Random Thread for January 2014

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I might be making some big changes in 2014, don’t touch that dial. Anyone else making any changes?

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

87 responses »

  1. Are you talking about big changed to this site or on a personal level? As for myself all the big changes have occurred in last few years – hopefully 2014 is one of stability.

  2. I meant personal. After the overhaul by Nick, I think we don’t need to change the site much. Speaking of Nick, I wonder if we’ll ever see him comment here again. It’s been about six months.

  3. PGA Nominations for 2013

    The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

    American Hustle (Columbia Pictures) Producers: Megan Ellison, Jon Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
    Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics) Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
    Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures) Producers: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
    Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)Producers: Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter
    Gravity (Warner Bros. Pictures) Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman
    Her (Warner Bros. Pictures) Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay
    Nebraska (Paramount Pictures) Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
    Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
    Producers: Ian Collie, Alison Owen, Philip Steuer
    12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures) Producers: Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner
    Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures) Producers: Riza Aziz, Emma Koskoff, Joey McFarland

    I think this will be very close to the Academy’s list, but not with all ten. Put another way, I don’t think there will an Oscar nominee for Best Picture that is not on this list.

  4. I still need to see Her, at least, and maybe a few more limited/foreign releases as they come down the pike. But here’s where my list stands at the moment:

    1. American Hustle (Russell)
    2. 12 Years a Slave (McQueen)
    3. The Bling Ring (Coppola)
    4. Captain Phillips (Greengrass)
    5. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen & Coen)
    6. Gravity (Cuarón)
    7. Bastards (Denis)
    8. Philomena (Frears)
    9. The East (Batmanglij)
    10. The Wolf of Wall Street (Scorsese)

    I should add that this is a very top-heavy list. The top 5 are all interchangeable more or less, but things drop off pretty quickly after that.

  5. Yeah sure, although I haven’t seen as much as I need to. There be lots of catching up on DVD over the next few months. I’m still not sure what my favorite of the year is. 12 Years, Llewyn and Phillips will also be on my list.

  6. I need to see Nymphomaniac before I make my decision for best-just kidding. My favorite was Gravity. And it would be a lot easier for me to make my ‘least favorite’ list, just because I’ve had some strong feelings about a lot of films this year, but I guess none more than This is the End. What vile excrement that was.

  7. Brian: Did you not see Blue JAsmine? Or it just didn’t make the list?

    And I’m going to see Redemption soon, so that will likely be in the top ten. After all, it’s the Stath.

  8. Thanks for asking, here are my top ten favorites of 2013!

    1. UPSTREAM COLOR
    2. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
    3. HER
    4. BLUE RUIN
    5. THE HUNT
    6. ALL IS LOST
    7. AMERICAN HUSTLE
    8. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
    9. THE WORLD’S END
    10. STORIES WE TELL

    Honorable mentions: THE ACT OF KILLING, WHAT MAISIE KNEW, R100, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, BIG BAD WOLVES, DRINKING BUDDIES, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and A TOUCH OF SIN

  9. FM: Since Brian only gave Blue Jasmine a 2/10 on his blog, we can safely assume it did not make the list.

    Rob: Much Ado and Drinking Buddies will be on my list, maybe All Is Lost. A few of these I have never heard of, so time to add to the Netflix queue.

  10. Writer’s Guild nominations:

    ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

    American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Columbia Pictures
    Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
    Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Focus Features
    Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.
    Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson; Paramount Pictures

    ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

    August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play; The Weinstein Company
    Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan; Sony Classics
    Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
    Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson; Universal Pictures
    The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort; Paramount Pictures

  11. Since Brian only gave Blue Jasmine a 2/10 on his blog, we can safely assume it did not make the list.

    Quite right. I think it might actually be my least favorite movie of the year. I’m not kidding.

    I’m a little surprised filmman thought I would like it, given my general disdain for show-offy, jittery “acting”, lazy scripting, and Woody Allen in general. In fact, I damn well knew better and initially skipped it, and only saw it when it was reissued, and I thought it stood too good chance of a chance for a Best Picture nomination to skip it.

    … actually, after researching it a little, I notice that Only God Forgives also came out this year, which was undeniably worse than Blue Jasmine. I also gave 2/10 ratings to Star Trek Into Darkness and Oz the Great and Powerful, and find it hard to come up with a preference between those and Blue Jasmine.

    Come to think of it, between Blue Jasmine, Nebraska, and Dallas Buyers Club, this has been quite a year for ludicrously overrated art movies. And The Place Beyond the Pines and The Spectacular Now also came out this year. Good grief.

  12. Here is my initial Best of list for 2013, having not seen Her or August: Osage County. I rated 13 films A or A-, but have winnowed it down to ten.

    1. Much Ado About Nothing
    2. Dallas Buyer’s Club
    3. Frances Ha
    4. Drinking Buddies
    5. Captain Phillips
    6. Inside Llewyn Davis
    7. Spring Breakers
    8. 12 Years a Slave
    9. Nebraska
    10. White Reindeer

  13. I read this exchange in the New York Times Book Review. It’s an interview with novelist Russell Banks:

    Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?

    “The Great Gatsby.” All of Fitzgerald, actually. Even the stories. It’s not his fault; it’s mine. I’m missing the gene.

    I think this response is very wise. It’s important to remember for anyone who purports to be a critic that everyone has blind spots, and that there is art that someone just “won’t get.” That doesn’t mean it’s terrible, for we all can’t avoid subjectivity.

    For me, it’s hip-hop music. I hear critics rhapsodize about Kanye West or Drake or Jay-Z, and I just don’t get it. I think it’s due to a lack of melody, and I’m sure it’s because of my cultural upbringing. But I’m not going to be the old guy who calls it just so much noise. It’s just not for me.

    I think we’ve all experienced hearing about a film, a book, a record, or whatever that nearly everyone loves, and then wondering what all the fuss is about. I think in that case, rather than assuming everyone is stupid except us, we’re missing the gene.

  14. When you don’t ‘get’ Lawrence of Arabia’, it *has* to be a gene.
    But I don’t think someone’s loathing of say, Transformers, has anything to do with a gene, and my liking it has nothing to do with a gene, That’s taste. So why can’t he admit that he simply doesn’t like Fitzgerald? Why does he have to rationalize it as a gene? Just say ‘I don’t get it. I don’t like it.”
    Own it. This strikes me as a bit namby-pamby.

  15. I should say ‘As I don’t get Lawrence of Arabia, and have always said I don’t get why I don’t get it’.

  16. He is owning it. He says he doesn’t like Fitzgerald, but respects those who do, and realizes it’s a problem with himself, not with Fitzgerald.

    Loathing Transformers is not the same, because Transformers is not universally praised. To equate Transformers to Fitzgerald is kind of strange.

  17. Who would ever assume it’s a problem with Fitzgerald? Maybe that’s what I’m missing.

    I don’t think it’s strange. I know many people who read who don’t like Fitzgerald. I know many, many, many people who watch movies who don’t like Transformers. Why does it have to be a gene? It’s a personal choice.
    I mentioned Arabia because I have never met a single person who watches movies who doesn’t think it’s not a classic, genius movie. I have tried and tried but I don’t know what I’m missing. I would buy the ‘gene’ comment for that. But for Fitzgerald? Just say you don’t like it.

  18. There are a few issues here that are interweaving.

    First off, I understand the gene thing to some extent. I think Slim’s example of hip-hop is a good example. I’m sure we all have things that we have a hard time getting into. I’ve never gotten into opera or ballet, and I would never presume that those arts are inherently inferior. I just have a hard time with them. I have a membership at the Art Institute of Chicago, and there are whole galleries of stuff that I don’t get anything out of. Even with film, there have been movies that I feel nothing for, but I have a hard time saying they’re bad. They just don’t suit my interests for whatever reason. Sometimes I come around, sometimes I don’t.

    But all that said, there’s a big difference between saying “I don’t have the gene” and “I think this is bad and here’s why”. They’re both valid responses, and if anything, I think the latter has more value because it starts a discussion while just saying “I don’t have the gene” is something that inherently shuts down any discussion. I think filmman is right that it’s something of a copout. Obviously I don’t know the first thing about opera or avant-garde sculpture and I have no place being in a discussion about them, but I know a lot about film and if I think something sucks and I can say why I think that, I don’t think there’s any wisdom in abandoning my critical faculties in those cases. If someone disagrees, they’re welcome to state their own case and I’m happy to read it and engage as much as I’m able to.

    I also think that there’s a deep fallacy in hiding behind “universal praise”. For one thing, critical consensus is often fluid and fleeting. Any number of hundreds of movies have been met with high acclaim at the time of their release only to be forgotten now. And the reverse is true too, where movies have been met with heavy critical indifference if not outright resistance only to become beloved classics. I don’t have an opinion on Fitzgerald, but there’s no reason to think that he’ll be universally praised in 10 or 20 or 50 years.Times and attitudes change, and there’s no reason to assume that something is really good (or bad) just because lots of other people like it (or don’t). There’s value in saying the emperor has no clothes (or on the other hand, defending something that few others see value in).

    Furthermore, there’s something not-so-subtly hypocritical about implying that if someone hates Transformers, then it’s a problem with Transformers, but if someone hates Fitzgerald, it’s a problem with the individual reader. That sounds suspiciously like “I don’t want to hear criticism of things I think are good” and then hiding behind “universal praise” as a shield. I hated Transformers, too, but if it’s fair game then so is Fitzgerald and everything else. I don’t see any value in declaring something off limits from critical assessment just because it’s been pre-determined for me that it’s good.

  19. I don’t think what we like and dislike is a personal choice. It’s a personal taste, formed by many things, but not a choice. For example, I wished I liked poetry more than I did. I like the idea of it, but when it comes time to read it my eyes just start glazing over. I think I just don’t know how to properly read a poem, but it’s not a choice I’ve made.

  20. Furthermore, there’s something not-so-subtly hypocritical about implying that if someone hates Transformers, then it’s a problem with Transformers, but if someone hates Fitzgerald, it’s a problem with the individual reader. That sounds suspiciously like “I don’t want to hear criticism of things I think are good” and then hiding behind “universal praise” as a shield. I hated Transformers, too, but if it’s fair game then so is Fitzgerald and everything else. I don’t see any value in declaring something off limits from critical assessment just because it’s been pre-determined for me that it’s good.

    That.

  21. For example, I wished I liked poetry more than I did. I like the idea of it, but when it comes time to read it my eyes just start glazing over. I think I just don’t know how to properly read a poem, but it’s not a choice I’ve made.

    Very interesting. How do we accept something we don’t understand and at the same time understand that we don’t ‘get’ it, through no conscious choice of our own.

  22. I agree with filmman and Brian on this. I don’t really understand “I’m missing the gene” part, like it’s some personal defect that you don’t like something that’s ‘univerally praised’. It’s implying a conformity to majority opinion which a retrograde thing to do. And I specifically agree with Brian that you can’t say certain works of art are deserving of criticism while others are untouchable. Everything’s fair game and deserving of analysis and disagreement imo.

  23. Listening to Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast just before, and this is what he said:

    “This conversation will not be totally favorable to the movies we’re talking about-and not being favorable is okay. Just because you don’t respond to a movie or because you even hate that movie does not mean you hate the people who made it or starred in it-just because you don’t like the movie and you are voicing your opinion does not mean you are attacking the people who made the movie. I want to reiterate this because there seems to be this new wave of over-sensitivity out there, in the world of little snowflakes where everyone gets 4 stars and a medal for just showing up, that seems to say that if you have an opinion about something and it’s a negative opinion, that you are a ‘hater’, a troll or a contrarian instead of just being someone who is a person who likes and dislikes, hopefully an interesting person who doesn’t love everything, who has strong opinions to things he doesn’t respond to as well as having equally strong opinions to what he likes. We all have individual reactions to content and those reactions are built on your experience. We all don’t see the world the same way. This is all okay. What’s not okay is when people judge people for having negative opinions. Negative is not hurtful. Stating a negative opinion is not a problem.”

    I thought this kinda fit because it feels to me like Banks is afraid to voice a negative opinion, and I wonder if his thought would be different in a different time than he feels now.

  24. I don’t really even have problems with what Banks said. I’ve had similar reactions to stuff myself. Sometimes it’s a perfectly honest reaction to something – you know it’s not “bad”, really, but at the same time it has little appeal to you for whatever reason.

    My problem comes with generally extending that to mean that somehow a negative reaction is invalid if the work in question is widely admired.

  25. DGA nominees:

    Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
    Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
    Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
    David O. Russell, American Hustle
    Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

    Ordinarily I’d say the Oscar for Best Picture is one of these five, but it didn’t happen last year with Argo. Still, I think the Best Picture is one of these five.

  26. “Imma gonna let you finish your speech, but I want to say something here-”

    He’s got the ‘Kanye West of Critics’ shtick down pretty well.

  27. You know, I’m interested, after now seeing “Wolf of Wall Street”, in all the interviews I’ve seen with the group of people responsible, Margot Robbie has never once been included. Sure, Jonah Hill was there, but after seeing it, the far stronger performance, and the larger performance between Robbie and Hill was Robbie’s character. I haven’t seen her included at all. ….?

  28. Got the new Film Comment today, and it contains the results of their annual critics’ poll of the top 20 films of the year. They are:

    1. Inside Llewyn Davis
    2. 12 Years a Slave
    3. Before Midnight
    4. The Act of Killing
    5. A Touch of Sin
    6. Leviathan
    7. Gravity
    8. Computer Chess
    9. Frances Ha
    10. Upstream Color
    11. Museum Hours
    12. Blue Is the Warmest Color
    13. Bastards
    14. Spring Breakers
    15. Like Someone in Love
    16. Stories We Tell
    17. Her
    18. Nebraska
    19. American Hustle
    20. The Grandmaster

  29. After struggling to write anything interesting about this weekend’s sole new release, I realized that Slim had covered Lone Survivor when it opened in NY back in December. Saved!!!

  30. The Golden Globes were sure spread around evenly. I thought 12 Years was going to get skunked, and then takes the top prize. I’ll have my Oscar predictions up tomorrow, but as of now I think 12 Years is the favorite for Best Picture, with Gravity and American Hustle the alternatives.

  31. I think it’s going to be Gravity for best picture.
    Very surprising DiCaprio beat Bale. Bale was so good, and DiCaprio did a lot of yelling and I felt he completely missed the chance to have one of the best lines of his career when the guy at the party said “How many times are you gonna ask her if she ever rode a jet ski?” man, DeNiro would have killed that look, and the subsequent line. He just kinda glanced over it to get to the next yelling scene.

  32. Michael Douglas has been cast as Hank Pym in Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, opposite Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. While it sounds like they’re making serious changes to the character (Pym is reportedly the film’s villain) it’s cool casting.

  33. A Hollywood Reporter article is headlined: “Michael J. Fox sinks to new low.” It took me a second to realize they were talking about ratings and not some dastardly deed.

  34. He’s come unhinged after E! labelled his Parkinson’s Diagnosis as a “Fun Fact”. Wait until he sees that Variety’s ratings report headline of “Michael J. Fox shaky in winter premiere”.

  35. At AMC the employees wear name tags with their name and their favorite movie. This makes for some double takes. Today, the kid selling me my ticket had “Pulp Fiction,” which is cool. But the girl ripping my ticket had “The Hangover 2.” WTF? I know she’s young, but Hangover 2 wasn’t even as good as The Hangover.

    What would we be wearing on our tags? Mine would be Annie Hall.

  36. I don’t even know if I’d want a movie on mine (I used to work for AMC). I’d probably want to change it on a semi-weekly basis to whatever I last watched and really loved.

    Along those lines, I will say that I just watched The Insider again last night for the first time in, maybe 10 years? And I was amazed by how well it’s held up, and in some ways I appreciated it more than I ever have. Furthermore, I was especially amazed by Russell Crowe, who’s slipped so far since then.

    But he was truly astonishing in that film, playing a very wide range of very precise emotions. It’s a wonderful character, and I found the scene of the actual interview scene incredibly moving in a way I had not before. Wigand at that point is filled with so many conflicting emotions – his disgust at the work he had done with the company, his anger over being fired, his pride in coming forward – and in that scene they’re all on display. It’s truly, truly wonderful acting, honestly one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on film.

    And yet, I think of Crowe as something of a joke these days. It’s sad that, for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to harness the full extent of his talent on a more consistent (or frankly even occasional) basis after that.

  37. He’s still the best interview subject I’ve ever seen for actors. In every interview (at least recently, after the ‘phone-throwing incident died down, and the Proof of Life debacle). He’s comfortable, gregarious, jovial, tells great stories and messes around with people.
    After he stole Meg Ryan from Dennis Quaid, things just were never the same.

  38. At AMC the employees wear name tags with their name and their favorite movie. This makes for some double takes. Today, the kid selling me my ticket had “Pulp Fiction,” which is cool. But the girl ripping my ticket had “The Hangover 2.” WTF? I know she’s young, but Hangover 2 wasn’t even as good as The Hangover.

    What would we be wearing on our tags? Mine would be Annie Hall.

    It would be awesome if hers said Nymphomaniac.

    Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to an AMC theater. They have no cinemas in the Connecticut market, which is dominated by Bow Tie, Cinemark and a few remaining Showcase/National Amusements theaters.

  39. Nah, they’ll just wait 10 years and reboot it again. I will say that this should (maybe?) be the final nail in Chris Pine’s career as a leading man outside of Star Trek.

  40. And the logical choice for the next installment (and really: what they should have done here) is to remake The Hunt for Red October. Rebooting as a cold war era franchise would enable them to adapt the better known Clancy novels without having to gut them to fit a modern setting.

  41. Never knew this: Mulholland Drive was originally conceived as a companion piece to Twin Peaks with Sherilyn Fenn returning as Audrey Horne. As much as I liked Naomi Watts’ work, that would have been awesome.

  42. Lee Tamahori, baby-oh, wait, that was the film he squandered his ‘Once Were Warriors’ cred.

  43. Oh, damn, lol. I read that wrong. OH, Mulholland Drive was with the really hot brunette who was never that hot again (though still pretty hot) and some really stupid steadicam shot with a dumpster and a zombie/old homeless woman.

  44. some really stupid steadicam shot with a dumpster and a zombie/old homeless woman.

    The build-up to that shot was incredibly terrifying, I love it.

  45. Meanwhile, Lynch bottomed out with Inland Empire six years ago and hasn’t made another film since. Frankly, I’d be happy if he remained dormant at this point.

  46. Alfonso Cuaron wins the DGA, which is the best indicator, statistically, of what will win the Oscar for best picture, but it’s still up in the air between three films–American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. Best Oscar race for Best Picture in many years.

  47. So I was reading the great website The Dissolve once again, an article about King of Comedy. It got me to thinking about Scorsese’s movies and the thought occurred to me that, and I’m not sure why it did, but that his movies never did very well at the box office.
    Oh, man, was I wrong. Look at the movies adjusted for inflation-I had no idea…

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?id=martinscorsese.htm

  48. So excited for the latest Amanda Knox verdict! Rumor has it that this trilogy capper will be the final word on the case until the reboot.

  49. Pretty interesting looking back over that Dec 2009 thread

    The trailers before Avatar were like a tour through the multiplex dung-heap of 2010: Knight and Day, Robin Hood, Prince of Persia, Salt, Clash of the Titans and The Lightning Thief, which I may actually see because I like the idea of kids being encouraged to learn about Greek myths.

    Yeah, pretty much proved spot on in that prediction – notwithstanding that some of them were financially successful, films forgotten by everyone before that year was out.

  50. I started to write a scathing fanboy retort, with a link, to the choosing of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor-but then I just realized I don’t care anymore.

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