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Monday Movies: Good enough

The Girlfriend and I went to the movies for the first time in a while this week. Inspired by A. O. Scott’s column this weekend about how most movie-goers are going to the movies for the sake of going to the movies and just want something “good enough,” we settled on a workable compromise in an uninspiring field: Red, the story of retired spies who suddenly find themselves the targets of a mysterious hit.

I enjoyed it exactly as much as I thought I would, though I was disappointed that they underused Helen Mirren. I also thought that the Mary Lousie Parker character served an interesting role — not just the “everywoman” point of identification for the audience, but rather the actual presence of the audience within the movie. Psychologically she’s completely unbelievable, but she basically figures out that she’s in an “invincible badass”-style movie and decides it’s awesome and wants to take advantage of it to the fullest possible extent.

We also rounded out my brief Albert Brooks phase with Lost in America, a not very good movie that was, nonetheless, at least watchable.

Hence the subtitle: this was the weekend of “good enough.” How was your movie-viewing week, audience? I bet at least one of you has been watching some hardcore Japanese cinema!


November 22, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. i watched _Yojinbo_, very colourful, i recalled one of my friend’s saying that AK, the movie editor, was always directing his movies at the external audience, for the west, so everything is exotic and exaggerrated and Shakespearean, it’s not my words, the friend’s, but he’s just a young medical doctor and could be not an expert in their own cinema
    at least, some of them docs don’t know where my country is situated, though they were very good at ucg
    else, i watched two French movies, merci something for chocolat and about private fears in public places, the last one seemed very long
    three, now i recall, a comedy, _When the sea rises_, also pretty longish, so i watched it mostly like background radio while browsing the net on the phone

    Comment by read | November 22, 2010

  2. I saw Red, not this week, but a while back. I hope I’m not repeating earlier thoughts, but I thought it was kind of strange that in a movie about old agents being thrust back into action, those same agents showed absolutely no signs of having aged. At least in terms of their ability in the field.

    In the theater I saw it in, I was also annoyed that after John Malkovich said a few funny things early on, the audience then decided to laugh at everything he said for the rest of the movie.

    My wife and I went with another couple to see the Harry Potter movie. We saw the 11:15 showing and I had a few drinks so I decided I will need to see it again under better movie-watching circumstances.

    I also watched Point Break last night because people I talk to seem to remember it fondly. I hope that’s just ironic enjoyment, because I’m not sure how you could conclude it’s a good movie otherwise.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | November 22, 2010

  3. After concluding that my mom had Tivo’d majorities but not entireties of several appealing movies, we settled on Last Chance Harvey on demand. It wasn’t good, though it could have been improved by moving the end to the middle and continuing to tell the story of what happens after Harvey quits his job to move to a country where he has no prospects but a middling infatuation with Emma Thompson. It also deserves kudos for underplaying Harvey’s wedding toast — it’s actually note perfect rather than disastrous and narcissistic, though it doesn’t heighten the drama any.

    It struck me that the author no longer felt young but was not yet old (I felt validated to learn that the movie came out when he was 37), and also that Before Sunrise works better with twentysomethings than with lastchancers.

    Comment by k-sky | November 22, 2010

  4. I watched Twilight at the weekend, which is actually a pretty good film. It’s significantly wittier than I’d expected, nicely aware of the way its story plays into a certain sort of teenage self-dramatization (also, the running joke about vampires living in Washington state because it’s always overcast is genuinely funny). Also, particularly in a market dominated by fast-talking teen comedies, it’s interesting to see a film in which the two leads are pretty much incapable of coherent speech.

    Comment by Voyou Désœuvré | November 22, 2010

  5. I can’t speak for the novels–haven’t had an opportunity to read them yet–but the “Twilight” movies are pure genius.

    Comment by Craig | November 22, 2010

  6. I watched Once Upon a Time in the West, and enjoyed it.

    Comment by ben | November 22, 2010

  7. I watch one movie a night, 9-10 CST. I need time to read.

    Reading some Bhaskar (Theory) vd Bordwell (neo-formalism) I have decided that late Ozu not only is engaged in a critique of Japanese culture(s), but is in his extreme and arbitrary formalism, critiquing the idea of (film) culture itself.

    I did read the entire thread at AUFS about universalism and particularity. What was it, a particularity that rejects universalism is fascistic? …I lost my train of thought, but Ozu in his place and times, I think has something to say here. The camera angle is not “tatami-level” it is a little lower. The camera is does not provide any subjective point-of-view.

    I have long thought that a universalism requires a total rejection of culture.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 22, 2010

  8. Ozu, The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, 1952, b/w, mostly comic.

    A married upper middle class couple bored with each other and annoyed by class differences renew their affection. A young couple falls in love. After the gentle reconciliation of the older, flash three pillow shots:water tower, tree, clothes line. Don’t tell me that this is nonsense.

    There is more darkness here than in Naruse’s Meshi I am not even so certain it is a happy ending. Nice long scene fixing a late night snack. Beautiful compositions with four women at a spa. I liked it much better than its reputation, classic late Ozu.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 23, 2010

  9. Mikio Naruse, Hideko the Bus Conductress, 1941

    Driver and Bus Conductress try to revive a failing bus company by delivering commentary on their route.

    Short, slight & sweet, but with touches and twists I don’t entirely understand. Not quite what you would expect. Word is that it was subtly subversive.

    An early work for Hideko Takamine, who was a Naruse lead and Japanese star for the next 25 years. Completely unrecognizable in looks and demeanor from the magnificence of Lightning and Floating Clouds.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 24, 2010

  10. Night away from Japan.

    Had to watch Haneke’s The White Ribbon


    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 25, 2010

  11. Ozu, Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, 1941

    Rich patriarch dies, leaving large family in debt. After assets are sold, mother and youngest daughter are shuffled among ungrateful siblings, until discarded to seaside shack. “Wastrel” youngest son returns to scold his elders and provide a home.

    Mieko Takamine and Shin Shiburi are terrific as the young leads. I swear if the ending and subtext isn’t gay, it is at least anti-marriage. This wasn’t late Ozu stylistically, but thematically felt like a 50s work. Good use of architecture as symbol, including a sea-wall to maybe symbolize “rejected”, coming up again in <i?Early Summer and Tokyo Story. Clotheslines, caged birds, but no phallic “pillow shots” IIRC.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 26, 2010

  12. Mizoguchi,Sisters of the Gion, 1936, sound

    Two barely subsisting geishas, one cynical, one idealistic, mistreat and are mistreated by men. Someone used a Japanese word for Mizoguchi, like femuiste? Not a feminist, but someone who wallows in the suffering of women. This one thematically not so interesting.

    Cinematography and direction? Fascinating. Blacker than black, with the only light beams through blinds or circles from overhead lamps. Very long shots, as in conversations 10-20 feet away at the back of the frame. And to make that work, all deep focus. Long takes, with few tracking shots. One of the films Noel Burch found amazing

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 26, 2010

  13. Ozu, Where Are the Dreams of Youth, 1933, silent. *spoilers*

    1) This ends with friends waving from an office rooftop at a married couple leaving town on a distant train. Identical to the ending, with much the same dialogue, as Late Autumn 25 years later. I think.

    2) Four college friends and a brewery girl (the great Kinuyo Tanaka from Mizo’s great 50s films). One is from a rich family, loves brewery girl, whose father dies. He inherits a director job, upper management, and has to leave school. The other three graduate the next year, depression desperation, beg old friend for job. He cheats them into positions. Meanwhile, dim milquetoast has become engaged to brewery girl. Director doesn’t know, sets up girl in an apartment. Because of class, he probably can’t marry her. Milquetoast (Tatsuo Saito) gives up his claim, in order to keep his job and out of deference to a superior. When director finds out, director beats milquetoast brutally, with no return blows, saying “This is your friendship, to be my dog?” Milquetoast and brewery honeymoon on train.

    A recent, well twenty years, Japanese psychoanalyst has said that amae is the central Japanese ordering concept. The Wiki article is incomplete, amae is a reciprocal relationship, in which a subordinate accepts a subordinate role, but can demand over-indulgence and should trust his superior’s kindness.

    Westerner’s may not understand the amae here. Yes, milquetoast took a beating, but milquetoast also got the girl, although girl and director loved each other.

    Earlier, in Tokyo Chorus son asked father for a bicycle. Father lost job, got a scooter instead. Son shamed father, and got the bicycle. In many Ozu’s, you hear lines about “spoiling children”. It’s ironic, children are supposed to be spoiled in Japan.
    Amae paradoxically instills duty and loyalty.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 28, 2010

  14. milquetoast also got the girl
    such a property, the girl, and this is still so accepted and normal situation everywhere, not only in Japan and in the 30ies and the girls themselves enable such situations too imo, just decide herself what she wants or not, not just spend one’s whole and only life with whoever the unloved person, so dreary
    amae – the same with our erkhlekh which is derived from the word erkh – right, one has a right to be close and demand attention, affection, responsibility due to the family, romantic or friendship bonds and it’s reciprocal, yes, the closest description i recall in the western lit is the little prince with his rose
    but that’s just not one’s family or relationship, friends in Japan professionally, that the senior-subordinate, senpai-kouhai’s amae (depending on one’s kindness!, from the word “sweet”!) is kinda really like strange and sometimes really kinda like corrupting, if is not hold within the acceptable cultural norms too, just plain old favoritism
    but Japanese are so hierarchical people, an old imposant prof can start jumping at every word if his senior in hierarchy addresses him, but be very harsh and demanding to his subordinates, and they just don’t see/sense it strange, it just must be like this for them and is expected and if someone wouldn’t behave in this very normal for them way, one could get considered not normal, rude, arrogant and it’s how it’s now, not some feudal times
    the more impersonal western professional settings are more suitable for all involved, but watching _Madmen_, i thought that’s just very illusory too, one’s relative independence, the other day watched how Don was reprimanding Peggy that he could manage without anything she had done so far, so her career is just due to his favor, so unfair, if he, the most decent, at least trying to be a decent man, man thinks like that, the world is so so really mysogynistic, well, hopefully in the 60-ies
    and she accepts that as if it’s true, that is enraging too
    but today the next dvd should come so will see what was her true reaction

    Comment by read | November 28, 2010

  15. being decent doesn’t mean to be honest in one’s marriage, huh, i hate this new girlfriend of don’s, great brows she has, that’s the only thing what is good in her, to be able to cheat with a married person, the father of her student, so selfish and where all her principles go
    but the whole season is like adultery ridden, everybody has affairs and dishonest,
    but whatever, if everybody is happy that way
    i sympathize there with Peggy, Betty and the too beautiful woman, facewise, her body is too plump, always forget her name
    wow, now betty discovered don’s shoebox

    Comment by read | November 28, 2010

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