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More Movie Geek Love

Cinematical picked up on my post about a Netflix/ dating service, and in the comments someone pointed out that it already exists: Matchflick!
And Netflix also has its Friends feature, which I have never actually
utilized so I don’t know anything about it. But I’m guessing it could
be extended to be more Friendster-like.

But someone else at Cinematical pointed out that they prefer not to
hang out with people who have the same movie taste as they do, because
they are usually pretentious snobs. I don’t specifically agree with
this, because I tend to lose respect for people when I hear they like a
movie I loathe, unless they can offer a good defense of their tastes.
But I can understand this guy’s impulse–I tend to not like
movie-obsessives in general, and prefer to hang out with people who
know about stuff I don’t know about. I guess the ideal person for me is
someone who knows how to talk intelligently about film but doesn’t feel
the need to do so all the time.

Movie Geek Love

Now that might be an online dating service I’d use:

I wonder if Netflix
has ever thought of partnering with to connect people who
like the same kind of movies? I suppose Barnes & Noble could do
something similar.”

Raymi’s Reviews

house of the dead is only good to watch in fast forward with your eyes stapled shut and your ears blowed off. absolute shit.

Sickbed Movie Review #2: Dreamlife Of Angels

My book suddenly turned epistolary halfway through and my interest has ground to a halt. Plus it’s starting to feel like it’s romanticizing depression and mental illness (oh and the Holocaust too), which irritates me. So I put it down and watched The Dreamlife of Angels. It was even better than I remember it being. And for awhile I was amazed that it was written by a man–it’s about a female friendship and it’s spot-on–but the more I think about it, I’m not so amazed. So many movies about women written by women turn into Beaches or Boys on the Side, but this one is nothing like that. And I think it may be because the writer has the advantage of not being a woman, of seeing women from the outside, in an environment that includes men and everything else. So many films by women assume a certain secret bond between women, which may or may not be real but which men have no access to regardless, and I think that outsider status in some ways helps a person to observe behavior better. Sometimes you’re too close to your own gender. Especially in film, which is a visual medium that necessarily stays on the surface of characters (unless you want some lame voiceover of a character’s throughts), someone with skill at looking from the outside rather than from within might create a better film character. Also, a man may be less concerned with creating “empowered representations of women”, which of course can lead to very problematic representations of women, but I think also might in some cases, such as this one, lead to more real characters. All too often in films about women you sense political agenda at work, and the characters aren’t allowed to just be characters. It can be oppressive. I’m trying to think of films written by women that don’t fall into this trap…the only one I can think of is the truly harrowing Hysterical Blindness. There must be more, but I’m drawing a blank.

This is not to say that all men write women better than women do, of course. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary all over Hollywood (and indie film too). Shitty stereotypes certainly still exist. But a good writer who is a man may have an edge. And likewise, women may have an edge in writing about men. I know that when I showed a male friend a rough draft of the novel I wrote, he said it was very hard to read because he saw himself in the male characters, and that the novel sees through all of the self-protective behaviors that he and most men engage in. Which could not have been a better compliment. But the female characters in the novel–a mess. I’m way too close to them, and it’s a shitty novel for that reason. I had to put it away (a year ago) and will get back to it eventually once I have more distance.

Sickbed Movie Review #1: Spanglish

This is a very dull movie except for one thing: Tea Leoni. My god, the
woman shredded this film. I am too sick to put words together
intelligently at the moment, so I will let Cinetrix do it for me:


Literary Quote of the Day

From the book I’m reading:

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
     Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Eliot, The Four Quartets

It’s so nice to read for pleasure, with no guilt, now that the semester is over.

Read The Phone Book To Me, Baby

When I read about this list of the Top 100 Voices In The Movies (via Cinetrix),
I instantly thought “Jean Reno,” the owner of what to me is the sexiest
voice ever, anywhere, in the movies or not. And sure enough, he’s on
the list. But #83? Come on. That’s far too low (or is it high?) on the
list. But maybe the criteria are more complex than simply “sexiness.”
If I made a list of the sexiest voices in the movies, he’d be No. 1,
for sure. And Jimmy Stewart, Woody Allen, and Steve Buscemi would most
definitely not make the cut.

Have A Good Week!

via Bostonist


The Kiarostami documentary Close-Up is worth seeing just for the scene where some guys in a car stop to ask directions from a man holding two giant dead turkeys, feathers and all. He gives them directions and before they drive off he holds the birds up to the window and says “You need a turkey?”

These bizarre and mundane moments are typical (and so endearing) of Kiarostami–all of his films are have numerous scenes of people driving in cars. More action takes place driving to destinations than ever happens at the actual destinations. In fact, the camera usually stays behind in the car even after the passengers reach their destination. This happens in Close-Up, in the opening scene when a reporter and some policemen are being driven to a house to arrest a man who has been impersonating the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. They finally find the house (with the help of the turkey-man) and the reporter goes in alone, leaving the driver with the policemen, who make small talk about their families. Then they are re-joined by the reporter, and the police take the man away, and we stay behind with the reporter as he goes house to house looking for a tape recorder. We don’t even get to see the spectacle of the “event” taking place. This scenario happens in several Kiarostami films. It is a very non-Western approach to storytelling, and one might say that Kiarostami is much more interested in “the journey” than the destination, but even that seems like too Western an idea. The journeys he documents are not necessarily life-changing or even dramatic ones. He just seems to think that the important stuff is in these small moments, connections between people, even fleeting or mundane ones, even in the face of larger, more “important” events.

And this goes for more than just driving scenes. In The Wind Will Carry Us, what I remember more than anything is the endless string of scenes of the main character trying to get cell phone service. He climbs up a hill, and back down, and up again, over and over, getting and then losing reception repeatedly. He tries this for days, never really completing his important call. I still remember the sound of the rocks and gravel crunching under his feet as he climbs up and down, up and down. So much screen time is spent on this, an activity that would definitely have been cut out of any Hollywood movie, that it is more memorable to me than any spectacular action sequence in any big-budget film.

It takes some getting used to, but it’s a wonderful way to make movies. And despite the focus on nothingness, Kiarostami’s films are among the most cathartic I’ve ever seen. They all seem to involve characters enduring great emotional and existential suffering, a suffering that is ultimately unburdened in one way or another. In Close-Up, the Makhmalbaf impersonator (Sabzian) confesses his crimes and explains why he ingratiated himself into a family by pretending to be the filmmaker–his own broken family and poverty and failures in life, the acceptance and love and respect they gave him when they thought he was the filmmaker, which he had never experienced before–and Kiarostami’s compassionate questioning of the man comes across as possibly the most caring he has ever experienced in his life. Likewise, at the film’s end (SPOILER AHEAD), when Makhmalbaf himself meets him to pick him up from jail, it is a great catharsis when Sabzian stops in his tracks and bows his head and begins to cry when he sees his hero. “Don’t cry,” Makhmalbaf says, and hugs and kisses him. “Who are you today? You want be me? I’m tired of being me.” He then drives him home–on a motorbike, no less, so he gets to hug his hero for the whole ride. It is an ending that provides great compassion and relief, both for Sabzian and for the audience.

Serpico II Update

I doubt it’s because of my shout-out to Andrew Bujalski, but Serpico II has been successful and Mutual Appreciation and its director are on their way to USC in the near future.

And More Herzog

From the Village Voice:

During a post-screening Q&A at Sundance this year, an audience
member accused Werner Herzog of having ridiculed the title character in
the filmmaker’s
Grizzly Man. Herzog offered to duke it out. “I
was instantly furious,” said the director. “I challenged him to meet me
in the men’s room for a fistfight. Of course, in Bavaria, you meet for
a fistfight in the men’s room, but here it has a different connotation.
I should have said, ‘I’ll meet you in the alley.’ Or the parking lot .
. . “

It Always Comes Back To Herzog

Amen, Caryn, have you been reading my blog?

Every week seems to bring another mediocre documentary, coasting on the strength of its content and its similarity to a better, more artistic film. Even as the genre leaps out of its niche, it is suffering from a tyranny of substance over style.


“Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Rom´┐Żo Dallaire,” follows the former United Nations general back to Rwanda a decade after the genocide he and his peacekeeping force were helpless to prevent. This harrowing film is more effective than last year’s overrated Oscar winner, “Born Into Brothels,” which begins as a heart-wrenching vision of children in Calcutta’s red-light district but turns into a self-aggrandizing account of efforts by the film’s co-director, Zana Briski, to help them. The sight of impoverished children is always touching, but it doesn’t always make a good movie.
Digital technology has made filmmaking so cheap and easy that now almost anyone can point a camera at a difficult father or a wicked stepmother and call it a movie. And more of them are making it into theaters. Nielsen EDI, which tracks box-office data, found that 50 documentaries were released in 2002 and 53 in 2003 – a number that jumped to 80 last year (a rapidly growing chunk of the 500 or so films typically released each year).


There are still documentaries transformed by an artist’s vision, though.
Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” (opening in August) is built around video shot by Timothy Treadwell during 13 summers spent living among grizzlies, before he was eaten by one. Mr. Treadwell’s own hyperactive commentary would have made for something like a nature film on acid. Mr. Herzog’s editing and narration turn it into a study of Mr. Treadwell’s outsize, self-invented character, and of the motives behind such heroic posturing. In the flood of cheap-and-easy nonfiction films, “Grizzly Man” is something increasingly hard to find: a documentary with imagination.

I’ll let you know about the substance-to-style ratio at Silverdocs next month…

Restaurant Review

The pork loin was a little dry, but ample pinot noir made up for that.


It’s not often that I am moved by reading a student’s paper. In fact I’d say it has never happened before. Who can get moved by dry shot analysis of films I’ve seen a million times over? But it just happened. A student wrote a paper about a film I haven’t seen, Silverlake Life, which is a documentary about a gay male couple dying of AIDS. The student is describing a scene that takes place after one of the men has died and been cremated and his lover is pouring the ashes into an urn on the bathroom floor. Ashes spill out the sides and dust the floor. After filling the urn he tries to clean up the dust and spilled ashes that still powder the air. “You’re all over the place, Tom,” he says, chuckling. And in the paper the student makes the point that this goes beyond ashes, that when a person is physically gone they still remain, in invisible but omnipresent ways, in memories, in the air, the environment.

Related cute Tegan & Sara lyric:

stick your hands inside my pockets/keep them warm while I’m still here/tell me this love hasn’t changed you/hasn’t changed you at all

Mother Nature Hath Forsaken Us

This weather is HORRIBLE. I guess Mother Nature is skipping summer this year, and withholding sunlight for some reason to punish us. I have always liked overcast weather but this is too much.

I had very vivid dream last night that I was having a conversation with my roommate about the phone bill. A vivid BORING dream. WTF? I think that Claritin has done irreparable damage to the dream-producing centers in my brain, they are out of material. Nothing weird or surreal happening in the dream, just a boring and crystal-clear conversation about figuring out the phone bill. This happened to me once long ago, I had a dream that I was working in the liquor store I where I worked in college, and in the dream I was stocking the shelves. That’s it. One bottle, two bottle, three bottle.

But I like movies that are about nothing/minutiae/small stuff so maybe my unconscious thought I would enjoy these tedious dreams. In fact either of them could fit seamlessly into a film like Mutual Appreciation. Both dreams seem to be about nothing but of course are in fact highly charged, based on things like my current feelings about my roommate and my house, much like a seemingly tedious conversation about buying guitar strings in Mutual Appreciation is actually full of drama just beneath the surface, based on unspoken things that happened in prior scenes.

Yes, in my dreams I am constructing Andrew Bujalski films.

Hey Andrew

I just got off the phone with Serpico II, who was playing a game of
Scrabble with himself when I called. He ran out of crossword puzzles,
he says. It’s so nice when you’re lonely to speak to someone who’s even
more pathetic than you.

He’s trying to get Andrew Bujalski to come to USC with his fantastic film that everyone should see, Mutual Appreciation,
when it opens in LA in a few weeks. But Bujalski is not responding to
his emails. So Andrew, if you’re reading this, and I’m sure you are,
please respond to Serpico’s emails. He’s a good guy and his school will
pay your way. You too good for USC or something?

They Beat Me To It

I started writing a treatment for a screenplay based on a relationship
I had a few years ago and then remembered a film that is pretty much the same story. But mine will be different. It won’t be set in France.

It’s not really the same story though, just a similar dynamic between
the two protagonists. So I put the film at the top of my Netflix queue
so I can watch it again and refresh my memory. I don’t know if that’s a
good idea though. Maybe it’s better to write mine first and then watch
this one later. But who knows when it’ll get written?

Fathers and Sons

Only major film geeks would find “frustrating” a documentary made by the son of Haskell Wexler that is more about their relationship than filmmaking. Come on, how fucking boring would this movie be if it were about cinematography? I can’t wait to see it.

via Greencine

Revisiting Lost In Translation

Someone landed at my blog on a google search for “women portrayal lost in translation” so I checked out what other results were out there, and came across a few that I liked. First this angry Japanese opinion of the film, which I agree with, and then this Texan’s angry opinion of the film, which I also agree with. And if you want to re-read my opinion of the film, see the link in the sidebar about Scarlett’s ass.

My friend Serpico also had an angry reaction to the film, but mainly because he dismisses it as an empty a collection of hipster references. And while I agree somewhat, this movie is no Napoleon Dynamite. It is using all those hipster tropes to try to say something, though what it’s saying may be even more reason to hate the film than its hipster formalism.

Hey Big Sur

I probably won’t make it to Big Sur by Friday but any of you in that area, check it out:

Coming up on Memorial Day Weekend at the Henry
Miller Library in Big Sur
Where: Henry Miller Library lawn – bring a blanket or lawn chair.
When: Friday, May 27 at 8.30 PM.
Continues until past midnight on Saturday, May 28th.

The Festival screens the best of
video diary and personal documentary. This year we are also hosting the west
coast premiere of EGOSHOOTER, a German fiction film about a video diarist,
co-produced by director Wim Wenders.

The festival theme is “Dating the
Call 831-667-2574.
All Video Diary info, schedule etc., and tickets here:

Please click here
to find out why and how you could help the Henry Miller Library right now:

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