Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

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Jinnistan
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Jinnistan » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:57 pm

Wooley wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:12 pm
In medical terminology, we use the word "occult" in its older Latin-based sense, which is "hidden".
Yes, exactly. What we consider "occult" is hidden material - all of the strange symbols, "daemons", incantations of dead languages taken from rare medieval text that were all pseudonymously written - basically a collection of pagan paraphernalia that was contraband under the Church and could only be secretly distributed for centuries.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:18 pm

Jinnistan wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:53 pm
It isn't too complicated a subject, but it requires separating the popular definition from the more substantial definition, and understanding that this popular perception is largely a remnant of centuries of Catholic anti-pagan propaganda. In that case, all things devilish, wicked and strangely sinister fall into the category.

In reality, what was called occult was the various strands of non-Christian myth of the Near East - Egyptian, Mithraic, Persian and Vedic systems. Most insidious of all were the Hebrews, whose Zohar (Kabbalah) and Goetia (Solomon's Keys) were among the most feared by faithful men. In essence, these are esoteric symbolic systems that are deeply ingrained in such subversive arts as alchemy and tarot (both persecuted as well), and mixed generously with the array of more local folk symbols and rituals from across the European continent which were being suppressed by Ecumenical Authorities, and only secretly transmitted and shared in shadows by the curious and occasionally the gullible.
This is more or less what I was looking for and in tune with my extensive Wikipedia research 8-) But seriously, the general perception of the term is in line with what Cap and Takoma mentioned, which is what you brought up in your first paragraph. But to be more fair, I was wondering if a Satanist would agree with his beliefs being labeled as "occult". However, if I were to abide by the more strict definition, how many films about alchemy could I find? :P
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:19 pm

Wooley wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:12 pm
It's interesting because I have always associated "occult" with the dark side of supernatural, not indicating that a dark supernatural presence must actually exist but that there must be hints thereof or intentions to invoke (either directly or indirectly in life or in art).
However, in medical school, I learned a different meaning for the word that has made it more interesting to me. In medical terminology, we use the word "occult" in its older Latin-based sense, which is "hidden".
In Spanish, "oculto" means literally "hidden".
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:41 pm

Apex Predator wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:38 pm

Finally finished The General and although I did get why Buster Keaton is praised for his physical comedy (and impressed on how the film looks more expensive than it is), I couldn't quite place the politics of rooting for a Confederate engineer to outwit Union spies to steal back his beloved train (and try to win back his beloved girlfriend who basically broke up with him thinking he was a coward for not signing up for the Army) out of my mind and it spoiled things to an extent. B-
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:52 am

Wooley wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:41 pm
:roll:
What do you want me to say? I liked a decent part of it, but I also had a few issues as well.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:30 am

Apex Predator wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:52 am
What do you want me to say? I liked a decent part of it, but I also had a few issues as well.
I'm with you.

I really like Keaton (and wrote a huge paper on him in high school and have a family friend who is a professor who specializes in silent film), but there is some racist stuff that pops up from time to time in his films that's hard to watch, even with a "but that was then!" mentality.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:51 am

A film from the 2000s: Frownland

Let me tell you some things about Frownland:

1) According to the film's director, it has "no narrative center"

2) It has several sequences of the main character awkwardly trying to scam various people, usually by pretending to sell coupons to benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis.

3) The main character's shirts are all like a half size too big

So, as you can see, this film is basically my worst nightmare.

And yet.

Usually when films feature intentionally unlikable protagonists, "cringe" comedy situations, and no real narrative, I can barely stand to watch them. But there's something about Frownland that kept me hooked. There's a consistency to the main character's awfulness, a full realization of a real (and really awful) human being that differentiates it from other movies. There's also a realistic awfulness or pathetic vibe to everyone else around him that equally feels real. This isn't a movie where you think "He/she is so nice! Why do they hang out with this guy?". Everyone here has serious issues.

I very recently went to a training on restorative practices, and one quote really stood out to me. It was about the kind of things that you learn from speaking to people who have done harm to others: "Often those who do harm believe that they themselves have been harmed." What this film really captures is the way that people, even as they are trying to cheat others, manage to see themselves as the wronged party, using an indignant attitude and a victim stance to deflect any blame or justified criticism.

In the Recently Seen thread Macrology said that this was a film I'd probably never want to rewatch. I think he's right, but I am really glad that I watched it. It has that special something of independent film that truly feels independent.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:45 am

Apex Predator wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:52 am
What do you want me to say? I liked a decent part of it, but I also had a few issues as well.
I'm just busting your balls here.
I had no problem with it, even though I'm sort of socially in the middle of this battle over whether or not it's (past) time for all of us Southerners to accept that there is no positive legacy of The Confederacy, because the movie is not making any political statement here, the lead character just happens to be a Confederate soldier and so the movie is told in that context. I didn't feel like there was anything wrong there as I don't feel that there is anything wrong with telling the story of a soldier on the wrong side of any war where there is a right and a wrong.
The movie is just too damn good, though.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:39 pm

Wooley wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:45 am
I'm just busting your balls here.
I had no problem with it, even though I'm sort of socially in the middle of this battle over whether or not it's (past) time for all of us Southerners to accept that there is no positive legacy of The Confederacy, because the movie is not making any political statement here, the lead character just happens to be a Confederate soldier and so the movie is told in that context. I didn't feel like there was anything wrong there as I don't feel that there is anything wrong with telling the story of a soldier on the wrong side of any war where there is a right and a wrong.
The movie is just too damn good, though.
I agree with this. There is no political context in the film other than the one we apply to post-facto, so I see no use in applying it since his allegiance has no bearing on the film. You could've easily swapped Keaton into the Union and the film would've been the same.

I also haven't seen any other Keaton film, so I can't gauge how much racism there is in his filmography. From where I was standing, I didn't get any from this film in particular.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:56 pm

Um he made that film 60 some years after the end of the Civil War. There is political context. The hero of the film was fighting, in part, to keep people enslaved. Every win in the film (including the capture of Union personnel or the destruction of Union resources) is supporting that goal.

I mean, if he'd made a funny little film about a Nazi (yes, I know about the timing issues with that hypothetical), would we say "Well it's just a story about a guy caught up in a war! It's not like he ever said anything about Jewish people in the film!".

I understand that the Civil War setting is key and I think that it's maybe loosely based on a real incident, but to say that there's no political context to showing a protagonist who is giving his all for the Confederacy doesn't make sense to me. All of history is political context.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Jinnistan » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:36 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:56 pm
Um he made that film 60 some years after the end of the Civil War. There is political context.
There's also the contemporary political context of silent-era America which saw a renaissance of neo-Confederate sympathy, the erection of hundreds of Confederate monuments throughout the South, an America only a decade past a President praising an even less ambiguous piece of Confederate propaganda, and an era when the KKK was at its apex in popularity. For example, it was only one year after The General when a certain Fred Trump was arrested while "berobed" at a KKK rally in fucking Queens of all places.

The various qualities of The General can allow me to look past this context, but if anything, it makes it a lot more irritating when people like Penn Jillette constantly use their praise for Keaton to contrast their distaste for Chaplin based, apparently, on the latter's supposedly abhorrent political views. (Libertarians always have a knack for attracting racists for some reason.)
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:59 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:56 pm
Um he made that film 60 some years after the end of the Civil War. There is political context. The hero of the film was fighting, in part, to keep people enslaved. Every win in the film (including the capture of Union personnel or the destruction of Union resources) is supporting that goal.

I mean, if he'd made a funny little film about a Nazi (yes, I know about the timing issues with that hypothetical), would we say "Well it's just a story about a guy caught up in a war! It's not like he ever said anything about Jewish people in the film!".

I understand that the Civil War setting is key and I think that it's maybe loosely based on a real incident, but to say that there's no political context to showing a protagonist who is giving his all for the Confederacy doesn't make sense to me. All of history is political context.
I understand your point, but what I meant to write was that the film makes no "political statement" in that it doesn't dwell in the intricacies and motivations of the war. Sure, anyone can judge it from their preferred point of view, but to me, saying that the "hero was fighting to keep people enslaved" feels like putting a lot of baggage on its shoulders that's necessarily not intended to be there. Plus, knowing that Keaton was a train enthusiast, which motivated him to make the film, helps me overlook that background in favor of its technical merits and overall enjoyment.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Tue Nov 12, 2019 6:54 pm

Thief wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:59 pm
I understand your point, but what I meant to write was that the film makes no "political statement" in that it doesn't dwell in the intricacies and motivations of the war. Sure, anyone can judge it from their preferred point of view, but to me, saying that the "hero was fighting to keep people enslaved" feels like putting a lot of baggage on its shoulders that's necessarily not intended to be there. Plus, knowing that Keaton was a train enthusiast, which motivated him to make the film, helps me overlook that background in favor of its technical merits and overall enjoyment.
Exactly.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:05 pm

Thief wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:59 pm
I understand your point, but what I meant to write was that the film makes no "political statement" in that it doesn't dwell in the intricacies and motivations of the war. Sure, anyone can judge it from their preferred point of view, but to me, saying that the "hero was fighting to keep people enslaved" feels like putting a lot of baggage on its shoulders that's necessarily not intended to be there. Plus, knowing that Keaton was a train enthusiast, which motivated him to make the film, helps me overlook that background in favor of its technical merits and overall enjoyment.
You make it sound like playing a Confederate soldier as a hero is just a casual choice that someone would make. I disagree.

Again, if his hero was a Nazi who was just, like, a nice dude who never said anything negative about Jewish people or "made a statement", would you give it the same pass? Genuine question. Would you roll your eyes and say "Oh, come on! People can just get stuck on the wrong side of a conflict! I guess you can be mad about the main character being a Nazi, but it seems like that's you putting baggage on the film."

Keaton's hero is fighting in part to keep black people enslaved. This is just a fact. It doesn't really matter to me that the film doesn't explore this (and why would it?). In fact, asking someone to ignore such historical context doesn't feel right. "Don't think about the people being raped, exploited, sold, and murdered! Just look at the fun train stunts!".

I'm not saying the film can't be appreciated. And I'm not saying that you can't give it a little bit of the old "that was then" treatment. But being put off by a Confederate protagonist is hardly being overly-PC or whatever.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:33 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:05 pm
You make it sound like playing a Confederate soldier as a hero is just a casual choice that someone would make. I disagree.

Again, if his hero was a Nazi who was just, like, a nice dude who never said anything negative about Jewish people or "made a statement", would you give it the same pass? Genuine question. Would you roll your eyes and say "Oh, come on! People can just get stuck on the wrong side of a conflict! I guess you can be mad about the main character being a Nazi, but it seems like that's you putting baggage on the film."

Keaton's hero is fighting in part to keep black people enslaved. This is just a fact. It doesn't really matter to me that the film doesn't explore this (and why would it?). In fact, asking someone to ignore such historical context doesn't feel right. "Don't think about the people being raped, exploited, sold, and murdered! Just look at the fun train stunts!".

I'm not saying the film can't be appreciated. And I'm not saying that you can't give it a little bit of the old "that was then" treatment. But being put off by a Confederate protagonist is hardly being overly-PC or whatever.
If we want to be accurate, he's not playing a Confederate soldier. He's playing a civilian train engineer that's rejected by the Confederate army.

As for your Nazi analogy, I wouldn't want to make a blanket statement about every single Nazi character in every film in history, but I'd rather say that it depends on the film, the story, its goals, and a whole other stuff. I don't want to lump two extremely different films, but for the sake of this argument, aren't we able to empathize with the soldiers in Das Boot on *some* level, regardless of what side of the war they're in? Again, it's a whole different story, different goals, etc. but I think it's a good example of how one can look beyond certain aspects of a war film and still empathize with the core goal of the film, whether it is an epic war drama showcasing the tension of being in a submarine in wartime or a slapstick comedy about a man trying to get his stolen train and kidnapped girlfriend back.

And on that same line, Keaton's character motivations are solely to get his train back, and in second place, rescue his girlfriend. So, to me, saying that he is "fighting in part to keep black people enslaved" feels like too much unintended baggage for this kind of film, and what it sets out to do. But that's just me. However, I've emphasized a couple of times that that's the way I perceive it and that
Thief wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:59 pm
anyone can judge it from their preferred point of view
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:39 pm

Quickies on the first five films of the month...

Spotlight (2015) Solid drama/thriller. The story of the exposure of the systemic child abuse cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston is neatly acted and directed. However, I can't help but feel that it kinda fizzled a bit towards the end. Still, it was a pretty good film and definitely worth a watch. Grade: B+

Apollo 11 (2019) Gorgeous documentary about the events surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. What it lacks in revelations and oomph moments, it makes up for with great direction, editing, and visuals. Grade: B+

Zombieland (2009) Fun comedy about a nerd survivor of a Zombie apocalypse, and how he teams up with three other reluctant survivors. For some reason, I never caught this back in the day, but I enjoyed a lot of it. Some bits felt somewhat forced or ineffective, but I appreciated its adherence to its "rules for survival" and how it found fun ways to keep them upfront. Grade: B+

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Worthy closure to the Breaking Bad story, or at least Jesse Pinkman's part in it. Aside from the emotional investment we have with the characters, Gilligan's visual tricks are always interesting and most, if not all the performances are great. I found the climatic duel a bit of a stretch in how it unfolds, but I was satisfied anyway. Grade: B+

The Mummy (1932) One of the few Universal Classic Monster films I hadn't seen. It follows the "mummy" Imhotep (Boris Karloff) after it wakes up from its slumber to try to awaken his lover, whose soul he wants to "transfer" (?) into a young woman. I really liked some of the direction and camera movement, but overall found it somewhat dull with little scares and thrills. Grade: C+
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:15 pm

Thief wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:33 pm
As for your Nazi analogy, I wouldn't want to make a blanket statement about every single Nazi character in every film in history, but I'd rather say that it depends on the film, the story, its goals, and a whole other stuff. I don't want to lump two extremely different films, but for the sake of this argument, aren't we able to empathize with the soldiers in Das Boot on *some* level, regardless of what side of the war they're in? Again, it's a whole different story, different goals, etc. but I think it's a good example of how one can look beyond certain aspects of a war film and still empathize with the core goal of the film, whether it is an epic war drama showcasing the tension of being in a submarine in wartime or a slapstick comedy about a man trying to get his stolen train and kidnapped girlfriend back.
Das Boot is a great counter-example. I guess that one feels different to me because it's focus is so much on survival.

I really like The General, but it doesn't upset me if someone is put off by the "hidden politics" at play in the setting/characters of the story.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:46 pm

A film about a writer (Nat'l Author's Day, November 1): Let the Corpses Tan

Okay, not as much about a writer as one synopsis lead me to believe.

Basically there's a gang that robs a truck carrying a ton of gold. They end up holed up on this mountain encampment place along with an anti-authoritarian woman and a writer who is also hanging out. Then the writer's wife shows up (child and nanny in tow), and two motorcycle cops also find their way up the mountain. Two-thirds of the film is basically an extended shoot-out as various parties try to escape (either for their lives or with the gold).

I compared this one to Free Fire in the Recently Seen thread, and I think that would give you a sense of whether or not you would enjoy it. Toward the end I got a little fatigued with the frequent cuts and the shots of people taking bullets to the head. I started to lose track of who was alive or dead. The frequent intercuts of sexual fantasies (many of them meant to be the fantasies of the women in the film) are tolerable mainly because they are creatively shot and just weird enough to bring something more than T&A to the film.

I'd say that this one is definitely worth checking out. It is currently free on Prime. You'll know about 20 minutes in whether or not you want to stick it out until the end.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:10 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:15 pm
Das Boot is a great counter-example. I guess that one feels different to me because it's focus is so much on survival.

I really like The General, but it doesn't upset me if someone is put off by the "hidden politics" at play in the setting/characters of the story.
I was thinking more about The Wind Rises as far as comparisons go. The animated film is about a Japanese man who doesn't let nearsightedness keep him from his love of flight. But instead of flying planes, he was more about designing and building them. It takes the criticisms of what the planes he created were used for during the movie and addresses them by arguing that the world is a better place for their invention despite what others might use them for.

Perhaps by focusing on the designs and staying hundreds/thousands of miles away from battlefields (it also helps that the film also is about the man falling in love), one can look at the film about thinking of the war or what these planes would eventually be used for.

The same cannot be said for The General. Although a good portion of the film focuses on Johnnie Gray and his efforts to regain his two loves (the train and his girlfriend), the film does end with a giant battle where the Confederate soldiers triumph over the Union army. It doesn't help that the Union soldiers we see are deceitful (there's no surprise that they are spies pretending to be friendly Kentuckians in order to sneak the train across Southern lines). And of course, they have no qualms about kidnapping the hero's girlfriend.

Also, I think the use of Onward Christian Soldiers at several points during the battle (as well as Dixieland) is hard to argue that this film is about the South, the Confederates as the beloved good guys of the film.

When asked about why he made the heroes Southerners, Keaton said "It's awful hard to make heroes out of the Yankees."

Now, I will need to point out that a) nobody brings up slavery and b) yeah, Wooley is right in that until the climactic battle that he was rejected by the Confederate army for being too valuable (of course they never bring that up to him so the film quickly turns into Four Feathers territory). But it's also difficult to compartmentalize the character as being just and noble when it shows him at times leading his fellow troops including his fiancee's father and his sons into battle.

As an interesting aside, there was part of me that considered swapping out the parents vs frat house comedy Neighbors with the 1920 Buster Keaton short Neighbors which features not one, but two scenes of Keaton in various stages of brownface. Although to be clear, he seems to avoid most if not all negative associations with the term. Perhaps this was a remnant of the vaudeville era.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Slentert » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:55 pm

This got me thinking. Do you guys have any favorite movies that, even though you love 'm, you still find "problematic" in some capacity? For me it would be Naked and The Piano.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Jinnistan » Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:08 am

I only watch problematic movies.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:17 am

Slentert wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:55 pm
Do you guys have any favorite movies that, even though you love 'm, you still find "problematic" in some capacity? For me it would be Naked
Say more about this one. I was kind of conflicted about a few elements of it, but listening to the commentary on the DVD really resolved a lot of those issues for me.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:54 am

A film with a title that starts with the letters U or V: Velocipastor

This is a feature film based off of a joke trailer about a priest who, due to inheriting an ancient artifact, is able to turn into a dinosaur.

Usually films that try to be "so bad it's good" just come off as annoying. Long stretches of thin jokes as a premise meant to last 90 seconds is pushed to feature length.

But you know what: I laughed at this film. A lot. Maybe the best thing about it is that it only lasts about 70 minutes, managing to avoid much dead air time, making jokes and then moving on.

Everything about the film is almost too much. One of the running gags is the camera work, in which random zooms and pans bluntly intrude on the scenes. But I thought it was pretty funny when the camera began to pan during a fade out, only to run out of wall and then begin panning in a different direction. The lead actor hits pretty much exactly the right tone for the film, playing every moment with dead seriousness, whether he's drowning his sorrows in communion wine, running through the woods in a bright orange sweater dress he borrowed from a prostitute, or doing kettlebell swings in a mid-film training montage. This "deadpan in ridiculous moment" gag pays off repeatedly, including when a woman falls down in front of him, bloody arrow protruding from her chest, and he asks sincerely "Are you hurt?".

I think you'd either find this stupid and boring or hilarious. I was in the latter camp. It's available on Prime if you're so inclined.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by crumbsroom » Fri Nov 15, 2019 1:41 am

Slentert wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:55 pm
This got me thinking. Do you guys have any favorite movies that, even though you love 'm, you still find "problematic" in some capacity? For me it would be Naked and The Piano.
Of course.

Wherever some level of discomfort rises in me when I'm watching a film, it clearly is rankling me in some way. And I often want this reaction more than any.

So, um, most of the movies I love are probably in some way problematic.

As important as art is to me, it will never be my moral compass. And as long as art offers me conflicting view points to my own, no matter how unflattering, unpleasant or uncomfortable, sign me up.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:49 pm

Slentert wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:55 pm
This got me thinking. Do you guys have any favorite movies that, even though you love 'm, you still find "problematic" in some capacity? For me it would be Naked and The Piano.
*Sheepishly mentions Gone with the Wind.

I'm well aware of its problems with slavery and marital sexual assault. But the film manages to switch flawlessly between so many genres and watching Scarlet mature from a spoiled young woman to a broke older woman to a self-made rich woman is just fascinating to watch.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:04 pm

Slentert wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:55 pm
This got me thinking. Do you guys have any favorite movies that, even though you love 'm, you still find "problematic" in some capacity? For me it would be Naked and The Piano.
I saw The Young and the Damned earlier this year and, even though I didn't care a whole lot about the central dynamic between two of the leads, I felt it managed to nail other aspects so well such as the suggestions on how the slum kids ended up the way they did and two of the character arcs that I was comfortable with calling it a great film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:54 pm

A film about with the words "Black" or "Friday" in its title: Black Pond

This one was just shy of being a pretty solid dark comedy.

A man and his wife live together in a nice country home. One day the husband meets an odd stranger, a man named Blake, and ends up inviting him back to the house for dinner, which then becomes an invitation to spend the night. We know from the beginning of the film that the family has been accused of murdering Blake, and the film then shows us the events that lead to Blake's demise. Along the way the couple's two daughters and one of the daughters' boyfriends make an appearance. Another subplot in the film follows the boyfriend as he seeks therapy from an unconventional therapist for the strange experience he endured.

Ultimately there were some good, funny moments here, but it doesn't ever really gel. Simon Amstell is funny as the therapist, but his scenes have a loose, improvised feel and they just don't seem to fit with the rest of the movie. One or two of the sequences of domestic unrest are fun, but there's a tone to the film that is probably meant to be eccentric but just comes off as uncomfortable.

Also, and this is personal preference, a core piece of the comedy is derived from the death and suffering of an animal, and I'm just not into that. The more those scenes lean into "I'm quirky!" territory, the more I felt myself cringing. Will Sharpe (who plays boyfriend Tim) seems most at home in the film, and I see that he is credited as both co-writer and co-director. Everyone else seems game enough, but something is off.

A very tepid 6/10 from me.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:28 pm

One ringer and a stinker.

42nd Street: The Broadway Musical (2019)
See a musical
See a film with the number 2 in its title

Straight from Broadway to the Fathom Studio to PBS comes YET another story of a ingenue from a small town (Allentown, PA represent!) who becomes a chorus girl and ultimately the lead in a big Broadway musical thanks to some luck (and some clumsiness). Although it's a blow because the former lead was counted on to sell box office tickets, the rest of the cast is behind her as her pluckiness and likability factors are as high as her tap dancing and singing talents. They just have to convince hard nosed musical director Julian of this.

The choreography is superb, the comic relief is decent without being in your face, and it plays well on-screen. It helps that the former lead has more interests besides ruining the newbie and/or the musical.

The largest problem here is that too much of the play depends on who ends up with the ingenue. The male lead makes a big play early in the musical (Young and Beautiful) and the director takes his turn as he's trying to convince her to knock this out of the park with some aggressive kissing. Nobody objects because it's the Great Depression and people gotta work somehow (more likely because it wasn't worried about when it was made in the 1930s), but yeah, that didn't sit well with me.

Overall, a slight thumbs up. It's available on PBS if you're so inclined.

Eleven (2019)
See a film that features the number eleven that isn't a sequel

There's a couple of elements in this war movie that felt different enough to me that I think a better writer/director/cast might be able to work with. But this isn't the right writer/director/cast for this.

In the closing hours before the armistice treaty is signed between Germany and the Allies in World War 1, the general of the British army makes a bold order: one more offensive in order to punch the Germans in the nose before the war ends. For a small squadron led by Archie, this decision would lead to various consequences including a possible friendship with a German who's as weary of war as he is.

This was pretty dull. The flashbacks which may make narrative sense do nothing except slow things down. The acting, visuals, everything else is OK. But it can't even make a flash forward scene at the end go anywhere interesting. The characters are mostly full of war cliches and the majority of the film feels similarly paint by numbers.

Definitely not recommended. If you're a glutton for punishment, be sure to check it out on Prime.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Nov 18, 2019 8:09 pm

Look here, I've done three films yesterday!

Naples '44 (2017)
See a documentary about a writer

The interesting stories of the British intelligence officer Norman Lewis in Naples, Italy towards the end of World War 2 which would eventually lead towards a best selling memoir in the 1970s is told pretty uninterestingly here. Although it didn't help they chose the soothing bedtime voice of Benedict Cumberbatch over someone who might make those words come alive, the larger issue is the visuals chosen in this film. It's a mix of war footage, film clips, and shots of someone pretending to be Lewis wandering around Naples.

Read the book instead. Although if you are so inclined, it's on Amazon Prime.

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003)
See a film about a rebellion or political plot

Although this is about Turner and his failed Southhampton failed slave rebellion in 1831, it's also about how he's interpreted in various nonfiction books, novels, and plays. Since not much is known about his life (largely due to the fact he was a slave for most/all his life), how the writers choose to interpret the person and his actions can lead to wildly different takes on Turner. From a brutal savage to a borderline poet.

I think there's a quote at the beginning about once he died, the property of his words and actions belonged to others much like how he was considered property while he lived. It really caught my attention. As a creative person who once wrote about the last road trip involving Hank Williams Sr. for a script, it emphasized the importance of getting the person right.

Various talking heads such as actor Ossie Davis and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. show up. I think it was Gates that argued on criticism on how Turner was portrayed in a novel that the best way to fix that was to create art.

Interesting documentary can be found on Amazon Prime.

Asterix and Cleopatra (1969)
See a film about or featuring Egypt

I have a beautiful video of Egypt if I can just get those Youtube links to work.

Anyway, Cleopatra places a wager with Julius Caesar that Egyptian builders can create a beautiful palace within three months. The contractor seeks out a magical person he knows which turns out to be the friend/mentor of Asterix and Obelix. But there are those who try to wreak havoc and have everyone involved be tossed to the crocodiles.

Alas, I had this confused at first with the 2019 Magic Potion film. But the animation is bright and colorful (even if there's a few cringy portraits one wishes were in the past) and the comedy was funny if a bit on the broad side (surprising amount of violence). The songs chosen were a bit on the meh side. But knowing little/nothing about this Gaulish duo, I didn't feel lost.

Marginal thumbs up for this animation which can be found on Amazon Prime.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:22 pm

I've fallen a bit behind, but kids were ill, wife *is* ill, which has led to a lot more tired nights than usual where I start to watch something only to fall asleep 20 minutes in. I expect to finish Enter the Dragon tonight, which I started a couple of nights ago, and see if I can get back on track during the last stretch of the month.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Nov 19, 2019 8:33 pm

Born in Gaza
See a film from Palestine

This documentary looks at the 2014 attacks on Palestine by Israel, from the view of several children who have to deal with the aftermath. It's sad more than anything.

You can see the innocence fade as they realize a few months later that the war may be over, but the scars and complications remain.

Recommended. It's on Netflix for those so inclined.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:39 am

Apex Predator wrote:
Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:28 pm
Eleven (2019)
See a film that features the number eleven that isn't a sequel

Definitely not recommended. If you're a glutton for punishment, be sure to check it out on Prime.
This was on my maybe list, but it looked like it would be boring. I mean, The Eleventh Commandment was garbage, but at least it was fun garbage.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:41 am

Thief wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:22 pm
I've fallen a bit behind, but kids were ill, wife *is* ill, which has led to a lot more tired nights than usual where I start to watch something only to fall asleep 20 minutes in. I expect to finish Enter the Dragon tonight, which I started a couple of nights ago, and see if I can get back on track during the last stretch of the month.
There's a nasty bug going through my room right now. Lots of vomiting. Multiple students out sick. You now get to enjoy the domino effect of having a school-aged child who is sick.

I'm also planning to watch Enter the Dragon (Lee is a real blind spot for me), so we can chat about it when we're both done!
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Fri Nov 22, 2019 3:38 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:39 am
This was on my maybe list, but it looked like it would be boring. I mean, The Eleventh Commandment was garbage, but at least it was fun garbage.
I'll gladly take interesting bad over dull bad any day of the week.

No stomach bugs on my end, but I do feel like my mustache is gonna leave me sick by the end of the month.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:15 pm

Any recommendation on films about writers? I can't seem to find anything available on Netflix, Prime, or Hulu.

EDIT: Takoma's recommendation of Young Adult is on Prime, so that's an option, but any other alternative might be good.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Oxnard Montalvo » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:51 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:17 am
Say more about this one. I was kind of conflicted about a few elements of it, but listening to the commentary on the DVD really resolved a lot of those issues for me.
what did they say on the commentary? (I assume this is about the rape stuff)
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:48 pm

Thief wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:15 pm
EDIT: Takoma's recommendation of Young Adult is on Prime, so that's an option, but any other alternative might be good.
Harsh!!

Also on Prime: Stranger Than Fiction, House, Lila Says, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Permanent Midnight.
Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:51 pm
what did they say on the commentary? (I assume this is about the rape stuff)
Yes. The discussion was about distinguishing the impulsive and self-destructive actions of the protagonist with the sadistic and intentional cruelties of the boyfriend character. It was also pretty clear from the commentary that the main character was a mess and the kind of person who harms people he is close to. I appreciated that the idea wasn't that he was just "misunderstood" or "actually a good guy who made a few mistakes". It's been almost 10 years since I listened to the commentary, so many of the details escape me, but I would recommend giving it a listen if you get the chance. It really makes clear the degree of both nuance and empathy that was at play in both the direction and the acting of the film (I know that David Thewlis was on the commentary, and I can't remember if the director also was on it or if Thewlis just explained about the process of developing the character and filming).
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Slentert » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:29 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:48 pm
Harsh!!

Also on Prime: Stranger Than Fiction, House, Lila Says, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Permanent Midnight.



Yes. The discussion was about distinguishing the impulsive and self-destructive actions of the protagonist with the sadistic and intentional cruelties of the boyfriend character. It was also pretty clear from the commentary that the main character was a mess and the kind of person who harms people he is close to. I appreciated that the idea wasn't that he was just "misunderstood" or "actually a good guy who made a few mistakes". It's been almost 10 years since I listened to the commentary, so many of the details escape me, but I would recommend giving it a listen if you get the chance. It really makes clear the degree of both nuance and empathy that was at play in both the direction and the acting of the film (I know that David Thewlis was on the commentary, and I can't remember if the director also was on it or if Thewlis just explained about the process of developing the character and filming).
I never got the impression the movie was trying to justify anything Thewlis' character did, and I think they did a pretty good job at reminding you how awful he actually is whenever you got too attached to him. I guess I always found it kinda questionable how almost every female character in this movie gets raped or at least almost raped, even when the movie was never glorifying or excusing any of it.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sat Nov 23, 2019 2:09 am

Slentert wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:29 am
I never got the impression the movie was trying to justify anything Thewlis' character did, and I think they did a pretty good job at reminding you how awful he actually is whenever you got too attached to him.
Well, there are a lot of lesser films that play a little mind game I think of as "the low bar", where a flawed (usually male) protagonist is made to look better by contrasting him with an even more unlikable male character (ie Edward stalking Bella in Twilight and his stalking leading directly to him saving her from a *really* bad guy who attacks her, thus allowing his weird and abusive behavior to be recast as heroic and romantic).

I think that there's a danger with this kind of dynamic (which is present in Naked) that the main character could be seen as "not so bad" because at least he's not a sadist like the other guy. (Note: I called him the "boyfriend" before, but looking at a plot synopsis I see that he was actually the landlord. My bad.) Johnny is genuinely likable and intelligent and engaging in many scenes (such as the long conversation with the security guard). We see him being victimized (when he's beaten up). It seems very possible that he has mental health issues. When you put these elements together, I think that it would be easy to see how someone might extend the empathy that you feel for him (even when he's being kind of awful) into excusing some of his behaviors.

Despite me feeling like Johnny was a pretty messed up guy, it's also true that he didn't feel half as dangerous as the predatory, premeditated actions of the landlord. Just by sheer virtue of how horrible he is, the landlord's presence "steals" much of the disgust that you feel at Johnny's actions.
I guess I always found it kinda questionable how almost every female character in this movie gets raped or at least almost raped, even when the movie was never glorifying or excusing any of it.
In the commentary, Thewlis talked about how the treatment of women was basically the central way that the characters of Johnny and the landlord were contrasted as being different "species" (my word, not his) of bad guy. And, honestly, it was clear from the commentary that the filmmakers (like the general audience and, I guess, me) consider the landlord to be much worse. The impulsive, consensual-turned-rough-but-rape? sex in the alleyway contrasted with the premeditated, sadistic actions of the landlord.

There were enough well-drawn female characters (such as Louise, or the depressed woman played by Gina McKee) that I didn't feel like they were just being reduced to props, though it is true that sexual violence is used as a way of contrasting the two male characters. I do have to admit that my general respect for Mike Leigh and the types of characters/relationships he puts on camera means that I give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Honestly, I own the film but haven't watched it in almost a decade. Probably one of many, many films I watched in my 20s that deserve a rewatch. (Man, did anyone else just watch a TON of serious/depressing films in their early 20s? When I look back I'm like, girl, would it have killed you to throw a few comedies in there?)
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Sat Nov 23, 2019 3:18 am

I was honestly ambivalent on Young Adult, a film with some good elements but some shaky ones as well.

The Ghost Writer is on Prime (if you can stand Roman Polanski) and it's one I'd highly recommend.
So is Amityville 3D, but I don't recommend that one.
Late Night is as well, but have no opinion either way.

Dark Crimes is on Netflix, but I've heard this is one to stay away from.
Burning is on Netflix, and I've heard some raves for it.
So is The Lives of Others (yeah, the original).
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sat Nov 23, 2019 4:44 am

Some other writer movies (not necessarily free, but some are streaming on Showtime or HBO or you can rent them):

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Misery
Adaptation
Wonder Boys (free on Prime)
Barton Fink
Hannah Arendt
Ruby Sparks
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:10 pm

Apex Predator wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 3:18 am
The Ghost Writer is on Prime (if you can stand Roman Polanski) and it's one I'd highly recommend.
I just read your post, but this is what I went with anyway. I had been meaning to watch it for a while so I was happy to see it was on Prime.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Nov 26, 2019 3:13 pm

It wouldn't be a "challenge" if I didn't have to rush to the finish line, right?

Anyway, here are my quickies on the middle 5/6 of the month...

Stranded (2001) Spanish production with an international cast (Vincent Gallo, Maria de Medeiros, Joaquim de Almeida, etc.) that follows a team of astronauts that end up stranded on Mars, forcing them to come up with ways to survive. The film has some interesting moments and a somewhat eerie ambiance, but it's dragged down by a few weak or subpar performances, some problematic story detours, and a meandering script that doesn't seem quite sure of what to do or be. The direction by María Lidón, who also stars, is solid though. Grade: C

Enter the Dragon (1973) Woohoo, my first Bruce Lee film, so it's a nice milestone. The film follows Lee, a martial arts expert, as he is asked by the government to join a tournament led by Han, an evil crime lord. In the meantime, he befriends a couple of fighters with different motivations. The premise is thin, and one that has been repeated in numerous other martial arts films, but Lee's presence justifies it. The way he embraces the role is great and the action delivers. It was certainly a lot of fun to watch. Grade: B+

Demon (2015) Polish film about Piotr (Itay Tiran), a young man that unearths some human remains while working on the land where he's about to move with his fiancée, with "unfortunate" results. The night of his wedding, Piotr is possessed by some demonic being wreaking havoc during the reception, but also unearthing some apparent shady businesses between his in-laws and the people at the town. Certainly an interesting watch, with a lot of mood and a creepy performance by Tiran. Unfortunately, the film seems more intent on creating the mood than it is on delivering something. In some ways, most of what happens feel fruitless. I still think it's worth a watch, and Marcin Wrona's direction is effectively creepy, but I was expecting a bit more at the finish line. Grade: B-

V for Vendetta (2005) I was thinking of a film to see for my "Guy Fawkes Plot" category, but then I realized, why not watch a film that references "Guy Fawkes Plot" directly? I hadn't seen this film probably since theaters, but I remember enjoying it back then. Rewatching it now, I still think it's pretty good, but not as good as I remembered. Natalie Portman is great as the troubled follower of the enigmatic V (Hugo Weaving). I love Weaving, but I could've used a bit more physicality from him considering he's masked all of the time. The film feels a bit heavy-handed and its point a bit muddled, and I might have some issues with how Evey (Portman) comes around to follow V, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. Grade: B+

The Ghost Writer (2010) Ewan McGregor plays a "ghost writer" assigned to write the memoirs of former British PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). As he starts investigating the death of his predecessor, McGregor ends up tangled in a political mess of conspiracies and murder. Very tense and taut, with some fine performances. I was a bit wary of some of the things that happen, but once it ends, a lot of those things come to focus, which I think improves the film. Grade: for now, a B+, but with potential of being an A-

Recount (2008) Pretty good political drama/thriller about the infamous 2000 election results between Bush and Gore. It follows Ron Klain (Kevin Spacey), one of Gore's campaign advisors, as he and his team try to get a recount while uncovering what happened in Florida. Stellar cast that includes John Hurt, Laura Dern, Tom Wilkinson, Bob Balaban, and many more, it manages to be tense, even though we all know the outcome. It obviously leans towards Gore's side, but I still think it manages to back up most of its plot. If you can handle that, and Spacey... and Denis Leary... then this might be a good watch. Grade: B+

So it seems I have 4 days, including Thanksgiving, to watch the 5 remaining films. Can I do it? Maybe, maybe not.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Nov 26, 2019 3:55 pm

Plans for the rest of the week...

Tonight: Vampyr

Tomorrow: something about the occult? I want to see Midsommar (does it qualify?), but I also have rewatches of The Omen or Rosemary's Baby in mind.

Thanksgiving Day: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, maybe? or maybe something along that line that I can watch with the kids? We will be hosting our family so it's gonna be tough to squeeze something this day.

Friday: Film set in Palestine. Wanted to rewatch Paradise Now, but it isn't available for streaming. Laila's Birthday is on Prime and The Time that Remains is on Hulu, so there's that.

Saturday: Is Black Snake Moan worth my time? It's on Prime. I'd like to see Black Narcissus or Black Orpheus, but can't find them streaming. My last resort option... rewatch Friday the 13th Part VI :D

I can swap those options around, but if things get tough, I'll try to sneak in short films for some of the categories, like I did a couple of months ago.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:29 pm

Glad you liked The Ghost Writer.

I know about Spacey, but what about Denis Leary that appears to be troublesome these days?

My plans for the next five days (family could change this easy enough if they want to do something for Thanksgiving, but I got work every day until Saturday morning):

Tomorrow: Finish up Andhadhun (which isn't turning out the way I was expecting), start up Pieces of April

Thursday: Finish Pieces of April, maybe check out The Chaperone (oh, PBS with your sneaky ways) or The Ritual.

Friday: Finish The Ritual if I have started it (if I hadn't, see it then). Go through 300 Miles to Heaven. If I have time, see Kinky Boots (again with the PBS).

Saturday: Dive into Honest Man, His Girl Friday and Fist of Fury.

If I can get done early enough on Tuesday, then I'll work on the Indian film and perhaps For Sama (More PBS madness).

Oh, and I still have three more plays/musicals to get through. Sigh.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:42 pm

Apex Predator wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:29 pm
Glad you liked The Ghost Writer.

I know about Spacey, but what about Denis Leary that appears to be troublesome these days?
That's why I mentioned him :D I'm sure Takoma would have a hoot with that film ;)
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:31 pm

Thief wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:42 pm
That's why I mentioned him :D I'm sure Takoma would have a hoot with that film ;)
So I guess that The Ref isn't in Takoma's Christmas movie rotation, then?
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:19 pm

Apex Predator wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:31 pm
So I guess that The Ref isn't in Takoma's Christmas movie rotation, then?
You guess correctly. Though I haven't paid much attention to Leary ever since I watched him say something in an interview about depression not being real.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Stu » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:55 am

Takoma, do you ever use Letterboxd to post your various writings on film? Just curious.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:50 pm

Stu wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:55 am
Takoma, do you ever use Letterboxd to post your various writings on film? Just curious.
I don't, no.

Working two jobs and managing my home/animals doesn't leave a ton of time to really sit down and put together "reviews". I rate things on IMDb, discuss them here, and discuss them with a few family members and friends.
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