Category Archives: Film

March Reading/Watching Recap

I’m a month behind again! Hey, I’ve been putting more effort into watching and reading than writing. (No, really. I’ve been busting through my goals pretty well this year. I’m practicing for grad school, when I hear I’ll have half as much time to do twice as much work. We’ll see.)

Also, some day I’m going to write about something other than movies and books. Really. I promise.

Reactions, not reviews, blah blah blah jaffacakes.

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Sophie Scholl

Movie recommendation:

Sophie Scholl: The Last Days

My parents and I went to see this last Saturday, and we all came away very impressed. Sophie Scholl was a 21-year-old student in Munich in the early 1940s, and she and her brother were arrested in 1943 for distributing leaflets that detailed the failure of the Nazi army on the Russian front and the inability of Germany to win the war due to Hitler’s poor leadership. A large portion of the movie is taken up with Sophie’s interrogation by a Nazi police investigator, and even though it’s basically the two of them talking, it’s absolutely riveting. Sophie’s strength of character and steadfastness in her beliefs stymie the otherwise formidable investigator, and by the end it’s clear that although they will always be on opposite sides of the Nazi question, he has gained a grudging respect for her.

Julia Jentsch is incredible as Sophie, imbuing her with a quiet intensity that carries the movie along. The film itself is full of this quiet intensity…it hits all the necessary points, but doesn’t belabour any of them. There are no anvils here. It’s made clear that Sophie is a Christian, and she prays several times throughout the film. She knows the Nazis are perpetuating heinous acts against humanity, against the Jews in particular, and she doesn’t shy away from telling the investigator exactly what she thinks about that. But it’s also clear that her problems with Hitler are not only humanitarian, but also political…this girl is no bleeding heart, but clear-headed and able to see that Hitler is bad not only for Jews and other “undesirables”, but for Germany itself and the German people in general. This is a point of view that I don’t think has been terribly well-represented, certainly not in film.

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February Reading/Watching Recap

This year I’ve been posting short run-downs of what I’ve read and watched each month over at my LJ. Thought I’d post them here, too. Because I can. Mwahahahaha. I suppose I could just link to my LJ entry, but where would be the fun in that?

Without further ado, movies I watched and books I read in February. Oh, disclaimer: These are not reviews, they are reactions.

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Trailer Roundup

I try to keep up with watching movie trailers over at, partly because I enjoy seeing movie trailers (seriously, I cry if I get to the theatre too late to see the trailers), and partly because I like to make my movie-going decisions based on actual footage as well as word-of-mouth. Granted, the actual footage is chosen by marketing gurus whose goal in life is to make me want to see the film, but still. One you’ve seen enough of them, you can pretty much pick the good from the bad from the enjoyable from the excruciating.

So without further ado, my current list of must-sees, on-the-fences, and what-the-hell-where-they-thinkings. (These aren’t all the trailers that are up…just the ones that struck me.)

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Brain dump

Sunday School thoughts: I’m incredibly hard to offend, so I tend not to think about causing offense in others. So if I ever, you know, offend you, let me know. Because I probably won’t think about it unless you do. In my egocentrism I assume that people will react to things the way I would, and often that’s just not true. Of course, everybody should react just like I would. ;) Just kidding.

Programming thoughts: *smacks MySQL* When I follow the directions just like it says in the book and type in the code just like it is in the book, it’s supposed to work, dang it. After a few hours of fiddling, I finally got Apache set up properly (after rolling back a version), but the test code to make sure PHP is connecting to MySQL properly isn’t working. (I’ve had this issue with JavaScript tutorials, too.) Grrr. How am I supposed to learn if even copying code by rote doesn’t work, much less making up my own?

TV network thoughts: *smacks CBS* Just when I was all grateful that CBS replayed The Unit pilot, since I missed it the first time, it gets started late due to basketball and preempted for a weather alert. Sometimes being a TV addict just isn’t worth it.

Oscar thoughts: I’m amused by Brokeback fan reactions to the Oscar loss. Firstly, that it matters that much. I mean, the Oscars have been an accurate standard of film excellence since…never. They’re high-profile, yes, but I don’t know anyone who actually thinks they mean anything as far as choosing the actual best films of the year. (BBM fans should be glad that they won the Golden Globe, which I think is more trustworthy.) I haven’t seen either BBM or Crash, so I probably shouldn’t say this next thing, but I’m going to anyway. Secondly, as if BBM isn’t as much a politically-charged Oscar choice as Crash. The choice between BBM and Crash was never a question of which film is better–just which political animal the Academy voters were willing to back. Not that the nominees this year weren’t pretty much all political choices. This whole Oscar race was just depressing from a movie standpoint, because all it came down to was homophobia vs. racism vs. McCarthyism vs. terrorism.

Research/Film-Crit thoughts: Because I should be writing about In a Lonely Place and Nicholas Ray right now instead of blogging. I’d forgotten how much I loved researching things until I started seriously writing again. I haven’t done research since my Arthurian lit class last spring. Then I started writing about In a Lonely Place (which, incidentally, is an amazing film; get it from the library sometime if you get the chance), and realized that I didn’t know very much about Nicholas Ray except that he had also directed Rebel Without a Cause, and thought I should find out more. Turns out he was a favorite of the Cahiers du Cinema critics, which puts him pretty high in my estimation because those Cahiers critics were pretty smart. Anyway, I spent a total of five or six hours across two days reading Cahiers articles about him and other stuff, as well as the BFI Classics book on In a Lonely Place (which are also highly recommended–a complete set needs to go on my wishlist), and looking up contemporary reviews on microfilm at the WashU library. I *heart* the WashU library. I think I could live there. Went home happier than I have for ages. But what I found the most interesting was comparing the pre-Cahiers reviews–that is, the ones from American newspapers and magazines from the original release of the film in 1950–with later perspectives on the film. The contemporary American reviews are either negative–Time said it took forever to make its point, and once it finally wrapped up the ending, the audience would be too turned off by the main characters to care–or casually positive–The NYTimes liked it, but in a very star-driven, formulaic genre sort of way…much like people today enjoy a film like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (Part of it is that In a Lonely Place is ahead of its time in some ways…that Time critic obviously missed several of the ambiguities that today’s viewers would pick up on immediately; also there are things about the making of the film, such as that Ray changed the ending from the original screenplay, that weren’t known to the original reviewers.) You can count Pauline Kael in with them, too, even though her review is later–she felt it was hollow and unsatisfying. In a side note, I do not understand why people think so highly of Kael. I find her reviews condescending, negative, unredeeming, and usually, missing-of-the-point. But that’s by-the-by. Most interestingly, the NYTimes gives almost sole credit for everything in the film to the screenwriter. I’m so used to credit for nearly everything in film going to the director that it shocked me. But really, in 1950, the auteur theory, giving credit for a film to the director, didn’t exist. Directors were considered craftsmen, not artists. It was Cahiers, writing about people exactly like Nicholas Ray, who created the cult of the director that has gotten a little out of hand now, but the auteur theory is still very helpful. Almost all reviews of In a Lonely Place now speak about Ray, and how the film fits into his oevre. It really makes one wonder which films would be remembered now if Cahiers hadn’t existed. I never really thought about it before, but a study of film criticism itself would be fascinating. I’m sure other people have done a lot of work in this area already, because it’s really sort of obvious, but comparing and contrasting reactions to films when they’re first released vs. reactions from years later is very illuminating. What’s really fascinating is thinking about what films that are coming out now will be remembered fifty years from now. Will it be the ones that are critically acclaimed upon release? What new theories will move criticism in different directions? Is it possible that another complete shift of perspective will take place, as it did when Cahiers started enthusiastically applauding post-war American genre films and their directors? I’m getting tingly just thinking about it.

Work thoughts: Two of my coworkers were out sick today, the two that sit closest to me. I love my coworkers, but it was really nice to have the peace and quiet. I need a job where I just sit in my own little world and don’t have to interact with other people at all. It occurs to me…this could be…research! Heh. Except with research, you eventually have to publish your findings, and I don’t have a burning desire to publish and come up with new ideas or new perspectives. I just want to learn it all. Too bad no one will pay me for just internalizing information.