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Category Archives: Entertainment

Each director name is linked to an especially awesome video to represent his body of work. You might find that, based on my grades for each film, the rankings seem illogical. They are based mostly on potential for future greatness. In other words, even if I haven’t seen a lot from a specific director, I may feel like I still haven’t seen his best work. Films are ranked in order of preference. Enjoy.

20. Stanley Kubrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Metal Jacket (A)
2001: A Space Odyssey (A-)
A Clockwork Orange (B+)
Dr. Strangelove (C+)

19. John Huston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (A-)
The Maltese Falcon (A-)
The Asphalt Jungle
(B)

18. Charles Chaplin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Lights (A)
The Great Dictator (A)

17. Michel Gondry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Science of Sleep (A)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (B+)
Be Kind, Rewind (C+)

16. Akira Kurosawa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Samurai (A)
Ran (A)

15. Jean-Luc Godard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathless (A)
Band of Outsiders (B)

14. Steven Spielberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaws (A)
E.T. (A-)
Schindler’s List (A-)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (A-)
Munich (B+)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (B+)
The Terminal (B)
War of the Worlds (B)
Saving Private Ryan (B-)
Jurassic Park (B-)
A.I. (C)
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (C)

13. Sidney Lumet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Angry Men (A)
The Verdict (A-)
Network (A-)
Dog Day Afternoon (B+)
Murder on the Orient Express (No Grade)

12. Terrence Malick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thin Red Line (A)
Days of Heaven (A-)
The New World (A-)
Badlands (B+)

11. David Fincher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zodiac (A)
Se7en (A)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (B+)
The Game (B+)
Panic Room (B)
Fight Club (B-)

10. Francois Truffaut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jules and Jim (A)
The 400 Blows (A-)
Pocket Money (B+)

9. Yasujiro Ozu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo Story (A)
Early Summer (A-)

8. Howard Hawks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rio Bravo (A)
His Girl Friday (A-)
Only Angels Have Wings (B+)

7. Joel and Ethan Coen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Country for Old Men (A-)
Miller’s Crossing (A-)
O Brother, Where Art Thou (A-)
Barton Fink (A-)
Fargo (A-)
Raising Arizona (B+)
Burn After Reading (B+)
The Big Lebowski (B)

6. Francis Ford Coppola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Godfather: Part II (A)
Apocalypse Now (A)
The Godfather (A)
The Conversation (A-)
The Rainmaker (B+)

5. Sergio Leone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time in the West (A)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (A)
For a Few Dollars More (A)
A Fistful of Dollars (A-)

4. Paul Thomas Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia (A)
There Will Be Blood (A-)
Boogie Nights (A-)
Hard Eight (B+)
Punch-Drunk Love (B)

3. Robert Altman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Cuts (A)
Nashville (A)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (A)

2. Alfred Hitchcock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vertigo (A)
Rope (A)
Rear Window (A)
Shadow of a Doubt (A-)
Psycho (A-)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (B+)
North By Northwest (B+)
The Birds (B+)
Saboteur (B+)
The 39 Steps (B+)
The Lady Vanishes (B)
Strangers on a Train (B-)
To Catch a Thief (C+)
Frenzy (C+)

1. Steven Soderbergh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traffic (A)
Che (No Grade)
Out of Sight (A)
Schizopolis (A)
The Limey (A)
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (A-)
Bubble (A-)
Erin Brockovich (B+)
Ocean’s Eleven (B+)
The Good German (B)
Ocean’s Twelve (B)
Ocean’s Thirteen (B)
Solaris (B-)

 

The End. (of cinema)

Here is the video I took from my fourth-row seat at the Chinese Theater as Steven Soderbergh introduces his new film Che.

This is not a Soderbergh film. I’ve never considered him much of an auteur, despite considerable thematic and stylistic consistency in his work, but no film seems so far removed from his canon as this one. Yes it’s an epic, yes it’s in Spanish, yes it’s a biopic, but despite Soderbergh’s virginity in those categories, there is something much more distinct that makes Che such a remarkable piece of work. Clearly, it is the subversion of every expectation which separates this film from not only any other we have seen from the beloved revolutionary filmmaker, but also from any film in decades past.

To disclaim, however, I can make no attempt to evaluate this film in a typical manner. I won’t assign it a grade, nor while I provide any judgmental summary of my review. Such is the case both for the reason that I cannot decide (nor can Soderbergh) whether he has made two films or one, as well as for the reason that one viewing of the film seems entirely inadequate when attempting to assess, analyze, or even summarize it. Its story is so grand yet subtle, its visuals so electrifying yet confounding, and its performances so intense yet unsatisfying that I can only wonder how unique of a film Soderbergh intended to create and how much abstraction came entirely unexpectedly.

Part 1 (formerly known as Guerrilla) is the more daring, mystifying, yet intellectually and structurally engaging film of the two. In fact, just as the work as a whole is about involvement and participation, Soderbergh seems to be conducting a test on his audience, demanding not only an active viewer but one who is entirely aware of his or her own activity. Perhaps the situation will turn out to be applicable only to myself, but I cannot deny the way Part 1‘s narrative complexity mirrored its ideological complexity. To say that Soderbergh refused to make a Hollywood film would be not only a gross understatement but also an unfair simplification of what seem to be incredibly ambitious intentions.

Alternately and often simultaneously depicting Che’s address to the United Nations and his revolutionary activites in Cuba, Soderbergh provides visual distinction (as in Traffic) in a totally refreshing if initially distracting fashion. What was so fascinating to me is Soderbergh’s resistance to information. The point of a biopic, he seems to imply, is not to tell you about the events of a person’s life, or even to depict them at all. Rather extremely, he attempts to capture not even Che’s influential ideas, but the ideas which the society he inhabited surrounded him with. Less important than what incited Che’s drastic actions are the experiences that caused him to change while engaging in those actions.

I found the ideas racing through my head more stimulating than I had before with many other films. Although none of them were or are yet entirely crystallized, it is impossible to discredit the film for such complexity of vision. It is certainly not the narrative that thrusts Part 1, nor the visuals (though they truly are stunning), nor the charmingly zealous performance of Benicio Del Toro, but rather the thematic intricacies which demand further exploration.

What Soderbergh has accomplished in Part 1 can, through generalization, be considered an experiment, but what a grand and compelling experiment it became. It is an entirely new sort of filmmaking, especially within its genre, and while influence cannot yet be determined, it certainly makes the promise of further investigation by Soderbergh alone if not by many others. To call it a satisfying experience is neither accurate nor provocative, but it certainly becomes a memorable and integral piece of the puzzle which is Che as a whole.

Perhaps it is misleading to refer to the entire project as a whole film in any context, however. Part 2 proves to be such a radically different piece that its pairing with the one prior almost seems foolish. It is precisely the sort of “independent film” whose intensity Hollywood would often like to mimic. Its final act is the most nervous, tender, contemplative cinematic experience I’ve ever endured, and to call the entire film’s reflective nature Malickian would be cheap though not untrue. Che’s interaction with nature is certainly the core of the conflict, but nature, here, does not at all refer to wildlife in the way it often does in the recluse’s work.

The visual inventiveness in this film exceeds in magnificence that of any other Soderbergh work, if not any work altogether. It is a cinematographic accomplishment unparalleled by anything I can call to mind, and its enhancement of the uniquely compelling story is altogether orgasmic. Particularly in the final tragic moments, Soderbergh’s choices are felt but not seen, and the resulting intensity requires only speechlessness. The combat scenes are precisely like the work of Michael Bay, except the total opposite. They are calm, seductive, surprising, and contemplative. The violence is secondary to the nature of conflict itself, bringing ideological hostilities to the forefront.

Unlike the thematic basis for Part 1‘s structure, Part 2, while mostly episodic, is entirely tied to its story and suspense. It is a thriller unlike any film which proclaims itself a spot in that genre, and its appeal should hypothetically be mass, but that’s doubtful for obvious reasons. It is quite apparent, though, why this portion of the work has been received with greater enthusiasm. Certainly the more narratively engaging film, its ideas may be more subdued, but they can feasibly be deciphered. Still, this is ultimately the most gripping a film has been for some time, and Soderbergh’s mastery is the undoubted reason. Del Toro’s performance is also particularly good in this half, when he becomes a much more conflicted if not an entirely impenetrable character.

Che is a heroic film that demands to be seen, certainly on the biggest screen with the biggest audience, but, more importantly, with an open mind. Its experimentation is new not only in the way it is manifested but also in the manner in which it is performed. There is much more to say about the film and its achievements, and I cannot wait to not only see this again but, perhaps more importantly, discuss it with all of you!

Enchiladas!

Also, I get to write my first paper for Intro to Cinema about Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight. I will post it here when it is finished. For now, here is the first paragraph. 

In Steven Soderbergh’s comedic crime film Out of Sight (1998), the ensemble of buffoonish crooks subverts the criminal stereotype. Jack Foley (George Clooney), the exception of the breed, carries on his shoulders the weight of society’s expectations of a criminal who is cunning, daring, and charming.  Through the chronologically jumbled and episodically structured trace of the character,  Soderbergh informs the creation of a new understanding of the common criminal; the exploration of two entirely distinct strains of miscreants reveals a duality not commonly recognized. 

Get excited! Lastly, Che has a distributor. Thank you, IFC.

This is the first installment in a new, totally sporadic feature of this old, totally sporadic blog. It’s called The Happiest Man In My Pants, and it will be all about things that make me The Happiest Man In My Pants. Ok, well, there’s really just one man in my pants (me), but it’s a reference to a very hilarious line from a very hilarious film, Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis (1996). This leads me to the topic of today’s installment of The Happiest Man In My Pants, Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis (1996). 

This is just a totally great and overlooked film. It begins in the following way: 

 

That’s Soderbergh (director, writer, producer, star, editor, cinematographer, composer, and stud) introducing the film. He acts in both lead roles in the film, firstly as office-worker/speech-writer Fletcher Munson and secondly as Dr. Jefrey Korchek DDS. Playing Munson’s wife is Soderbergh’s actual ex-wife, Betsy Brantley (awkward, huh?). In Act 2, we follow Korchek’s affair with Brantley’s character, Mrs. Munson/Attractive Woman #2. You follow?

So… Soderbergh has an affair with his wife, who is actually his ex-wife. 

This movie is just that awesome. Hilarity ensues. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Dr. Korchek writes/verbalizes a love letter to Attractive Woman #2 (who is also, as aforementioned, Mrs. Munson, Betty Brantley, Soderbergh’s ex-wife). Here’s a clip:

The film lacks narrative structure, but there are enough laughs and cheap thrills to satisfy any moviegoer. It has a Criterion Collection release, so please check it out. And, of course, be sure to pay full retail price, not some bargain rental or buy-2-get-1-free deal.  At the very least, look through some of the amazing quotes from this amazing film.

Pure magic.

1. “Take on Me”, a-ha
2. “Heat of the Moment”, Asia
3. “Livin’ on a Prayer”, Bon Jovi
4. “Dancing in the Dark”, Bruce Springsteen
5. “Summer of ’69”, Bryan Adams
6. “Sunglasses At Night”, Corey Hart
7. “(I Just) Died in Your Arms”, Cutting Crew
8. “The Boys of Summer”, Don Henley
9. “Mr. Blue Sky”, Electric Light Orchestra
10. “Crocodile Rock”, Elton John
11. “Invisible Touch”, Genesis
12. “What is Life”, George Harrison
13. “Sooner or Later”, The Grass Roots
14. “Centerfold”, The J. Geils Band
15. “That’s All”, Genesis
16. “Somebody’s Baby”, Jackson Browne
17. “Jack & Diane”, John Mellencamp
18. “Down Under”, Men at Work
19. “Always Something There to Remind Me”, Naked Eyes
20. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police
21. “Paint it Black”, The Rolling Stones
22. “We Built This City”, Starship
23. “Who Can it Be Now?”, Men at Work
24. “Magic Carpet Ride”, Steppenwolf
25. “Goodbye Stranger”, Supertramp

I have nothing to say. 

 

The following is factual.

1. Steven Soderbergh

Best film: Traffic
Worst film: Solaris
Up next: Che Guevara biopics Guerrilla and The Argentine (Soon)

2. Paul Thomas Anderson

Best film: Magnolia
Worst film: Sydney
Up next: Wish I knew

3. Joel and Ethan Coen

Best film: Fargo
Worst film: Raising Arizona
Up next: Burn After Reading (September)

 

Honorable Mentions:
David Fincher (Zodiac)
Paul Greengrass (United 93)
Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn)
Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line)

…thanks to these…

One day I will feature these songs in a movie. Why?

‘Cause I love the ’80s!

What’s that you say, birth certificate? I never experienced the ’80s? Ha! With nothing but Men at Work, Starship, and Genesis currently on my playlist, I submit that I AM the ’80s!

This weekend brought many things:

1. Newfound respect for Genesis’ greatest hits
2. Studying
3. Awesomeness singularly personified in the form of Robert Downey Jr.
4. Ice cream sandwiches
167. The realization that my blog sucks
168 (Edit). The apparent conviction that adding numbered lists to my blog makes it not suck

So, I’m changing things up, completely. No more arbitrary, lazily scribed reviews of new releases (well, at least not without the accompaniment of some broader social commentary, destined to be just as meaningful ineffectual as that which it replaces).

However, I refuse to not share a few thoughts on Iron Man.

Here are, verbatim, my spontaneous thoughts as I watched the film:

1. Robert Downey Jr. is awesome.
2. Who decided that this movie needed to be relevant?
3. Who decided that making this movie relevant required a Middle Eastern setting?
4. Has Gwyneth Paltrow been in any other movies recently? I don’t remember seeing her since, well, part of her was in a box.
5. Jeff Bridges’ performance is either the greatest thing ever… or a belated celebration of April Fools’ Day. No, wait; it’s both!
6. I am Iron Man.
7. Why would anyone sit through the credits when that lame scene is already on YouTube?
8. This entertained me, which is more than I can say for Spider-Man 1 & 2.