Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

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Takoma1
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:25 am

Thief wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 12:25 am
Tak, you're on fire! Always enjoy reading about the obscure titles you sometimes come up with.
Aka out of one of my jobs, and in a weird position with the one I still have. I'm oscillating between watching very upsetting films (because I'm upset! Let's all be upset!) and really bland/soothing films/TV (because I'm upset! Help me feel better!).

The last two films that I have planned for this month are both in the former category.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:47 am

Ok, here are my brief write-ups for the first 5 films of the month, and what a great run this was...

A film from the 1930s: THE INVISIBLE MAN
This is one I've been meaning to watch for a while. The film follows Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a chemist that has found the formula for invisibility, but his inability to reverse the process pushes him into violence and insanity. This was a truly entertaining and well-made film, but I will first highlight a couple of "minor" things I appreciated about it that, IMO, sets it apart from other similar films. First, the film doesn't unfold like your typical monster/horror film, there really is no "origin" story, other than what some characters share about what happened. Instead, we are thrown right in the middle of everything, following the lead character, who is the "bad guy", which is the second thing I appreciated. There are no traditional "heroes", at least not in the sense that we might expect. The guy we are following can be seen as a "madman"; and although I think the term fits, both the script and Rains manage to get the most out of what can only be described as a challenging performance. Rains' voice manages to convey the insanity, the craziness, and the vulnerability of Griffin to varying degrees. I do think that the ending feels a bit anti-climatic, and I also think Gloria Stuart's performance as Griffin's fiancee wasn't the best. But those are just minor complaints. I enjoyed this one a lot. Grade: A-

A film from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list whose ranking includes the #4 (i.e. 14, 401, 943): THE GRADUATE (#457)
Yet another one I had been meaning to watch for a long time. This one follows Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a college graduate that is struggling to find a proper goal in his life, and ends up in a relationship with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), an older woman that also happens to be the wife of his father's law partner. First, I was expecting something a bit more on the light side, but I was surprised by how heavy its themes of alienation, freedom, the nature of relationships, love and marriage are, but without feeling heavy in the bad sense, or losing the comedy edge (not that the film is knee-slap funny, but it *is* funny). All three leads are excellent, but Hoffman in particular is great. I also thought Mike Nichols direction to be great, and loved his use of long shots and close-ups, focus and zooms. I think it worked perfectly. There's a scene in particular that stuck with me, which is when Elaine (Katherine Ross), Mrs. Robinson's daughter finds out about Benjamin's affair with his mother, where the camera focus goes from Bancroft's face to Ross, and Nichols' takes a while to establish that focus on her face to symbolize how what happened is entering into focus in her mind. It was a simple, but great shot. My main gripe is that I feel like the way Elaine enters the story and how her relationship with Benjamin unfolds are a bit abrupt. Fortunately, both Hoffman and Ross sell it really well. Loved it. Grade: A

A film with Marlon Brando: SUPERMAN (rewatch)
If you would've asked me a week ago what is my favorite comic book film, I might've said Superman. He's always been my favorite superhero, and I've always had fond memories of watching the Reeves' films a lot of times when I was a kid. But the truth is that I hadn't revisited this in probably 25 years, so I was approaching it with a bit of nostalgia, but also a bit of dread of how well (or not) it might fare now. Maybe it was the nostalgia or maybe it is really a great film, but the truth is that I loved almost everything about it. From the rather dark opening in Krypton to the charming earnestness of Christopher Reeves' dual performance. I have to admit I got goosebumps when we first see Superman flying out of the Fortress of Solitude for the first time. This is what superhero films can be. Admittedly, each film is separate and different, but they don't all need the "gritty/dark" treatment. There is a certain *something* in the way Superman carries himself that I find so endearing and, as of 2020, refreshing. There is little complexity to a character whose sole purpose is to do good, and Reeves' performance is excellent. Brando also adds a lot of gravitas and seriousness to the film that I think helps balance the more "comedic" aspects of the second act, which is where the films most notable flaws come to the surface. Although Gene Hackman is fun and hammy as Lex Luthor, the truth is that his plan is, to put it mildly, silly, and the whole Otis/Tessmacher thing borders on "too much". Still, there's so much to love here that I can't complain. This is still my favorite comic book film. Grade: A

A Biblical film: THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (rewatch)
Yet another one that I hadn't seen since its release. The film follows the Biblical story of Moses (Val Kilmer), the Hebrew that grew up in Egypt raised by Pharaoh at a time when Hebrews were enslaved. When he finds out about his past, he flees only to come back later to demand the new Pharaoh, who is his "brother" (Ralph Fiennes) to let his people go. I remember liking this one a lot back in the day, so it was another pleasant surprise to see how well it held up. I love the changes made to the story, in terms of the relationship between Moses and Pharaoh, although, as someone who studied the Bible back in the day, I wish they would've fleshed out Aaron more. Still, I understand the writers' desire to focus on this "brother" relationship, and the voice talent from everyone is great. Most of the songs are also quite memorable, with "Playing with the Big Boys" being the highlight to me. The animation is gorgeous and the direction is great. I saw it with the kids and, although the story was perhaps a bit too complex for them to understand, I think they still enjoyed it. Grade: A-

A road trip film: ABOMINABLE
What is it with Hollywood and Sasquatch/Yeti films? It's like there have been half a dozen in the last 3 years or so. Anyway, this one follows Yi (Chloe Bennet), an introverted teenager that sets out to help a Yeti who escaped from a research facility, to return to the Himalayas. Obviously another choice for the kids, but I thought the film was good fun. The film does fall into some clichés, and there is not a lot of depth to the story, but the animation is superb and the story is funny. SImple, but fun. Grade: B

Freebie for me!: PARASITE
This is one I'm still processing after watching it last night. The film follows a struggling poor family that find numerous ways to con a wealthy family into employing them as tutors and housekeepers, etc. For anyone that hasn't seen this, I think the less you know, the better. The film is not entirely relaint on twists, but I think that the way the plot unfolds is part of what makes it work. Director and co-writer Bong Joon-ho does an excellent job of highlighting class inequality and social divisions, while using his usual mish-mash of genres and tones. The film is far from subtle, but here the shift in tones isn't as jarring as, say The Host or Memories of Murder. I think it is rather more fluid and cohesive, with the film moving from comedy to tragedy in a very fluid, seamless way. I also loved how it refuses to put the characters into easily defined boxes, forcing us to explore how we feel about each "side". The film is also visually striking, and Bong's use of perspective, distance, light and darkness is impressive. All of the performances are great, but the standout is easily Bong's bestie, Song Kang-ho, who plays the father of the family. The way this man handles so many emotions and reactions in one single character, is impressive. From LOL funny to bleak and tragic. Loved it. Grade: A

Seriously, it's been a while since I had such a good run. Loved it.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:48 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:25 am
Aka out of one of my jobs, and in a weird position with the one I still have. I'm oscillating between watching very upsetting films (because I'm upset! Let's all be upset!) and really bland/soothing films/TV (because I'm upset! Help me feel better!).

The last two films that I have planned for this month are both in the former category.
It's the "out of one of my jobs" temporary due to the lockout/pandemic? or is it a permanent thing?
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:25 am

Thief wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:47 am
A film from the 1930s: THE INVISIBLE MAN

the film doesn't unfold like your typical monster/horror film,
One of my favorite bits is the first moment when we get to see the invisibility effect:

https://youtu.be/JbxhHNBBW30

He lowers his napkin and you get a glimpse of his missing jaw that only lasts a second. It's presented completely without fanfare which only makes it more unsettling. I can imagine a moviegoer in 1933 thinking "wait-- WTF did I just see??"

I think we expect films of this era to present a moment like that with a loud musical cue and a closeup ("DUN DUNNNN!!!"), so I love that they didn't go that route. Remember this is directed by James Whale, who introduced Karloff's monster in complete silence. Dude knew what he was doing. :up:
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:50 am

Captain Terror wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:25 am
One of my favorite bits is the first moment when we get to see the invisibility effect:

https://youtu.be/JbxhHNBBW30

He lowers his napkin and you get a glimpse of his missing jaw that only lasts a second. It's presented completely without fanfare which only makes it more unsettling. I can imagine a moviegoer in 1933 thinking "wait-- WTF did I just see??"

I think we expect films of this era to present a moment like that with a loud musical cue and a closeup ("DUN DUNNNN!!!"), so I love that they didn't go that route. Remember this is directed by James Whale, who introduced Karloff's monster in complete silence. Dude knew what he was doing. :up:
Certainly. Audiences now know what to expect, but one can only imagine how the audience back then would react to that.

I also remembered another thing I wanted to mention about it, and how it doesn't "behave" like other horror films of the era, and it's that it is so dark and bleak, in terms of what Griffin manages to get away with.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:50 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:53 pm
A film based on a poem (National Poetry Month): Krysar

This is a Czech animated/claymation version of the Pied Piper of Hamlin poem/story.

This was SOMETHING!
A long-time favorite of mine (found on page 2 of my animation thread). I agree with everything you said here, and I'll just add that the design of the sets and characters is worth noting. As an art student I became enamored with the German painter Ludwig Meidner and this thing looks like one of his paintings come to life. A feast for the eyes.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:14 am

Thief wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:48 am
It's the "out of one of my jobs" temporary due to the lockout/pandemic? or is it a permanent thing?
I work as a massage therapist, and it's pretty hard to give someone a good massage from six feet away!
Captain Terror wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:50 am
A long-time favorite of mine (found on page 2 of my animation thread). I agree with everything you said here, and I'll just add that the design of the sets and characters is worth noting. As an art student I became enamored with the German painter Ludwig Meidner and this thing looks like one of his paintings come to life. A feast for the eyes.
I don't know how I missed this one in your thread--I felt like I'd never heard of it before.

And, yes, I meant to say something about the set design. It's got a lot of interesting angles and strange perspective. All of the design is deliberately "off", and it's neat that the Piper himself and his love interest are two of the only characters who are "normal" looking and her home specifically seems like one of the least warped spaces.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Wooley » Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:54 am

Thief wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:47 am
Ok, here are my brief write-ups for the first 5 films of the month, and what a great run this was...

A film from the 1930s: THE INVISIBLE MAN
This is one I've been meaning to watch for a while. The film follows Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a chemist that has found the formula for invisibility, but his inability to reverse the process pushes him into violence and insanity. This was a truly entertaining and well-made film, but I will first highlight a couple of "minor" things I appreciated about it that, IMO, sets it apart from other similar films. First, the film doesn't unfold like your typical monster/horror film, there really is no "origin" story, other than what some characters share about what happened. Instead, we are thrown right in the middle of everything, following the lead character, who is the "bad guy", which is the second thing I appreciated. There are no traditional "heroes", at least not in the sense that we might expect. The guy we are following can be seen as a "madman"; and although I think the term fits, both the script and Rains manage to get the most out of what can only be described as a challenging performance. Rains' voice manages to convey the insanity, the craziness, and the vulnerability of Griffin to varying degrees. I do think that the ending feels a bit anti-climatic, and I also think Gloria Stuart's performance as Griffin's fiancee wasn't the best. But those are just minor complaints. I enjoyed this one a lot. Grade: A-
That is such a fun movie, and everything you say is on the money. And Rains is the bomb, yo.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:24 am

Another plus to the film is how short it is; barely above an hour.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:16 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Apr 12, 2020 4:59 am
A road trip film (Read a Road Map Day, April 5): Lamb

Even in lighter moments, it never feels like it's meant to be enjoyably quirky.
This was the key for me. At no point did I think, "Oh they're just lonely, this is kind of sweet". Also important is that Tommie is never the instigator of anything. In other films like Leon, the girl is shown to be precocious to a point where it kind of lets the guy off the hook a bit. ("See, she's enjoying this too"). Tommie has a change of heart almost immediately after the trip starts, so anything after that is a result of Lamb manipulating her to stick around. Even if she momentarily enjoys hanging out with the horses or whatever, she's made it pretty clear that she's ready for the adventure to be over.

I've read complaints online that the film is trying to make us sympathize with a kidnapper (or worse) by making him ambiguous but I didn't get that at all. I'm probably bringing my own stuff to the table here, but at no time was I giving him the benefit of the doubt. I think his motives were ambiguous in his mind, but as far as I was concerned he pretty much did everything wrong and the entire thing was a horror show. So the fact that she begins to feel affectionate towards him was not sweet or cute but rather more evidence of how much damage he was doing to her.

Even though Lamb never crosses the line into actual molestation, I felt very much like I was watching a kid being abused. After he's done manipulating the kid to fill whatever needs he's got he unceremoniously dumps her when her purpose has been served. Despite all of his "cherish these memories" speeches, it's pretty clear that this experience has not improved her life and will probably screw her up for the foreseeable future, just like "actual" abuse. (I gotta say, your Depression Meter rating of 6 was a little low, but I'm not mad. No really, I'M FINE, OK??) :)

So yeah, good stuff. Brave choice to build a film around a main character who's kind of a monster. And the actress was terrific. Heartbreaking.
I'd like to read the novel now.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:17 pm

Captain Terror wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:16 pm
This was the key for me. At no point did I think, "Oh they're just lonely, this is kind of sweet". Also important is that Tommie is never the instigator of anything. In other films like Leon, the girl is shown to be precocious to a point where it kind of lets the guy off the hook a bit. ("See, she's enjoying this too"). Tommie has a change of heart almost immediately after the trip starts, so anything after that is a result of Lamb manipulating her to stick around. Even if she momentarily enjoys hanging out with the horses or whatever, she's made it pretty clear that she's ready for the adventure to be over.
Right.
Her actions are believably those of a child. She is able to be bribed to a certain degree and of course she is hungry for the love and attention that she doesn't get at home. But you can see that she knows that things are off. Even the moments where she agrees or is happy are clearly not really how she feels deep down. I like that they didn't try to make her overly streetwise or mature. Also, it's really frustrating to see people point to situations where younger kids do initiate things. Yes, there are children who can be manipulative of adults, but more often there are kids who are good at acting older than they are.
I've read complaints online that the film is trying to make us sympathize with a kidnapper (or worse) by making him ambiguous but I didn't get that at all. I'm probably bringing my own stuff to the table here, but at no time was I giving him the benefit of the doubt. I think his motives were ambiguous in his mind, but as far as I was concerned he pretty much did everything wrong and the entire thing was a horror show. So the fact that she begins to feel affectionate towards him was not sweet or cute but rather more evidence of how much damage he was doing to her.
Yeah, like you I never felt that
we were meant to sympathize with him. Maybe in the very limited sense that he is a damaged human being who grew up in an abusive house himself and has horribly unresolved issues with his parents/father. But any sympathy you feel toward him is quickly checked by how wrong his actions are. I never felt like we were supposed to be "on his side" at any point. I actually really appreciated that they had that "fake kidnapping" scene in the beginning because it is so creepy. We see him for who he is--his impulsiveness, his disregard for her fear and feelings--right from the get-go. That and the part with the bathtub. The film doesn't sugarcoat the damage he's doing. In fact, I think it's pretty rare for a guy to direct himself as a lead character and not make himself (1) sympathetic or (2) "enjoyably" bad. There is nothing redeeming about his character, and even his notion of "saving" her is warped. Like, for example, that part where he says "It's good to see you covered up" because she was dressed more provocatively in the earlier scene. Yet not 15 minutes later in the film he's trying to pull her clothes off against her will. He's an actual bad person and I'm glad the director/actor knew it.
Even though Lamb never crosses the line into actual molestation, I felt very much like I was watching a kid being abused. After he's done manipulating the kid to fill whatever needs he's got he unceremoniously dumps her when her purpose has been served. Despite all of his "cherish these memories" speeches, it's pretty clear that this experience has not improved her life and will probably screw her up for the foreseeable future, just like "actual" abuse. (I gotta say, your Depression Meter rating of 6 was a little low, but I'm not mad. No really, I'M FINE, OK??) :)

So yeah, good stuff. Brave choice to build a film around a main character who's kind of a monster. And the actress was terrific. Heartbreaking.
Yes, their relationship is
blatantly abusive with elements of sexual abuse (like letting her watch him have sex with the woman in the farmhouse). Mostly it is physically and emotionally abusive, and I think that when you pair an adult man with a little girl you are bracing yourself for rape/sexual abuse. But his abuse of her simply doesn't take that form. He's using her to work through his emotional issues and as time goes on I think that you see in his face that he cares less and less about hiding that truth from himself. His lie to her at the end--that he will leave secret coded messages for her--is so heinous.

One part of me did wonder if he believes he will be caught. There are multiple witnesses to his actions, including a girlfriend who could figure out he doesn't have a niece. They were in plenty of places (hotels, gas stations) that would have cameras. I know he used a fake name with her, but surely he would have had to show his driver's license at the hotels.
I appreciate that you watched it and I hope it gets more widely scene in general.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:45 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:17 pm
Yeah, like you I never felt that
we were meant to sympathize with him. Maybe in the very limited sense that he is a damaged human being who grew up in an abusive house himself and has horribly unresolved issues with his parents/father. But any sympathy you feel toward him is quickly checked by how wrong his actions are. I never felt like we were supposed to be "on his side" at any point. I actually really appreciated that they had that "fake kidnapping" scene in the beginning because it is so creepy. We see him for who he is--his impulsiveness, his disregard for her fear and feelings--right from the get-go. That and the part with the bathtub. The film doesn't sugarcoat the damage he's doing. In fact, I think it's pretty rare for a guy to direct himself as a lead character and not make himself (1) sympathetic or (2) "enjoyably" bad. There is nothing redeeming about his character, and even his notion of "saving" her is warped. Like, for example, that part where he says "It's good to see you covered up" because she was dressed more provocatively in the earlier scene. Yet not 15 minutes later in the film he's trying to pull her clothes off against her will. He's an actual bad person and I'm glad the director/actor knew it.
Right, another example was when he goes to the drug store and leaves her the cab fare. Yes he's giving her a way out, but he's also asking an 11-year-old to call herself a cab in an unfamiliar part of town.
Takoma1 wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:17 pm
One part of me did wonder if he believes he will be caught. There are multiple witnesses to his actions, including a girlfriend who could figure out he doesn't have a niece. They were in plenty of places (hotels, gas stations) that would have cameras. I know he used a fake name with her, but surely he would have had to show his driver's license at the hotels.
As the end approached, I was convinced it was going to end with his suicide. The impression I get from a brief review I read is that the novel extends past the film's ending. I'd like to know how the author dealt with it.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Apr 14, 2020 3:34 am

Captain Terror wrote:
Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:45 am
As the end approached, I was convinced it was going to end with his suicide. The impression I get from a brief review I read is that the novel extends past the film's ending. I'd like to know how the author dealt with it.
He seemed to me to be
too selfish to kill himself. I'm not saying it couldn't be the ending, but it just seemed like he totally failed to process the way that he'd perpetuated the very abuse that messed him up in the first place.
I'd also be interested in the book, but maybe after the memory of the film has faded a bit.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:05 pm

Any film that starts with the letters G or H: High Life

This is a sci-fi thriller/drama told out of sequence. In a spaceship deep, deep in space, a lone man Monte (Robert Pattinson) cares for a small infant. The first 20 minutes are a window into their daily routines, a mix of the mundane and the precarious. Then we flash back to see how the ended up in this situation. Monte is one of many convicts populating a spaceship on a mission into deep space to attempt to harness the power of a black hole. At the same time, a demented doctor on board the ship is conducting experiments in fertility, using the convicts as guinea pigs.

To begin with, the imagery in this film is amazing. Everything from an astounding silent shot of bodies slowly drifting "downward" in space, to a shot where during a tense conversation one of the convicts has her arm sort of curled around the doctor's arm.

I also thought that the acting was really great, with Pattinson really holding his own at the center (something I feel like he has done repeatedly at this point). Turns out I would probably be happy to watch an hour or more of Robert Pattinson hanging out with a baby in a garden. Who knew? The supporting cast is also very strong, including Juliette Binoche as the demented doctor and Mia Goth as a fellow prisoner.

Where I didn't entirely get in sync with the film was in the theme/plot. This isn't the kind of film where you want to go looking for plot holes/issues, but several of them presented themselves to me and while I was happy to dismiss them, they were still kind of distracting. And just generally thematically, there is so much going on in terms of the idea of choice and loneliness and satisfaction and even what it means to be a person of value. The question of why the babies in the experiments always die comes down to reasons both external (high radiation levels) and internal (the misery of the female prisoners). To me it felt like the film was reaching for something in these ideas but not quite communicating them. I'm fine with a film being an exploration of an idea as opposed to presenting a clear thesis, but there's something muddled to me in how it's all presented.

I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi drama and other elements that bordered (or fully went into) horror. The entire format of the "experiment" is a horrible violation of the bodies of the convicts, something that at times explicitly goes into sexual assault. Then there's just the horror of being trapped in such a small space for such a long period of time, again something that spills out into violence between the crew.

My favorite sequences were those with Monte and the baby. Maybe it's just especially speaking to me right now, but the idea of tenderness and love in the larger context of doom and fatalism. Black holes dot the landscape as a man teaches a child to pick a strawberry or grasp the rungs of a ladder.

This wasn't a light watch by any means, but I did enjoy it. I do think that it's not the "best version of itself" in terms of feeling complete and coherent in its themes, but the performances, imagery, and questions raised (even if they are not answered to my satisfaction) are good reason to check it out.

EDIT: Just read in the trivia section that Pattinson knew the baby before filming (she's his friend's daughter) and that makes so much sense! I love it when films/TV are able to use children with real relationships to the actors. It creates such a visible level of connection. And here I was just thinking "Wow, they really lucked out with that baby!".
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Slentert » Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:23 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:05 pm
Any film that starts with the letters G or H: High Life

This is a sci-fi thriller/drama told out of sequence. In a spaceship deep, deep in space, a lone man Monte (Robert Pattinson) cares for a small infant. The first 20 minutes are a window into their daily routines, a mix of the mundane and the precarious. Then we flash back to see how the ended up in this situation. Monte is one of many convicts populating a spaceship on a mission into deep space to attempt to harness the power of a black hole. At the same time, a demented doctor on board the ship is conducting experiments in fertility, using the convicts as guinea pigs.

To begin with, the imagery in this film is amazing. Everything from an astounding silent shot of bodies slowly drifting "downward" in space, to a shot where during a tense conversation one of the convicts has her arm sort of curled around the doctor's arm.

I also thought that the acting was really great, with Pattinson really holding his own at the center (something I feel like he has done repeatedly at this point). Turns out I would probably be happy to watch an hour or more of Robert Pattinson hanging out with a baby in a garden. Who knew? The supporting cast is also very strong, including Juliette Binoche as the demented doctor and Mia Goth as a fellow prisoner.

Where I didn't entirely get in sync with the film was in the theme/plot. This isn't the kind of film where you want to go looking for plot holes/issues, but several of them presented themselves to me and while I was happy to dismiss them, they were still kind of distracting. And just generally thematically, there is so much going on in terms of the idea of choice and loneliness and satisfaction and even what it means to be a person of value. The question of why the babies in the experiments always die comes down to reasons both external (high radiation levels) and internal (the misery of the female prisoners). To me it felt like the film was reaching for something in these ideas but not quite communicating them. I'm fine with a film being an exploration of an idea as opposed to presenting a clear thesis, but there's something muddled to me in how it's all presented.

I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi drama and other elements that bordered (or fully went into) horror. The entire format of the "experiment" is a horrible violation of the bodies of the convicts, something that at times explicitly goes into sexual assault. Then there's just the horror of being trapped in such a small space for such a long period of time, again something that spills out into violence between the crew.

My favorite sequences were those with Monte and the baby. Maybe it's just especially speaking to me right now, but the idea of tenderness and love in the larger context of doom and fatalism. Black holes dot the landscape as a man teaches a child to pick a strawberry or grasp the rungs of a ladder.

This wasn't a light watch by any means, but I did enjoy it. I do think that it's not the "best version of itself" in terms of feeling complete and coherent in its themes, but the performances, imagery, and questions raised (even if they are not answered to my satisfaction) are good reason to check it out.
For me, it's a movie about survival first and foremost, and how futile the will to survive no matter what can sometimes be. In the first half hour of the movie we see how Robert Pattinson has to send out a report every night to the authorities back at earth. When he does that, the ship will expend his energy supply for another 24 hours, until he is obligated to repeat all of this the following night just so he can survive the day after that. But later we learn through a brief scene at earth that, because his ship is so far removed from the base at home, his messages only reach those in power with a 3-year delay. The whole ordeal is basically useless. And so is their entire mission. The entire crew exists out of people who are sentenced to death who all opted to serve their time and most likely die in space instead of the death penalty, presumably for the sake of serving some kind of greater good, even though the chances of their mission succeeding are negligibly small, and none of them seem all that motivated in the first place. Than you have the side mission where they try to discover whether it's possible to conceive a child in space. Again, it's trying to preserve the continuation of human life in an environment where that isn't supposed to.
To me, it's all about surviving just for the sake of it, and how it's a primal human urge to do everything you can to stay alive, even if it is just postponing your death one day at a time. And Denis carefully captures this sensation of slowly running out of oxygen until the very last second. It makes that final image feel like both an immense relief and somewhat of a defeat.
Not trying to persuade you into liking this movie more or anything, just trying to explain why I found it so cathartic (it was my favorite movie of last year).
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Slentert » Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:26 pm

I'd also like to add that
those two bookends with the daughter provide a slightly less pessimistic angle to the topic of surviving in how having someone to take care for changes your perspective and priorities on life.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:33 pm

I've been thinking about watching that one. I haven't seen any film from Varda, so I'm not sure if that would factor into my enjoyment of it.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:56 pm

Thief wrote:
Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:15 pm
Just posted Episode 7 of my podcast. Check it out!

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 7 (April 3, 2020)

It's also on Spotify, so just look for Thief's Monthly Movie Loot, follow and listen!
For those listening, Episode 8 of my podcast is out!

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 8 (April 14, 2020)

Those that use Spotify, I still don't see it, but I suppose it will sync soon.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:29 pm

Slentert wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:23 pm
For me, it's a movie about survival first and foremost, and how futile the will to survive no matter what can sometimes be. In the first half hour of the movie we see how Robert Pattinson has to send out a report every night to the authorities back at earth.
.
.
.
Than you have the side mission where they try to discover whether it's possible to conceive a child in space. Again, it's trying to preserve the continuation of human life in an environment where that isn't supposed to.
To me, it's all about surviving just for the sake of it, and how it's a primal human urge to do everything you can to stay alive, even if it is just postponing your death one day at a time. And Denis carefully captures this sensation of slowly running out of oxygen until the very last second. It makes that final image feel like both an immense relief and somewhat of a defeat.
I don't see the desire to survive as being
futile at all. Think of the lovely moments of the baby in the garden, feeding a strawberry to her father. Think of them looking out at space together. Her taking her first steps.

Even in the direst of situations there is love and joy and companionship.

And when they go into the black hole at the end, it is with the feeling that it will "work"--not that they will die, but that they will go somewhere new. The daughter explicitly says they won't be harmed.

I think that what Monte discovers with Willow is what the doctor could never have. This is part of what I feel was missing. Her reproductive urges are seen as destructive, as failing because of the toxic environment she creates on the ship. But we are never given insight into her character. She killed her children--why? You could say that this information isn't important, but I think it is. Why does she put herself out of the airlock? Just because she was successful in making a baby? There's a gap there that I think is necessary to act as a foil for what Monte goes through.

Don't get me wrong. I really liked the film. But I think it's missing an important piece.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Slentert » Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:04 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:29 pm
I don't see the desire to survive as being
futile at all. Think of the lovely moments of the baby in the garden, feeding a strawberry to her father. Think of them looking out at space together. Her taking her first steps.

Even in the direst of situations there is love and joy and companionship.

And when they go into the black hole at the end, it is with the feeling that it will "work"--not that they will die, but that they will go somewhere new. The daughter explicitly says they won't be harmed.

I think that what Monte discovers with Willow is what the doctor could never have. This is part of what I feel was missing. Her reproductive urges are seen as destructive, as failing because of the toxic environment she creates on the ship. But we are never given insight into her character. She killed her children--why? You could say that this information isn't important, but I think it is. Why does she put herself out of the airlock? Just because she was successful in making a baby? There's a gap there that I think is necessary to act as a foil for what Monte goes through.

Don't get me wrong. I really liked the film. But I think it's missing an important piece.
I guess you're right about that one. I think I was remembering the movie as a bit bleaker than it actually was (I've only seen it once over a year ago). I guess it's more about trying to survive when everything around you seems to suggest that you should just give up, and yet still finding something to hold unto.

And again, it's not like I try to change your mind or anything. I think the movie is sometimes a bit messy and unfocused but personally, I find out it almost overwhelming as a pure sensory experience but it also managed to work for me emotionally.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:34 pm

Slentert wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:04 pm
And again, it's not like I try to change your mind or anything. I think the movie is sometimes a bit messy and unfocused but personally, I find out it almost overwhelming as a pure sensory experience but it also managed to work for me emotionally.
It mostly worked for me, but like I said I just felt like there was a bit of a gap. I agree with you that from a sensory experience it was pretty great. I mean, the shot of the
dead convicts in their space suits drifting down through space
was breathtaking. From a visual standpoint I just loved it.

But because it pushes so hard on its themes, I felt like it should have done a better job at presenting them a little more coherently.

Again, it felt like
the doctor killed herself when she did
just because it was setting up the next part of the plot, and not because it made sense for the character. I felt very confused by it, honestly.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:04 am

Made for Each Other (1939)
See a film made in the 1930s (April)

This wasn't quite what I was expecting.

A whirlwind courtship in Boston has made young lawyer John (Jimmy Stewart) a married man. His lucky wife is Jane (Carole Lombard). They live together with his disapproving mother (Lucile Watson). Meanwhile, John is angling for a promotion and raise in the firm ran by Judge Dolittle (Charles Coburn). But their first clue things aren't going to go smoothly is they have to pass up their honeymoon so he can argue a case on Monday morning after being promised two weeks off. Their relationship will continue to be tested in financial trials and in various health issues.

I went into this thinking this was going to be a comedy and there are a few funny moments here and there. But if I had bothered to see the poster, I might have steered clear for Heartbreak! is prominently on there. Instead we dive headfirst into melodrama and even a late rally involving a plane heading from Salt Lake City to New York City in the middle of bad weather can't quite rescue this one. C-
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Sun Apr 19, 2020 10:37 pm

A drama film: You Can Count On Me

A family tragedy ripples down the years--I appreciate that while the film does not dwell on the events that open it (they are only referred to directly once after the first few minutes, IIRC), it is entirely clear how thoroughly Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) have been affected by them. And while Terry is the more obvious fuckup of the two, the damage done to Sammy is more subtle but no less severe. The core of the film--the shadow of grief--is more bitter than sweet and yet you never feel that all hope is lost. Linney and Ruffalo and all of the cast deliver rich, nuanced perfomances and the story deserves them.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:07 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Sun Apr 19, 2020 10:37 pm
A drama film: You Can Count On Me

A family tragedy ripples down the years--I appreciate that while the film does not dwell on the events that open it (they are only referred to directly once after the first few minutes, IIRC), it is entirely clear how thoroughly Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) have been affected by them. And while Terry is the more obvious fuckup of the two, the damage done to Sammy is more subtle but no less severe. The core of the film--the shadow of grief--is more bitter than sweet and yet you never feel that all hope is lost. Linney and Ruffalo and all of the cast deliver rich, nuanced perfomances and the story deserves them.
I saw this one when it first came out but haven't seen it since. I do remember that it made big waves for Ruffalo.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Apr 20, 2020 6:13 pm

Having such a good run this month. 9 films in and so far, I would give 7 of those either an A or an A-.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Apr 21, 2020 4:27 pm

A film about the environment or related themes (Earth Day, April 22): Second Wind

I tried watching Biggest Little Farm and was enjoying it for its clear-eyed look at trying to start sustainable farming. But the animal deaths were a bit too much for me, and around the time a little lamb had ruptured intestines spilling out of its belly I just had to be done. I do want to revisit it, because I appreciated that they were being honest about challenges and also being upfront with what they were doing in terms of reviving the land.

Thus I ended up with Second Wind, a short film about a man in a desolate landscape who creates metal flowers out of the trash around him. Unfortunately, the acting is really over the top and it kind of undercuts the message of the film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:45 pm

Another batch of films is done. Stretching to the start of the month, I've had one helluva streak of good/great films. Here are my write-ups...

A drama film: SHORT TERM 12
Ok, Tak, I took the bait... and I loved it. The film follows Grace (Brie Larson), a worker at a foster home as she deals with the several issues of the troubled children she cares for, as well as her own personal demons from her past and the effects it has on her relationship with co-worker Mason (John Gallagher). As far as the issues with the children goes, the focus falls mostly on two; Marcus (Lakeith Stanfield), who is struggling with the idea of leaving the home as he is about to turn 18, and newly arrived Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a "cutter" that might have deeper issues than she lets out. Overall, I really, really liked the film. For obvious reasons, it hits close to home, sometimes a bit too close. Everything that has to do with Marcus is... emotionally devastating, and Stanfield is simply excellent in the role. There's a scene where he shares the lyrics of a rap song he wrote to Mason, and it's... something else. During the second half, most of the focus shifts to Jayden and her bonding with Grace, and although everything about it is well acted and for the most part, well executed, it didn't click with me as well as the previous stuff. Still, the film does pack a punch but without leaving the audience feeling hopeless. On the contrary, the ending leaves you feeling like there's hope for anyone, regardless what you have gone through, and that wherever you might end up, there's bound to be good people close to you to help you through whatever you're going through. Grade: A-

A film mostly set on a submarine: RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP
Going over all the options, I settled on the only two that were available for streaming free: Black Sea and this one. I even did a Twitter poll to help me choose, and this one ended up winning. Set in the Pacific during World War 2, the film follows the crew of the USS Nerka, led by Captain Richardson (Clark Gable) who, despite being a capable leader, seems to be obsessed with finding an enemy destroyer to avenge his previous crew, and XO Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) who might hold some resentment towards the captain after he is denied the command of the ship in favor of Richardson. The story of the leadership clashes between officers and subordinates, particularly captains and XO's, is not new. However, considering this is from 1958, I can't hold that against the film since this might be the one who "started it". Regardless of that, the film manages to be entertaining and thrilling most of the time. The production values and the set design is impressive, and most of the performances are pretty good. Lancaster in particular, shines. Gable is good, but feels a bit more forced from time to time. Overall, a solid, straightforward film. Grade: B+

Any film that starts with the letters G or H: HELL OR HIGH WATER
Why, oh why doesn't this film get mentioned more often? The film follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) that stage a series of bank robberies in order to save the family ranch, while an aging, but determined sheriff (Jeff Bridges) pursues them. This was some great filmmaking here. Great performances from everyone involved, great pacing that focuses more on developing the characters than giving us mindless chases and action setpieces, and a well-crafted story full of great dialogue. Everything about it shines. Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges tread familiar ground with their performances, but they are great anyway, but I was really surprised by Pine, who I don't think I've seen a lot of, other than the Star Trek films. He walks that fine line between reluctance and determination to do what he needs to do, without feeling cliché. The layers he adds to his character with his voice, his demeanor, not happy with how things go but not really apologizing for his actions. Two scenes in particular comes to mind: his conversation with one of his estranged sons, and his final confrontation with Bridges. The direction from David Mackenzie is excellent and the script from Taylor Sheridan is great, offering not only great depth but funny bits of dialogue and occurrences, without falling into comedy. This one is on Netflix and is fully recommended. Grade: A

A film with the word "Brother" or "Sister" in its title: STEP BROTHERS
And so much for a great streak. I was actually looking for something light and fun, and had heard a few people commenting on this one being really funny... ehhhh, not so much. The film follows Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly), two immature adults in their 40s that are forced to live together when their parents, who they still live with, get married. For what it's worth, this is the first film I've seen of the Ferrell/Reilly pairing, so I'm not sure I'm used to their style and tone. Overall, I didn't hate the film but I never really caught up with it. I chuckled a couple of times, but I don't think I laughed out loud once. I do think that Ferrell's usual "man-child" schtick gets a bit tedious with time. I did appreciate the fact that SPOILER, the solution to the conflicts in the end is not a magical opportunity that allows them to remain as immature "man-children", but rather to grow and learn to become functional adults. So even though the execution might've been a bit mediocre, I have to give them props for that. This one might fall in the "acquired taste" tier, so if you're used to their style of comedy, then maybe it's for you. Grade: C

A film featuring a zoo or animals prominently: MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA
This is one category I knew I could share with the kids. Settled on this one, even though I've never seen the first one. Still, I don't think it matters too much. The film follows the four lead animals: Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), as they depart the titular island en route to New York, but end up crashing in the African savannah instead, casually where Alex grew up. As he tries to get used to his role as son of the king, the other animals try to get used to being part of their respective "packs" or whatever. Overall, I thought this was solid fun. Most of the conflicts that arise are predictable and a bit formulaic, but are carried out decently. I feel the best parts were the penguins and the lemurs, but as a whole, it was decent fun. The kids seemed to be enjoying it too, so there's that. Grade: B
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Apr 23, 2020 4:57 pm

Hell or High Water is pretty awesome. And I agree that it should be discussed here more often.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 6:39 pm

Thief wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:45 pm
Another batch of films is done. Stretching to the start of the month, I've had one helluva streak of good/great films. Here are my write-ups...

A drama film: SHORT TERM 12
Ok, Tak, I took the bait... and I loved it. The film follows Grace (Brie Larson), a worker at a foster home as she deals with the several issues of the troubled children she cares for, as well as her own personal demons from her past and the effects it has on her relationship with co-worker Mason (John Gallagher). As far as the issues with the children goes, the focus falls mostly on two; Marcus (Lakeith Stanfield), who is struggling with the idea of leaving the home as he is about to turn 18, and newly arrived Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a "cutter" that might have deeper issues than she lets out. Overall, I really, really liked the film. For obvious reasons, it hits close to home, sometimes a bit too close. Everything that has to do with Marcus is... emotionally devastating, and Stanfield is simply excellent in the role. There's a scene where he shares the lyrics of a rap song he wrote to Mason, and it's... something else. During the second half, most of the focus shifts to Jayden and her bonding with Grace, and although everything about it is well acted and for the most part, well executed, it didn't click with me as well as the previous stuff. Still, the film does pack a punch but without leaving the audience feeling hopeless. On the contrary, the ending leaves you feeling like there's hope for anyone, regardless what you have gone through, and that wherever you might end up, there's bound to be good people close to you to help you through whatever you're going through. Grade: A-
I'm so glad that you liked it!

I like that through the main character and her interaction with Jayden you get to see both
what it is like to deal with trauma in the moment and what it's like to deal with trauma once you are removed from it by time.
I also think that the portrayal of the relationship between Grace and Mason is so well done. Their relationship isn't perfect, and the sex scene that goes wrong is so hard to watch. They both want to be good partners to each other, and Mason is unfailingly supportive. It's so hard to see how
Grace's past rears its ugly head even when she knows that she is safe.
You just feel so bad for both of them.

But they really captured that there's a grit to people like Mason and Grace. Like in the scene with the cupcake and he goes "How's that cupcake taste?" and they are able to just laugh and smile at each other. I know a lot of people who teach or do social work, and the portrayal in this film really felt correct to me.

Any film that starts with the letters G or H: HELL OR HIGH WATER
Why, oh why doesn't this film get mentioned more often? The film follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) that stage a series of bank robberies in order to save the family ranch, while an aging, but determined sheriff (Jeff Bridges) pursues them. This was some great filmmaking here. Great performances from everyone involved, great pacing that focuses more on developing the characters than giving us mindless chases and action setpieces, and a well-crafted story full of great dialogue. Everything about it shines. Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges tread familiar ground with their performances, but they are great anyway, but I was really surprised by Pine, who I don't think I've seen a lot of, other than the Star Trek films. He walks that fine line between reluctance and determination to do what he needs to do, without feeling cliché. The layers he adds to his character with his voice, his demeanor, not happy with how things go but not really apologizing for his actions. Two scenes in particular comes to mind: his conversation with one of his estranged sons, and his final confrontation with Bridges. The direction from David Mackenzie is excellent and the script from Taylor Sheridan is great, offering not only great depth but funny bits of dialogue and occurrences, without falling into comedy. This one is on Netflix and is fully recommended. Grade: A
It's a great film in terms of understanding the moral reasoning of both main characters and the final scene is really something.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Thu Apr 23, 2020 6:49 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 6:39 pm
I'm so glad that you liked it!

I like that through the main character and her interaction with Jayden you get to see both
what it is like to deal with trauma in the moment and what it's like to deal with trauma once you are removed from it by time.
I also think that the portrayal of the relationship between Grace and Mason is so well done. Their relationship isn't perfect, and the sex scene that goes wrong is so hard to watch. They both want to be good partners to each other, and Mason is unfailingly supportive. It's so hard to see how
Grace's past rears its ugly head even when she knows that she is safe.
You just feel so bad for both of them.

But they really captured that there's a grit to people like Mason and Grace. Like in the scene with the cupcake and he goes "How's that cupcake taste?" and they are able to just laugh and smile at each other. I know a lot of people who teach or do social work, and the portrayal in this film really felt correct to me.
I agree. There's also real chemistry between the actors. One of those instances where you literally feel as if they were really a couple that have known each other for a long time.
Takoma1 wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 6:39 pm

It's a great film in terms of understanding the moral reasoning of both main characters and the final scene is really something.
Oh yeah, that final scene... not only the dialogue, but the body language from both actors, is so meticulous how they handle the tension without going full "Mexican stand-off". Loved it.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:12 pm

A film about the environment or related themes (Earth Day, April 22): WALL·E

I'm sure most of you remember the Spike Jonze Ikea commercial. I thought of it a lot while watching this movie and after--how we're susceptible to anthropomorphism and manipulated by cinematic cues. Because of course those things work! The first half of WALL·E is still a touching story of two l̶a̶m̶p̶s̶ robots falling in love. The problem is that the second half of the film fails to humanize the actual humans of the story. There are nods to it--the two randos who are accidentally nudged off their paths of sloth and toward each other, and the captain who is finally prodded into action. But these arcs are small and seem almost beside the point. And the point is ... I guess I'm not sure really? The themes never really cohere--there is the love story, of course, and there is the destruction of earth by waste, and there is the devolution of humanity into shiftless meat sacks. And I suppose you could say
that it's the example of love between Wall·E and Eve--more human than human--that sets humanity on its course toward salvation, but it's not clear why this works. It strikes me more as a "be better, humans" lecture than a narrative arc. (And are they even better? The credits animation suggests a more eco-friendly humanity, and yet ... they still rely on robots and technology; wasn't that a big part of the problem in the first place?)
I think the first half is strong enough that the good feeling carries the movie to its underwhelming conclusion, but maybe it could've used a Swedish guy reminding us that we are all crazy, these are just robots, and humans need to be connected to each other and the earth and work instead of love fantasies.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:14 pm

And for the record, that Ikea commercial is only the second greatest of all time. This is the greatest.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:28 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:12 pm
The problem is that the second half of the film fails to humanize the actual humans of the story. There are nods to it--the two randos who are accidentally nudged off their paths of sloth and toward each other, and the captain who is finally prodded into action. But these arcs are small and seem almost beside the point.
I don't think the film needed to humanize them. I think the lack of characterization among them helped to show how lifeless they had become living in a care-free society where robots took care of everything. Everybody was just another face in the crowd. That's what I found compelling about the human characters.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:31 pm

I haven't seen it in a while, but I agree that the second half is a tad weaker than the first half.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:33 pm

For what it's worth, I also liked the first half more than the second.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:34 pm

Thief wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 6:49 pm
I agree. There's also real chemistry between the actors. One of those instances where you literally feel as if they were really a couple that have known each other for a long time.
I thought that a lot of the characters felt lived in. The director had real experience in a similar facility and I think that it shows. A lot of movies about children and teens can't resist making them overly quirky, and the portrayal of the children felt very on point to me.
Oh yeah, that final scene... not only the dialogue, but the body language from both actors, is so meticulous how they handle the tension without going full "Mexican stand-off". Loved it.
I think that the script brilliantly creates a situation where you are rooting almost equally for two characters who are completely at odds with each other. And there's a certain courage in
leaving that tension hanging at the end of the film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:43 pm

Popcorn Reviews wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:28 pm
I don't think the film needed to humanize them. I think the lack of characterization among them helped to show how lifeless they had become living in a care-free society where robots took care of everything. Everybody was just another face in the crowd. That's what I found compelling about the human characters.
I should probably clarify that I do like the movie! Just not as much as a lot of other people seem to.

But I would say this lack of humanity is a problem unless we at least see some development in the humans by the end, and I don't think we do. Because the ending implies (really must imply) that they've changed, right? So while I'd agree their indistinguishableness is appropriate when we first see them (and is further emphasized by the BNL CEO being played as live action), for me it's important that the movie shows some kind of arc, and apart from the captain (who still has very little personality to speak of), it doesn't happen. I'm pretty sure I'm an outlier on this point, though.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:03 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:43 pm
I should probably clarify that I do like the movie! Just not as much as a lot of other people seem to.

But I would say this lack of humanity is a problem unless we at least see some development in the humans by the end, and I don't think we do. Because the ending implies (really must imply) that they've changed, right? So while I'd agree their indistinguishableness is appropriate when we first see them (and is further emphasized by the BNL CEO being played as live action), for me it's important that the movie shows some kind of arc, and apart from the captain (who still has very little personality to speak of), it doesn't happen. I'm pretty sure I'm an outlier on this point, though.
I see what you mean. It's been a while since I've seen the film, but watching the credits again, it showed that the other humans were starting to do things on their own again (construction, farming, and fishing), so I feel like they do develop at the end. We don't get to see a lot of it, but I think there's a strong enough implication that they're going to be less reliant on robots with the ending.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:08 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:43 pm
But I would say this lack of humanity is a problem unless we at least see some development in the humans by the end, and I don't think we do. Because the ending implies (really must imply) that they've changed, right?
I was okay with it because I felt like the message wasn't so much about having humanity as it was about looking around and appreciating what is in your environment. It's not just that the people have become overly dependent--they have stopped seeing past about a foot in front of them.

WALL-E sees. He responds to what is around him. He is proactive.

I see the ending as just appreciating the value of treasuring what is around you and your interaction with those things. To that extent I'm fine with the humans being the masses who realize the value in such an approach to living.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by MrCarmady » Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:57 pm

Thief wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 2:34 pm
Ok, finally, here are the categories for April...

A film from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list whose ranking includes the #4 (i.e. 14, 401, 943):
A film about the environment or related themes (Earth Day, April 22):
408. Il deserto rosso (1964)

Been meaning to see this for years now, and I'm not sure it quite lived up to my lofty expectations (La Notte is one of my favourite films of all time), but the setting perfectly fits the protagonist's inner turmoil, Vitti is incredible, and the cinematography and sound are up there with anything ever made, making this perfectly mundane industrial setting and a fairly standard 'depressed housewife has break-down' plot seem completely otherworldly.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Apr 23, 2020 11:16 pm

MrCarmady wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:57 pm
408. Il deserto rosso (1964)
Huge fan of that one. The claustrophobic camerawork alone was great. It constantly gave me the feeling that Giuliana was boxed in and that the industrialist setting always managed to peak its head into wherever she was in the film. I remember being mixed on a couple sequences such as the story she told to her son, but I really liked liked it as a whole.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by MrCarmady » Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:13 am

Oh, I really liked the story she told her son! Even in this mythical, colorful, gorgeous landscape there's still no escape from ghost ships and ghostly voices.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Fri Apr 24, 2020 3:16 am

MrCarmady wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:13 am
Oh, I really liked the story she told her son! Even in this mythical, colorful, gorgeous landscape there's still no escape from ghost ships and ghostly voices.
As a standalone scene, I thought it was really good. In the context of the film though, my memory of it was that it was mostly restating the point of Giuliana's personal struggles without expanding much upon them. It had a memorable atmosphere, and it's done in good faith. I'm just not sure I needed to be reminded of them. Although, I may be mistaken. It's been a while since I've seen the film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Stu » Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:12 am

kgaard. wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:12 pm
A film about the environment or related themes (Earth Day, April 22): WALL·E

I'm sure most of you remember the Spike Jonze Ikea commercial. I thought of it a lot while watching this movie and after--how we're susceptible to anthropomorphism and manipulated by cinematic cues. Because of course those things work! The first half of WALL·E is still a touching story of two l̶a̶m̶p̶s̶ robots falling in love. The problem is that the second half of the film fails to humanize the actual humans of the story. There are nods to it--the two randos who are accidentally nudged off their paths of sloth and toward each other, and the captain who is finally prodded into action. But these arcs are small and seem almost beside the point. And the point is ... I guess I'm not sure really? The themes never really cohere--there is the love story, of course, and there is the destruction of earth by waste, and there is the devolution of humanity into shiftless meat sacks. And I suppose you could say
that it's the example of love between Wall·E and Eve--more human than human--that sets humanity on its course toward salvation, but it's not clear why this works. It strikes me more as a "be better, humans" lecture than a narrative arc. (And are they even better? The credits animation suggests a more eco-friendly humanity, and yet ... they still rely on robots and technology; wasn't that a big part of the problem in the first place?)
I think the first half is strong enough that the good feeling carries the movie to its underwhelming conclusion, but maybe it could've used a Swedish guy reminding us that we are all crazy, these are just robots, and humans need to be connected to each other and the earth and work instead of love fantasies.
I'm not sure what you mean by "why this works" when it comes to how Wall-E & EVE's love for one another manages to redeem humanity, because if you're wondering about it purely from a plot mechanics perspective, it's pretty simple; even though Wall-E isn't fully aware of what the significance of what the plant means for humans being able to return to Earth, since EVE cares about it, then so does he, since loving someone partly means caring about the same things that they do, even if you may not fully understand why all the time. But, if you're wondering about it from a thematic sense, I would say that, while of course Wall-E wasn't intending to end up saving mankind in the process of falling in love with EVE, it was still a happy accident that he ended up doing so, but an accident that still made perfect sense thematically, as his arrival on the Axiom in faithful pursuit of EVE is one of the things that disrupts the daily stupor that humanity has been stuck in for centuries, and while the human characters do have relatively small character arcs compared to the 'bots, that doesn't mean they aren't still compelling in their own rights, and I'd also say that their arcs are small because they're meant to be a few examples to represent the whole of humanity's awakening (as you can't create an arc for everyone aboard the entire ship, after all), and it's also a great subversion to have the two non-human characters be the stars of the film, while at the same time creating what is one of the most touching cinematic romances I've ever seen with nothing more than two computer-generated robots.

Also, regarding the point about mankind still relying on technology at the end, I have to agree with the point referenced on the film's Wiki which says "WALL-E is not a Luddite film; it doesn't demonize technology. It only argues that technology is properly used to help humans cultivate their true nature—that it must be subordinate to human flourishing, and help move that along."
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Stu » Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:18 am

Also, regarding Hell Or High Water, I'm in the minority on that one, in the sense that, while I felt it was quite good in almost every aspect, such as the rock-solid writing, characterizations, performances, etc., I still have to say that it ended up not living up to its full potential for me to David Mackenzie's rather flat, style-less direction of it in general, as even a scene where
Tanner unloads a few clips of machine gun ammo on the pursuing posse
hardly had much more tension and excitement to it than any random, casual scene of dialogue, and it ended feeling a bit like a diet version of No Country For Old Men to me because of that, to be perfectly honest with you guys.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Sat Apr 25, 2020 12:07 am

In all honesty, Rio 2 kinda works even having not seen the original.

But hey, I've been busy:

See a film dealing with environmental issues (April)
The Lorax (2012)

This was the slightly better of the two I've seen of late.

To win the heart of a high schooler (Taylor Swift), young boy Ted (Zac Efron) decides he's gonna have to up and get a real tree. Which isn't an easy thing to do in plastic (fake!) Thneedville which is run by canned air tycoon O'Hare (Rob Riggle). But his wise grandma (Betty White) believes the answer can be found with a hermit named the Once-ler (Ed Helms) exiled out of town. But before Ted can get his tree, he'll have to hear the story of the rise and fall of the Once-ler which involves tree advocate The Lorax (Danny De Vito) and the do-it-all invention called The Thneed.

White is a treasure, the animation is colorfully done, some of the songs click (This is the Place/How Bad Can I Be), it was pretty funny in places, and the voice acting is generally enthusiastically done (with perhaps the exception of singer Swift).

But the "Save the trees" message gets lost in the thoughts of the Once-ler's dysfunctional family and the somewhat disturbing message that paints ambition as bad and staying/knowing your place as good.

At least, it's about 10 minutes shorter than most online sources indicated the running time would be. C+

See a film featuring a zoo or animals (April)
Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)

I was a bit unimpressed with the first film which failed to take advantage of its premise of what animals are like when the owners are away.

The sequel didn't really do much to change my mind, although there are its strengths.

The two main dogs Max (Patton Oswalt taking over for problematic Louis CK) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) now have a young boy who emulates them as their owner got married and had a kid named Liam. They head out into the country to visit relatives where Max meets skeptical Rooster (Harrison Ford) who might have some things to teach him. Meanwhile, Gidget (Jenny Slate) loses Max's favorite squeaky toy in an apartment full of cats so she asks Chloe (Lake Bell) to teach her the ways of the feline. And Snowball (Kevin Hart) gets a chance to show off his superhero skills when new client Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) asks him to help rescue circus tiger Hu from a mean owner, some nefarious wolves and a devious monkey.

I'll admit that the visuals on this one are solid as well with some scenes clicking (such as the one where the dogs go on a car ride). The newcomers do add some energy to the proceedings although the veterans aren't bad either. And there's some nice notes featuring the segments involving Gidget and the cats that doesn't go the way you'd think it would. Oh, and the climax does play off of things occurring earlier in the film allowing for some character development.

But the story otherwise is predictable (there's just too much time after the initial rescue to think things are over by any stretch) and the humor is a bit more scattershot than you'd like with a talented comedic cast like this. Perhaps those with an issue of excessive violence in animated films might not care for this one.

There is a post-credits scene, but really, it might have come across more timely if it was in the original film. C
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Sat Apr 25, 2020 3:26 am

Here are my films for the month, broadly sorted.

Highly Recommended
A road trip film (Read a Road Map Day, April 5): Lamb
A film based on a poem (National Poetry Month): Krysar
Any film that starts with the letters G or H: High Life
A film with the word "Tree" in its title (Arbor Day, April 24): The Juniper Tree
A drama film: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A film from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list whose ranking includes the #4 (i.e. 14, 401, 943): Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!

Worth Watching
A film with the number 4 (Four, Fourth, etc.) in its title: Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four
A film with the word "Brother" or "Sister" in its title (Siblings Day, April 10): Brothers Nest
A film from the 1930s: The Whole Town’s Talking
A Biblical film: Give Up Yer Aul Sins
A film mostly set in a submarine (National Submarine Day, April 11): Atomic Submarine
A film featuring a zoo or animals prominently (Zoo Lover's Day, April 8): Madagascar 2

Meh
A film from Ireland (Independence Day, April 24): The Pilgrimage
A film with Marlon Brando (born April 3): One Eyed Jacks
A film about the environment or related themes (Earth Day, April 22): Second Wind


Overall a pretty solid month. I might use the next week to get to some "make ups" from previous months.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:52 pm

Thief wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:56 pm
For those listening, Episode 8 of my podcast is out!

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 8 (April 14, 2020)

Those that use Spotify, I still don't see it, but I suppose it will sync soon.
Episode 9 is out...

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 9 (April 24, 2020)
--- UNDER CONSTRUCTION ---
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Sun Apr 26, 2020 3:27 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:08 pm
I was okay with it because I felt like the message wasn't so much about having humanity as it was about looking around and appreciating what is in your environment. It's not just that the people have become overly dependent--they have stopped seeing past about a foot in front of them.

WALL-E sees. He responds to what is around him. He is proactive.

I see the ending as just appreciating the value of treasuring what is around you and your interaction with those things. To that extent I'm fine with the humans being the masses who realize the value in such an approach to living.
Stu wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:12 am
I'm not sure what you mean by "why this works" when it comes to how Wall-E & EVE's love for one another manages to redeem humanity, because if you're wondering about it purely from a plot mechanics perspective, it's pretty simple; even though Wall-E isn't fully aware of what the significance of what the plant means for humans being able to return to Earth, since EVE cares about it, then so does he, since loving someone partly means caring about the same things that they do, even if you may not fully understand why all the time. But, if you're wondering about it from a thematic sense, I would say that, while of course Wall-E wasn't intending to end up saving mankind in the process of falling in love with EVE, it was still a happy accident that he ended up doing so, but an accident that still made perfect sense thematically, as his arrival on the Axiom in faithful pursuit of EVE is one of the things that disrupts the daily stupor that humanity has been stuck in for centuries, and while the human characters do have relatively small character arcs compared to the 'bots, that doesn't mean they aren't still compelling in their own rights, and I'd also say that their arcs are small because they're meant to be a few examples to represent the whole of humanity's awakening (as you can't create an arc for everyone aboard the entire ship, after all), and it's also a great subversion to have the two non-human characters be the stars of the film, while at the same time creating what is one of the most touching cinematic romances I've ever seen with nothing more than two computer-generated robots.

Also, regarding the point about mankind still relying on technology at the end, I have to agree with the point referenced on the film's Wiki which says "WALL-E is not a Luddite film; it doesn't demonize technology. It only argues that technology is properly used to help humans cultivate their true nature—that it must be subordinate to human flourishing, and help move that along."
These are reasonable takes. It seems that there's a divide between accepting Wall-E and Eve as avatars for humanity and needing the humans to represent themselves more fully in their moment of clarity. For me it comes down to how the movie emphasizes humanity's surrender to sloth by way of technology and therefore I wanted to see more of the humans' journey from ignorance to awareness. I don't think that's a huge divide, though. I do agree that this is not a luddite film--that would be hard to square with the protagonists/heroes being robots. And Takoma's point that Wall-E and his collection of treasures and valuing the here and now contrasts neatly with humanity's loss of connection. There's certainly more here to like than not.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Apr 26, 2020 5:22 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 3:27 pm
There's certainly more here to like than not.
I liked WALL-E, but didn't love it. I felt like I "got it", but it's not one that I ever feel the desire to revisit. To me it's kind of middle tier Pixar.
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