degrees of separation ... from the seattle mariners
look at what's in place

what i watched last week

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963). What does it mean when you want to give a movie both a 10 out of 10 and a 4 out of 10? It probably means it's a Godard movie. I don't like this nearly as much as I do my favorite Godard films, but that's partly the point. The set piece scene of marital discord that fills the second part of the movie is everything John Cassavetes wanted Faces to be. And it's hilarious to watch Godard playing around with Cinemascope as if it was an annoying toy, and to watch Raoul Coutard make it beautiful anyway. And you get to hear Jack Palance as a movie producer blurt out the classic line, "I like gods. I like them very much. I know exactly how they feel." But I'm not convinced by Bardot's performance, and the meanness of the film makes it hard to love ... yeah, I already said that's partly the point. Unfortunately, I suspect it's the main point. #56 on the TSPDT list of the 1000 Greatest Films.

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967). What did I notice on this, my billionth viewing? Faye Dunaway made a bigger impact on me than usual. I am not her biggest fan, but I loved her in this movie, just as I love pretty much everything about it. She has a way of letting emotions flicker across her face, just long enough for us to register them, not too long to make it seem as if she were milking them. Clyde becomes a man thanks to Bonnie telling his story ... it's Dunaway who convinces us that Clyde is more than just a bag of Warren Beatty's charming tricks. And here's to Dede Allen and her perfect editing ... for which she did not receive an Oscar nomination, although the movie itself got ten. #137 on the TSPDT list of the 1000 Greatest Films.

The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949). It was a week for spoiling myself ... The Third Man is another of my ten favorite movies of all time. In this case, it was also my first Criterion Blu-ray, ironic I suppose in that the film is not widescreen and the soundtrack is mono. But it looks just fine, and this is a movie I could watch endlessly. This time around I found Valli's Anna to be even more mysterious than usual ... I wasn't sure why she stuck by Harry. A few semesters ago, I had my students write an essay about the "cuckoo clock" speech. #24 on the TSPDT list of the 1000 Greatest Films. As perfect a movie as has ever been made.

George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000). David Gordon Green's first feature film. Green is said to greatly admire the work of Terrence Malick. It's been a long time, but I can recall being bored shitless by Days of Heaven. George Washington? Well, Mick LaSalle, who liked the film, said, "A lot of young filmmakers dare to be dull. Green goes the extra step." I was bored enough to fall asleep ... I woke up, rewound, watched what I'd missed. Normally I'd say this precludes my passing judgement on the film ... falling asleep in the middle isn't the way to watch any movie. But I'm not entirely convinced I was all that sleepy ... I think when Green went the extra step, he led me straight to the sleep zone. #139 on the TSPDT list of the 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films.

Traitor (Jeffrey Nachmanoff, 2008). I spent the first half of this movie thinking that Donnie Wahlberg was doing a pretty good job ... didn't realize he was in it, to be honest. That's because he wasn't ... it was Guy Pearce. Meanwhile, Don Cheadle is predictably excellent, and the movie is pretty good, perhaps more so if you like these kinds of international torn-from-the-headlines thrillers. (Every review of the film finds a place to mention the following, so I'll join with the rest: the idea for the film came from comedian Steve Martin.)

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008). I wondered at the beginning if the Joker's makeup was doing the work for Heath Ledger, but that was unfair ... Ledger really is as good as people say. I prefer Batman to most other superheroes because it's easy to make him dark and uncomfortable. Honestly, I don't care whether Spider Man gets together with Kirsten Dunst, or if Superman and Lois Lane ever it on. But Batman, he's one disturbed fellow, and the best Batman texts also add a disturbed villain or two to the mix. This is probably the best of the Batmans of the last twenty years ... I'm fond of Batman Returns, and Batman Begins was a nice restart. This one is too long, and not always coherent, but it's a good one. (The Blu-ray edition does something interesting ... the movie's aspect ratio in the IMAX version switched back and forth between 2.40:1 and, for the IMAX scenes, 1.44:1. On the Blu-ray disc, the switches occur, although the aspect ratios for the IMAX parts are more the standard 1.78:1. Apparently this isn't true for the regular DVDs. It's noticeable at, at times, a bit irritating, but eventually you forget about it, and the IMAX scenes do look nice on the bigger size.)



We saw "The Dark Knight" at the IMAX theater, and it was pretty amazing when the screen blew up to full size (for instance, for the Hong Kong scene and the chase scene). We got the DVD for a Christmas present, and the aspect ratio does not change. I'm tempted to buy the Blu-Ray just to check it out (should look nice on our new big-screen).


You know, I can't quite get my head around Anna and her devotion to Harry either. He seems to have an odd power over his friends and lovers. I can't see it at all, except for the cuckoo clock line, but I find that a bit dismissive and arrogant too. It is among my top five all timers for sure. I love the look. Sometimes that damn music gets in the way, but that last shot is in my mind the greatest of all cinema. Beats the Atlanta shot in GWTW.

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