The Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame IV

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3 Women (1977) directed by Robert Altman



Right from the opening shot, I knew that this would be a film that I would like. The characters are bizarre and interesting as we go through the first half of the film trying to figure them out. The settings are also unique and compliment the unorthodox nature of the film. The reoccurring visuals of the paintings and the use of water was also another great touch as they hint towards the true nature of the happenings. All around, this had an amazing style and atmosphere and I'm curious if more of Altman's films are like this because I'd totally be down to binge his stuff if that's the case.

Looking back, obviously I still don't fully understand what I just watched or who's who and what's what, but the feelings that this dream-like story conveys are more than enough for a first taste. It doesn't have to make sense and it can be as messy as it wants as long as the conveyed ideas are interesting and successful. Now for my interpretation of the events, I look back at the first half of the film and notice how Millie felt almost nonexistent to everybody but Pinky. She was always ignored and got paid no attention, and that could still be seen as just part of her character, but there's also room to look it as though she was never physically present. Then we have the pivotal moment of the story, Pinky's suicide attempt and rebirth, and to me it seemed like she evolved after that into a younger version of Millie and what Millie used to be, or at least what Millie thrives to be like now. Meanwhile, Millie aged into being the younger version of the third woman, Willie. And all of this hints towards the 3 women being different versions of the same woman. Pinky starts off innocent and admiring Millie for her "confidence", and she later on evolves to become her at her prime, while Millie we meet her after she's already lost her touch and attractiveness that we see in late Pinky, and so she slowly becomes the older and wiser Willie. And it all goes full circle with Willie giving birth to a new innocent woman in the end.

Other things that now make more sense and feel fulfilling are for example how Millie treated Pinky in the beginning and vice versa. One detests the innocent side of hers that she's lost, while the other is admiring the strong confident woman that she wishes to be. There are also many more subtleties and details, such as the characters of the twins from the nursing home, or pieces of dialogue that at first glance seem to be throwaway lines, and this all speaks volumes to how compact this movie truly is.

There aren't many negatives or issues that I have with the film if any, since I can totally see what I'm about to say not stay a problem after a re-watch. The movie may be a little too long, and that's more apparent because of my lack of connection with the 3 women's characters. I mean it's pretty hard to attach yourself to any of them when they're so wooden and feel very distant. And while of course that works perfectly for complimenting the style and atmosphere, it is still the obstacle that stops it from being a personal favorite.
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"A film has to be a dialogue, not a monologue — a dialogue to provoke in the viewer his own thoughts, his own feelings. And if a film is a dialogue, then it’s a good film; if it’s not a dialogue, it’s a bad film."
- Michael "Gloomy Old Fart" Haneke





The Conversation (1974)

Harry Caul: If there's one sure fire rule that I have learned in this business is... I don't know anything about human nature. I don't know anything about curiousity. That's not part of what I do.

Gene Hackman is Harry Caul - eavesdropper extraordinaire, saxophonist ordinaire and interior decorator (not really). He's been hired by 'The Director" to follow and record two people who meet in a very public area and discuss something. It's an almost impossible place to get a clean recording of a private conversation. Is Harry up to the challenge?

You bet he is. In fact he gets the conversation before the opening credits are finished. We won't find out just how difficult acquiring this conversation was until later but this isn't a movie about recording conversations. It's about recording a conversation and the guy who did it. What in the world are these two people talking about? Why won't Harry just had over the tapes? Is someone in danger? Why is Harry so curious about this conversation?

As the film progresses we get the answers to these questions and in the process learn a lot about Harry - the most boring person alive who just happens to have a very interesting job. A lot of the movie involves the technical aspects of Harry's job and I found all that to be very interesting, similar to how I enjoy watching a bunch of bank robbers planning and executing a heist. Most of the movie is Harry's interactions with colleagues, co-workers, girlfriends and The Directors Assistant (Harrison Ford), who warns Harry not to get involved and just hand over the tapes. It's through these interactions where we get to put together who Harry Caul is and why he is so invested in this case. But is he right? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. You'll have to watch it to find out.

I enjoyed what Coppola does here. You kind of piece together Harry the way Harry pieces together everything he hears on those tapes. When you think of some of the classic 70's films they all have a look - kind of a grimy, realism and The Conversation definitely has "the look." I love that look. This has been on my watchlist for awhile and is something I would expect someone to recommend for me and I liked it.



THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE
(1991, Kieślowski)



"Not long ago, I had a strange sensation. I felt that I was alone. All of a sudden. Yet nothing had changed."

The need for belonging, intimacy, and connection is listed among the 5 levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As social creatures, we need that sense of belonging and acceptance among our peers and loved ones. Not achieving it, can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. That's the feeling that overwhelms Véronique at one moment in this beautiful Kiéslowski film.

The Double Life of Véronique follows two identical women: Weronika and Véronique (both played by Irène Jacob) who have a mysterious connection, despite living separate lives in different cities. They've never met each other or known about the other's existence, and yet, there is something that binds them.

The interesting thing is that Kiéslowski is not very interested in the the why, but rather in how that connection affects them. As the film moves through the life of both women, we see a wide array of "connective tissue" that goes from their love of music to little things like a transparent ball that both of them play with. At one point, Véronique even dreams of a "tall, slender church", which we see is close to Weronika's home.

The thing is that the slightest hint of this connection gives both characters feelings of joy when it's felt, and loneliness when it's broken. For Weronika, seeing that "other person" in the distance instills her with a sense of belonging. For Véronique, who hasn't seen Weronika, although the connection is not clear and her feelings are more confused, it is still a source of anxiety and question.

At one point, Véronique attends a puppet show at her school. But during the show, her eyes move towards the side of the stage, where a mirror allows her to get a glimpse of what's going on behind the stage; the puppeteer pulling the strings. This sight intrigues her more than what's happening on stage, and she eventually tries to reach out to this man for reasons she doesn't fully understand.

Much like Weronika, who seemed to feel reinvigorated once she saw her "double", a signal perhaps that something beyond our comprehension is going on "behind the stage", Véronique's quest to find this puppeteer is a representation of that same desire to understand that something, anything, is going on "behind the stage". That even though nothing has changed, we are not alone.

Grade:
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cricket's Avatar
Registered User
Great job guys keeping the ball rolling while I'm MIA. My house went on the market today so hopefully I'm back in the swing sooner rather than later.



WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
(1966, Nichols)



Martha: "Truth and illusion, George. You don't know the difference."
George: "No, but we must carry on as though we did."

Truth and illusion. Those are qualities that accompany many marriages. We all know the stories of seemingly happy couples, only to reveal later that it was all an illusion. The truth behind it all sometimes hides abuse, lies, contempt, but also disappointment, frustration, and regrets. That is the backdrop of Mike Nichols' debut film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The film follows middle-aged marriage couple George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), as they invite a young couple at their home after a party. The evening, though, unravels from a constant parade of insults and bickering into a game of bitter fights and tragic revelations. It's important to mention that Burton and Taylor were actually married at the moment, although they would divorce 8 years later... and remarry one year after, and divorce again one year after.

When the film opens, the couple are lumbering towards their home after that party, and there's a tediousness to their exchange at first; petty arguments about a film he can't remember or just a general tiredness of one another. This is the truth; I can only imagine that what they presented at the party was the "illusion". But tired and at home already, when this young couple comes, they make no effort to hide their "truths".

For the first hour or so, I was really enjoying the fast-paced bickering and how quippy the dialogue was. I was laughing, just like their guests were laughing. But as the night progressed, you can see the conversations shift from the regular back and forth of married couples to a more pointed, deliberate, and calculated game of hurt, so to speak. The last hour was a painful and tragic sequence of hurtful decisions and machinations that you wonder if their marriage, or any marriage, could recover.

Both Burton and Taylor were simply excellent on their roles. I think I was more impressed with Burton, but Taylor was great, and she really nailed that key final monologue where the illusion is dropped, and the truth comes out. Also, George Segal and Sandy Dennis were pretty good as the young couple. It's no wonder that all four were nominated for Oscars.

My wife and I celebrate our 15 anniversary later this month. I like to think that there is no "illusion" in our relationship, and that we are, for the most part, truthful to each other. But seeing this, you realize that these "illusions" might from the best intentions, and yet can sometimes wrap around any marriage without you even expecting it. And sometimes, the only thing to do is to carry on.

Grade:



I asked this spoiler-y question for VIRGINIA WOOLF on the Rate the Last Movie You Saw thread, but I'm gonna paste it here, see what everybody thinks...

WARNING: spoilers below

Do you think Martha and George are better at the end than they were at the start? I mean, taking away all the hurt, the bickering, and the insults, my mind thinks that the climatic moment was necessary to move on. And even though that "breach" in their intimacy from both parts will surely leave a dent, to put it mildly, their final interaction hints at the possibility of them... maybe making it? What does everyone think?



I seen WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? when I first got into old movies, years and year ago. I didn't really understand what it was about or what it was trying to do as I was use to more Hollywood-ish type formal movie stories. I do think I watched something great, but I so need to watch this one again. Maybe I'll binge Liz.



I asked this spoiler-y question for VIRGINIA WOOLF on the Rate the Last Movie You Saw thread, but I'm gonna paste it here, see what everybody thinks...

WARNING: spoilers below

Do you think Martha and George are better at the end than they were at the start? I mean, taking away all the hurt, the bickering, and the insults, my mind thinks that the climatic moment was necessary to move on. And even though that "breach" in their intimacy from both parts will surely leave a dent, to put it mildly, their final interaction hints at the possibility of them... maybe making it? What does everyone think?
I think that they
WARNING: spoilers below
have certainly experienced a kind of catharsis. But I think that it's hard to tell if they will be able to move forward with a more open communication and relationship, or if they will slide back into that place of contempt.





Another Earth (2011)

I've had this recommended to me before but obviously have never watched it. A young woman, Rhoda, gets accepted to MIT and, as young people tend to do, decides to celebrate with her friends a little. The night she's celebrating just happens to be the night when another Earth is discovered approaching our Earth. She learns of this on the radio while driving home from the party and, being a sciencey person, she wants to get a glimpse of it. While looking out the window at the other earth, she slams into another car, killing a wife, a child and putting the father in a coma. She goes to prison.

Four years later she is released (she was underage at the time of the accident), her future now shot, she takes a job as a custodian at a school. One day she walks to the site of the accident and see's the surviving father place a toy next to a pole where the accident occurred. Guilt ridden, she wants to apologize to the father, goes to his home, chickens out on the apology but does eventually develop a relationship with the guy. That's about it.

Pretty much this is a movie about two people dealing with grief, over the same event, from different perspectives. Have to admit, I didn't get it. I mean, I got it, I don't get the love for it. It has good performances but getting through this indie romance, for me, was tough. Science fiction is usually a win for me but the sci-fi here was basically non existent so what was left was the love story and the ending which I won't get into except to say that if that were me in Rhoda's shoes I would be even more upset.



Another Earth (2011)....Not my choice for you, but I had considered it for a couple members. I don't remember if you were one of them. I really liked this simple non sci-fi/sci-fi as it deals with remorse in a very 1st person way. I've always found movies that deal honestly about emotions to be intriguing.



Pretty much this is a movie about two people dealing with grief, over the same event, from different perspectives. Have to admit, I didn't get it. I mean, I got it, I don't get the love for it. It has good performances but getting through this indie romance, for me, was tough. Science fiction is usually a win for me but the sci-fi here was basically non existent so what was left was the love story and the ending which I won't get into except to say that if that were me in Rhoda's shoes I would be even more upset.
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What I liked about this film (which I'd probably give a 7/10 or 8/10) is not only the way it addresses the question of grief, but also the way it addresses the question of closure. What does forgiveness actually look like, and how does that function between the person who was wronged and the person who wronged them.

And I think that the question at the end about
WARNING: spoilers below
who gets the ticket is a compelling one.


What I like from the sci-fi angle is the question it asks about the possibility of "starting over" and what that actually means.



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I watched Another Earth quite recently. I thought I hated it for quite a lot of the runtime, but then parts of it were thought provoking. Some of the time I felt like I could see what it was trying to do, but it wasn't quite doing it for me. It's a certain style of film I think you have to be in the right mood for.

WARNING: "Another Earth ending" spoilers below
I get the whole 'who deserves the ticket to move on' thing it has going on. BUT in the world of the film, he's going to another Earth where a version of him plus his wife and kid are still alive, right? So what's he going to do, just go there and really creep them out? That's not really moving on.


Part way through this film I was thinking of it in my head as 'low budget Melancholia'. Weird that they came out in the same year.



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Rosemary's Baby

"It's not what you're expecting."

The film's tagline was true for me, because somehow, despite this being on pretty much every list ever, I didn't really think I would like it.

I was wrong.

This is a really great film. It looks great, the performances are great, especially from Mia Farrow. It's horror but it's the kind of horror I can get on board with. The story from a book by Ira Levin is really interesting. I was surprised at first that they showed the dream scene conception rather than leaving it as more of a mystery, but it absolutely made sense. If you didn't see that you would be wondering the whole time if she was imagining things rather than what it actually goes for, which is the increasing tension and sense of dread as she slowly realises what is happening and you are mentally screaming at her to get out of her claustrophobic situation - except, of course, she can't run from the real horror which is growing inside her.

I thought that the film functioned really well as a look at how people get into these kind of situations where they have no control - especially women (and more especially pregnant women). She's isolated and absolutely stripped of all control over her own body, life and decisions by people who try to convince her that they have her best interests at heart - people who should have her best interests at heart - like her husband, her doctor and her 'kindly' neighbours. And it happens at first because she's just being nice. The bits where the doctor is completely dismissing her pain and her husband saying she can't get a medical second opinion because it would hurt the doctor's feelings (never mind her feelings!). And then convincing her (and everybody else) that she is crazy when she tries to protest and confront them. And the other doctor not believing her. These things happen to people every day in real life - OK, they aren't actually impregnated with the spawn of Satan, but everything else about it rings absolutely true and that's what's so chilling about it. Rosemary's disgusting husband was as much of a monster as any demon.

There was one thing, though, that I did not like about it and that was the ending. It just seemed to undermine the understated dread of the rest of the film and go a bit over the top and silly. Plus there's a random caricature of a Japanese person with a camera which seemed really off. I think it's a real shame that the ending wasn't stronger. That aside, though, it definitely deserves its spot on all those lists.



I didn't really care about the other Earth part or the ticket second chance aspect...I just kinda ignored those. To me what resonated was how the movie revolves around the relationship between the two survivors of the car crash, and their relationship is based on a lie. I liked the way the movie explored the guilt that these people had and how they dealt with it.



I watched Another Earth quite recently. I thought I hated it for quite a lot of the runtime, but then parts of it were thought provoking. Some of the time I felt like I could see what it was trying to do, but it wasn't quite doing it for me. It's a certain style of film I think you have to be in the right mood for.

WARNING: "Another Earth ending" spoilers below
I get the whole 'who deserves the ticket to move on' thing it has going on. BUT in the world of the film, he's going to another Earth where a version of him plus his wife and kid are still alive, right? So what's he going to do, just go there and really creep them out? That's not really moving on.
But, see, I think that's actually what's kind of brilliant about the ending.

Going
WARNING: spoilers below
to the other Earth isn't really moving on. You're exactly right---he is careening into this past/present in which he doesn't really belong. Who is to say the wife or child would behave the same? Who is to say he will be welcome or be able to belong in any way?

Ironically, by staying behind and facing the life ahead of her---as hard as it will be with her guilt and other people thinking she's a bad person and all of that---she is the one who is moving on.

I think that the other Earth represents the aspect of guilt that is all about regret and looking backward. I fall into this trap all of the time. If I could tell you how many times I have thought or wished that I could go back and do this differently or that differently. How I could save myself or especially save other people from harm or heartbreak. But that kind of thinking isn't actually productive.


I think that this adds a bit of bite to the ending. What on the surface appears to be a "good thing" maybe isn't.



I haven't seen Another Earth in a while, but I agree with all of you who said they liked how it handled the issues of grief, guilt, and forgiveness. But then again, I remember also liking this weird pseudo-scifi angle, which is hardly airtight, but that I did find intriguing in terms of what it opens up. As for the ending...

WARNING: spoilers below

I think that the presence of the other Rhoda in the final shot means that there will be some sort of reckoning for our main character, and that the same will probably happen with John on Earth-2. So I don't think he (or she) are taking easy ways out. They're all gonna have to face that "reflection", so to speak (to go to the film's thesis of the "broken mirror") and face their realities in some way.


Anyway, I saw this three films close to each other, so I've always felt that this film made for a hell of a 1-2 punch with either Melancholia (in terms of the themes of grief, guilt, and another freakin' planet getting close to ours), and/or with Sound of My Voice (another low budget, indie project from Brit Marling).




I think that this adds a bit of bite to the ending. What on the surface appears to be a "good thing" maybe isn't.

I'll give this to Another Earth, it's definitely a movie that gets you thinking. I took it one way and understand that someone else could see it and take it in a completely different direction. I didn't think that the ending was a good thing at all.
WARNING: spoilers below
I get John wanting to see how his family MAY have ended up if what Rhoda is suggesting is actually how it is and Rhoda wanting that for him but there's no guarantee that that's how it will be. She's giving him a ticket to God knows what. I actually was thinking the same thing as Thursday about John's potential scenario on Earth 2. It would be creepy. Also, kind of off topic, I want to know what she wrote that got her that ticket. I just couldn't believe that she won it. I don't care if what she wrote was some Shakespeare level brilliance she isn't getting that ticket. Not with her history.

As for the ending, to have Earth 2 Rhoda show up all MIT educated and looking great and basically being like "Yeah, things could have been great for you too. Sorry it didn't work out" is kind of a kick in the gut, isn’t it? Earth 1 Rhoda still has all the guilt, the four years of prison and the lost opportunities, so what does she gain by having Rhoda 2 show up? What closure is there? If a more successful Earth 2 version of me showed up at my house tomorrow I'd be like GTFOH! Maybe it all worked out for John on Earth 2 but we don't know and at the point the movie ends, Rhoda doesn't know. Five minutes after the movie ended Rhoda 2 could have jumped on Rhoda 1 and eaten her face, that's how open ended this movie was. Anything is possible and none of it would be wrong.

I don't think it's a bad movie and I can see what people like about it. Maybe I missed some things along the way but it's not my cup o' tea.



Some thoughts on some of the past reviews:

Trainspotting I liked a lot. I remember hearing about it when it was till being shown in Europe and was excited to hear about it's release in the USA...in select cities. ****! Ended up driving an hour and half away with a buddy to see it in a dumpy little theater, in a city I hate visiting. Spud and Begbie are my fav characters and Ewan does a good job as kind of the straight guy in this motley crew of junkies. There is something about this that hits close to home and I think Boyle handled everything pretty well.

Rosemary's Baby is one I held out watching for quite a while. It was probably the biggest miss for me as far as horror films go so one day I just figured I'd knock it out. I think it's one of the best movies ever at continually building tension. It blew me away.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Saw it last year for the first time and loved it. Don't remember all the little details about the story but I do remember the performances and they were outstanding. In a movie with two powerhouse actors at the top of their game Liz, who was only 34 at the time, was my favorite.



As for the ending, to have Earth 2 Rhoda show up all MIT educated and looking great and basically being like "Yeah, things could have been great for you too. Sorry it didn't work out" is kind of a kick in the gut, isn’t it? Earth 1 Rhoda still has all the guilt, the four years of prison and the lost opportunities, so what does she gain by having Rhoda 2 show up? What closure is there? If a more successful Earth 2 version of me showed up at my house tomorrow I'd be like GTFOH! Maybe it all worked out for John on Earth 2 but we don't know and at the point the movie ends, Rhoda doesn't know. Five minutes after the movie ended Rhoda 2 could have jumped on Rhoda 1 and eaten her face, that's how open ended this movie was. Anything is possible and none of it would be wrong. [/spoilers]
I don't think it's a bad movie and I can see what people like about it. Maybe I missed some things along the way but it's not my cup o' tea.
First, I think that you have to regard "the ticket" as being very allegorical in a sci-fi context. (It's deeply unrealistic, for example, that you could win such a thing with an essay and then also GIFT said ticket to some random person). It is basically symbolic of a "what if" scenario, as in what if you could go to a different reality where a horrible thing might not have happened. Would you do it?

I think that Rhoda 2 just continues the theme of grief and "what if" thinking being inescapable. Rhoda will always wonder what things would have been like if not for the accident. But in this sci-fi reality, there are very literal ways to confront both the "alternate past" and the "alternate future". I think that a lot of people are haunted by ideas of what they "could have been." What if I'd gone to that college instead? What if I'd married this person not that person? What if I'd taken a risk and gone for that job and not this job?

As an allegorical exploration of grief, guilt, and regret, I think it's thought-provoking. But I agree with you that the narrative around the allegory can feel maybe a bit too open ended. I think that this is partly because the film isn't offering solutions so much as exploring dynamics, but that doesn't make it more satisfying if you're wanting any kind of closure.



cricket's Avatar
Registered User
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
(1966, Nichols)





Truth and illusion. Those are qualities that accompany many marriages. We all know the stories of seemingly happy couples, only to reveal later that it was all an illusion. The truth behind it all sometimes hides abuse, lies, contempt, but also disappointment, frustration, and regrets. That is the backdrop of Mike Nichols' debut film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The film follows middle-aged marriage couple George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), as they invite a young couple at their home after a party. The evening, though, unravels from a constant parade of insults and bickering into a game of bitter fights and tragic revelations. It's important to mention that Burton and Taylor were actually married at the moment, although they would divorce 8 years later... and remarry one year after, and divorce again one year after.

When the film opens, the couple are lumbering towards their home after that party, and there's a tediousness to their exchange at first; petty arguments about a film he can't remember or just a general tiredness of one another. This is the truth; I can only imagine that what they presented at the party was the "illusion". But tired and at home already, when this young couple comes, they make no effort to hide their "truths".

For the first hour or so, I was really enjoying the fast-paced bickering and how quippy the dialogue was. I was laughing, just like their guests were laughing. But as the night progressed, you can see the conversations shift from the regular back and forth of married couples to a more pointed, deliberate, and calculated game of hurt, so to speak. The last hour was a painful and tragic sequence of hurtful decisions and machinations that you wonder if their marriage, or any marriage, could recover.

Both Burton and Taylor were simply excellent on their roles. I think I was more impressed with Burton, but Taylor was great, and she really nailed that key final monologue where the illusion is dropped, and the truth comes out. Also, George Segal and Sandy Dennis were pretty good as the young couple. It's no wonder that all four were nominated for Oscars.

My wife and I celebrate our 15 anniversary later this month. I like to think that there is no "illusion" in our relationship, and that we are, for the most part, truthful to each other. But seeing this, you realize that these "illusions" might from the best intentions, and yet can sometimes wrap around any marriage without you even expecting it. And sometimes, the only thing to do is to carry on.

Grade:
20 years for us on Wednesday