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Film on the Disc: Days of Heaven

As we wrap up the latest Year of the Month (thanks, BurgendySuit as always for organizing!) I felt it prudent to squeeze in one more mention. One thing the Year of the Months shows is how rich most any given calendar year is with memorable titles and 1978 was no exception.

It was during this year that Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven arrived. So arresting and distinct were its images that it would cement his status as an iconic director even through a twenty-year hiatus. This is a pretty amazing achievement considering 1) this reputation was built on only two films and 2) two generations came of age with very little opportunity to see this in a theater.

Apparently rented 16mm copies and then VHS tapes captured enough of the astonishing beauty to keep it alive in the minds of film buffs until Malick returned with The Thin Red Line in 1998. Lucky for us, Blu-Ray gives more depth and color to the film than many of its fans got to enjoy for two decades.

And of course credit must be given to cinematographers Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler both for capturing the images and for dealing with an insubordinate crew convinced that neither Almendros nor Malick knew what they were doing.

  • Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Three, Episode Eight, “Flashes Before Your Eyes”
      “You do realise he’ll know your plan before you even come up with it, dude.”

      “What you’re not is worthy of drinking my whiskey. How could you ever be worthy of my daughter?”

      This is the episode where Desmond becomes an all-time great scifi character. What I like is how his particular precognition basically puts him in the same perspective as the audience, almost a reversal of the usual narrative trick of placing the audience in a character’s head.

      There’s more talk of both Great Men and determinism vs free will; the potential navel-gazing of the latter idea undone by the former. If Great Men exist, and they were always going to do Great Things because of it, then free will is irrelevant. If free will exists, then neither do Great Men, which means you can’t be one. I feel like I’m missing something important though, some value that will make what the show is doing click into place.

      Ownage: N/A

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season Five, Episode Four, “The Gang Gives Frank An Intervention”
      Rewatched because Miller reminded me of salting the snail, and I always forget how this episode is basically one scene after another of classic Gang moments, because it has at least small bits of everything, from Frank’s cheerful depravity setting things off, to Charlie’s illiteracy, to Dennis and Dee’s ability to team up on someone, to Mac’s neediness, to the Gang obsessing over a word and using it as communication (“INTERVENTION!” and I love how Frank jumps in on it even though he has no idea what it is), to Frank throwing his gun around casually, to the Gang’s drunkenness (never not funny), to the Gang babbling across the table from a normal person. If I had to show someone an ‘ordinary’ episode of the show, I would show them this one.

      Attack The Block, Joe Cornish
      “Maybe there was a party at the zoo and a monkey fucked a fish?”

      “There’s worse things out there than us tonight, bruv! Trust!”

      A badass motherfuckin’ old-fashioned monster movie with a strong social consciousness. For once, the social commentary isn’t obnoxious, mainly because of the powerful dramatic underpinning of the story. When characters discuss the social commentary, it’s because they’re the kind of people who would and it’s the right time for them to do it, and it allows connections like Brewis, who’s funny because he fronts about being the kind of guy our heroes actually are (and seeing him get arrested along with the others at the end has a kind of poetry to it). The most subtle example of commentary was having the cops be the initial redshirts and for that to absolutely make sense in these guy’s world, and my favourite was the sad reveal that Moses is only fifteen.

      John Boyega completely owns the movie. From the start, he’s the one smart enough and thoughtful enough to lead the group, and we see him slowly accepting his heroism – it’s a very internal performance for a badass action film.

      It’s Carpenterian and Wright-esque (Joe Cornish basically training under Edgar Wright) without being too much either of them and definitely its own thing. My favourite Carpenter touch is actually a reversal of him; initially, the aliens have an alien morality, only for the big twist to be that they have a fairly striaghtforward drive for sex.

      Ownage: Complete and total. My favourite was Moses’ first kill with a fucking samurai sword, and Probs and Mayhem burning the alien.

      • John Boyega is the best. I think the main reason I’m looking forward to the new Star Wars at this point is to see more of him.

        • Belated Comebacker

          He really was quite charming in “The Force Awakens,” huh?

        • pico

          I really did not like TFA but I will go see the next Star Wars just to keep sending him a paycheck. I feel like this is all long overdue residuals for Attack the Block.

      • Attack the Block kicks so much ass. I love that it’s willing to kill the kids, too. It’d have been easy to have a straightforward action movie, but instead they pushed further almost into horror. The stakes are both huge (alien invasion!) and personal (their home apartment block). Good balance, there.

        Worth noting that its two stars (Boyega & Whittaker) are now part of two of the biggest SF franchises now. Helluva way to start out.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          First you own the independent film, then you own the world.

        • And yet we’re still waiting for another Joe Cornish film! Although we finally get one next year, I think.

          • Jake Gittes

            It’s got Patrick Stewart as Merlin and Rebecca Ferguson as Morgana.

            It better not suck.

        • Jake Gittes

          It was also the film debut of Steven Price, who immediately went on to score The World’s End and win an Oscar for Gravity.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I got to see this for free the same night as Harry Potter 7 because the projector had fucked up on the latter and it was fucking terrific. I need to see it again on the small screen.

      • “I feel like I’m missing something important though, some value that will make what the show is doing click into place.”

        I think it’s the personal nature of all these values. As the show went on, the values became less of a philosophical statement of the show and more of the values of particular characters. More than anyone, and it’s fucking heartbreaking, Eloise Hawking knows about course corrections, and that the past cannot be changed.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Works for me. That also seems to describe the emotional arc of drama in general; The Shield‘s shift from What Does It Say About Society That We’re Willing To Get Results You Stupid Chief to Vic Mackey, He Who Gets Results.

          • If you want to say something, you’re probably gonna predetermine the action, which is not a good thing for storytelling. (See: Rand, Ayn, and Sinclair, Upton.) If you start believing in the reality of the characters and let them act as they act, let them interact and follow the consequences, that will start generating many meanings, some of which contradict each other. It was seasons 4-5 where Lost really found its narrative drive after three seasons of setup (more like 2½ seasons stretched to three) and that’s where a lot of the character differentiation happened. Season six was a return to the style of 1-3, and that’s part of what weakened it. The end of a story is not a good place to world-build.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Makes me think of something I’ve been stewing on: the idea that if you’re writing a story specifically to do or say something (ownage, defeating bigots, making statements on What We As A Society Allow), you frontload the story with them, and you let those actions set the tone and energy of your story, and then you build on them through the craft of drama or literature. You start a story with shit you actually care about, and then you force yourself to deal with it.

          • Listening to the early commentaries on The Shield, it’s clear that no one had any idea where this series would end up, and that they had a lot of sympathy for everyone. They knew the characters, they let them act, they accepted the consequences, and look what happened. (Note also that this is my basic ethical principle from earlier this week.)

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Also the Night Crawlers scene continues the running joke that Dennis doesn’t understand Charlie and Frank’s deeply strange (and sincere) relationship. “We’re not making memories together anymore and that’s a hurtful thing.” “Alright, welp, uh – not even gonna suss out that one.”

        • Drunk Napoleon

          It is strangely heartwarming to see Frank sincerely promise to play Nightcrawlers more often in the future.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Charlie and Frank have the most genuine relationship in the series (and even then Charlie will manipulate his glasses prescription and shit).

          • Miller

            Also weirdly heartwarming — Frank’s pronunciation of “Cholly,” it’s part of his “hoor” dialect but unique in how he refers to a member of the Gang.

      • ZoeZ

        Moses’s bedroom is such a sad, subtle reversal, too: a lot of science-fiction-with-kids movies are filled with the kids being ecstatic about the chance to get to act as adults and to shake off the confines of childhood for once, and here we see, pointedly but not forcefully, that that’s Moses’s life. He’s so used to having to act older, and so used to being treated like he’s not a child, that it’s not a plot point for him to become a grownup but a twist that he’s still a boy.

      • Babalugats

        Paul Haggis wrote Crash After getting car jacked. It’s a hateful little movie about how everyone is secretly racist, and how every racist stereotype is true. Maybe the purest example Hollywood’s hollow posturing liberalism.

        Joe Cornish wrote Attack The Block after being mugged, and it’s an incredible work of empathy and honest insight. Even if the film had been bad, Cornish would be a guy I was rooting for.

        But Attack The Block isn’t bad, it’s as absolutely perfect genre film. With a lean and propulsive narrative, a wide cast of characters that all feel distinctive and authentic, some of the best creature design of the last few decades, an impactful climax that has real emotional weight and meaning for the characters, legitimately funny writing that doesn’t undermine the reality of the film, and complex and insightful themes fully integrated into the story and aesthetics in a way that feels entirely organic. Oh, and a fantastic score that helps to place the film in it’s own unique world. It’s a shame this wasn’t a bigger hit. Hopefully Boyega’s rising star brings some more attention to it, because this film deserves more than a cult. It deserves to be a staple of the gene.

        • pico

          To defend Haggis a bit, I think it’s less about posturing than about trying to understand the essence of his own reaction at that moment: he considered (and still considers) himself a liberal but had angry, racist thoughts when his car was stolen, and he wants to understand that. His failure is one of projection – that he suspects everyone must be like him, holding a racist pressure-cooker inside – and of empathy, and of just about everything else in trying to extrapolate that feeling into something meaningful and true. It’s a frustrating/angering movie because he doesn’t seem to have wrestled with any of the issues to any depth at all outside of that gut moment.

          • Babalugats

            I think his reaction reveals the degree to which his politics are hollow and posturing. When confronted with black criminality, his first thought is, I knew it! And he imagines the rest of the world is the same way. Saying the right things, but not actually believing any of it. And his Oscar goes to show just how widespread this outlook is within Hollywood. The values of liberalism haven’t been internalized in any real way, what they really value is decorum. It’s all still tribalism, just a different tribe.

            Also, I don’t hate Haggis. He’s not a great filmmaker, but he’s not entirely without talent either, and I’ve enjoyed some of his other movies. And, while I don’t like the politics or the filmmaking of Crash, I do appreciate it’s honesty. It’s a window into a thought process that most people have the good sense to keep closed, and there’s some value in that. But while I can find Haggis interesting, Joe Cornish has an outlook I genuinely admire.

          • clytie

            Haggis made two of the greatest TV series of 90s: Due South and EZ Streets. Despite a handful of episodes, Alan Sepinwall even included the latter in TV: The Book.

          • The Ploughman

            Haggis wrote the Casino Royale reboot and therefore has contributed everything to cinema he needs to. I dislike Crash‘s idiotic plot so much, I don’t even make it to the politics.

    • Libeled Lady – a really interesting screwball comedy with a great cast (Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, William Powell and Myrna Loy) and such intricate plotting that it doesn’t really matter that it’s not as consistently funny as a lot of the best screwball. That’s not to say it isn’t funny – William Powell in particular is great – but I think the things I’ll remember from this one are the surprisingly great dramatic elements (and superb ending) rather than the dialogue, for once.

      NaSoAlMo update: it’s finished! It’s a free listen / download if anyone is interested in hearing what I got up to this month.

      • Jake Gittes

        I adored Libeled Lady. It deserves to be as well-known as the biggest screwball classics.

        • It took me a while to warm to it, but by the end I was totally on board. Jean Harlow is astonishing in that final scene.

      • The Ploughman

        Listening! Liking!

        • Excellent, thanks!

      • Son of Griff

        Congratulations

      • pico

        Let’s talk some wild coincidence/symmetry here: your cover at (which I love), and an art collection inspired by Life a User’s Manual, which we were just talking about (particularly that set of six embroidery patterns, the third work down).

        The music’s a lot of fun, too – thanks for sharing!

        • Thank you!

          I love these. I always enjoy that odd crossover in style between fabric patterns and computer pixel art!

      • Defense Against The Dark Arts

        Congratulations! You wrote an entire album in 1 month! I, on the other hand, decided to take part in the No-Shave November challenge. I did nothing and let the hair grow on my face.

        • I consider us both to be heroes. Also, thank you!

    • lgauge

      Behemoth: Hell never looked so good.

      A documentary with a clear message can very easily get trapped in a one-sided visual and textual treatise. A non-stop condemnation that ignores the more challenging and complicating aspects of an issue in order to stand firm. While often politically justified, this often leads to uninteresting art. Luckily, no such simplicity can be found in Zhao’s great film. As much as his gentle humanist eye finds faces and bodies under duress — people (in this case the workers in and around the coal mines and plants) who clearly suffer under harsh conditions with little sympathy from a state that steps on them on the way to progress — he also has another eye. One that understands the strange and alluring, often evocative, beauty of body and machine at work. One that acknowledges the beauty of the open, untouched, landscape while also finding the colors, steam and light of the industrial world a truly magnificent sight to behold. A most seductive and dangerous picture.

      Early on, it does not seem that that’s what we’re in for. We open on a stark and grey view of a mine and then later shift to highly saturated color compositions of the green grass of the open plain. Yet as the film goes on, this separation (that is from aesthetic point of view) becomes less and less clear. Like several films from the earlier days of cinema, Zhao understands the allure of the industrial process, but he also never lets us forget the human cost. There is a staggering beauty in this film, almost to the point where you start to wonder if it’s self-contradictory, but always balancing this with images of the people who make all this possible. Letting the painterly background vanish as we move in for close-ups of tired and sweaty faces, we are confronted with the price of this beauty. The beauty of industry that in many ways represents the progress we’ve made and the goods we now enjoy. But is it worth it?

      All of this is framed in a flexible triptych structure inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. With Hell being mines and plants, Purgatory being the sickness brought on by the work and Paradise being the Chinese ghost towns that all this have helped to create. To paraphrase: “Paradise is very clean. No one lives there.” Shot under unusual and constraining circumstances, with only images (edited together with a good deal of abstractness), voice-over and some text to guide us, this is a truly great accomplishment. Since the film was made, China seems to be trying its best to move away from coal, but a lot of what we’re seeing is still happening I’m sure and then there are all the lives already lost. There’s not too much the rest of us can do about this, but at the very least we should be watching and listening. Even if all these images and sounds cannot reach the elegant beauty of the those found here.

    • B:TAS – The Avatar: Ra’s Al Ghul and Bruce Wayne in a Republic serial so blatant that Bruce actually calls it such. Fun, with former Supergirl Helen Slater as Talia and David Warner as Ra’s. But not a great one.

      Started watching Fargo for the first time since it came out. Marvelous music and cinematography, and Bill Macy seems to have arrived from a Mamet play. But I really don’t know what to make of those accents. Anyone know how native Minnesotans feel about this? More to come after I watch the whole thing,

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I’m sure the guy on Arrow is good but David Warner has to be the best Ra’s right? So much casual arrogance in his delivery.

        • glorbes

          His voice is the voice I hear when I read comics featuring Ra’s.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Completely agree. Hell Warner as a younger man could’ve been Ra’s on the big screen too.

        • The guy on Arrow (Matt Nable) was okay, but they didn’t give him enough to do, and both his daughters are much better. Liam Neeson was fine as Ra’s in Batman Begins, but they were going for a low-key version. And while I haven’t watched Gotham, I am assuming that Alexander Siddig (hey, an actual non-white!) is fine since he usually is.

          But Warner…yes, he was perfection as much as, well, almost everyone else on that show.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah Neeson is fine, I’d just love the comic-booky Ra’s to pop up in the Batman movie world.

          • DJ JD

            I’d never really thought about this before now, but your post made me realize I was mentally separating Neeson’s Ra’s from general comparison the same way I separate Ledger’s Joker from the others. I never actually put him up against Warner’s in my head.

      • jroberts548

        I was friends with two Minnesotans in law school. One had a pretty neutral accent. His wife sounded like a cast member from Fargo.

      • DJ JD

        My wife and I were driving across North Dakota pre-kids at 2AM once and we found this old gas station, of the type that would normally appear at the beginning of a horror movie. We bought gas then went inside for munchies or whatever, and the woman behind the cash register watched us for a minute…and then turned on the PA (this place was too small to need one; she could’ve easily just called to us) and started live-reading canned ads for merchandise in the store. We both jumped and then tried not to laugh, because she kept doing it even while we were in our respective restrooms. (“Why not try a Ho-Ho?”, stuff like that.)

        Anyway, she sounded just like Fargo. I’ve heard it elsewhere for sure, too. My mother-in-law is from North Muskegon (SW Michigan), lived there her whole life, and oh golly. She’s got some of those broad Chicago vowels that tend to sneak into SW MI accents, but it’s still recognizably Midwestern.

        • Defense Against The Dark Arts

          That whole scene could be from a Coen brothers movie.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        My aunt is from Wisconsin, that accent is fucking real.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        Avatar isn’t a great episode, but it has the confidence that the later episodes of B:TAS had in abundance. Favorite detail: The archeologist in the flashbacks is designed to look like Peter Cushing.

        As for the accents in Fargo…I’m from Iowa, and it starts to get bad when you go to the northern part of the state. Once you cross the Minnesota border, yeah, it’s really like that.

      • Son of Griff

        The ones I’ve met have fully embraced the stereotype. Looking at themselves in a comically self deprecationg manner makes them feel like Angelinos.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – God I hadn’t seen this in…ten years? I think the principal difference between the Columbus HP films and the (very strong) efforts that come after is that Columbus was a journeyman family filmmaker making fun fantasy movies with precocious kids, where Cuaron and co. were making movies that knew what it was like to be a child and eventually a teenager. It didn’t help either that Prisoner of Azkaban really cuts a bunch of the fat and gets to one of the great subtexts of Harry Potter, how our lives are shaped by the past and people we can’t ever meet. That’s present here in Riddle’s literally evil memory but Azkaban is much stronger, less rooted in deux ex machina (or should I say FAWKES ex machina?! Get it? Get it? Eh.)

      The good stuff here is that its just still fun to watch, the horror aspects are still genuinely potent, like Harry hearing a disembodied murderous voice, and Harry has a very strong arc: he comes to understand that while he and Voldemort have similar gifts and strengths, Harry always uses them to do the right thing and You Know Who is absolutely incapable of that. And while Columbus is not the best director of the series he has a ton of fun with Quidditch and letting the actors chew that delicious honey ham. I forgot by the way how great Harris was as Dumbledore. He captures Rowling’s description of a man who is too intelligent to be offended by human failings.

      But much like this comment the movie is way, way too long. You get to luxuriate in this weird, impractical world where no one ever needed technology because their wands could do anything, but its 160 minutes long and the script needs some trimming (God Colin Creevey get outta here). Still I had fun.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        One thing Columbus doesn’t get enough credit for is the wonderful job he did casting these things. And the crew he assembled, especially Stuart Craig as designer and, of course, John Williams. He didn’t know how best to use them, but at least he had good instincts.

        • Belated Comebacker

          I think you could say the same thing about Shawn Levy (a current producer for “Stranger Things,” and a former director of “Date Night,” “Night at the Museum,” and others).

          Clearly, their skills as movie directors may not have been great, but they certainly have instincts as stewards for larger properties.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            It’s a limited but real talent. And, you know, I don’t dislike the Night At The Museum movies. They’re not particularly good, but they’re certainly fun watches on cable when nothing else is on.

          • Belated Comebacker

            Probably the best way to view them, if we’re being honest.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Its weird because I think the other directors are better at coaching the kids but Columbus and the people on hand did an amazing job of getting the right people, which is half the battle.

          I really liked the design of the Chamber of Secrets this time around. These huge heads and the corridors looked like the art around Oxford.

    • ZoeZ

      Nothing, but I did have a pop culture dream that will be best appreciated here: that Ms. Swift from Vice Principals worked in the Barn and accidentally gave away a small detail on some Strike Team shenanigan without knowing it, and Vic and Shane immediately said, “Dammit, Swift!” in the best VP tradition.

    • Belated Comebacker

      Chinatown:

      While I didn’t see as many people here talking about noir-vember as last year, I did manage to wedge in at least one top-notch noir before we finished November!

      Much like “The Good German,” it seems as though Evans, Towne and Polanski were all too eager to take advantage of the New Hollywood era, differentiating themselves from the more restrictive era in which noir thrived with Bogart, Bacall and others. The fact that the first shot of the movie is a photograph of a woman having sex with a man is all we need to know about its interest in tackling tradition.

      Gittes, of course, can handle himself rather well in a fight, although I found his geniality rather surprising. The Continental Op he is not. Sam Spade he definitely is not. Maybe being a private eye instead of being a member of the LAPD softened him up, or maybe his caseload focusing on adultery killed the more violent parts of himself. But either way, Nicholson’s performance from the start is far more restrained, and I appreciated it, along with his dry sense of humor.

      Long story short, the fact that it starts where most noir typically lands, in the James M. Cain territory of adultery leading to murder, shows how much further it’s willing to go in its story. Here, adultery is only the beginning, before digging deeper, into far darker, more complex territory, showing how L.A. was built on lies, deceit and corruption, which definitely couldn’t be overthrown by a small-time private eye.

      • Jake Gittes

        Jake is one of my favorite protagonists in all of film (shocker, I know), and probably the one role that’s most perfectly suited for Nicholson’s talents, where his supreme outer self-confidence and his way with a quip mask a wounded and weary man who wants to think he’s capable of more than he is. This gradual reveal of character occurs in perfect sync with the plot development, while also engaging in dialogue with classic noir, showing the person behind the archetype. (Exact same thing happens with Evelyn, to perhaps an even more notable extent). I haven’t revisited the movie in a few years but just typing this out makes me marvel all over again at how goddamn great it is. I love it. If you ever get a chance to see it with Towne’s and David Fincher’s commentary, do it, just to hear the latter similarly sound like a giddy fanboy (while also pointing out filmmaking details I never picked up on even after a dozen viewings).

        • Belated Comebacker

          I will always regret not picking up that glorious Blu-Ray with the Fincher and Towne commentary, given how much I treasure the former’s thoughts and knowledge.

          Another individual with rather intriguing thoughts on “Chinatown” is Finchers’ peer Soderbergh, who wrote a blog post discussing the “40-year rule” when it comes to movies, and how this is a pitch-perfect movie (which many people might say, no duh). But what really caught my eye is how he talks about the editing rhythms of the movie, and how it works on both a micro level, and a macro level, from shot to shot, and scene to scene.

          • Jake Gittes

            Fincher and Soderbergh should just record commentaries for any classic they feel like.

      • Son of Griff

        CHINATOWN, which I saw in 1977, was the movie that sparked my interest in film noir, and the 1940s in general. Due to getting a new job and dealing with every elderly family member getting sick this month, the Noir-vember didn’t work out this year, but it will come back.

        • Belated Comebacker

          My condolences on the part of your family member. I myself didn’t see much noir either, but I like to think I ended the month in a big way with this movie.

          • Son of Griff

            Everyone is OK, but the last 12 days have been preoccupied to long drives to hospitals and convalescent facilities, as well as pet sitting.

      • John Bruni

        The whole point is that Gittes, unlike Spade, is not always one step ahead of the game; he’s always one step behind, which sets up the downer ending.

        • Belated Comebacker

          Good point, which I suppose is another mark in favor of the film’s “revisionist neo-noir” genre trappings (to borrow from @Son of Griff’s and other’s terms). Haven’t seen “The Long Goodbye,” from Altman, but would it be fair to group it in a similar category?

      • I doubt I will ever watch this again because of Polanski, but it’s an incredible film start to finish.

    • Jake Gittes

      GoldenEye – my first non-Craig Bond, somehow. Even not having seen any earlier films, it’s fun to see how the movie is extra careful to establish itself as a reboot a decade before the word gained any prominence – Bond has to show himself in action before he gets any significant dialogue, supporting characters take turns to dismissively comment on his history and habits, often tying in actual real-world history as well. Brosnan is smooth and lethal here and convincing at both, the two main female characters also reasonably well-done – Famke Janssen overcomes the facepalm-worthy name by throwing herself into the role with such abandon that she comes across as someone genuinely larger-than-life, while Izabella Scorupco gets to demonstrate some real spunk, a credible accent, and an ability to own Bond with his own devices. (“Shoot him! He means nothing to me.”)

      I was expecting some major additions to the Connery-Swinton scale of Western actors’ attempts at Russian (shoutout to @pico), but the movie instead makes a comparatively smart if unexciting choice of mostly having everyone speak English with accents; Alan Cumming stands out, though, by leaning hard into his accent and feasting on every single damn word, and there are occasional bizarre moments like Janssen swearing “Bilyatch!” (which is not remotely a swear word I ever heard of) or pre-fame Minnie Driver (!) as a Russian nightclub singer (!!) performing “Stand by Your Man” (!!!). I couldn’t have possibly cared less about the actual story and the villain’s plan, but there’s enough going on here at any given moment that I was generally entertained.

      Brosnan’s potent combination of laid-back charm, man-of-few-words confidence and cavalier attitude towards killing does feel like something that would get progressively harder to maintain, so it’s unsurprising though unfortunate to hear that the subsequent movies just saddled him with more goofy nonsense. Even here his only moments that don’t work are the quips (“She always did enjoy a good squeeze”, etc.), because he just doesn’t come across as the kind of character who would think it’s a good idea to say that shit out loud. Well, at least here he got a perfect moment of ownage in “For England, James?” “No. For me”, and later found an opportunity to play Bond as just a complete unrepentant asshole in The Tailor of Panama.

      • Belated Comebacker

        I enjoy how bold you are in your thoughts on “Goldeneye!”

        It’s always a slight shame to consider how Brosnan’s last role was the CGI-mess of “Die Another Day.” Fortunately, he, as you note at the end, managed to really show off more of his chops after leaving the role behind. Though this movie still sticks out as a fun one (especially since Sean Bean is the villain, if I recall correctly?)

        • Jake Gittes

          He is but he doesn’t get a ton of screentime or an opportunity to stand out much. Also the movie pretends to kill him off in the opening scene but then in the opening credits we get “starring: Sean Bean” immediately following Brosnan’s name, so I don’t even know what they were thinking. Most half-hearted attempt at this kind of a twist ever?

          • Belated Comebacker

            Given how it’s a Bond movie, I think I glided right past that tell. At the end of the day, a Bond movie (of a certain era now) has a certain kind of expectation of formula, so I never expected any surprise. I mostly enjoyed how it’s one 00-agent against another (something “Skyfall” might’ve done better than this one, maybe?)

      • Babalugats

        I couldn’t have possibly cared less about the actual story and the villain’s plan

        This is probably the most functional villain plot in the whole series, both in it’s narrative logic and its emotional connection to Bond. I don’t know if you’re planning on diving deeper into the series, but something to keep in mind if you do.

        • Jake Gittes

          Thanks. I probably will catch up with most/all of the movies eventually, but I’m in no hurry to do so. Sounds like I’m going to have to count on all the stuff that surrounds the plots rather than the plots themselves.

          • Babalugats

            Yeah. Bond movies are all about the “stuff”. The locations, the stunts, the clothes, the cars, the gadgets, the women. The story is just there to get you from one thing to another.

            I recommend From Russia With Love and Goldfinger as the other two pre-Craig Bonds that work even without the franchise handicap.

      • I watched and liked this one, and can’t find the energy to trade the rest of Brosnan’s Bond films, which sound like they exchange at least a modicum of real world geopolitics for the sort of cartoonish nonsense that ate the series during Moore’s run.

        • Jake Gittes

          Yeah we’re in the same boat here.

      • pico

        Haha, thanks for sending out the pico-signal: I found the Janssen scene on Youtube! I think she just mangled the hell out of блядь (that soft and unvoiced D sometimes comes out like a CH in non-native speakers). There’s also some weirdo in the comments section telling everyone she’s saying врешь, which seems entirely wrong to me.

        Either way, this is definitely one for the list… I suppose this becomes a Solute-exclusive article at some point, heh. Thanks!

        • Jake Gittes

          Yeah, that’s the only halfway plausible explanation. It was just hard for me to accept how someone would arrive from D (even a soft D) to TCH like that, especially since she pronounces it with such conviction. But I can see what you mean about non-native speakers.

          I would definitely be down for that article.

      • Miller

        Janssen is fucking bonkers in the best possible way in this movie. She’s not a sexpot, she’s the whole goddamn sex kitchenware set but in a still plausibly murderous way — the character reads like a masturbatory fantasy but Janssen makes it entirely her own. And Martin Campbell does his standard no-bullshit action job here, this is a movie that is easy to underrate but what it does is a lot harder than it looks.

    • The Narrator

      21 Grams: It was most emphatically not my choice to rewatch this (it was for a class), and I can’t say I warmed up to it any this second time. Still has great acting, scoring, and cinematography, but the shuffling-around is still quite annoying and gimmicky and AGI and Arriaga’s hands are too heavy for their own good. This viewing was good for one thing, though, as I noticed Danny from The Shield as Naomi Watts’ former friend. Speaking of…

      The Shield, “Cracking Ice”: Unexpectedly, like 21 Grams, this also has a scene where a character has to masturbate into a cup to dirty magazines to get a sample for artificial insemination. Also, it’s funny how the “Previously on The Shield” shows basically every other event this season, but leaves Aceveda’s rape unspoken, even as it colors how he deals with Trish after she gets back.

      • clytie

        What are you studying?

        • The Narrator

          I’m taking a class about American cinema since 1950. This… is not one of the films I would’ve chosen for this particular class, but w/e.

          • pico

            Well, as Robert Altman once said (tho I wish I could find the original quote), he learned a whole lot more about filmmaking from watching bad films and wondering why they failed.

          • Also good, maybe even the best from a learning perspective, are the artists or works that are the infuriating mix of good and bad, the What Is Wrong With You? category. The West Wing may be the work that taught me the most about storytelling, comedy, and drama, because there are amazing successes and staggering failures of all three in there.

    • clytie

      Mr. Robot. It was nice that they actually dealt with death, instead of just moving on. Also, that kid was great.

      I’ve never seen Back to the Future. Is it worth watching, or one of those movies people love because they watched it as a kid?

      • Rosy Fingers

        Unlike a lot of 80’s comedies that are fondly remembered, Back to the Future is a legitimately good movie.

        • The Ploughman

          Seconded.

        • clytie

          I’ll have to watch it then. I’ve seen the DVD in collection of more than one person I know and can easily borrow it.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      I’m never gonna get around to this if I keep waiting until morning, so I’m gonna clear off the last couple of days now.

      Stranger Things 2, episodes 4 and 5. It took a while, but the plot is finally rolling. Cheers to Jonathan and Nancy for being smarter than I thought they were (and to some extent playing on Hawkins Lab’s ability to underestimate them). Jeers to Hopper for stupidly going into a dangerous situation with no backup and without telling anyone where he was going.

      In a cast of terrific child actors, Millie Bobby Brown continues to be the standout; her huge eyes when she finally contacts her mother are unlike anything we’ve seen from her before. She’s got so much more going than merely being disaffected and alien.

      I still want Billy to get shot in the head.

      Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Return to Skyfire.” Meh. Subpar episode of the show. Best laugh was the reveal of the three “steampunk heroines” at the Con who looked and dressed exactly like Rosa.

      The Mick, “The Teacher.”. See my review at the Avocado.

      In rewatches, some season 2 episodes of Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23, which of course hit its stride right as it was canceled. Probably my favorites from this stretch were “Monday June” and “Dating Games.” James Van Der Beek’s “Tough to prove” always kills me.

  • The Ploughman

    Can I just mention that now that Garrison Keillor has gone down that my shame in being a man is off the charts? I had a half-serious mental list of people I didn’t want to see show up these articles. John Lasseter was one. I didn’t get so goofy as to put Charlie Rose or Keillor on there. Guess it’s Barack Obama and Pope Francis next.

    • glorbes

      I just assume all popes are kind of evil. Did I mention that I am a lapsed Catholic?

      • jroberts548

        Even Dante, who was quite pious, populated hell with popes. Infallible doesn’t mean good.

    • Apparently Keillor had a huge nasty streak about him? People online kept posting statements of his where he was homophobic or anti-Semitic.

    • The Ploughman

      My for reals list would be: Obama, Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, and legendary Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne.

      • Defense Against The Dark Arts

        I don’t think you have to worry about Obama, if there was any sexual harassment claims Fox News would have talked about it 24/7 since he announced his candidacy.

        • The Ploughman

          Good point.

        • jroberts548

          Many of the civilians his drone program killed were women. He’s the type of predator that Fox News likes.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            And kids! Fox News hates kids.

          • The Ploughman

            Okay, I’m updating my asks to be that Obama never sexually harassed anybody and that Timberlake never murdered anyone in drone warfare.

          • jroberts548

            I have some bad news about the lethality of “Suit and Tie.”

      • pico

        A friend and I were playing the “who would most surprise you” game, and mine was Channing Tatum – not just because he seems to be a good guy overall, but because I figure being in the industry he came out of, he probably has a keener sense of what it means to violate someone’s space/comfort.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      I just don’t trust anybody anymore on that front – you just never know anymore.

    • I have spent the last two months being ashamed I am a man. And afraid to like anything created by a man.

    • DJ JD

      It’s super clickbaity but sheesh.

      • The Ploughman

        Elie Wiesel? I guess the lesson here is not to assume anybody is free from a dark side.

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      The one person I’m not surprised about is Bret Ratner. That guy always seemed like a scummy creep to me.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        To be honest Matt Lauer always seemed like a dick to me.

    • Babalugats

      I think you kind of have to be evil to be President. You need to be a massive narcissist just to run, and you need to have a degree of detachment in order to make some of the decisions you’re faced with. We can argue back and forth about whether drone warfare is necessary, but it’s killed innocent children, and we knew it would, and Obama did it anyway. I think it’s a mistake to view any of these guys as heroes.

      • CEOs do show higher than normal levels of narcissism and sociopathy/psychopathy. I’m sure many presidents would show the same.

    • clytie

      There were blinds about Keillor for years, so I wasn’t surprised.

      • The Ploughman

        What’s a blind? I’m in Keillor country where blinds are put up to hide from deer.

        • clytie

          A blind item. It’s a gossip story that doesn’t name names, usually for legal reasons, but has clues about who it’s referring to. The ones about Keillor would say stuff like, “This homespun radio host…”

          Here’s a bunch: http://www.agcwebpages.com/BLINDITEMS/MAINPAGE.html

          • The Ploughman

            That is a big pile of dirt.

          • clytie

            Wen reading that, keep in mind that sometimes popular guesses are wrong. There were items about a “legendary talk show host,” and the popular guesses were David Letterman or Jon Stewart. Now we know that it was Charlie Rose.

    • Man with a robot arm

      [crosses fingers]
      Please not the Dalai Lama. Please not the Dalai Lama.

      • The Ploughman

        Mr. Lama issued a statement offering no apologies: “You have to understand it was a different life,” he said.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      I pretty much have Homer Simpson’s view on Garrison Keillor, so I wasn’t broken up by it, especially after reading this thread:

      https://twitter.com/thrasherxy/status/935936969028329472

      I’m not ashamed to be a man myself, but I understand the reaction. If anything, I feel even more of an obligation to be an example of decency these days.

      • The Ploughman

        I added you to the list next to Obama.

        Frankly, A Prairie Home Companion is one of those things I liked the idea of more than I ever liked the actual product, so Keillor is kind of an abstraction of good ol’ simpler times (which is exactly what he wants to be and, as that twitter thread points out can hide all sorts of odious thought). It’s that kind of distance that makes this stand out to me, as though somebody had accused the concept of gentility of harassment.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          I’m certainly not perfect, and I’m probably an asshole about 20% of the time, but I like to think I’m decent. I don’t harass, abuse, or assault people, certainly not women or children, and I try to stand up for those less powerful than me. It’s sad that such a basic standard as “don’t exploit or harm those you have power over” is apparently more rare than we assumed, but, again, I suppose that’s why it’s incumbent on us to keep living up to that standard.

          It’s funny how my perspective on Prairie Home Companion is almost the exact opposite of yours. I don’t really like the product or the concept, but then, I’m a Southern dirtbag, so the twin aesthetics of “soft-spoken Midwestern liberal arts professor” and “old-timey down-homey good ol’ country whiteness” always rubbed me the wrong way to begin with.

      • Miller

        Heh, I am also Simpsonic on Keillor so if schadenfreude was a beer I would be cirrhotic right now. On the other hand, the Prairie Home Companion movie puts me in the uncomfortable position of enjoying Keillor (!) more than Kevin Kline (!!) whose role just sucks butts.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          I am also Simpsonic on Keillor so if schadenfreude was a beer I would be cirrhotic right now.

          Man, what a sentence. It’s really like Steve Martin says: “Some people have a way with words, and other people… Oh… Not have way.”

      • glorbes

        All we can control is our own behaviour, and be better ourselves.

  • pico

    Man oh man, when IV doesn’t like a movie, he really brings out the knives:

    This is [James Franco’s] 18th feature as a director, and his most mainstream effort to date; after years of hacking unwatchable literary adaptations out of the American canon (John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle was the most recent victim), he has matured into mediocrity.

    That is a delicious burn. Of course, at the new-and-improved AVClub, this means the commentariat is yelling at him for “bias” and “agenda” and whatnot.

    • Jake Gittes

      Man and I was just beginning to look forward to it. Still hope it’s better than he describes, although now that I saw his suggestion of Nic Cage for Wiseau I will always regret that we didn’t get that.

      I didn’t read all the comments but the dumbest gotta be the one that accuses IV of having an “agenda” because he negatively reviewed the movie both now and during TIFF. Because that’s not, like, simply convenient.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Honestly it’s gotten great reviews everywhere else, I’m figuring it’ll be at least good.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of good reviews elsewhere. I was honestly pretty skeptical about making The Disaster Artist into a film to begin with, and Ignatiy’s review is more what I expected, but I’m still optimistic about the others I’ve seen.

        • pico

          For what it’s worth, Dowd didn’t like it, either. Maybe it is an AVC conspiracy!

      • pico

        I mean, the trailer looks like a lot of fun, and most critics seem to like it well enough, but yeah: I’m really tired of commenters who think that disagreement about a movie is some kind of moral outrage. IV’s a smart guy and a really enjoyable critic to read, and I disagree with him plenty.

    • “Maybe for his next movie (he has five in post-production), he can put his grad school grades in the credits.”

      GodDAMN I am gonna start calling ol’ Ignatiy the Tunguska Event, ‘cuz he is a Slavic force from an unknown source (whether meteor, comet, nanoscopic black hole, or Divine Judgment, still up for debate; all reasonable proposals accepted but subject to peer review) that lays waste to several hundred square kilometers in a mighty and deafening BURN.

    • clytie

      “This is [James Franco’s] 18th feature as a director”

      18???!!! How?

      • pico

        He’s the Ed Wood of boring misfires.

        I can’t hate him, though. He’ll always be Daniel Desario, Track-3 kid, to me.

        • clytie

          I love him and his antics.

          Someone on The Dissolve (RIP) once said, “I love Franco. We need more celebrities like him. The way to be famous these days, especially via social media, is to be humble and grateful to fans and ‘OMG I can’t believe I’m famous!’.

          Franco meanwhile seems to indulge every bizarre whim that crosses his mind with a ‘Fuck it, I’m famous’ attitude, and frankly that’s refreshing.”

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          The Deuce reminded me what a good actor he can be.

      • glorbes

        Think about all the people out there who have talent but can’t get a movie made.

    • Miller

      The comments have improved, or at least some decent people have joined in to beat on the morons, but good fucking Christ. This was mildly amusing ten (holy shit, ten?!) years ago when the vast “Judd Apatow bribed the AV Club!” conspiracy was at its peak but now it is just infuriating in its mulish boneheadery and pathetic need for validation. And why the fuck are the dipshits out for The goddamn Disaster Artist? It’s just as stupid, but I at least understand why Batman dweebs go berserk for bad reviews of that character, a lot of people care a lot about Batman*, but who the hell cares this much about an adaptation of a book about a bad movie?

      *not saying anyone who cares a lot about Batman is a dweeb or an unreasonable boor who can’t handle criticism