Title Comment Comment Date Comment Link
Film Log

Thanks! Verdoux is wonderful: a black comedy, cynically casting an eye on moral hypocrisies and capitalist ideology. Yet, for its bleak vision of the world, Chaplin's performance is a surprisingly elegant, gentle and graceful. His aesthetic choices throughout--such as performance, narrative structure, etc--are inseparable from his politics, making the film all the more complex, and suspending the viewer in a place of uncertainty. Chaplin has always been, in one way or the other, a socially engaged artist (e.g. The Gold Rush is at its best and funniest when it is also at its most biting, as in the shoe eating scene), and I think the fact that he did slapstick has unfortunately damaged the perception of the sharpness and intelligence of his work. Verdoux, however, is particularly sophisticated and undeniable. It's amazing to see how much more he could be than just a tramp; a really great film, one of his best, I'd say.

1/28/2015 View
Jonathan Rosenbaum's 100 Essential Films

Yeah, I agree entirely, though I must say my favourite list of movies would fairly different from his, which I suppose is kind of the point. There'd be nothing to explore or discover if we had identical tastes (most glaringly, he sometimes likes films mostly for their socio-political content, and he doesn't care for Tarkovsky's post-exile works, the horror!). But, as the person on this site puts it (you've doubtlessly seen this page) "even in... disagreements I find a formidable opinion that challenges me to make my own opinion better and stronger". It's a shame he's retired from reviewing new films, if you know of anyone on his level I'd be happy to hear names. Maybe it's something about the Chicago Reader, but him and Kehr have been, in my mind, two of the best critics.

1/27/2015 View
Jonathan Rosenbaum's 100 Essential Films

What are your thoughts on this list?

I've been filling in the gaps / rewatching films from this list lately, and it's been very rewarding. Rosenbaum's taste is eclectic and non-canonical enough to be interesting, so there's lots of discoveries to be made (though I am also glad he isn't trying to make a point by deliberately picking only obscure films). I also much prefer personal lists--when there is substantiation for choices, as there is in his reviews--to aggregate polls.

1/26/2015 View
Film Log

I agree completely.

Now I'm tempted to give Treme a shot, just because of David Simon's involvement.

1/22/2015 View
Greatest Classical Music Works of All Time (in-progress)

Two things: you're not going to let Mozart languish at 7.7 are you? :) It's an exceedingly lovely, delicate, expressive and, dare I say, exciting piece of music... surprisingly comic (minor key be damned!) yet full of passionate intensity... that Mozart could compose his final three symphonies in two months is unfathomable; his was an oceanic talent (I virtually don't listen to anything but Mozart these days).

Also, I'm surprised by the absence of Beethoven's 30th sonata.

1/19/2015 View
Top 10 Non-Fiction Films

Sans Soleil is dead on... Have you seen his La Jetée? Love seeing Crumb mentioned as well. Godard's Histoire(s) is mandatory viewing, given the thrust of the list I'm sure you'd dig it. I don't know if Kiarostami's Close Up would qualify, but it's a brilliant film. Leviathan is playing here soon, I'll have to try to make it.

1/17/2015 View
Please Recommend Music, Films or Paintings to Me

Fair enough! "The Great Oak" is, from what I understand, an earlier Ruisdael, but expressive of the idiosyncrasy of his vision. The oaks have a kind of heroism while the people depicted recede into the landscape, reversing the normative tropes. I did a bit of digging but couldn't find any large HQ pics. siiiigh. I probably should have mentioned some of his paintings with water... "Two Watermills and an Open Sluice" is very good... so much variety in one painting, all perfectly organized and balanced. His most famous work is probably "Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede", and for good reason, I think. The world is so carefully perceived and masterfully transposed... look at his use of mass--the mill rising into the high sky, the expanse of the river and land... the delicate correspondence of the landscape and sky... The colours are beautiful without ostentation, giving the scene a quiet intensity. He's such patient observer, as evidenced in all the details, offered without pedantry: the sails, the people, the distant buildings; everything is rendered with great sensitivity. Crucially, the painting is not overburdened by the sharpness of his eye, there is a briskness to his strokes--e.g. the foliage in the forefront--that is highly expressive. Again, Ruisdael's visual organization is peerless (look at the geometry! the organic unity!). I should have mentioned this painting first, it's probably the most obvious manifestation of his genius.

1/16/2015 View
Movie Log, 2012-2015

It's been a few years since I saw Ali but I remember Fassbinder's blend of misanthropy and compassion made a big impression on me. I agree the performances were great, but there is also a formal mastery at play. I can still recall some of the compositions: characters are constantly being imprisoned within frames, obviously resonating deeply with the themes. Perhaps the politics of the film are a little less bold than they would have been in the 70's (depending on where you are in the world), but I remember enjoying it quite a bit. Effi Briest is probably his masterpiece, and I'd also recommend The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, The Marriage of Maria Braun, In a Year of 13 Moons, and Fox and his Friends. Admittedly, it's been a few years since I've seen any of his films.

Appreciate the Altman tips, I have some viewing to do. Looking back on a movie like Nashville I must admit I'm a little wary, although last time I viewed it (again, a few years ago), I loved it... It's his attitude; the kind of sneering manner with which he holds himself above his characters, and invites the viewer to similarly pass negative judgement, that does not rest easy with me. Baudelaire, being perhaps overemphatic, would call it "satanique"--to laugh at another's expense (though it is of course different to laugh at one's own expense, in the way of Keaton and Chaplin). I'll have to see it again, though (and I do not dread the thought of doing that, unlike when it comes to The Seventh Seal!)

1/16/2015 View
Movie Log, 2012-2015

Winter Sleep is an absolute must.

I'd wager that the best director of the 70's was Fassbinder, but I can't refute Altman-- there's so much of his catalogue I have yet to watch! Care to name your favourite five or so films of his?

1/16/2015 View
Please Recommend Music, Films or Paintings to Me

I recommend the paintings of Jacob von Ruisdael... "The Great Oak" is wonderful, the titular figure seeming more like a heroic protagonist than it does a mere tree. "The Jewish Cemetery" is a stunning memento mori painting, perhaps my favourite work of his; the grave crumbles as man becomes dust... His paintings of rushing water and the sky are particularly beatuiful.

1/14/2015 View
Music Ratings & Notes

Who do you listen to for the Goldberg Variations? I've only heard Wanda Landowska (1933) and Glenn Gould (1981), both very beautiful and very, very different. It's not a piece I've spent much time with, though.

1/14/2015 View
Funny Piero Scaruffi Quotes

Not at all funny, but the most repugnant, absurd and illogical are his comments on homosexuality.

Also Yeezus was great!

1/13/2015 View
Most Emotionally Moving/Devastating Films

:)! I probably find Late Spring more affecting than Tokyo Story, but both films are devastating masterpieces so I can't fault your choice. The more Ozu appreciation the better!

1/13/2015 View
Film Log

Susan Sontag is on the same page as you; she described the film as "Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I'd be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life." I'm still amazed at how utterly absorbing the the entire movie is; I'd love to see it in the theatre one day. So many scenes seem like they could stand as astonishing little films on their own--the doctor getting his brandy, the harrowing tale of the girl and her cat, the comic translation of Irimias's letter into a bureaucratic language, etc--but Tarr somehow manages to merge them seamlessly into a broader imaginative design. I was shocked to learn the source material is less than 350 pages; I had assumed it was on the same scale as War & Peace. Given this, it's particularly amazing that the adaptation does not feel bloated in the least bit.

You have not, I don't think, mentioned Lazorova. I avoided reading any details, so I'll take your recommendation on blind faith :). I'll try to get my hands on it soon, thanks!

1/11/2015 View
Most Emotionally Moving/Devastating Films

I was going to write this on your "Recommend" page, but I'll leave it here instead: Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow. An inspiration for Tokyo Story, it is one of the best, most moving, touchingly simple, tough-minded and perfect films I've ever seen. I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, and it still lives with me.

1/10/2015 View