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Monday Movies: Disappointing weekend

I’m sorry not to have posted this feature last week, but we were in transit from the cruise (where internet access cost $0.65/minute) and I didn’t watch any movies anyway. This weekend’s Netflix selections were mostly very disappointing:

  • Modern Romance — another Albert Brooks one. It accurately captured the paranoia, possessiveness, and panic inherent in adolescent male approaches to romance, but the problem was that it was supposed to be in the adult world. The main point could’ve been made in a 5-minute sketch, and stretching it to fill an an entire movie resulted in a product that was virtually unwatchable — even when you account for the seemingly irrelevant sequences showing Brooks working as a film editor, which were at least somewhat interesting. Completely unanswered was the question of why the woman would put up with him at all, especially given that he is apparently the hairiest man in history.
  • Ladykillers — our intrepid food blogger E. Bolden assured me that even though this was one of the Coen Brothers’ least accomplished works, it was still a decent movie. It wasn’t as aggressively unwatchable as Modern Romance, but I could never get into it. The Tom Hanks character was ridiculous, and the “caper” feel never fully materialized. I understand it was a remake so they felt constrained to keep things basically the same, but I found the “Lump” character completely pointless — in fact, the only conspirator who was at all interesting was the Vietnamese “General.”
  • Late Spring — I’m not pursuing Ozu as relentlessly as Bob McManus, as this is only my third. I felt that it compared unfavorably to Early Spring (actually made later in Ozu’s career) — the shots weren’t as interesting, and the drama seemed somehow muted to me.

What about all of you?


November 15, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. The Ladykillers is to be watched in the original as part of a double feature with fellow Ealing Studios dark comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets in which Alec Guinness plays eight different roles. The original was directed by Alexander Mackendrick, who also did Sweet Smell of Success, which is one of my favorite movies ever. Mackendrick, writer Clifford Odets, and stars Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are firing on more cylinders than exist in three dimensions.

    I moved today so I’m not going to tell you what I thought about 8 Mile, which I was very excited to reveal in last week’s Monday Movies had there been one.

    Comment by k-sky | November 15, 2010

  2. It was 8 Mile that introduced me to the idea of an ‘attractive nuisance’, for which I am grateful.

    When I saw what a mess Inception was, I had a feeling of awkwardness on behalf of all concerned. It made me wonder if actors admit to this to each other and roll their eyes when the director is not looking, or if they perform a corporate style affective labour (they are actors after all) of conspicuously maintained enthusiasm.

    Comment by Gabe | November 15, 2010

  3. Have you seen the 1955 The Ladykillers? Alec Guinness, Peter Sellars, Ealing Studios. (I haven’t.)

    Comment by ben | November 15, 2010

  4. I guess you would’ve mentioned it if you had.

    Comment by ben | November 15, 2010

  5. It should by now be obvious that I read none of the comments.

    Comment by ben | November 15, 2010

  6. 1) Re:Late Spring. Muted is what Ozu does. Note:Watch, or remember a key scene, when Hara asks Ryu three times if he is going to remarry. Point:She knows he is lying.

    2) Tokyo Story. After watching umpteen Ozu movies, this is apparently, according to conventional wisdom, the only one that does not center on a failed and/or incompetent patriarch. Conventional wisdom is wrong.

    Movies (not all, I often follow a shomin-geki with a cheap thriller)

    11/10 – Kitano Sonatine
    11/11 – Naruse Lightning
    11/12 – Ozu Floating Weeds, delirious color, 1959, Ebert commentary
    11/13 – Ozu Story of Floating Weeds,silent b/w, 1934, Richie commentary
    (This Criterion double is highly recommended. Richie has lived in Japan since 1947. Ebert follows Bordwell’s formalism. The movies are classic, and the comparison enlightening. Package quality is awesome.)
    11/14 – Naruse When a Woman Ascends the Stairs 1961
    Feminist classic, despair, brilliant performance by Hideko Takamine, but on first watching didn’t seem visually or directorally interesting. Ill omen for move to Japanese New Wave?

    (Rashomon popped up on TCM late, tried 15 minutes, can’t stand Kurosawa)

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 15, 2010

  7. My wife and I finally watched the Netflix movie we had for about four months, The Lookout. I thought it was done well enough, but maybe not worth the $20 we ended up paying for it.

    We also went and saw Due Date, with Robert Downey and Zach Galifinakis. It had some genuine laughs but I was distracted for quite a while wondering how the hell they trained a dog to masturbate with its front paw. One thing I liked was that Downey wasn’t just a blameless bystander forced to withstand the shitstorm that was Galifinakis. He does things that make you gasp as well.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | November 15, 2010


    Heated discussion of Ozu’s “traditionalism”

    “What we are seeing is Ozu’s films is what the poet Adrienne Rich called “compulsory heterosexuality”, the huge machine of social pressure put on everybody to lead a heterosexual life, whether they are suited to it or not.” …Mike Grost

    Ok, now that we accept that Ozu spent his career attacking the Patriarchy and conventional family structures, next is to see how his formalisms fit into that ideology. Both Bordwell and Ebert say for instance, that Ozu used so much red in late films just for kicks, for art’s sake. I still hear the Joyce’s schema in Ulysses is gratuitous rather than the point, the carrier of meaning. Form is content. Ozu:”Only a madman or genius likes red.”

    Ehrenstein in link one:”There is a very good reason that Ozu postions his camera OUTSIDE THE DOOR.” (“outside the action/drama” might be better)

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 15, 2010

  9. i watched mostly movies and cartoons on ytb, netflix sent me Madmen, season 3 the first dvd, not very moved by it by now
    else, i watched a Norvegian movie _The other side of Sunday_ i think, found it interesting, cz the 80 ies fashion, the banana pants, the earring clips seemed very familiar, a very religious community was strange and felt no connection there though
    yesterday i tried to watch _Cherry blossoms_, a german movie about a dying from cancer man whose caregiver wife dies first, heartbreaking, and their children are very obnoxious there though it looks very normal and familiar, and visually a very beautiful movie, but sometimes like too much, i think if all the shots were not that well thought out, could look more natural, i don’t know what happened till the end, will continue today i guess

    Comment by read | November 15, 2010

  10. Mizoguchi, Tale of the Crucified Lovers 1954

    Very nice Mizo Edo Patriarchy/society-to-blame tragedy. Great deep focus and chiaroscuro shots. Good stuff.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 16, 2010

  11. i watched yesterday MM’s second DVD and there Betty’s father dies and the daughter is grieving and seeing his ghost in the newborn brother
    that’s like a very wide spread phenomenon, people explain it by reincarnations, i had friends whose kid would recognize the things their deceased father owned, or repeat some of his words he used to say, for example, and they would be very happy that he got reborn into their own families, it’s believed so and considered very luck
    or my niece, she used to have an imaginary friend with whom she would play like hours, with a very rare name, the same with our neighbour who died 15-20 years before she was born, and nobody told her the name, so unexplainable

    Comment by read | November 16, 2010

  12. Kurosawa, No Regrets for Our Youth 1946

    Zo my effing lord

    Best piece of Soviet Realism (Italian Neo-Realism) outside of Dovzhenko’s Earth, if it wasn’t for the bourgeois sentimentality.

    Every single scene at Spinal Tap 11 in emotion. And they call this K’s Ozu movie? OMG. A grandiloquent grunt of liberal self-congratulation. “We must heal the country with compassion, humility, and sharing hard labor with the peasants.” MacArthur had to have a hickey on his butt from this movie.

    But it is a moviemovie, John Fordish. Actual genius here. All the tricks Louis Mayer and Selznick considered Art. Setsuko Hara was frakking incandescent.

    What a trip.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 17, 2010

  13. We watched about 25 minutes of “The Moment After II.” It was everything I was expecting it to be. We also watched all but the last ten minutes of “Youth in Revolt.” I didn’t care for the girlfriend. Whereas Michael Cera is dorky, his female equivalent was just an arrogant, pompous asshole.

    Comment by Craig | November 17, 2010

  14. Ozu, What Did the Lady Forget, 1937 light comedy

    Easygoing professor and his strict and unhappy wife get a visit from an independent and out-of-control niece. Games are played and lessons are learned and romance fulfilled. Halfway thru this I was asking is anything here;at the end I wanted to rewatch it.

    Maybe Ozu’s first middleclass domestic work. Small gestures with huge import. Felt clean and tight, with superb shot timimg. More sexual than I can remember in any other Ozu.

    Maybe sexist, maybe not.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 18, 2010

  15. Shimizu Hiroshi, Arigato-san, 1936

    Day-trip on a bus down a rural mountain road. As pretty as b/w can be. Wide cast of characters and types passed. Very light in tone, with Shimizu’s usual dark undertones. “Girls who cross the pass seldom come back.” One theme is girls leaving home to work, often as prostitutes.

    Shimizu is amazingly kind and humanistic. Everybody gets a break in his films. Ozu and Mizoguchi called him genius, Shimizu just seems to blithely turn everything he touches into parable or allegory. A universal eye. Some interesting technical tricks and directorial gracenotes. Grace, graceful are words for Shimizu.

    Easily ranks up there with the rest.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 20, 2010

  16. Just a paragraph on Arigato-san, which I can’t get off my mind. (This one made me cry – that’s three movies in this run)

    So it’s a small bus on a rural narrow mountain road, going maybe 30 mph. Much of the movie is filmed in the bus, or from the bus. The dominant shot sequence, repeated dozens of times with variations, runs like this: bus approaches walker or group in the middle of the road from behind, long shot thru front window of somewhat mysterious backs; sound of horn; voice:”Arigato!”; immediate cut to long shot thru rear window of figures receding, faces, identities now defined (Buddhist priests, women carrying loads, “geishas,” recreational hikers, etc. Sometimes they wave, sometimes they yell:”Arigato-san.” (Most know the daily driver) Repeat. Bam-bam, probably 5 seconds-5 seconds. Repeat.

    No shots of people moving to side or back to center of road, no shots from side windows of these people. These are essentially dolly or tracking shots. So it’s like they turn to face you. Meet-greet-goodbye.

    So beyond the top level of narrative and action; below the subtext of the plight of poor women on the road; this constant meet & greet became to me another level of metaphor and meaning, of humanistic intent. And yet completely “natural” to the story.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 20, 2010

  17. Ozu, Dragnet Girl, 1933, silent

    Low-level gangsters in Yokohama. Very unusual for Ozu to leave Tokyo and environs. Probably mostly filmed near Tokyo, but Yokohama is the city of vice. All modern decor, meaning Western-style apartments. In the Tokyo movies, even the poor have shoji style hovels.

    Love triangle with boxer turned gangster loved by two girls. Ends with crime, chase, heavy emoting. “Bad” girl wins. Bad girl is played by Kinuyo Tanaka, who twenty years later was Mizoguchi’s favorite. Sansho, Oharu, Ugetsu. Rarely used by Ozu, a melodramatic actress. Male lead has to glower a lot.

    Pretty busy mise en scene and direction, influenced by von Sternberg. Noirish lighting. Some strange stuff that got Noel Burch all excited, like dialogue titles that don’t match the shot.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 21, 2010

  18. Shindo, The Island, 1960, b/w

    Dirt poor farming family in the Sea of Japan. I think. Row across the sea, get fresh water from a canal, carry it back to boat, row across to postage-stamp island, carry 5 gal/60 lbs straight up steep cliff, ladle out a cup per plant. All very slowly very carefully. Repeat. Rest. Play.

    No dialogue. Gentle music. You go beyond pity to respect. It’s not a trap, it’s a life. How many movies are 80% people working?

    Wide-screen cinematography of one of the most beautiful places in the world is unbearable. Landscape and faces, works and days.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 21, 2010

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