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Monday Movies: Whiplash

Last weekend The Girlfriend and I got through a ton of Netflix, while this week the focus was going to see movies in the theater. I have the day off today, so I’m still in Chicago, where we are planning on seeing A Single Man with earstwhile Weblog regular The Girl.

Movies viewed:

  • The Child: The Girlfriend had already seen this, so I saved it for Kalamazoo. I read in an A. O. Scott review that Haneke was probably the most prestigious European film director “who doesn’t have the surname Dardenne,” which led me to look up the Dardenne brothers. I found it to be interesting, but it didn’t really stick with me — in fact, I almost forgot about it when writing up this post.
  • A Town Called Panic: This movie was amazing. We knew from seeing the preview that we had to see it — after all, it was a French stop-motion film starring figurines of a horse, a cowboy, and an Indian — and it absolutely delivered. It was a high-energy barrage of cleverness and surprise that never let up. Apparently it is also a TV show, and hopefully they’ll come out with US regioned DVDs soon. I recommend this unreservedly — for those in Chicago, it’s playing at the Music Box.
  • The White Ribbon: The transition to this movie was the first instance of whiplash. We went to a Sunday afternoon showing, and it was completely packed. It was obviously very slow and I began to feel skeptical about halfway through, but by the end the ambiguity surrounding the crimes was so artfully handled that he won me back over easily. It deserves more extended consideration than this, but I need more time to think it over. It may not be up to the level of his previous films in some ways, but the amount of buzz surrounding it has made me think it will be his “breakthrough” film, and the number of people packed into a huge theater at 3 o’clock on a Sunday confirmed that suspicion.
  • Point Blank: We watched this after getting home from The White Ribbon. I put it on my list after reading a Stanley Fish column about revenge films and being amused at the premise it shared with Mel Gibson’s Payback, a favorite of mine from college: the protagonist is betrayed and left for dead, but all he wants is his cut of the heist. This movie makes Mel Gibson look like a genius — it’s full of faux-artful flashbacks and weird cuts, and the “I just want my money” theme comes in only toward the end, mysteriously unmotivated. The action sequences, such as they were, were completely pathetic. Yet for some reason we watched the entire thing.

I’ve got Ordinary People and Cassavetes’ Opening Night from Netflix currently, with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie set to come next. I’ll also note that I took virtually all of your recommendations from last week and put them within the top 20 of my queue. (This leads me to a feature request: instead of being forced to choose between the end of the queue and the #1 position, Netflix should give you the option of placing a newly-added film in a randomized slot between 2 and 10 — not immediately, but soon.)

What have you been watching?


January 18, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. I don’t know if I’m missing a joke here, but: you do realise that Payback is a remake of Point Blank? And that they’re both based on Richard Stark’s novel ‘The Hunter’?

    Comment by Sam C | January 18, 2010

  2. Sorry, that second sentence should say ‘and that they’re both *therefore* based…’

    Comment by Sam C | January 18, 2010

  3. I did not realize that Payback was a remake. That obviously makes sense.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 18, 2010

  4. The Baader-Meinhof Complex. Thrilling and fascinating. Even though I’d heard about the gang, mostly through Gerhard Richter’s exhibit, I hadn’t ever before got a sense of the scale and duration of their operations. The movie seemed to take very serious the premise that this was a liberal society confounded by violence rooted in left-wing criticism (without undercutting the batshit craziness of it). And now I totally have the hots for Gudrun Ensslin.

    Comment by K-sky | January 18, 2010

  5. I saw The Man Who Wasn’t There (eh) and Sleuth (Sir Laurence/Sir Michael version) again for the n time. It remains fantastic.

    Comment by ben | January 18, 2010

  6. A Town Called Panic is coming to Irvine, CA before it’s coming to San Francisco, CA.

    Comment by ben | January 18, 2010

  7. Wow, my earlier comment was dickish. Apologies: please ignore me…

    Comment by Sam C | January 18, 2010

  8. I once saw John Boorman do a Q & A after a screening of Point Blank. He discussed a meeting with Lee Marvin in which Marvin tried to persuade him to direct the film, Boorman had some reservations about the quality of the script, Marvin said I want you to direct this film, you have carte blanche (he also threatened to walk to producers until Boorman got final cut and control of casting, etc) and threw the lackluster script out the window, and as Boorman said “a young Mel Gibson must have been walking down that street at that very moment and picked up that horrible screenplay.” I must agree with Boorman on this. Point Blank is a brilliant film. Payback I cannot say the same for.

    Comment by ed | January 18, 2010

  9. The Century of Self, Lessons of Darkness, The Red and the White and Up in the Air.

    I think now I want to see The White Ribbon despite Waggish’s interesting pan.

    Comment by Marc W. | January 18, 2010

  10. A Single Man was very good, I thought.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 18, 2010

  11. I had the misfortune of watching “April One” on the weekend, mostly by luck. The description said it was a about a hostage taking in Ottawa at the Bahamian consulate. The only hostage takings in Ottawa I can remember is when some crazy guy locks his wife in the house and threatens to kill her. This was somewhat better–apparently the guy wanted a vacant building converted into a women’s shelter and to have his friend released from prison. Only in the credits did I discover this “based on a real story” happened in the early eighties. No wonder I was unaware of it. Ironic twist: the actor playing the main character looks a lot like Charlie Sheen.

    Also by accident, we watched “Pontypool,” which is set in the obscure Ontario town of the same name. Surprisingly good–a zombie movie, in essence, presented as an Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio play format. Plus, the zombie virus is transmitted through infected words.

    Lastly, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” (I called it “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Mix Tape” when my students asked me what I watched on the weekend.) Cute, but Michael Cera will only be able to pull off this character for a couple more year at which point it will become sad. I found Norah unsympathetic (like the girl in “Twilight”), Caroline intolerable, and Tris repulsive. I liked the gay guys, though. If nothing else, the movie inspired me to listen to the Islands on the way in to campus today.

    Comment by Craig | January 19, 2010

  12. I recently finished the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and greatly enjoyed it. (At this point I should come out–as if the triviality of my comments hasn’t given me away–and say that im totally new, and just a casual observer to all things philosophical [i’m a comp sci undergrad at the moment]).

    Comment by micah | January 19, 2010

  13. Just wanted to give props to The Red and the White, one of my favorite films. It’s brilliant.

    I just saw Wakamatsu’s United Red Army for the second time; it’s a bit clunky but still a very convincing portrayal of the cult mentality (in this case, Japanese Marxist militants). I knew about Baader-Meinhof but knew next to nothing about Japanese Red Army sects prior to seeing this film. Also started on a 1992 Russian version of Kafka’s The Castle which looks intriguing, albeit very Russian.

    Comment by mr waggish | January 19, 2010

  14. Never seen Point Blank but Point Break is one of my all time favorites.

    Comment by Hill | January 19, 2010

  15. One can, in the netflix queue, change the number next to a film and then click on a button, and voila, the film is moved to that very rank. I move groups of new entries to 4,7,9 etc.
    the existing previous ones just move back.

    Comment by grackle | January 19, 2010

  16. I’m aware of that feature and use it frequently. What I’m asking for is an additional “not immediately, but soon” button on the page that pops up right when you add something.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 20, 2010

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