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Current Topic: Movies

I'm Here
Topic: Movies 7:18 am EST, Nov 12, 2010

I'm Here is a love story about the relationship between two robots living in LA. The film is written and directed by Spike Jonze. Andrew Garfield and Sienna Guillory are in the lead roles, and the soundtrack includes original music by Sam Spiegel and original songs by LA-based artist musician Aska Matsumiya and other emerging musicians.

Roger Ebert:

I used to believe it was preposterous that people could fall in love online. Now I see that all relationships are virtual, even those that take place in person. Whether we use our bodies or a keyboard, it all comes down to two minds crying out from their solitude.

Mark Pilgrim:

In the end, how many 25-year friends can you hope to make in one lifetime? How many do you really need?

I'm Here

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man
Topic: Movies 6:12 am EST, Feb 17, 2010

Chris Jones:

The lights come back on. Ebert stays in his chair, savoring, surrounded by his notes.

Noteworthy, 2003:

And so a story is broken into pieces, with the releases spaced apart in time, that the audience might take advantage of the intermission to savor the tasty bits of the first course while waiting in eager anticipation of the next.

Roger Ebert:

You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.

Lisa Moore:

There are only so many movies, so many trips, so many new friends, so many family barbecues with the sun going down over the long grass.

It has always been this way.


But at forty-five you realize it.

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

The White Ribbon
Topic: Movies 7:01 am EST, Jan 19, 2010

Do you ever wonder what is to become of the children who grew up as the gloves came off?

From the Q&A with Michael Haneke:

The grownups of 1933 and 1945 were children in the years prior to World War I. What made them susceptible to following political Pied Pipers? My film doesn't attempt to explain German fascism. It explores the psychological preconditions of its adherents. What in people's upbringing makes them willing to surrender their responsibilities? What in their upbringing makes them hate?

The willingness to follow ideological Pied Pipers arises everywhere and in every age. All that's needed are misery, humiliation and hopelessness, and the longing for deliverance swells up. Anyone who promises salvation will find followers, and it doesn't really matter whether theirs is a right- or a left-wing ideology, a political or a religious doctrine of salvation.

Q: Why are your films always so disturbing?

A: Audiences are having mainstream cinema and television touch on only the surface of things, and they get irritated when confronted by a more exacting gaze into the depths of our existence. But since its beginnings in the Greek tragedies, hasn't drama sought to examine the depths of human existence?

John Lanchester:

If I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable.

David Kilcullen:

People don't get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.

Louis Menand:

Ideas are not "out there" waiting to be discovered, but are tools -- like forks and knives and microchips -- that people devise to cope with the world in which they find themselves. Ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- ideas are social. Ideas do not develop according to some inner logic of their own, but are entirely dependent, like germs, on their human carriers and the environment. And since ideas are provisional responses to particular and unreproducible circumstances, their survival depends not on their immutability but on their adaptability.

Ideas should never become ideologies -- either justifying the status quo, or dictating some transcendent imperative for renouncing it ... [There is a need for] a kind of skepticism that helps people cope with life in a heterogeneous, industrialized, mass-marketed society, a society in which older human bonds of custom and community seem to have become attenuated, and to have been replaced by more impersonal networks of obligation and authority. But skepticism is also one of the qualities that make societies like that work. It is what permits the continual state of upheaval that capitalism thrives on.

The White Ribbon

A Peek Into Netflix Queues
Topic: Movies 1:36 pm EST, Jan  9, 2010

Matthew Bloch, Amanda Cox, Jo Craven McGinty and Kevin Quealy:

Examine Netflix rental patterns, neighborhood by neighborhood, in a dozen cities.

David Runciman:

The things Bill Clinton loves are politics, hard data and his family, in roughly that order.

Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira:

Follow the data.

Whit Diffie and Susan Landau:

We are moving from a world with a billion people connected to the Internet to one in which 10 or 100 times that many devices will be connected as well. Particularly in aggregation, the information reported by these devices will blanket the world with a network whose gaze is difficult to evade.

Louis Menand:

People are prurient, and they like to lap up the gossip. People also enjoy judging other people's lives. They enjoy it excessively. It's not one of the species' more attractive addictions ...


Money for me, databases for you.


It is because our own lives have become so bankrupt that we seek the stories of others.

Teresa DiFalco:

Minor drama is the lifeblood of suburbs.

Vladimir Nabokov:

We both, Vasili Ivanovich and I, have always been impressed by the anonymity of all the parts of a landscape, so dangerous for the soul, the impossibility of ever finding out where that path you see leads -- and look, what a tempting thicket! It happened that on a distant slope or in a gap in the trees there would appear and, as it were, stop for an instant, like air retained in the lungs, a spot so enchanting -- a lawn, a terrace -- such perfect expression of tender, well-meaning beauty -- that it seemed that if one could stop the train and go thither, forever, to you, my love ... But a thousand beech trunks were already madly leaping by, whirling in a sizzling sun pool, and again the chance for happiness was gone.

Virginie Tisseau:

I ride the tram because every day it takes me to a place less familiar.


Noticing is easier in a foreign place because mundane things are unusual. It's the sameness of the familiar that closes minds.

A Peek Into Netflix Queues

RE: 'Battle of Algiers' Makes a Comeback
Topic: Movies 7:02 pm EST, Nov 19, 2009

David D'Arcy:

Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 film The Battle of Algiers portrays the urban warfare between Algerians and the French troops occupying their country.

Decius wrote:

It's been years since jlm first posted about this film on MemeStreams. I finally got around to watching it. The film provides a provocative and balanced look at an early conflict of a sort which has become commonplace today. The powerful use of local music and impressive bombing and riot scenes provide a level of realism I didn't expect from 1960's cinema.

For a stylish 1930's-era look at the Casbah, you might consider Pepe le Moko:

The notorious Pepe le moko (Jean Gabin, in a truly iconic performance) is a wanted man: women long for him, rivals hope to destroy him, and the law is breathing down his neck at every turn. On the lam in the labyrinthine Casbah of Algiers, Pepe is safe from the clutches of the police -- until a Parisian playgirl compels him to risk his life and leave its confines once and for all. One of the most influential films of the 20th century and a landmark of French poetic realism, Julien Duvivier's Pepe le moko is presented here in its full-length version.

Michael Atkinson:

Julien Duvivier's Casbah is a fabulously cruddy, secretive, fairy-tale warren of passages, hidden doorways, towers, and underground bustle (shot on location), and his tour of the maze is tasteful and dazzling, moving backward down the Casbah alley-steps, circling around the synchronized bodies of tangoing lovers.

Kenneth Turan:

"Pepe le Moko" is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Graham Greene called it "one of the most exciting and moving films I remember seeing," a feature that succeeded by "raising the thriller to a poetic level."

Beautifully crafted, movingly acted, still involving and entertaining, this is just the kind of film people are talking about when they say they don't make them like this anymore.

RE: 'Battle of Algiers' Makes a Comeback

2008 US Movie Box Office
Topic: Movies 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

If you liked this ...

The New York Times offers a very cool interactive info-graphic.

Summer blockbusters and holiday hits make up the bulk of box office revenue each year, while contenders for the top Oscar awards tend to attract smaller audiences that build over time. Here's a look at how movies have fared at the box office, after adjusting for inflation.

... then you'll also like this up-to-the-minute version. Scroll to the right to see how The Dark Knight lords over the rest of the industry.

From the archive:

The Rise and Fall of the Blockbuster

Blockbuster Culture's Next Rise or Fall: The Impact of Recommender Systems on Sales Diversity

Were these works of art, or were they commodities? The distinction had become blurry.

The industry does care; the people who make movies need to be able to take themselves more seriously than the people who make popcorn do.

Some of the explanation for what happened to the movies has to do with the movies and the people who make them, but some of it has to do with the audience. "It's not so much that movies are dead, as that history has already passed them by."

In 1946, weekly movie attendance was a hundred million. That was out of a population of a hundred and forty-one million, who had nineteen thousand movie screens available to them. Today, there are thirty-six thousand screens in the United States and two hundred and ninety-five million people, and weekly attendance is twenty-five million.

In 1975, the average cost of marketing for a movie distributed by a major studio was two million dollars. In 2003, it was thirty-nine million dollars.

The primary target for the blockbuster is people with an underdeveloped capacity for deferred gratification; that is, kids.

2008 US Movie Box Office

Young Loves
Topic: Movies 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

Cristina first eyes Juan Antonio in an art gallery. Later, she is sitting with Vicky in a restaurant, and the artist, dining in the same place, comes over and suggests, with virtually no preliminaries, that the three fly to a small city not far from Barcelona for a weekend of sex. “Life is short, dull, full of pain,” he says. Why not seize any opportunity for pleasure? He’s provocatively teasing the Americans, but he’s neither a cynic nor a user. He gives good value; that’s why he’s a heartbreaker.

One is meant to emerge from “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” believing that happiness may be elusive, even impossible, but that life has a richness greater than one’s personal satisfaction. There’s something stronger in the air—a largeness of spirit, as well as abundant physical beauty.

From the archive:

If Penélope Cruz or Jennifer Lopez sees this movie, she may just give up and become a librarian.

“No one in Hollywood has ever asked me to be anything other than attractive,” Cruz told me at the Cannes Film Festival, where the women of “Volver” shared the Best Actress prize. “They have no idea what women can do. They don’t give them the chance.”

Young Loves

Tarantino's Mind
Topic: Movies 7:39 pm EDT, Jul 26, 2008

A film buff tells a friend that he's finally broken "the code" - the mystery behind the character & story threads that bleed from one Quentin Tarantino movie or screenplay into the next. His friend is less than impressed. Starring Seu Jorge (The Life Aquatic) and Selton Mello (Tarja Preta). A short film by Brazilian directing duo 300ml.

Tarantino's Mind

Sydney Pollack, Film Director, Dies at 73
Topic: Movies 9:24 pm EDT, May 26, 2008

Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay as director, producer and sometime actor whose star-laden movies like “The Way We Were,” “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa” were among the most successful of the 1970s and ’80s, died on Monday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 73.

Sydney Pollack, Film Director, Dies at 73

Master and Commander
Topic: Movies 10:48 am EDT, Mar 29, 2008

Anthony Lane profiles David Lean.

There are two of them, man and boy. They emerge from a sandstorm and pass through the remains of civilization—a few broken walls and a swinging door. Beyond, they see something amazing: a ship sailing calmly through dry land. Only as the pair advance does the vision explain itself. This is the Suez Canal, a shocking stripe of blue. A motorbike buzzes along a road, on the far side, and the rider catches sight of the stragglers. He halts and shouts across the water, “Who are you?,” and again, “Who are you?” We look at the face of the man from the desert. His eyes are even bluer than the canal, but he says nothing. Maybe his tongue is too dry for speech. Maybe he has no answer.

Later in the essay, we encounter this turn of phrase:

Lean said, “Being brought up a Quaker, I was blissfully ignorant of anti-Semitism.”

This means that he was ignorant of Semitism, period, but the problem is not the ignorance. The problem is the bliss.

Master and Commander

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