24th Hall of Fame

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In a Glass Cage

I'll catch flack but I'll say it. It was a bad nomination. How anyone could think this would have any sort of contention in a Hall of Fame is beyond me and it seemed more of a "shock" the crowd nomination instead of a unknown potential favorite of forum members.
I'm quite sure you're not the first to say that my nomination was a "bad nomination". And while I don't deny that I do prefer polarizing nominations and maybe, to some degree, even kind of "crowd shockers" I always nominate movies that I believe to be good and worthy. In this specific case, I went through all prior discussions about the film in these forums and the feedback on it was definitely on the positive side (same with the majority of reviews out there on the vast, cold internet). It was also on my ballot for the current all-time top-100 countdown.

Lastly, I hope nobody takes this review personal, especially Pahak, but those are my true feelings.
After all the trashings I've given to others, how I could take a review like this personally
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As far as In a Glass Cage, I don't think it's really any more disturbing than the winner of the 24th HoF, Schindler's List. It's just that one is a polished Hollywood film while this is a grimy independent film, and some people aren't used to that. It is inspired by a true story as well.



As far as In a Glass Cage, I don't think it's really any more disturbing than the winner of the 24th HoF, Schindler's List. It's just that one is a polished Hollywood film while this is a grimy independent film, and some people aren't used to that. It is inspired by a true story as well.
I honestly thought someone would make this comparison.



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I honestly thought someone would make this comparison.
Sure and it depends on what upsets you. There's movies that really get to me that would surprise some people.



Vampyr (1932)

This was my second viewing of Vampyr. While I liked it a bit more this time around, I find most of my old critique still fitting:
Vampyr review May 2018  



This time I was more ready to accept Vampyr's dreamlike essence, and while the plot still makes no sense, it's not as important as I made it previously. Gray still seemed like a small child in an adult man's body. Maybe the film is his nightmare, and he's so helpless due to dream logic?

Being the missing link between silent and sound films makes Vampyr an oddity. It mostly plays like a silent film, and what little dialogue it has is poorly written and recorded. Despite somewhat clumsy picture composition, it has some visually impressive shots (the living shadows, the burial dream, etc.). Unfortunately, they don't seem to have anything to do with the plot.

Basically, very little has changed in 2.5 years. Vampyr is still a film I'd expect to like, but I really don't. It's OK, I guess, and I'll probably rate it slightly higher this time.



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The Day of the Jackal



I had seen this before and it was one of those movies I respected more than I enjoyed. I threw the movie on knowing it was a thriller but not expecting such a slow pace for over 2 hours, and it was a bit of a chore. It's a very meticulous and methodical film. Knowing what to expect this time, yet not remembering the content very well, I was much more prepared. I made sure I was well rested and focused, and it resulted in a much better viewing experience.

I was never bored for a second this time. There's part of me that wonders how much of what happens did actually happen, but then the other part doesn't want to know at all. It's a cool story and we see it play out with great detail. Edward Fox is brilliant as the Jackal and everyone else is very good as well. Maybe the biggest positive is the on-location filming which is not only beautiful, but sometimes gives the film a documentary feel-very unusual for a thriller! Great nomination that I'm glad to have seen again!




Oh that scene, I had forgot all about it. It was brief but yeah it did seem like a pick up. But it wasn't real clear on that point so it could be interrupted different ways.
If any of you have stories about going to a bathhouse, meeting a stranger and bringing him home, then going out to buy him flowers and lobster, and the story ends with " . . . and that's how I met my friend Dave!" I am ALL EARS.



Barry Lyndon (contains spoilers)

I feel that Barry Lyndon has the most uniquely interesting take on director Stanley Kubrick’s recurring theme of dehumanization. What makes it so unique, not to mention darkly funny, is that Barry's efforts to regain his humanity and sense of purpose after his father's duel loss took it from him constantly have the opposite effect. From enlisting in two different and opposing armies to pretending to be familiar with art history, Barry eventually makes his way into the upper echelons of society, but the sad irony that he learns too late is that these echelons are pretty damn barbaric. This irony permeates the movie, most notably in its visuals, which may be the most pleasant to look at in any movie ever made. While nearly every frame resembles a Neoclassical painting, the deceptions of Barry, Lord Bullingdon and, well, those of almost everyone else Barry comes across paints each one in an ominous light. There is even irony to be found in the movie's length. While it’s over three hours, you could say that this is an anti-epic; for instance, its most impactful moments are subtle and/or instantaneous. From Lord Bullingdon's expressions of love for his mother to that brief pause Lady Lyndon makes before signing the papers for Barry's allowance to of course Barry's shot at the floor, they leave impressions that are as deep if not more than the battles, their preceding speeches, etc. that are trademarks of the epic. As for Barry, Ryan O'Neal ably makes him out to be a definitive anti-hero. To be fair, I have not seen the actor in much, and I don't know if it's his limited expressiveness or that he's cast in roles for which he is not ideal like The Driver, but he's an actor who is hard for me to like. That quality makes him a good fit for Barry, who is comically hard to like and whose blankness in response to his lavish lifestyle hardly indicates that it is giving him any kind of fulfillment. Choosing a favorite Kubrick movie is as difficult as choosing a favorite child, but with its sumptuous yet dark beauty, its equally dark comedy and its distinctive exploration of dehumanization, Barry Lyndon is my choice. I also give it credit that even though it displays little to no virtues, it so expertly expresses the belief that the virtuous life is best.
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The Fall (Tarsem, 2006)



If any of you have stories about going to a bathhouse, meeting a stranger and bringing him home, then going out to buy him flowers and lobster, and the story ends with " . . . and that's how I met my friend Dave!" I am ALL EARS.
Yeah, just got done with the movie. That scene is only subtext to all us booby loving heteros.
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The Man from Nowhere



I had seen this before and enjoyed it tremendously but this time the lack of originality really stood out. It's a very standard and cliched action film but it's still one of the better ones from the last 10 to 15 years. That probably says something about the state of the genre, but at least the Koreans do them right. All of the characters and set pieces are well done, and the average story at least touches upon the macabre practice of organ harvesting, always a delight for this particular viewer. It's a good movie.




The thing isolated becomes incomprehensible
Doesn anyone have the link to The Man from Nowhere in the original language? So far only found the dubbed version, which I won't watch.





Antwone Fisher, 2002

Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) is a young man working in the Navy. After attacking a fellow seaman, Antwone is sent to a Naval psychiatrist named Dr. Davenport (Denzel Washington, who also directed the film). While Antwone is at first reluctant to open up, Dr. Davenport is eventually able to get Antwone to discuss his childhood and the traumas that still haunt him and fuel his anger and fear.

The majority of the respect that I had for this film has to do with a plot element that is revealed about a third of the way into the film, thus I will spoiler tag a lot of this review, but will not give away the ending or anything like that.

WARNING: spoilers below
There are, in my opinion, far too films that address the way that children who have endured abuse and trauma cope as they get older, and the way that those traumas can manifest themselves. Stories about boys and trauma more often feature as explanatory backstories for brutal killers in horror or thriller movies. Even more rare is seeing a film in which a male character has a history of sexual abuse.

Stories about women who have experienced sexual trauma fit with a lot of what we are comfortable with as a culture. It makes sense that girls are abused because girls are not as strong. It makes sense that women might be afraid of men because men are stronger than women. Women-centered narratives about sexual abuse fit into our notions of the structure of power and align with our cultural "logic".

The portrayal of a male character coping with physical and sexual abuse inflicted by female "family" members (maybe it would be better to say "members of his household") is something that doesn't fit as easily. We don't tend to think of men as being victims of sexual violence. We don't square the idea of a man being afraid of sex the way we might square a female character with the same fear. I really applaud this movie for portraying such a narrative, and for normalizing what Antwone goes through. It's not even a line of dialogue, per se, but rather the way that Washington's character doesn't even flinch when Antwone admits he has never had sex or seen a woman naked aside from his abuser. And I really appreciated that the way through Antwone's fear wasn't to "man up"--it was to find a person, Cheryl (Joy Bryant), who is patient and understanding and doesn't flinch when he admits his inexperience and hesitation. Antwone does get a "stand up for himself" moment more toward the end, but I liked that he and Cheryl cemented their bond before this.


This movie struck a lot of chords with me. In my years as a teacher, I have worked with many victims of abuse--physical, mental, emotional, neglect, sexual--and just in the last month had to make a call to Child Protective Services (about a child in my community, not one of my students). Even the smartest, kindest children carry a heavy burden when they have endured such treatment. Something that this movie captured incredibly well was the way that Antwone's anger is a two-headed beast: one part he knows is his direct anger at those who hurt him, but the other part is more obscure. It is the unknowable possibilities of a better childhood. It is the lack of understanding of why these things happened to him. It's an inability to see a way forward.

Luke and Washington are both solid in their performances, and their scenes together are good. Novella Nelson is appropriately terrifying as Antwone's abusive foster mother.

I had only two hangups about the film, one from a craft point of view and the other from a personal logic point of view.

From a craft point of view, I had mixed feelings about a subplot involving Davenport's own past and issues. While it was a good way to make his character more dimensional, it felt like that part of the story was a bit half-hearted. And because there are some inevitable parallels with the therapist/angry-young-man relationship in Good Will Hunting, it's hard not to see how the subplot falls a bit flat where it could have been much deeper. There were a few parts in the film that seemed to lose momentum, and way too many times that Davenport seems almost on the edge of saying something and then doesn't, leaving me wondering "What was that all about?" several times.

And this is a little personal qualm, but it bothered me that apparently they did not report Antwone's foster family? This is a family that has at least three people in the household willing to abuse children in a variety of ways. And who is to say they haven't been cycling through children for the last 15 years? I don't even think this needed to be a significant part of the plot at all, but it bugged me a little that it was never even addressed.

This was an interesting and emotional film with a unique central conflict for the main character. It is inspiring to know how much of it was lifted from the real experiences of the film's writer, Fisher himself.



Special note for the HoF folks: We've been talking about In a Glass Cage and portrayals of child abuse and ya'll just let me walk into this movie with no heads up? Honestly I found this film more disturbing than In a Glass Cage in some ways because, unlike that film, there was no layer of allegory behind the violence and abuse.



The thing isolated becomes incomprehensible
The Man from Nowhere (2010)

A pretty good action film that combines elements of Leon: The Professional, Taken and Bourne but with a south korean perspective, which makes the human reactions very different from the Hollywood norm. And that was very refreshing to see.

It takes its time to build up to the action scenes (which are very well choreographed) which wouldn't be a problem if the background story was interesting. Because it was not i found the first hour a bit boring. I also finished this wanting more action which is a bit frustrating.

Overall, not a bad film, I just don't have a lot to say about it.

+



La Dolce Vita: I was excited for my second watch when I saw this was nominated. Super rich film thematically. From the second we see a giant, what looks like gold, Jesus swinging in on a helicopter all the way to the closing on the beach. Pick your poison of human selfishness to engage with. Over zealous paparazzo, idol worship, infidelity, religious zealots. It's all on display in La Dolce.

What I really love about the film though, and have grown to love about a lot of films the last few years. Is the manic nature of it. I love movies like this where there is so much going on that characters are talking over each other and engaging with multiple people at the same time. I wouldn't think it would appeal to me because I really dislike that atmosphere in real life. I find it so engaging on film though.

This movie is also gorgeous to look at throughout. Between this and 8 1/2, Fellini put together some of the most beautiful black and white cinematography ever. The only time this film doesn't live up to that is during the car driving interiors. That's understandable for this time period though.

Stunning film that will rank very high on my list.





Hard Times, 1975

Chaney (Charles Bronson) is a drifter who falls into the sights of a hustler called Speed (James Coburn). Chaney walks softly, but carries a deadly right hook, and Speed soon convinces Chaney to participate regularly in illegal fights. But despite the duo's successes, Speed's bad habits put them in more dangerous situations. At the same time, Chaney begins to get the itch to move on.

I did enjoy this film, and I think that the combination of Bronson and Coburn was a good one. Bronson's quiet but observant Chaney is a good match for Coburn's move-forward-or-die Speed. The friendship and conflicts between the two of them arise incredibly naturally and never feel contrived. I bet all you Day of the Jackal folks are going to tell me you didn't notice the simmering sexual tension between them either.
WARNING: spoilers below
KIDDING!!
.

This film didn't land in the great tier for me, but I enjoyed it. Bronson has great presence, and there are several fun sequences. I liked the bright colors and the different ways that the film evokes the Great Depression era.

I did feel a bit . . . removed from the characters. They both have plenty of personality, of course, even if Chaney's personality is more subdued. But I didn't feel like I really clicked wither either of them all that much. There is a subplot about Chaney striking up a romance with a woman whose husband is in jail, but that didn't end up revealing as much about him as I'd hoped. He stayed just on the wrong side of quiet/reserved for me to really feel like he was a person with depth.

While this wasn't an immediate classic for me, I could really see why someone would enjoy it a lot and enjoy revisiting it. It's the kind of movie with stakes and momentum, but nothing so intense that you couldn't watch it if you were feeling a little blue.




Day Of The Jackal: Maybe the nominee I was most excited to see. Man For ll Seasons is one of my favorite movies and this has been on my radar way too long.

A nice slow burn thriller on a Saturday is right up my alley and this doesn't disappoint. I really like the lead here, who I have never seen of heard of before. I loved watching the investigation unfold and how that played out. Really awesome on location cinematography. This film is just perfect for what it is and what it's trying to do.



Glad you liked Hard Times. It was one of the best first-time I watches I had last year. I don't expect the movie to rank that highly. I just figured that this was a good opportunity to let other people know about it.

I could relate to Charles Bronson's character during these "difficult times." His tendency to never stay in one place and Lucy turning him down because of it translated to the pains of social distancing to me. However, the way he helps out Speed and Poe before he goes to his next destination inspired me for how it proves that you can still be a friend during times like these. It just won't be in ways that you're used to.

If any of you like podcasts, I found out about the movie from Junkfood Cinema. Check it out.



Here's a Hard Times review I wrote last year:

Hard Times, Walter Hill's directorial debut, exudes the efficiency, grit, toughness and the filmmaker's predilection for a code of honor found in his best movies. These qualities also describe protagonist Chaney (Charles Bronson), a Depression-era drifter and bare-knuckle boxer, with efficiency describing his few words and how quickly and completely he dispatches his opponents. Like many of those who bore the brunt of the Depression and survived, Chaney sticks around in each town where he ends up until its money well dries up. He thinks he's struck gold when he lets the seemingly reputable Speed (Bronson's Great Escape prison mate James Coburn, who's a joy to watch) manage him, but things get less stable when Speed succumbs to his addictions to gambling, prostitutes and acquiring debt. The movie could be described as a boxing movie, especially since the matches look so good. The one in which Chaney fights the bald, intimidating yet goofy Jim Henry (Robert Tessier) is a masterclass of editing and is arguably as exciting as the climactic match in Rocky. Regardless, the movie has more in common with westerns or samurai movies. Not to take away from Bronson, who is very good, but I can imagine Takeshi Kitano or Clint Eastwood playing his part. Chaney, like the men of honor those actors usually play, ably demonstrates how following a code promotes fair pay, attracts good people to you - he has a dalliance with kindly neighbor Lucy (Jill Ireland) - and leads to the crooked, like another boxing manager who won't pay his fair share, being punished. It also helps Cheney be a friend to people who make it hard to do so like Speed. Hard times like the Depression force people to do things they would rather not do to survive. This movie makes a compelling argument that you can retain your humanity in the process. Oh, and while it's gritty and intense, Coburn, "team doctor" Poe (Strother Martin) or simply the camera pointing at Bronson's stone-faced expression at just the right time provide good laughs.



I find some of Spanish cinema's reckoning with WW2 and the Holocaust really interesting. Have you seen Who Can Kill a Child?.
I forgot to reply to this earlier. Who Can Kill a Child? is a very good film. It's been among the films I've considered nominating in the past, but I've been quite unsure of its availability. It's a bit like Night of the Living Dead with an almost Lovecraftian feel mixed in (especially if you don't take the protagonist's idea about how things have happened too seriously - like my brother, who didn't like the film partly because of that nonsense).

Also, I just watched Aniara. Proper review in few days. Not bad, not particularly good either for short.