Fragments for Five Films

I’m patient. I can wait to see a film six weeks or sixteen years after its release.  I enjoy the reviews of fellow bloggers and try to remember their opinions about directors and actors and films. When I finally get around to watching them, most movie buffs have already seen them. The upside to that is, I take you all to the movies with me. I have thought: Ruth would love this period film. Would Bill cringe here? Jordan and Lloyd‘s enthusiasm is catching–must be an Aussie thing. Stu and Tom‘s reviews consistently match what I think about a film. Abbi is queen of dark comedies. Humphrey Bogart makes me think of Keith. Mark loves DeNiro and Paul goes for Pfeiffer. Eric‘s tastes embrace the classics, and Pete‘s genre are foreign films. If only he wrote more! The point is, whether it’s a genre, an actor, or a film, I don’t watch movies alone.

Here’s what I thought of these:

This is one I'd like to own. I adore the music.
This is one I’d buy. Isn’t the jazz great?

Whiplash. (2x) Passionate acting. Great music. Great ending. Do the best-of-the-bests flourish from sadomasochistic relationships?

The Aliens were unnecessary.

10 Cloverfield LaneJohn Goodman’s best role in ages. Realistic premise of a paranoid citizen. Hitchcockian suspense. Terrible final act.

It's coyness is aggravating.
It’s coyness is aggravating.

CarolGreat Costumes and Set Designs. Tepid plot. Pretty boring. I bet the book is better.

A 21st Century Audie Murphy
A 21st Century Audie Murphy

American Sniper.(2x) My respect abounds for Cooper for his dedication to the role. Enjoyed the special features. A fine character study by Eastwood. What gives with the horrible fake baby?

One of the best ensemble casts, don't you think?
One of the best ensemble casts, don’t you think?

Boogie Nights. The epic story of the lowliest industry in Hollywood. I find porn revolting, so it was hard for me to care about the story line even though I recognize the entire cast was amazing. The music helped the film a lot. Did you think this was better than American Hustle? 

73 thoughts on “Fragments for Five Films

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    1. I’ve read he didn’t like the experience, either. He did look mad a lot of the time. Add to the irony he was nominated for an Oscar. Wow. My favorites were Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, and Philip S. Hoffman. Mark W. was fantastic, wasn’t he?

      1. You are right there, Bill. Yuck. There’s a lot of Ron Jeremy in Jack. You were right, too, that the film glorified the industry. I have been thinking about films that use immoral people and yet we call them the anti-hero. Mobster movies. Heist films. Murderers. Thieves (The Wolf on Wall St.) Diabolical mayhem. Drug industry. It is escapism. There’s nothing good about any of them. At least with a Hitler film, he’s most always portrayed as a maniac and it’s impossible to “side” with him.
        I presume your personal history with Hollywood, and your personal experiences with lost souls who fell victim to the dangers of the porn industry have you scowling. And rightly so.

        1. right, not to mention the escaped pornstar i hid out in my apartment for several weeks when her slavers hired contract killers to hunt her down and murder her.

  1. i found the student teacher relationship in whiplash to be typical of that between an exacting teacher and a promising student in the arts, nothing S/M about it at all. I have had acting teachers who were much harsher.

    1. Ouch! Worse than Terence Fletcher? I loved, loved the story of Buddy Rich as Andrew Neiman’s idol and the cymbal flying across the room because he missed a beat and his teacher responded accordingly. Meaning, the dangerous line of abuse and motivational demands of the teacher-student relationship. The best teachers from my history were the ones whose program (extend it to sports or the arts) were the most difficult to survive. They demanded a standard and you either rose to that standard or you were cut. It instituted a competitive drive and an compulsive need for devotion. To the craft at hand and the teacher.
      One one level, I find this film hilarious because as a teacher myself, you can’t yell or harm any student’s ego. It says a lot about our society. Second, the psychological relationship between teacher/student is a powerful one. Fletcher may have been an outstanding teacher for knowing his job, but he abused his power. Third, the ending was sublime. That Neiman at the climax took over the show and forced Fletcher to follow him was delicious to watch. The viewer realizes, Neiman and Fletcher realized he became Buddy Rich. He reached perfection. Which brings us to the final thought: Neiman would never have risen to such heights if Fletcher hadn’t been so brutal.
      When you need to be abused and you like to give it out–that’s a sadomasochistic relationship.

      1. fletcher was a pushover compared to the russsian director worked with for three years. and there is a difference between one who is willing to go through hell to achieve excellence and someone who gets turned on by spankings.

    1. Dorothy Berwin’s book is supposed to be a classic. I believe the screenplay distorted the POV. If the film had told the story from Therese (Mara) exclusively it might have succeeded.

        1. I received the DVD as a Christmas present. The special features focused on Cooper producing the film and almost co-directing the film with Eastwood. They spent 6 weeks in Morocco to make it look like Iraq. They focused on the truibute to Chris and his marriage in a simple narrative. It was initially an archetype account of the modern Achilles. Showing him suffering PTSD and his being a family man gave it the human edge. How ironic after being in harm’s way for a decade he should succumb to a bullet by a veteran he was trying to help.

  2. I have only seen ‘Boogie Nights’ from this list, though I do intend to watch the others in due course. (Like you, I am content to wait sixteen years, though maybe not these days, as I would be 80!) I hated ‘Boogie Nights’, and didn’t even get to the end. I don’t have any issues with porn films if people want to watch them, I just didn’t like it.

    Sorry I don’t write more about films. I might rectify that one of these days. In the meantime, did you ever see this review?

    And here is a short review of ‘The Human Centipede. Part One) ‘
    I watched this because of the cult status it has around some film blogs, and because it was on TV late one night.
    It is pointless, horrible, badly-acted, and complete rubbish.’ That’s a start!

    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Yes, Pete. You really should write more reviews! You have a lot of knowledge about foreign films and you’re hiding it in that polite brain of yours.
      I wouldn’t waste my time with the Human Centipede.
      I shall check out your reviews over the weekend. Thanks, Pete for your comments.

  3. It’s always nice to hear my name and DeNiro’s together, Cindy. Thanks for that! 😉

    As for Boogie Nights, I think it’s a masterpiece. Still one of PTA’s best and although I really liked American Hustle, Boogie Nights is a superior film.

      1. I loved Inherent Vice but it’s definitely not a film that will appeal to everyone. It can be very confusing and lot of people were disappointed as a result of this. I found that it gets better with repeat viewings.

          1. You should. But take comfort in the fact that the plot is deliberately confusing and PTA doesn’t entirely want you to understand it all. A lot of people seemed to beat themselves up for being confused by it.

          2. I’m a fan of subtlety and inference. But there is a line when crossed when it becomes a fault of the director. You aren’t supposed to utterly confuse your audience. I’m guessing PTA was trying to write a script loyal to Thomas Pynchon’s book who is famous for writing confusing, bewildering stories.

  4. I haven’t seen any of the films you feature, so sadly I can’t offer any insight. I was tickled pink though to see my name mentioned in the same breath as Michelle’s. Thanks Cindy, you made my day!

  5. Thanks for your fastball post Cindy. Whatever his faults there are few Eastwood films I don’t enjoy and American Sniper is arguably his best in over a decade. I’d read about the infamous baby scene long before I saw it and wondered if it would be so noticeable…and yeah. Eastwood is known for his efficient film making but they should have done pick ups. On the day the baby and back up baby didn’t perform. Fine, go back and re-shoot after the main shoot Clint. Is Boogie Nights better than American Hustle. They’re both great in my humble opinion and about different things so I can’t pick one. I would suggest you see Magnolia by PTA if you haven’t already. I haven’t seen Whiplash but I’m against abuse. If I ever have a kid and somebody slaps them in the face then God help them. On the other hand, the most difficult things I’ve ever done where I’ve been pushed by myself and others led to my greatest achievements. There’s something to be said about being pushed and about having teachers that you are allowed to fear and respect more than ever really like or know. But abuse is never okay in my book. Again I haven’t seen the film so I’m probably waffling on but there you have it. Consider this though, you said I have something to offer and am somewhat good at something. So I stepped forward and tried harder and got out of my comfort zone. Whether I delivered something of value is not for me to say but your encouragement yielded results. Often I’ve found that is something we need more of. Peter Jackson’s parents took him aside as a kid and let him make films with his mates using firecrackers and all kinds of stuff. Now he’s won Oscars. Imagine if his parents said oh that’s dangerous or that’s my camera Peter or wait until you go to film school.

    1. 🙂 Hi Lloyd. Whiplash is an excellent film. You really need to rent it! I think that’s the point of the film–the line of demarcation between getting the most out of someone and abuse. For me, when I was in the MFA program at Goddard, all those damn deadlines was my push. I work best when someone is forcing me. It’s the utter irony that the less time you have, the more productive and when you have finally cleared your schedule and have hours of free time, I don’t know about you, but I tend to fill it with nothing–that is, if you count hiking, photography, and appreciating nature in general, nothing. If I had a short story up my sleeve, I would have submitted something myself, but I don’t, so it was easy to make the mental leap and think of you. Good luck!

      1. Deadlines are great for productivity that’s for sure. 🙂 I hope to see Whiplash soon and appreciate you thinking of me with regards to submitting a story.

        1. My pleasure. I wish it were my vocation instead of my avocation. Writing for me is something I have to do. The creative process keeps me from feeling bored. I don’t harbor delusions of grandeur, but I also believe, if I don’t give it a shot, certainly nothing will come of it. When I complete this manuscript, I shall hire an editor, try my best to find an agent, and maybe a house will bite. It really is a game of fishing. All I have to do is find the pond that’s been recently stocked. 🙂

  6. I’ve only seen one of these movies … American Sniper. (semi slapping myself).
    Coop has found his Oscar role yet. But quantity of quality is bankable in Hollywood.
    Will check out Whiplash and Carol at some point.
    Gonna go watch Jungle Book shortly.

    1. Hi Vinnieh. Truth be told, I simply don’t have the time for full review, but I did want to discuss them with anyone who’d seen them. My favorite of the lot is Whiplash. Did you like it?

    1. It’s gripping and the question it poses is fascinating to me–no pain, no gain; the sacrifice to your craft–only when we are pushed to we rise to excel. Can the pushers push too hard and become abusive? Plus, I love jazz music and it was a treat to see Teller play so darn well….

      1. he did play well,but the great disappointment of Whiplash was the mishmash of drum solo cliches that was supposed to demonstrate his ascendancy to Buddy Rich level, any drummer will tell you it was a load of flashy crap. I would have written the scene differently. He should have played the piece that he didn’t know, figuring it out and finding all kinds of unusual things to do with it.that is what jazz is all about. What Teller played was the kind of solo Cher’s drummer plays when she ducks offstage to change her costume.

        1. Bull-Malarkey, Bill. While his learning a new piece would have been interesting, the narrative restricted him to learn only what Fletcher wanted. At the end concert scene, Teller breaks out and improvises and goes into a frothy ecstasy with the sticks that is transcending. The move away shot to include the whole room watching him adds to the thrill of his playing perfection. If it’s flashy crap, I’ll buy it. I doubt it was easy to play as you’re suggesting. I’m gonna call up Mark Schulman now and ask him.

          1. it is easy for a good drummer to play that crap, .but it hardly rates as music,let alone brillliance. the surprise of an unrehearsed piece would have really tested his musical ability,and he walked out,failed miserably in that test. to go out and piece together every . cliche he has mastered an amateur’s game.

  7. I love this post Cindy!! Do you mind if I steal (um, borrow) this idea? I love being able to do a succinct review like this, esp when you’ve seen so many movies and can’t review ’em all.

    “The upside to that is, I take you all to the movies with me.” That’s so true! I often wonder too as I’m watching something, how my fellow blogger would think of it.

    Man I really need to see Boogie Nights! I have a huge blindspot when it comes to PT Anderson for some reason. Ahah, I haven’t seen American Sniper yet but I remember the furor over the ridiculous fake baby! I wonder if Clint is just too lazy dealing w/ real baby, but that’s just wrong.

    1. Hi Ruth! I love your weekly updates! I’m really really lazy. I have no time to review lots of films, and yet, I love talking about them. This is just a way to engage with friends about films. I’m working on a couple reviews coming up, but I’m also working on the novel, and teaching and…and…and….
      As far as Boogie Nights goes, you won’t like it. It’s a well made film with a cast of favorites, but the story line is about a gross industry and it’s pretty graphic. That’s me.

      1. I hear ya Cindy! I’m happy if I could write two reviews a week, but most days I just don’t have the time nor energy. I’m furiously back working on my script which makes me happy, but I’m sooo behind schedule (well the schedule I set for myself anyway).

        Ah I see, well I’m curious as people seem to love that movie. But yeah, the premise doesn’t really interest me much. Have you seen Magnolia? I’ve been curious about that one too.

  8. Hehe thanks for mentioning me Cindy 😉 Do you have Lloyd’s site? I don’t believe I have found that one, would love to find another Aussie blog.

    BTW, totally agree with you on the last act of Cloverfield Lane. Could have been really something but they buggered it up I reckon. I’m also glad you liked Whiplash – I am a drummer so the movie was -meant- for me! When I saw the premiere, there was a standing ovation, which I had never been a part of. What an ending huh? Can’t wait to see what Chazelle(sp?) does next

  9. Great post. I especially love the perspective of you “taking us with you” into the movies. That’s a great way to describe the feeling I get when I get around to writing about something the entire world seems to have already vented about. The way I have my site structured is to get reviews out timely enough so that I’m ideally out in front of the pack but there’s no way I’m ever first. One day I’d like to be there. It’d be awesome to be in that kind of a position. Sounds kinda silly to pursue that but readership is something I definitely appreciate. 🙂

    1. Tom, you have time and the energy and it’s a great passion of yours to see it all right as it comes out. I just am not in that stage of my life. However, what I do enjoy visiting the film after the hype, after the reviews, after everyone has forgotten it and with fresh eyes see it for myself and the echo of you is in my head. Weird, but true.

      1. Very cool insight there. I often have those moments where a scene happens and I’m left thinking of some of my favorite reviewers and blogging friends, what will they or have they thought about this, or that. it’s cool. I catch myself doing it often actually, especially as I read more and find more voices out there. Just another reason why it’s impossible to get out of this blogging game. 🙂

  10. So I finally caught Whiplash, in time for the post I’ve been eyeing a chance to get out. All I can say is I’m Korean so any mix of masochism and goal-setting’s got my vote. =) I actually thought the closing solo was just a tad overdone – would’ve been more artful if a minute or two of it were cut just before he slows down but I certainly got the point.

      1. Well it’s always great to hear about something you’ve actually seen, doing more than one film at a time increases that likelihood, it’s a good approach.

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