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Old 11-17-2007, 06:55 PM   #226
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No Country For Old Men (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Well, there was a tremendous amount of hype going into this one, and while I can't really say I'm disappointed, I don't know that I'm exactly blown away. I may still have to sit with this one for a bit, or perhaps read the novel to fill in some of the blanks. And I'm not referring to the oblique, somewhat unresoved ending, but more about the nooks and crannies of what appears to be a much deeper story that what the Coens have illuminated in their adaptation. I feel like I should probably give Cormac McCarthy a try anyway as I've heard many good things about his writing.

Anyway, on a technical level the film was near perfect; there's not much more you could say about the photography of Roger Deakins (who should win an Oscar this year between this and his immaculate work on James/Ford), the acting of Tommy Lee Jones, or the directing and writing skills of Los Bros Coens. What really stood out here was the editing (again, the Coens, under longtime pseudonym Roderick Jaynes), the acting of Josh Brolin (who's having quite a year) as well as Kelly MacDonald and of course Javier Bardem, who will at least be getting an Oscar nom, not to mention a handful of critic's awards, I imagine.

Ultimately, I'm not so sure this is the best Coens film, or even near the top, as so many are proclaiming. While this film plays to many of their strengths, I like it when they go for broke visually, and disappear into their own strange worlds. So I can't say that this strikes me in the cinematic heart in the way that Barton Fink and The Man Who Wasn't There do, or even Hudsucker or O Brother. It's clearly miles above their last couple missteps, and is on par with the chilling Southern Gothic of Blood Simple and the bleak beauty of Miller's Crossing. Still not sure how I'd rank it. There have been many comparisons to Fargo, which was never one of my favorites as I felt it wasn't weird ENOUGH. This is even more straight, but perhaps it's better because it's not hedging its bets.

Anyway, this is a really a film that's worthy of more group discussion...
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Old 11-17-2007, 07:40 PM   #227
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Glad you liked it laz, and I'll be up for some indepth discussion perhaps later tonight when i'm not so distracted/busy.
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Old 11-17-2007, 08:49 PM   #228
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Did I miss your original write-up on this, Lance? I don't recall you posting one.
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Old 11-17-2007, 11:14 PM   #229
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I didn't post a thorough one, but i think i did mention seeing it.
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Old 11-18-2007, 12:44 AM   #230
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They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

Found this the other day for $5, haven't seen it in ages. While I wouldn't put this in the upper echelon of Carpenter's films, you have to give the guy credit for managing to combine political satire and sci-fi action in one film. The premise is that Earth's population has been infiltrated by aliens who look normal to human eyes, and only by looking through corrective eyewear provided by an underground revolutionary group can you see their true appearance. These aliens are keeping the public docile through hypnotizing television signal broadcasts, and subliminal advertisng (billboards that look normal are actually saying things like "Obey" "Do not question authority", etc.).

What's going on here is a humorously cutting critique of the Reagan Era and the Me Decade, positing the idea that the only explanation for the current conditions (pollution, the rich getting richer, mistreatment of the country's poor) must be some kind of alein conspiracy, as if humans couldn't actually be doing this to themselves. The original conceit to me is to have a homeless guy (infamous wrestler Roddy Piper) as the protagonist of the film, which is pretty uncommon save for films that are actually about homelessness. Carpenter's portrayal of the relatively happy shantytown/soup kitchen scene is pretty refreshing considering what we normally see. The idea that these unfortunates are actually the ones with the power to see through the veneer of what's going on is a novel one. Sadly, the themes in this film--that people will sell out their ideals just to get ahead, and that people are so focused on their own upward mobility that they don't stop to think about others who aren't as successful-- are just as relevant today as they were in the 80's, even if dissent is greater now than it was back in 1988. Perhaps this would be received better if it came out today.

Carpenter's direction is assured as usual, making great use of the widescreen frame, and again his slightly dated original score is great at setting the mood, and actually sounds a bit like the music from an High Noon-type western, which this resembles in some ways.

Not as much fun as Big Trouble in Little China, or as fully realized as Escape From New York and The Thing, but still a pretty entertaining film.
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Old 11-18-2007, 12:49 AM   #231
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
No Country For Old Men (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Well, there was a tremendous amount of hype going into this one, and while I can't really say I'm disappointed, I don't know that I'm exactly blown away. I may still have to sit with this one for a bit, or perhaps read the novel to fill in some of the blanks. And I'm not referring to the oblique, somewhat unresoved ending, but more about the nooks and crannies of what appears to be a much deeper story that what the Coens have illuminated in their adaptation. I feel like I should probably give Cormac McCarthy a try anyway as I've heard many good things about his writing.

Anyway, on a technical level the film was near perfect; there's not much more you could say about the photography of Roger Deakins (who should win an Oscar this year between this and his immaculate work on James/Ford), the acting of Tommy Lee Jones, or the directing and writing skills of Los Bros Coens. What really stood out here was the editing (again, the Coens, under longtime pseudonym Roderick Jaynes), the acting of Josh Brolin (who's having quite a year) as well as Kelly MacDonald and of course Javier Bardem, who will at least be getting an Oscar nom, not to mention a handful of critic's awards, I imagine.

Ultimately, I'm not so sure this is the best Coens film, or even near the top, as so many are proclaiming. While this film plays to many of their strengths, I like it when they go for broke visually, and disappear into their own strange worlds. So I can't say that this strikes me in the cinematic heart in the way that Barton Fink and The Man Who Wasn't There do, or even Hudsucker or O Brother. It's clearly miles above their last couple missteps, and is on par with the chilling Southern Gothic of Blood Simple and the bleak beauty of Miller's Crossing. Still not sure how I'd rank it. There have been many comparisons to Fargo, which was never one of my favorites as I felt it wasn't weird ENOUGH. This is even more straight, but perhaps it's better because it's not hedging its bets.

Anyway, this is a really a film that's worthy of more group discussion...
If you're never read Cormac, and are interested in his writing more than you're interested in how the book compares to the novel, do not make this your first McCarthy book. Start with the Border Trilogy or, better yet, Blood Meridian.....or, maybe better still, The Road. Just my 2 cents, Laz.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:35 PM   #232
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Lions for Lambs (dir. Robert Redford)

I saw this mostly out of duty, because I'm a big fan of Redford's directorial career. This film isn't really directed at hardcore lefties like myself; it seems aimed more at younger people who are trying to process all the information they're seeing about the war and the U.S. govermnent, and trying to decide how they're going to proceed with the rest of their lives.

While Redford clearly is coming at this with a liberal bias, he's fair enough to make this film a dialogue more than a lecture. The film is divided into three sections which it cuts back and forth between: in Washington, a Republican senator discusses the state of the nation and a new military operation with a liberal reporter; in California, a promising but flailing student talks with his professor about his future; and in Afghanistan, two of the professor's former favorite students are wounded and trapped after a mission goes badly, one that is part of the aforementioned senator's plan.

The two American segments are each tête a têtes between two actors, who all state their case convincingly and in detail. By casting Tom Cruise in the antagonistic role, you are able to see the conservative argument presented by someone who's very assured, calm, and charismatic. Meryl Streep is equally bold as someone who continues to hammer away at what she sees as shallow reasoning. Redford as an actor is actually more engaging here than I've seen him in a long time; I imagine that's because this topic is close to his heart, and his turn as an idealist who knows he may be fighting a losing battle is a very good one.

The weak link in the chain is the military section, which serves as a contrast to all the talking, but also fails to enage the viewer as much as the other two parts. And while the climax and conclusion of this segment makes thematic sense, I don't know if it's as realistic or logically played out as it could have been. The actors playing the soldiers are much better in flashbacks to their college days when they're interacting with Redford's character.

The criticd have been coming at this film pretty harshly, calling it preaching to the converted or being boring, but I certainly didn't feel that way. The converstations are pretty riveting, and whatever your position, it faces you to either ask new questions, or rethink your answers to old ones. From a technical standpoint there's not much to speak of; Redford is capable of epic grandeur or claustrophobic suspense, but none of that is needed here. He lets the actors and words speak for themselves.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:45 PM   #233
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I've posted something like this before, but it never ceases to amaze me...

Directors Tom Cruise has worked with:

Harold Becker
Francis Ford Coppola
Ridley Scott
Martin Scorcese
Barry Levinson
Oliver Stone
Ron Howard
Rob Reiner
Sydney Pollack
Neil Jordan
Brian DePalma
Cameron Crowe
Stanley Kubrick
PT Anderson
Steven Spielberg
Michael Mann
Robert Redford
Bryan Singer

Maybe you like most of the above, maybe just some but that's an impressive list, at least to me.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:47 PM   #234
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Tom Cruise is one of the most underrated actors of his generation. Sure he's done a lot of flashy "movie star" roles, but damn, a lot of his stuff is brilliant.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:48 PM   #235
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That's pretty much the pu-pu platter of the Best Directors of the Past 25 Years and Others.

I'd like to see Scorcese and Cruise pair up in a serious film sometime soon though.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:51 PM   #236
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Well Cruise has the luxury of choosing who he wants to work with and what scripts he'll do. That being said, he's been making great choices for a long time, at least as far as collaborators are concerned.

That War of the Worlds script sucked, though.

So when are we having that No Country For Old Men discussion?
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:52 PM   #237
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Whenever you want, hot stuff.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:52 PM   #238
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I'll most likely be seeing it sometime this week, either Wednesday or Friday. You guys can start it and I'll chime in later.
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Old 11-18-2007, 02:58 PM   #239
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Well I feel like I've stated my position in my original review, and I'd like to know if anyone has a very similar or contarian view of the film.

To summarize, I don't want to use the word underwhelmed, but not blown away as I was expecting to be. And that I felt it was maybe not fleshed out as much as it could have been.

One think I'd like to add is that I really admired the long stretches without dialogue. For two guys who can write such rich words, that's an achievement.
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Old 11-18-2007, 03:01 PM   #240
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I'm curious as to your thoughts on the films themes of fate and determinism, because I thought the staunch characterizations of the three "leads" as a study of fate or destiny was the most impressive aspect of the film.
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