Swan's 2019 Film Diary

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Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)



This movie never gets old. In fact, it gets better every time I see it. This last viewing opened my eyes to the absolutely mastery of the filmmaking. You can learn everything you need to know about the medium studying this film. More than anyone else it is a showcase for Spielberg's immaculate ability as director. He is a genius at using every technique in his arsenal to make you connect to the characters and feel what they are feeling, managing clear emotional paths with a great amount of cinematic naturalism. Basically, it's easily to bond with Brody, Quint, Hooper, and Brody's wife, and his son who imitates him at dinner (one of my favorite scenes ever)... so on and so forth. I don't feel there is any need to mention the brilliant tension and suspense on display here, because everyone knows it. Spielberg is one of the finest craftsmen in the history of cinema, and that has never been displayed better than in Jaws. I have been watching early short films by revered directors, and of all of them - Scorsese, PTA, Kubick, and some others - Spielberg most impressed me with Amblin'. It will be a tragic day when he leaves the world. Who will inspire us then? The Day the Cinema Died.



Jaws is great. Only seen it once though.
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Originally Posted by Iroquois
To be fair, you have to have a fairly high IQ to understand MovieForums.com.



Clearly I'm not really interested in reviewing much right now, but figured I'd post some sort of update. I'll just do some of my favorite new watches since my last post, with little brief thoughts on each.

The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014) - This is an absolute epic in action storytelling. I guess not everyone is into it, but I was fairly blown away. The choreography is unreal. When it comes to pure technical filmmaking, the action genre - when done right - is the peak.

Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018) - LOVED. I haven't seen Ida but would love to now. Felt incredibly classic regarding it's use of film language, but also very timeless with a compelling story told in a compelling way.

Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, 2018) - The premise of a young boy suing his parents for giving him birth is introduced in the beginning, and it's a premise that feels a bit outlandish, but the movie does a good job of making it believable. It's a tough movie to digest, often heartbreaking, but also one of those films everyone should watch.

They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018) - I haven't had a theater experience like this, and if you've seen it you know why. There was also a 30 minute behind the scenes feature after the film played. Obviously, the restoration is stunning, but Jackson sifted through TONS of footage and around 600 hours of audio for this, and what is most impressive to me is he was able to condense that and use *only* this archival material in a storytelling fashion. It doesn't ramble around different topics. It's focused storytelling, and is powerful. A huge achievement.

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988) - Definitely my fave Miyazaki that I've seen. I especially liked the first half, with the girls meandering about and playing. No plot, just following two kids as they have fun experiencing life. It gets more dramatic later on, and hits hard. I want a cat bus.



Always enjoy reading your eloquent thoughts on films. Found your write-ups on the early short films particularly enlightening. Sadly, I've probably watched more short films that you made on your iPhone than I have any other short films. It's an avenue of cinema I've barely explored. The ones you wrote about sound particularly fascinating.

Maybe I should give Dracula (1931) another go sometime as I found it very dry on my first viewing. Jaws will never be a personal favorite, but my appreciation for it has grown. Really happy to see that you enjoyed The Raid 2. (I remember a time not that long ago when most action films left you bored.) So many amazing fight sequences in that film. I love how each action scene incorporates the setting into the choreography. Gareth Evans is so good at building up each moment as well. He has me on the edge of my seat before the first kick or punch is even thrown. A lot of people complained about the length, but I had no problem with it and enjoyed its epic feel. I prefer it to the first Raid film, which at times felt repetitive to me.
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Always enjoy reading your eloquent thoughts on films. Found your write-ups on the early short films particularly enlightening. Sadly, I've probably watched more short films that you made on your iPhone than I have any other short films. It's an avenue of cinema I've barely explored. The ones you wrote about sound particularly fascinating.
Thanks man! To me, short films is a very distinct art form from full-length cinema - as distinct from it as a television show.

Maybe I should give Dracula (1931) another go sometime as I found it very dry on my first viewing.
I used to feel the same, until now. It has some wonderful atmosphere and you could do worse than Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye, acting-wise. Their enthusiasm is a joy to watch. Especially Frye, who steals every scene he's in.

Really happy to see that you enjoyed The Raid 2. (I remember a time not that long ago when most action films left you bored.)
Yeah, growing up I always struggled with action cinema. I probably wasn't seeing a lot of the good stuff, but even so I would always get really bored. However, I'm not really a person to be set in my ways, so as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate the genre, and would even argue it's becoming a favorite genre - I just haven't seen enough (with that in mind, can you give me some action recommendations?). I always think of Jackie Chan when I think of action cinema, and could consider him one of the greatest movie stars of all-time if only I had seen more of his movies.

Anyway, just technically speaking it's hard to not marvel at good action choreography and creation. Not just the fight choreography, but the camerawork, sound design, all of it. It's an exercise in physicality (which isn't to diminish the creativity at all), and when you see truly skilled action set-pieces, it's like you're seeing the greatest of human ability. That's what if feels like in the moment, at least, and it becomes transcendent in a sense.

I prefer it to the first Raid film, which at times felt repetitive to me.
I am with you. I like the first, but I think what I most like about the second is how much more epic it feels. That just draws me in.




The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014) - This is an absolute epic in action storytelling. I guess not everyone is into it, but I was fairly blown away. The choreography is unreal. When it comes to pure technical filmmaking, the action genre - when done right - is the peak.
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Welcome to the human race...
I keep meaning to revisit The Raid 2, but I just remember it being an overlong slog between fight scenes that I barely remember as being all that good in the first place (and it doesn't help that I've watched similar films like The Night Comes For Us in the meantime and just found them alright more than anything else).

Cold War is a damned fine film. I didn't get around to Capernaum because I did see some rather damning negative reviews that put me off seeing it.

I remember being very in the middle about They Shall Not Grow Old - can obviously respect its technical ambition, but I do question if it was put to especially good use in this context.

And, of course, Totoro is Totoro.
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Way too much stupid talk on the forum. Iroquois, Iím thinking about you.



The House that Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)


The image of Jack's soulless grin following a murder feels iconic in the history of serial killer cinema.

The House that Jack Built is a comedy. Iím not even trying to be a smart-ass, Iím just surprised people are making this out to be some kind of extremely disturbing horror movie. There is a tonal shift during the last ten minutes to something more serious (and it may be my favorite part of the film - maybe just because it reminds me of Antichrist, also by von Trier and a personal favorite), but it was very obvious to me while watching that for the majority of it von Trier is going for humor instead of horror. Most of the "incidents" involve situations that are so hilariously absurd, with characters so ridiculously stupid, that there's no way for me to see it any other way. Also, while the subject matter is definitely heavy, I donít think this film is nearly as provocative or disturbing as people are saying. It wouldnít be labeled as such if it was made by anyone other than von Trier.

That said, itís probably the best black comedy following a serial killer since Man Bites Dog.

Lastly, RIP Bruno Ganz. Heís not the main character but an important one, and I donít think I could see anyone else in that role. I know he did a few more performances after this, but knowing he died recently gives it something of a swan song feel. If it was his actual swan song performance, itíd be a great way to go out on - anyone who knows his role in this would agree, Iím sure. His actual last performance is Malickís next film which, hey, thatís cool too.



That said, itís probably the best black comedy following a serial killer since Man Bites Dog.
You know that's a sentence which will grab my attention and get me interested in seeing this.
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You know that's a sentence which will grab my attention and get me interested in seeing this.
There are similarities in my opinion. Both are approaching a similar concept in sort of a "meta" way, you know? I don't think you'll like it more than Man Bites Dog, only because I know it's one of your favorites (for good reason, it's a freaking masterpiece). What is your opinion on von Trier?



I've only seen Europa, but it was way back in the 90's. I have Antichrist, Nymphomaniac and Melancholia but I've not seen any of them.

I'm not expecting to like this more than Man Bites Dog because, as you say, it's one of my absolute favourites and films just don't walk into my top 10 anymore. Hell, most don't walk into my top 100.



The House the Jack Built (Lars von Trier, 2018)


The image of Jack's soulless grin following a murder feels iconic in the history of serial killer cinema.

The House that Jack Built is a comedy. Iím not even trying to be a smart-ass, Iím just surprised people are making this out to be some kind of extremely disturbing horror movie. There is a tonal shift during the last ten minutes to something more serious (and it may be my favorite part of the film - maybe just because it reminds me of Antichrist, also by von Trier and a personal favorite), but it was very obvious to me while watching that for the majority of it von Trier is going for humor instead of horror. Most of the "incidents" involve situations that are so hilariously absurd, with characters so ridiculously stupid, that there's no way for me to see it any other way. Also, while the subject matter is definitely heavy, I donít think this film is nearly as provocative or disturbing as people are saying. It wouldnít be labeled as such if it was made by anyone other than von Trier.

That said, itís probably the best black comedy following a serial killer since Man Bites Dog.

Lastly, RIP Bruno Ganz. Heís not the main character but an important one, and I donít think I could see anyone else in that role. I know he did a few more performances after this, but knowing he died recently gives it something of a swan song feel. If it was his actual swan song performance, itíd be a great way to go out on - anyone who knows his role in this would agree, Iím sure. His actual last performance is Malickís next film which, hey, thatís cool too.
this movie is so good. Best flick of 2018 in my book hands down and Matt Dillon is fantastic



I've only seen Europa, but it was way back in the 90's. I have Antichrist, Nymphomaniac and Melancholia but I've not seen any of them.

I'm not expecting to like this more than Man Bites Dog because, as you say, it's one of my absolute favourites and films just don't walk into my top 10 anymore. Hell, most don't walk into my top 100.
Gotcha. Will be curious what you think of him. I can honestly see you going any which way.

this movie is so good. Best flick of 2018 in my book hands down and Matt Dillon is fantastic
Dillon is indeed a force to behold in the film. One of the best performances of last year. I think you did a review of the flick - gonna go look for it now.



I've only seen Europa, but it was way back in the 90's. I have Antichrist, Nymphomaniac and Melancholia but I've not seen any of them.

I'm not expecting to like this more than Man Bites Dog because, as you say, it's one of my absolute favourites and films just don't walk into my top 10 anymore. Hell, most don't walk into my top 100.
Gotcha. Will be curious what you think of him. I can honestly see you going any which way.

this movie is so good. Best flick of 2018 in my book hands down and Matt Dillon is fantastic
Dillon is indeed a force to behold in the film. One of the best performances of last year. I think you did a review of the flick - gonna go look for it now.
Yup I love it probably in my top 100 ever honestly



THTJB was a weaker Trier flick, but probably his most personal yet. And Trier not on his A-game is still more interesting to watch than most stuff coming out. And I did like a selected few moments in the film and of course especially the ending. I will see it again though to form a proper opinion on it.



Yeah, growing up I always struggled with action cinema. I probably wasn't seeing a lot of the good stuff, but even so I would always get really bored. However, I'm not really a person to be set in my ways, so as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate the genre, and would even argue it's becoming a favorite genre - I just haven't seen enough (with that in mind, can you give me some action recommendations?). I always think of Jackie Chan when I think of action cinema, and could consider him one of the greatest movie stars of all-time if only I had seen more of his movies.

Anyway, just technically speaking it's hard to not marvel at good action choreography and creation. Not just the fight choreography, but the camerawork, sound design, all of it. It's an exercise in physicality (which isn't to diminish the creativity at all), and when you see truly skilled action set-pieces, it's like you're seeing the greatest of human ability. That's what if feels like in the moment, at least, and it becomes transcendent in a sense.
I'd love to see what you think of some Shaw Brothers martial-arts flicks. My personal favorite is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The majority of the movie consists of training in various disciplines of kung fu, so there's not a ton of action compared to other Shaw Brothers films, but it's a phenomenal movie and I think it'd serve as excellent "fuel" for your own fitness. The Avenging Eagle, Crippled Avengers and One-Armed Swordsman are some more standouts from the studio. You'll get colorful costumes, beautifully artificial sets, a creative assortment of weapons, over-the-top characters (along with plenty of hilarious WTF moments). The fight scenes are often very balletic, like a dance of fists and feet and blades, and the constantly clanging weapons and kung-fu grunting serve as the "music," so to speak. The actors/actresses often string together an insane amount of moves/strikes/blocks in one take, which is such a refreshing contrast to all the action films that try to hide their action behind shaky cams and edits because their performers aren't physically capable of pulling off the moves in a convincing manner.

I'm actually not a huge fan of Jackie Chan's action films. I love Jackie Chan himself. He's always a joyful presence. And I have a ton of respect for his fearlessness. But many of his action films (or at least the ones I've seen) are marred by really, really bad comedy. Like the Police Story movies, which feature jaw-dropping stunts and action set pieces, but you also have to put up with long stretches of dumb humor that doesn't land at all --- at least not for my sense of humor. However, when you talk about skilled set pieces becoming transcendent and how it's a display of the greatest of human ability, the awe-inspiring finale in Supercop certainly comes to mind.

Looking forward to The House that Jack Built. When it comes to black comedies, I find that people who don't typically watch much horror, or movies that deal with dark subject matter in general, often don't see the humor and are more appalled than amused. I've watched many such films and then been surprised when reading reviews and rarely anyone mentions the comedic aspects. Hell, I thought A Serbian Film was clearly trying to be a black comedy with how absurdly over the top it was (I mean, a dude literally gets skull-f**ked to death at one point), but I always feel like a sociopath for admitting to laughing at several moments throughout the film while everyone else is going on about it being the most disturbing film ever made (which I don't think it comes close to being because its lunacy is so comical).