• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by joelmarquez

  1. Band of Brothers (2001)

    This is a 10 part series of 1 hour episodes that details the true story of the legendary Easy Company of the 101st airborne division during the D-Day invasion of WWII and follows them to the end of the war. I bring this up on this forum because I wanted to let anyone who hasn't seen it know that this series has one of the best examples of heroism that I've ever seen on television. And I've seen a lot of television. Damian Lewis plays Richard Winters, and the series rightly focuses on his character's emergence as a leader who deals with a brutal situation with steely-eyed focus, and without ever losing his humanity. This kind of hero is a rational decision-maker, who makes the best of an often impossible world, but always takes on the responsibility of fighting for a just cause. The show has such a reverence for the real-life man that the character is never undercut by the typical devices that modern writers use to "humanize" heroes, like self-directed humor, or character flaws intended to make the audience identify with the hero but are irrelevent distractions at best (and nihilism at worst). It is a brutal show, so it's not for the squeamish. Although, I'd argue that the intensity of the show (characters you've spent enough time with to care for are placed in horrific situations) makes you think you're seeing more violence than you actually are. But if you want to see a character than you can feel heroic admiration for, without reservation, you won't find very many examples finer than this in television.
  2. Band of Brothers

    Has this been discussed before?
  3. Here's a question for movie fans as well as dance fans. What movies can you think of that combine the best elements of dance -and- cinema? What I mean is that you can have a movie that has great dancing but isn't filmed in a cinematic way. The Fred and Ginger movies from the RKO 30's were great dance, but the cameras were bulky and didn't move, so the dances were photographed from only a few angles and the result is flat composition without any sense of real depth. That's not necessarily a bad thing, when you compare it against Moulin Rouge, which is the antithesis of that restrained cinematic style, with a constantly moving camera and hyperkinetic editing where you don't get an idea of the dance as a whole because as soon as you attempt to integrate some kind of a flow, the moment is lost in the editing. The best example I can think of is West Side Story, a movie shot in a widescreen aspect ratio, and the director, Robert Wise, allows a viewer to experience the fullness of the dance numbers, but does it in a distinctly cinematic way, using depth-of-field to focus attention on shifting foreground and background elements, using the edges of the frame to create interesting reveals, and using camera height to suggest character. The point is that you cannot do this in any medium other than cinema. So the answer to this question will regard movies that are more than stage plays that are filmed in a static way, as many pre-1950's musicals had been filmed. But also, this eliminates from consideration many of the modern post-MTV musicals that use the current disintegrating style that bombards the viewer with pure moment-to-moment sensation. I'm going to start the bidding at West Side Story. Anyone want to raise?
  4. Elizabethtown (2005)

    I'm a little disappointed that this movie didn't make much of an impact on the box office, but at least I was able to see it a few times without fear of it being sold out. Elizabethtown was hit hard by critics because of a resemblance to last year's Garden State, (a young man travels home for a family funeral and meets a spunky young woman who blasts away his emotional malaise because she is a spunky young woman). But while the main choice of Garden State's young man is that of a drug-induced zombie existence or conscious life and all of its attendant pain and joy, Elizabethtown's hero has suffered a terrible professional setback and is determined to commit suicide until he is presented with a literal roadmap to re-embrace life. Okay, maybe there's a little bit of a resemblance. So what. Both movies have a positive theme. And Elizabethtown's director, Cameron Crowe, is the most life-affirming director working today, with only Lasse Hallstrom coming close. He's so life-affirming that the main conflict, the suicide threat, isn't really taken as seriously as it probably should have been. But Cameron Crowe's universe is one that I want to live in, and these little missteps are just forgiveable nitpicks. Elizabethtown is not his best movie. Not nearly as good as Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, or Say Anything. But definitely better than Singles or Vanilla Sky.
  5. Elizabethtown

    might be a little too late for this movie, but I think it's still playing.
  6. The West Wing

    I love pointing out to my Objectivist friends that The West Wing (at least under Aaron Sorkin, I haven't seen much of the last two seasons) is Romantic drama, if we define it as art that portrays life as it ought to be. Of course, what Aaron Sorkin thinks life ought to be comes from his late 20th century statist liberal ideals. But he portrayed his -ideal- presidency. And since he isn't beholden to a journalistic naturalism, he is free to create the most ingenious plots, testing his ideal president in the most diabolical kinds of conflicts. It's just beautiful Romantic drama.
  7. Serenity (2005)

    My favorite description of Serenity is that it's like Star Wars, only told from Han Solo's point of view. Or to put it another way, it's what might've happened if Han Solo hadn't met that old guy in the bar. I certainly think this is very apt. Malcolm Reynolds would have shot Greedo first.
  8. Serenity (2005)

    MAJOR SPOILER to FOLLOW: No, it serves the very useful purpose of telling the audience that no one is safe, and yes, they're very capable of killing off your favorite character, so in the very next sequence, when the crew is stuck in a hole fighting reavers, you better not get comfortable because Joss Whedon is capable of killing Kaylee or anyone else you like. If you think everyone's going to live, then that scene has no suspense.
  9. Serenity (2005)

    Well. Yeah. Wow. Joss is boss.
  10. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

    What I meant was... he has hidden reserves of... blah blah blah.
  11. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

    Actually, I disagree. Ryan's internal conflict is his own uncertainty over his ability to do the job. It boils down to him stating "I'm just an analyst, I'm not a field agent." What he discovers is that A) No one else is around to do the job, so he better do it, or the world goes up in flames, and he has inner reserves of strength that make him very capable. In fact, one could say that this is the very spine of the movie, the one that makes it transcend the genre, so that it's not just a rote political thriller.
  12. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    Great directing. Hmm. I read a very interesting article in today. ( The premise is that Lucas and Spielberg have had a fascinating passive competition going back to Lucas' film school days at USC, when Spielberg was in awe of the Lucas' short student piece THX-1138. There's a lot of specious psychologizing in the article, but I want to quote this one section on Raiders of the Lost Ark: "... Lucas had helped curb Spielberg's tendency toward financial excess, but Spielberg would rightly take credit for Raiders' artistry. When Nazis shoot up a casket of liquor, Karen Allen stops briefly to grab a mouthful before getting on with the fight. Lucas would never have shot that, or if he did he would have cut it, but for Spielberg, such touches are, you feel, almost the reason for shooting the film; for while speed excites Lucas—precisely because it seals him off from what blurs past, like Luke Skywalker in his X-wing cockpit—it seems almost to relax Spielberg, loosening him up for dabs of characterization and his goosiest, off-the-cuff humor." Just to repeat... "Lucas would never have shot that." Talk about stark contrasts. Watching this latest batch of Lucas' movies, I cannot think of one sharp spontaneous-seeming moment of character that didn't come from a robot or CGI creature. That's just being a bad director.
  13. LA Dance performance

    Just wanted to recommend a dance group that I've been watching a lot of. They're called Mehtropolis and they're performing at the Stella Adler theater in Hollywood, on the first two weekends in June. This performance is their annual repertory show, featuring short pieces that use a mix of modern and classical ballet, usually telling a story of some kind. I've never been a fan of dance, but these guys really turned me around. I usually end up going to a show and thinking "I didn't know you could do that." (Which either shows their worth, or my ignorance.) Obviously, I'm a big fan and if you're in the LA area, I recommend them highly. Their website is: June 3-5, 9-12, 2005 Thur-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm Box office #: 310.838.2236
  14. Workplace problems

    I think you should move back to LA and make movies. But that's just me.
  15. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

    That's funny. That happens to be the next thing on my Netflix list. Also, I heard that there's a book of Michelangelo's poems and letters somewhere. Have you heard/seen/read it?
  16. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

    If it's a Thomas Guide, then no. But if it's a novel, and I'm reading a great story, I can forgive a lot. I've never read the Stone novel, so I can't say to what degree it has any pretense toward historical fidelity, but as I said in my earlier post, I did have my suspicions about the movie's accuracy and I remember thinking that the sort-of romance with the Medici noblewoman was probably a Hollywood invention. I also remember thinking that I didn't care. It's a movie, and I rather like the Hollywood version better. Historical accuracy doesn't guarantee good drama, and in fact, it usually inhibits it. I'm sure there's a certain point at which the history can be so messed up that the content of the story becomes meaningless, but on the other hand, I regard the storytelling and drama as primary. By the way, I'm a Seattle native who counts The Fabulous Baker Boys as a top ten favorite. Jeff Bridges starts the movie walking in Belltown, suddenly teleports to the Alaskan Way waterfront next to the Ivar's seafood sign, then to the Pike Place Market, and walks through a door which magically brings him to the Olympic Hotel on 4th avenue. It took me about .07 milliseconds to forget about it and watch the rest of the movie.
  17. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

    By coincidence, the last two movies on my Netflix list were The Agony and The Ecstasy, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I am thus reminded of the great line that Billy Wilder gave to Norma Desmond in his movie Sunset Boulevard, about an aging silent screen diva who lives in her past glories while a cynical world has forgotten her. Aspiring screenwriter Joe Gillis says to her: "You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big." To which she replies: "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." The span between these two pictures, TAatE (1965), and BC&tSK (1969), is microscopic, but the gulf between them couldn't be wider. TAatE tells the story of the contest of wills between Michelangelo (Charleton Heston) and Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. The pope commissions a very reluctant Michelangelo to decorate a chapel named after his uncle using "appropriate design." An uninspired Michelangelo balks, regarding himself as a sculptor and not a painter, and also because he sees no purpose or theme to the exercise. The pope strong-arms him into the commission in a manner that makes you think that he's simply trying to bask in second-handed glory. In fact, his motivations are far more complicated, and interesting. When we finally see the artist's inspiration, and he comes to realize how much he needs to finish his work, we see grand, larger-than-life passion delivered in a way that makes you wish Charleton Heston was around for The Fountainhead movie. This is a fascinating movie that has a lot to say about the relationship between artist and patron, artist and inspiration, and even (metaphorically) father and son. But beyond what the movie is about, what's more... and the only word I can think of is "shocking," is the kind of characters it deals with. This is a titanic battle of wills between two giant characters, with an appropriately wide backdrop. It's an epic movie, the kind that, by 1965, was beginning to become extinct. In one scene, a small conversation between Michelangelo and the Pope takes place in the foreground, while in the background, thousands of extras are waging war on what's supposed to be an Italian hillside. The effect is to elevate their conversation, to show that what they're talking about (the Sistine Chapel) is important, and the war in the background is incidental. It's a visual ironic joke, but in reality, the Sistine Chapel was what history remembered, more than any battle of the moment. By contrast, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tells a very naturalistic story about two very small characters. Two bank robbers around the turn of the century are pursued by relentless and faceless lawmen until they meet their end. The tone is cynical, glib, and almost campy. Nothing's important, not even their own lives. Thank god I watched TAatE last. It's not a perfect movie, and I suspect that history was mangled for the sake of drama. But it does offer a vision of humanity that is so rare as to actually be shocking, characters of great stature that care about things worth caring about. I'll give it an 8. It might move up to 9 upon subsequent viewings, but that 8 takes into account the bad taste in my mouth left behind by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
  18. Charleton Heston, Rex Harrison in the 1965 epic.
  19. anyone know any good dance movies?

    I'm ready to pronounce West Side Story as the winner, but I'm glad you brought up Crouching Tiger. I'll need to look at that one again. I never thought to look at fight movies before, even though in retrospect, they share the same need to communicate movement in an orderly way. That opens up a whole new realm of things to look at. Thanks.
  20. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    I'm not sure what you're asking here. Does Anakin have a moral code that Objectivists would approve of? Or does he have any kind of moral code, regardless of whether you'd approve of it or not? I think he's accepted a moral code that is incompatible with his happiness (as stated by Yoda directly), and he attempts to both live the code and betray it at the same time, which leads to his doom. By the moral standards of the movie's universe, that would make him immoral, but sympathetic.
  21. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    True, but my point was not with regard to where Anakin's political sympathies lay, but what his central dramatic choice was. I simply wanted to show that he did not start off as a power luster, he wanted to roll around in the fields with Padme, he wanted to lead a life of adventure, he wanted to be happy. Note that while he approves of dictatorial rule, he never actually acts to become the dictator. He acts to serve the Chancellor, which puts him more in the category of a Peter Keating in the thrall of Ellsworth Toohey. His actions were motivated by the pursuit of happiness, as I've defined them above. That's what I mean when I talk about his central dramatic choice. And that's why I say that the theme is "The pursuit of happiness leads to your destruction." By the way, I don't mean to say that this theme immediately invalidates this movie in my eyes. It's possible to make good drama with a theme like that. Tolstoy uses the same theme in Anna Karenina. (Hmm... Anna Karenina... Anakin. Coincidencia?) Whether Lucas is artistically successful is a separate point, but in order to make that point, it would be a discussion about crappy subtext-less dialogue, wooden characterization, and a few wonderful dramatic plot devices that are raised then dropped without allowing the audience to fully experience them. That's not a very fun discussion.
  22. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    Let's be clear about our terms here. What's power lust? Is it the desire to control nature? Or the desire to control people? I think it's important to draw a distinction between the two. In doing so, I think it's clear that what the Chancellor tempts Anakin with is the first and notthe second. Let's not lose sight of the fact that the beginning of Anakin's turn to the Dark Side comes from his desire to experience and save his own personal happiness (embodied by his wife and child). There is not one iota of desire to rule people until afterAnakin makes his deal with the Chancellor. The essentialdramatic choice that Anakin makes is "I will make this deal with the devil, in order to safeguard my future personal happiness (save my wife)." Without the motivation of personal happiness, there is no descent, there is no deal with the devil, there is no Darth Vader. It is unequivocally not a lust to rule that animates the central dramatic choice. That doesn't come into play until much later, when it shows up as a symptom, along with paranoia, of the Dark Side's corruption of his soul. It's his desire for individual happiness, apart from the needs of the collective (the Jedi Order, the stability of the Republic), that make him choose the Dark Side. That's what is so infuriating about it. Because this was not present in the original series. The pursuit of happiness was not incompatible with moral good back then. Now it is, and that bugs me.
  23. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    Hi. So, yes, I didn't actually give out a full review of the movie, and yes, I did say that George Lucas failed his actors by being a rotten writer of dialogue and a director of, you know, human beings. But I didn't say whether I liked or hated the movie. The answer is that I was cold to it. Didn't like it, didn't hate it. I was just, eh. And I haven't given a full review because it's hard to work up a lot of thought toward something you're just sort of, eh, toward. Understand that I had set my expectations really low toward this movie. As one friend put it, "If it's in color, I'll be happy." So, it's not like I was looking for Casablanca in space. (Did anyone else have that experience? Of being so underwhelmed by the prior two movies that you attempted to set expectations to subterranean depths in order to preserve hope that you might get something out of, let's face it, Lucas' last chance to Get It Right.) But having said what my expectations were upon taking my seat at the theater, I must add that in order to achieve that state of mind, you'd have to blank out the entire context for seeing it in the first place. I'll put it this way: If the first two movies (parts 4 and 5, if you're using the Lucas revisionist numbering sequence) moved you in any way, it was because inside, you were a bored farm boy amusing yourself by bullseye-ing womprats in your T-16, wanting to rescue the princess and join the rebellion and fight the empire, not for any altruist need to sacrifice yourself for a cause, but because it was Adventure, and that was the way to pure bliss. Now we come to Revenge of the Sith, or the conclusion of this first trilogy. And what is the theme of this movie? Think for a moment, and contrast it against the Star Wars that you loved. And by the way, there's no way I can discuss this without spoilers, so if you want to remain pure, you'll need to skip the rest of this post. I contend that the theme of the Revenge is: "The pursuit of happiness will lead to your destruction." My evidence: If Anakin is protagonist, then his central conflict is what the movie is about. Yoda playing the angel on his shoulder, and the Chancellor playing the devil. The conflict boils down to: Give up your greatest value (your wife and children) in return for... um... what exactly? Galactic stability? Status in the Jedi order? Remember Yoda's counsel? Paraphrasing here: "If your personal attachments cause you to fear losing them, give them up." And he's the good guy? "Fear leads to anger, and anger leads to the Dark Side." So basically, normal human emotions are evil, so you have to repress them in order to be one of us. The Chancellor? He says, in effect, the Jedi are dogmatic and are telling you to evade thinking about the half of the Force that they're afraid of. He says: I know what you're going through. It's rough, but I'll help you through it. If I'm Anakin, I'm listening to this guy more than I'm listening to Yoda. But that's just because I want to pursue my own happiness. Of course, Anakin makes that same choice. He chooses his personal happiness, he chooses the Devil on his shoulder, he wants to save his wife and child, he is manipulated into murdering Mace Windu, he slaughters children, he becomes Darth Vader. That is what this movie is about and I defy anyone to come up with a more plausible explanation. I actually have an alternative explanation that involves making the Chancellor the protagonist of this story, and thus the theme is, "It's really easy to manipulate the good to turn evil by tempting them with personal happiness." That sort of works, and it's an ancient theme. It's Faust, basically, although Faust is more temptation through power, instead of personal happiness. But I can't legitimately say that the Chancellor is the protagonist because the moral choices the drive the story forward to the climax around his, they're Anakin's. And if that's true, then this story is monstrous, and I really should be more repulsed than I am. But I'm not. I mean, it's not like I didn't see what was coming. George Lucas chose to tell Darth Vader's story, and it was all going to come to this. It's been years in coming, and we all had those years to get used to it. Even the fact that the choice to tell this story is a complete repudiation of the Star Wars I fell in love with. (Yeah, I mean it, a -complete- repudiation. Darth Vader: Pursuit of happiness led to his doom. Luke Skywalker: Pursuit of happiness/excitement/adventure led to success, glory, and, well... happiness. And if you want repudiation, what's more repudiating that Lucas going back in after the fact, and changing stuff to make Greedo shoot first? Yeah, I know he went back in and changed it again. The point is that he's retrofitting the universe I loved, for exactly the reasons I loved them.) Even with all that, there was an air of inevitability to this, a sense of (to use Yoda's term) destiny. And there's nothing more predictable than destiny. I went to this movie out of habit, I saw pretty flashing lights, cute video game action, stirring John Williams music, and at the end, it was over and I wondered if there were any other movies worth seeing this weekend. Which, I suppose, is the most damning reaction of all.
  24. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

    So, I just came back from seeing it. For now, I just want to comment on this: I have to say that this reaction is one of my pet peeves. And I can't even blame the viewer for it. It makes sense that if you see actors acting badly, that the reason is a bad actor. The truth is that there were, in fact, many wooden performances in this movie. The deeper truth is that the cause of these wooden performances were a result of the writer and the director, in this case, the same person. The writer failed the actors because the dialogue was breathtaking in its lifelessness. When it didn't serve a utilitarian purpose, such as groaningly obvious exposition, it attempted to convey some sort of emotional meaning, either through maddening Danielle Steel novel cliche ("Hold me as you did back on Naboo"), or by stating it baldly without any kind of subtext. I swear to you that Eleanora Duse or Lawrence Olivier could not make these words real. But the real crime is the director's. If you're an actor, you're place your trust in the director to manage consistency in the performance. You trust that they'll care enough to shape your performance and integrate it with the overall vision of the movie. You trust, above all, that your director has your back and won't make you look bad. When i saw the movie, I saw great actors giving heroic effort, trying valiantly to find the reality of their characters with a director who didn't know how to give it to them. Here's one small example. It's in the trailer, so I'm not giving anything away. There's a scene where Natalie Portman's Padme character bursts into tears, which in a good movie would be an emotional high point, the payoff to an earlier setup. In this movie, all we see are the tears. The director does not allow the actor to set up the result (the tears) with the cause (actually experiencing the loss of a value, as opposed to having someone explain what had just happened offstage.) But don't take my word for it. Look at the history of these actors. Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Christopher Lee. These are not bad actors, yet how is it that they enter the Star Wars universe and suddenly lose their humanity? It's not just having to act in front of a green screen. I recall a couple of movies with hobbits that were fairly real, emotionally. It's not the actors' fault.
  25. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Thanks for asking. I'm a director who's done some stage, but mostly short films. So I do have a professional interest with a particular goal in mind, but it's too premature to talk about it. I'll just have to be mysterious for now, and call my interest a sort of research into a subject that I'm trying to educate myself on. I really don't know as much about this subject as I want to, so this kind of conversation is leading me in some good directions. Next up on my list is Brigadoon, and Oklahoma. Has anyone seen either of these and would like to comment? I understand that Oklahoma has an extended dance fantasy sequence similar to An American in Paris.