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Monday Movies: Western mania

This week The Girlfriend and I had a great run of movies:

  • Early Summer — I hesitate to comment on an Ozu film knowing there is an expert in our midst, but this is probably our favorite so far. We watched the whole thing without pausing and then were analyzing it for most of the rest of the day, until going to see…
  • True Grit — a really great movie, though the Coen brothers didn’t make it their own in quite the same way as with No Country.
  • Fistful of Dollars — catching up on our spaghetti westerns. The plot was clearer than with our previous Leone selection and it was much shorter, but Clint Eastwood’s flat affect is a little hard to take as the only real motor for a whole movie. Tuco would’ve been a welcome addition.

Did you, dear readers, enjoy any cinema this week?


January 2, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. I recently watched the Dollars movies myself and liked Fistful by far the least of the three. For a Few Dollars More, if you haven’t seen it yet, is easily the most entertaining.

    Comment by chris | January 2, 2011

  2. True Grit was amazing.

    Comment by jms | January 2, 2011

  3. i watched recently two documentaries, about Glenn Gould on PBS, very sad, and Jay-Z on OWN, both are inspiring
    on youtube i watched right now a Russian Soviet movie, from 1971, “Var’ka”, great cinematographie, i guess

    Comment by read | January 2, 2011

  4. Early Summer might be my favorite also.

    There’s a gay guy online calls it an openly lesbian movie. If you have only seen Hara Setsuko in LS and TS, Early Summer can be a bit of a mindfuck. She was revelatory.

    One of the biggest ellipsis in an Ozu film is leaving out the young doctor and Hara looking for the boys. What happened on that walk is critical, but we will never really know.

    The crane beach shot near the end took like a week and cost a ton.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 2, 2011

  5. Yeah, you made me cry, Kotsko.

    I think my order was Tokyo Story, <Autumn Afternoon, Late Spring, and then Early Summer. And ES like stood me and say:”This guy is really fucking complicated, and good.”

    Everything is on the surface, but you have to look really close. Before ES I admired Ozu; after ES I loved him.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 2, 2011

  6. Yes, Hara was a revelation — a completely different character than in the other films I’d seen.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 2, 2011

  7. the day the earth stood still (1951 not the newer one). i fell asleep towards the end. comparisons to the newer one i saw in the cinema. not done thinking yet, or maybe just lazy.

    Comment by sarah expletive | January 3, 2011

  8. Kabluey (and extra marks for the writer not having a wikipedia entry!)

    Comment by Guido Nius | January 3, 2011

  9. “The Other Guys.” As readers know, the holiday season means one thing for us: non-stop Will Ferrell movies. Each year we buy a new Will Ferrell DVD to celebrate the holidays. Fortunately, his release schedule is such that there is always a movie newly released about a week before Christmas. Let me tell you this: it did not disappoint. From Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock as supercops to Marky Mark and Elf as loser cops it was great. Even Rob Riggle managed not to be as absolutely irritating as he normally is. He still shouldn’t be allowed to be in movies, but this was nowhere near as irritating as “The Hangover” or “Step Brothers.” Marky Mark has redeemed himself for his involvement in “The Happening” and, I assume but won’t know until it is available for free OnDemand, that movie about boxing with anorexic Batman.

    “Kick Ass.” We were expecting a piece of shit. After all, it has Nicolas Cage in it, so the bar is already pretty low. Not even McLovin, we thought, could save this one. The movie was, in fact, really boring until about forty minutes in when the little girl appeared in her costume and violently destroyed the gang while “Kick Ass” looked on in horror. From then on it was a delight of a movie as it became about Nicolas Cage and the little girl’s revenge rather than the loser white teenager’s quest for pussy. On that note, did anyone know that the love interest is not only the girl from “Nikita,” but is also the “daughter” in “How I Met Your Mother”?

    “The Ghost Writer.” If there had been actual ghosts in the movie, then it wouldn’t have sucked so much. Some movie journalist in Canada put it on their top ten list saying that Ewan MacGregor had redeemed himself for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Seriously? Did he see the same movie I did? It’s a miracle that we made it through the entire thing–and we didn’t even get to see Ewan Macgregor get run over. The best part: Adelle Dewitt being part of a shadowy organization. Again.

    Comment by Craig | January 3, 2011

  10. Hey, it looks like I missed a week.

    The Christmas movie was True Grit. Fantastic, maybe my film of the year, and for no other reason than it was a great story well told and well acted. I really don’t have anything fancy to say about it with my fancy book-larnin’ or nothing.

    Thence to Florida, where options have not been as robust. Tangled: kind of expected this to be good, and can honestly say I was disappointed by it. I even feel that I have a right to expect Disney musicals to be lively and entertaining. We snuck in to Harry Potter 7 which was very slow, to both good and ill effect, and all in all vastly better than 6.

    The TV was out but the On-Demand worked so we treated ourselves to Exit Through The Gift Shop. A long Facebook thread ensued, in which I sniffed a bit about whether “the art world” was really pranked, and, more interestingly, a friend revealed that Mr. Brainwash had been her landlord and did indeed video everything he did.

    We also saw the King’s Speech, which featured Bellatrix Strange as Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum), Dumbledore as King George V, and Wormtail as Winston Churchill. Very enjoyable, with great action between the leads; I never feel entirely comfortable with a movie that makes me feel the pain of royalty, but the commoner-king boundary-crossing humor was great.

    Comment by k-sky | January 3, 2011

  11. Oh, how could I forget! Four Lions was hilarious.

    Comment by k-sky | January 3, 2011

  12. Kinoshita Keisuke, Twenty-Four Eyes, 1954, in honor of Takamine Hideko, RIP last week

    Young teacher starts a class on a poverty-stricken Inland Sea island school ~1928. She, and we follow her, and her 12 students for the next 20 years. Everybody suffers bunches, except for the boys, who just die.

    17-handkerchiefs. Look, somebody has to pay for Ozu’s and Mizo’s artfilms. Takamine is always magnificent. Some of the fades were were at the beginning. I continue to be impressed by the natural commitment to long shots, the distance from actors and action, the shortage of closeups, in all Japanese movies of this era. It’s about place, dudes.

    Life sucks when you’re poor, and really fucking sucks when you are poor and there is war. And talent, hard work, and kindness to others only helps you get to sleep, alone, at night with an empty tummy and broken dreams.

    Sentimental? Oh yeah. Give the people a break.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 4, 2011

  13. Tiny Furniture – Sort of boring, depressing. The story-line is pretty played out, and even though there were some interesting shots and scenes, this should have been wittier.

    True Grit – I liked this a lot, although I agree that the Coens were kind of removed from the movie (which may be a good thing, to not always leave a signature). The only thing that disappointed me was near the end when we didn’t get a whole lot out of Brolin. I expected more dialogue there. Also, the dialogue in some parts was very stilted. Other times it was simplistic and working, but at more than a handful of places it felt like it was overwrought in its simplicity.

    Pirate Radio – Highly, highly enjoyable. Loved every second.

    A Serious Man – I was kind of disappointed by this one, but I had pretty high expectations for some reason. It was a good movie, to be sure, but I don’t think it’s close to the Coens’s at their best.

    Comment by Dave Mesing | January 5, 2011

  14. I think the apparent silliness of so much of A Serious Man is part of the point.

    Ozu, The End of Summer, 1961

    Working backwards. Ozu’s usual beautiful work with color and interior architecture. A lot of shots of people passing,weaving thru architecture, especially in the background. Speaking of A Serious Man this is very light-hearted and funny throughout and then ends with cawing crows on gravestones with music to match.

    The center of the story involves an old man trying to renew a relationship that his parents forced him to abandon twenty years earlier. At the end his children say “He was so happy” and “He always did what he wanted, so irresponsible.” and we do have reason to believe but also stronger reasons to think they are full of it. IOW, I am seeing a very high level of irony in Ozu’s work. Or maybe I’m crazy.

    I need to find a way to close read this stuff. I am not sure why I feel this need.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  15. Do you take links? Scott Eric Kaufmann talking about Blow-Up at LGM.

    “In short, the establishing shot, which is meant to show “the spatial relations among the important figures, objects, and setting in a scene,” is instead invaded for a moment and then exited. It establishes, then, not the scene but the ambivalent attitude of the characters to the “important figures, objects, and setting in [the] scene.” These mimes are free agents who can’t be contained by the frame”

    There was an awful lot of this in The End of Summer last night. Oh, looking down an office corridor to its t-intersection with another corridor at the far end, guy in suit passes thru. Many such scenes. In the family house shot of room, character walks thru at brisk clip, shot of empty room. The camera, as usual is static, but people move a lot in EoS. And fast.

    Wikipedia on “Ma”

    “Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval.”[5]

    There is no equivalent single word term for Ma in the English language”

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  16. ma is just an interval, of either time or space,
    i hate when Japanese themselves or it’s mostly foreigners i think try to read too much into the simplest things just because it’s, you know, Japanese, so must be like so profound and esoteric

    Comment by read | January 6, 2011

  17. 16: :)

    Comment by jms | January 6, 2011

  18. Oh no, I hate the autoconvert smiley.

    Comment by jms | January 6, 2011

  19. 16:”Space” is just a key on my computer and the gravity-time bent fabric of the universe.

    Aren’t words wonderful?

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  20. When Ozu was building his sets, he would take the dimensions of a standard Japanese house for the pertinent income of his characters, and then add or subtract a few feet, measuring how many steps it took an average person to cross the room, having previously decided how long he wanted his shots to be in seconds.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  21. read is just read, for jms to support read’s assertion that asians are incapable of adding poetic or philosophical meanings to simple abstract nouns is indeed racist and orientalist.

    There is plenty of discussion of “ma” on the net. Trying going to Wikipedia “Ma negative space”

    article by Iimura

    MA: Space/Time in the Garden of Ryoan-Ji was produced for the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust. 1 Directed by Takahiko Iimura, with text by Arata Isozaki and music by Takehisa Kosugi, the film was produced in 16mm and there is also a video version.

    The garden is a medium
    for meditation
    Perceive the blankness
    Listen to the voice of the
    Imagine the void filled

    These words by Arata Isozaki have a strong message about “MA.” The garden can be regarded as both a medium and an environment–“Perceive–Blankness,” “Voice–Silence,” “Void–Fill;” employing pairs of contrasting concepts, Isozaki tried to juxtapose the negative and the positive. This is not an obliteration of the negative by the positive; on the contrary, it not only admits the existence of the negative space, but it also “fills into” the positive without turning the negative into the positive. This may be regarded as a contradiction from the Western point of view, but is based on the logic of the East. Negative space does not necessarily mean non-existence but has a form of existence. What John Stevens called “active absence” applies to “MA” as well.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  22. what does this “read is just read” mean? and where i said we Asians are incapable of anything, I am not Japanese, so talk sure about them if you wish, but not all others, i just don’t get this idealization of them as if they are superhuman or what
    they have their very good qualities and bad too, i value their basic honesty and ability to be true to their words and convictions, of majority of them, but i don’t like their valuing just that, superficial forms of beauty or cuteness or any prowess or it could be even ugliness, or if it’s human relations, then just etiquette like above anything
    in older Japan, of the movies you talk about, the basic human values, family, friendship, true love, they were not that devalued maybe, but nowadays Japan feels just a very cold, lonely, sometimes perverse world
    for me, a foreigner, it doesn’t matter, my time there was finite and i don’t plan to go there and stay any time soon, or later, for their young people their world must be painful
    well, there are of course well-adjusted people there too as anywhere else
    i said just that ma is an interval, it could be filled or empty, of space or time, so what’s there that impossible to express in English by one word that makes the word that like exceptional?

    Comment by read | January 6, 2011

  23. read’s assertion that asians are incapable of adding poetic or philosophical meanings to simple abstract nouns

    bob, read asserted nothing of the kind.

    Comment by jms | January 6, 2011

  24. JMS, why should we believe what an orientalist says?!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 6, 2011

  25. I have no answer to that one. Also, don’t forget “racist.”

    Comment by jms | January 6, 2011

  26. You know what might be an appropriate action for someone who’s undertaking a massive project of working through a major director’s films? To start a dedicated blog!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 6, 2011

  27. Or, you know, to not randomly insult the two people who are actually reading his stuff!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 6, 2011

  28. well, sorry for disturbance, BmcM was just musing about good movies and i got into like all J expert mood starting the trouble maybe
    and thanks for your support, Jms and AK
    this is a great site that keeps me laughing, i hope you all will enjoy browsing it or know it already

    Comment by read | January 6, 2011

  29. Kotsko, I was insulted first, by two different commenters. I do not necessarily have to respond to attacks in that same subtle or gentle form that they are given.
    “Orientalist” is a strong insult to Asian movie fans or scholars.

    “ma is just an interval, of either time or space” …read

    “just” implies no further meanings, connotations, or implications. I found no source on the web that would so limit the word, including most Japanese sources. I know of a long history of the exploration of idiosyncratic…aww. She should have known better, “ma” is no simpler than “space”

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  30. Kotsko, I suggest you read carefully read’s at 16 that jms found so funny, and try to see just how viciously offensive it is.

    No, read, I do see asians as strange exotic mysterious creatures. They do have a contingent and particular culture, as do we all.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  31. 30:”do not see”

    Kotsko, I do not believe I have ever insulted or attacked anyone on this blog.

    This is the way it goes, people dump their shit on me, I try to defend myself, and the fucking moderators back their friends.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 6, 2011

  32. well, whatever, read ma however you like, you want it profound, be it
    i always recall a J TV commercial, about a mosquito repellant, so there very many, like, too many Chinese people on bikes come towards the viewer and there is the repellant tried on them and they go back
    or a TV documentary on two elephants killed through just starvation in their zoo during the WWII, sure there was food shortage and everything, but it was mostly like due to the scientific interest what happens to elephants when they’re starved something and the elephants in the documentary kept dancing begging for food, it was just so heartbreaking to watch, and all technology was there, the films to film those scenes, but they couldn’t find some grass to feed the poor animals
    so these two examples like, well, not killed, but greatly diminished any interest, or everything poetic in their art and mentality for me, just to explain my kinda like always critical attitude towards them perhaps

    Comment by read | January 6, 2011

  33. I think the title of “moderator” implies a greater emotional investment than I actually have in this dispute.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 6, 2011

  34. I knew getting up to 33 comments since I last visited was probably a bad sign.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | January 6, 2011

  35. 34: :)

    Comment by k-sky | January 7, 2011

  36. Um… I liked True Grit, too!


    Comment by stras | January 7, 2011

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