these beaches. Years ago, I saw Catherine Hardwick’s Thirteen and called it one of my new favorite horror films. This easily gets filed into that same folder. Korine has taken every parent’s worst nightmare, and reconciled it against the wanton desires and impulses of youth. It was accepted for years that men all over the country were jerking off to each other’s daughters on those Girls Gone Wild tapes, and that was about as far as we were willing to go down that rabbit hole. Here, Korine calls us all pussies and shows us the reality of the rabbit hole.

Of course, it would be unfair to write this film up and not talk about the girls. Much was made of the fact that two Disney princesses had aligned themselves with the auteur behind Trash Humpers in an effort to shed their squeaky-clean image and grow up in the eyes of the world. And to their credit, they acquit themselves nicely here. Selena Gomez doesn’t really have a lot to do, as the member of the group least willing to give herself over to the glorious decadence afoot, but she is never bad in the role of the super-ego, and never seems to take a wrong step in her performance. Rachel Korine, Harmony Korine’s wife, throws herself fully into the role of the id, which requires her to be not-quite-smart-enough to think there might ever be anything after the moment she’s in presently. Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens would probably then be the ego. While they want to transcend their boundaries and lose themselves in the moment, they are always aware of the moment and where their boundaries exist within it. I don’t know that they’re smart enough to ever self-actualize, but they’re certainly aware enough to function in a chaotic world. 

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