Friday, October 31, 2008


Oh shit, it's Halloweeeeeeeen! Halloweens' the best! The best damn holiday of the whole year. Sure Turkey Day is always a hoot (my family loves drinking!) and X-Mas is a way nice way to say what-up to Jebus and take out a few non-repayable loans from the fam. But c'mon, it's HALLOWEEN! It's the only day of the whole year when you can dress as whatever you want and only be slightly judged by people (unless you live in The Bible Belt and then it's a dark evening of Psalms and ruler whacks). A couple reasons why H-Day is the best holiday:

1. Costumes. C'mon, is there a more entertaining process than the invention of your yearly Halloween costume? First, spend hours (perhaps slightly intoxicated) giggling with your friends about the variety of personas/concepts/deceased ex-presidents you could be (Deceased Ronald Reagan in a full cowboy suit, but still all old and wrinkly? Hilarious!)? Second, scouring the internet for pictures of said outfit, and then jotting down a lengthy list of all the accoutrements you're going to need to bring Zombie Abe Lincoln to the forefront of the costume world. Third, THRIFT STORES! Is there anything better than braving the stanky, bleachy, geriatric world of your local thrift store in a search not for those things you actually need to survive, but a pitch black trench-coat and hopefully a unused waist-length beard? No, no their isn't. The best part of any costume, THE THRIFT STORE. And finally, getting home from a day of work, and putting it all together, while drinking with friends (or alone, Mr. Creepster) and preparing for a night of revelry. Good lord, I'm a little sweaty just thinking about it!

2. Drinking. Seriously, for whatever reason the allowance of being able to wear whatever you want, also gives kids and adults alike the ability to just get blotto on All Hallows Eve. People do the stupidest, thus hilarious, shit on Halloween and it's always, always more fun, because you're IN COSTUME. Sure it's funny when you're friend Jed falls on his drunk ass, but it's even funnier when he's dressed like a giant Pikachu (by the way if you have a friend named Jed, who dresses like a Pikachu, you're either seven and shouldn't be drinking, or maybe you and Jed should be having a talk). Honestly, it was difficult for me, as it is most mornings, to not just start putting back ice cold Rainiers as soon as I woke up this morning, cause, Jesus and all his many children, IT'S HALLOWEEN.

Well, that's pretty much it. I love wearing costumes and I love drinking, thus Halloween = best night ever!

I put The Red Shoes (44) in to the old player last night and was almost automatically turned off because of the entirely unbelievable premise of the opening scene: young, hip students actually wait in line, for hours and hours, to see, uh, a dance recital? Yeah right, what is this a science-fiction novel? I was close to just rewatching basketball highlights for the fourth time, but the movie actually kind of caught me. It's a big beautiful Technicolor epic, and there's just something so damn entertaining to me to see low-level peeps rise to fame under the manipulating arm of an power-hungry, uh, dancer-guy. Seriously, this is a film I was pretty much set to dislike, and I'm really enjoying it. Old movies have an earnest sincerity, unmatched in today's cold, emotionless Hollywood, and every once in a while it just gets me in the old blood-pumper.

It's well known that I love Criterion and their inclusion of The Silence of the Lambs (13) is one of the many reasons why. I mean, if you're watching the films in order, you've just watched Seven Samurai (2) and The 400 Blows (5) and then, blam, all of sudden it's Anthony Hopkins and flesh eating genius Hannibal Lecter and darling little Clarice Starling get crazy person spooge thrown in her hair. You just know, some film geeky Criterion employee was so enamored with this film that he camped outside of his bosses office with his sleeping bag until they were like, "Fine Jeremy, you can have the serial killer movie." Not that this isn't a great film, but seriously, this movie has a dude named Buffalo Bill dancing around in a, heh heh, lady suit (and I'm not talking an Armani shoulder-pad get-up, oh no). Criterion, I heart you.

Drink a ton, but keep it safe! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Monday: Samurai I - Musashi Miyamoto (14) & The Red Shoes (44) cont.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That damn baby powder smell and THIS IS SPINAL TAP (12)

Please, entertain me for a moment, lean down and smell yourself. One big whiff, and just think for a moment, "What does this smell like?" If you say "baby powder" or a "fresh diaper" and you're not the mother/father of a newborn, well, we have a problem. I don't know if it's my mutant ability to smell suddenly coming to the forefront, but I've been noticing lately that a lot of, and I'm sorry to say, you ladies seem to forgo actual perfume in lieu of just poofing a couple bottles of baby powder on yourselves. True, the majority of the women, and the occasional men, who come in to my coffee shop reeking like they just changed Bilbo's diaper-wiaper usually lean towards a less sightly variety, every once in a while you just get a nice normal, fairly sane individual, absolutely blasting off with the reek of powdered ass soothing. And, jesus, if it doesn't get my stomach rolling. It has to be the most pervasive smell out there (aside from industrial paper plants) - I work in a coffee shop and this smell will waft from the very back of the store in to my nostrils. I worry that perhaps this odor of baby powder has something to do with a medical condition, but lord we can replace a man's arms, we can't make medication that doesn't make sphincter tighten?

So please, take a deep breath, do you smell like you've just powdered your ass? If so, head on over to the medicine cabinet/perfume drawer and toss away the entire Costco size bin of baby powder - it isn't doing anything good for anyone.

This Is Spinal Tap (12) is a modern classic, the first appearance of Christopher Guest and crew, and arguably the most laugh out loud funny of any of his self-made mockumentaries. The story of a British hair-metal band that's fallen on the end of their career, this is one of the great comedies of all time. This is "Smell the Glove" and "this one goes to 11" and the hilariously subtle spread of herpes across three bumbling rockstars faces. You like Waiting for Guffman (my personal Guest favorite) and Best of Show but you've never watched This Is Spinal Tap? Be ashamed of yourself. This is the best of the Guest mockumentaries, the height he scaled first and has been constantly trying to reach again ever since. It's epic, it's satire, it's just pure genius and I implore you to walk outside this very moment and rent it from your nearest video store ... if those still exist.

Tomorrow: The Silence of the Lambs (12) and The Red Shoes (44)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My mistakes as a writer and THE SEVENTH SEAL (11)

I try to write this blog in the morning. You know, get up, feel the excitement of being awake and alive, feel the sun on my face and just tear through another exciting blog. In a perfect world I'm sure this is what would happen. In the real world, I wake up at 10 'o clock (exactly one half hour before I have to be somewhat clean looking to be at my job), drool crusted in my semi-disgusting beard, shamble over to the computer, flip through movie websites for half an hour and then plod through a barely legible blog about an Australian movie I saw eight months ago. In this sort of hazy time before I'm fully awake, I tend to speckle my writing with egregious errors grammatically, punctually, and fact wise.

Thus, yesterday my headline read "LORD OF THE RINGS" instead of "LORD OF THE FLIES". Hopefully the idea that the seven-hour too long trilogy was a Criterion brought a crowd of a uninitiated Questers to my front door. More likely, it just made me feel stupid when I was "showing off" my "sweet blog" to my boss and he off-handedly said scoffed something like "Hah, I didn't know Lord of the Rings was a Criterion." Sigh.

You know, strangely I actually received on comment on my post yesterday and it wasn't about how dumb I was. And you know, I really like getting comments. If you guys have things you'd like to say, please feel free. Be negative, be rude, be positive, be intoxicated - I'd just like to know what the hell you're thinking about this blog. Lets start today with a question, to sort of get the conversation going:

Have you ever seen a Criterion film? And if so, which one?

Easy right? Now you can go back to eating paste.

The Seventh Seal (11) is a very strange film from Sweden and from what I can tell about the Scandinavian films that are graced with the Criterion tag, this is pretty much true. Have you ever seen Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (not a Criterion) and the part where they play chess with the white-faced incarnation of Death? That's based on this movie. And honestly, I don't know if I remember much else about it. I know it involves a knight (a knight who looks shockingly like Kirk Douglas ... but it's Max von Sydow) and his sort of between life-and-death journey, and the weird people he meets a long the way. All I remember is the Death part, and that at one point the whole cast of weird people sort of prance off in to the merry sunset, but again, this is sort of depressing movie, so I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about the general mood it invoked. Whatever, just another classic that I completely misunderstood.

Thursday: This Is Spinal Tap (12) & The Red Shoes (44)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wasting my time for Probama, THE LORD OF THE FLIES (43), and WALKABOUT (10)

I canvassed for Obama this weekend. Yup, I finally stopped bitching about my plans to flee the United States of Stupid if the lardos in the Midwest elected Robo-McCain and his attractive but evil Veep candidate, and actually decided to use a bit of my precious time to spread the word about the greatest Presidential candidate this backwards country has seen in a long time.

You know, I don't know what I was expecting (a war-room situated in a smancy downtown office, a well organized mob of Probama supporters signs in hands, the actual feeling that I was doing something effective) but whatever it was, my actual experience was far different. A few observations:

1. Over the course of three hours of walking about, my housemate and I had talked to one person in the actual flesh and one person through an old folks' home speaker box. This was not out of laziness, our master list was comprised of mainly wrong addresses and store fronts. The man at the prosthetic limb store was not exactly accompanying to our political banter.

2. During one of the worst environmental times in the history of, well, the world, we were passing out literally stacks of campaign-lit. Really high-quality, glossy mags about how great a bunch of Democratic public servants are. Lord knows how many trees died in this process, or how, in a "recession", much money was spent to produce them. Oh politics, you're a hypocritical beast if I've ever seen one.

3. We were canvassing on Capitol Hill in Seattle. For you who aren't Seattlelites, this is the super-hip, super-gay, trendy like spot in Seattle. Very, very obviously Democratically-leaning, and here we are two shmucks trying to get the word out on Obama. Sure, we were really trying to make people vote, but I really think we could've been making a bigger difference, er, anywhere else in the world.

4. People are scared of door knockers. Hell I'm scared of door knockers. The only guy we talked to in person, peered at us through a crack in the door. He might've been trying to keep his kids in the house, or hide his meth operation, but nonetheless he looked terrified of us. Maybe it was because I was pacing creepily in the background, sharpening my butcher's knife. Is that creepy these days?

All in all, I felt good to be out there, but also felt like, the Democratic could spend some of that money they're throwing away on un-read campaign literature and make the whole volunteer process run a little smoother. Oh and by the way, don't be chumps next Tuesday, there's only one ticket that you should be throwing your vote at and it's doesn't involve a geriatric maverick and his scarily stupid soccer mom friend.

Finished The Lord of the Flies (43) last night. Great, great adaptation of that book. There's a scene at the end, after Piggy's had his head wacked, where Ralph (the leader of the sane group of children) is running from Jack (the choir boy who becomes the crazy tribe's leader) and the crazy tribe, and their trying to burn him out, and it's all weird screams and unseen attackers and it was really tense. Peter Brook's sound scheme on this movie is ridiculous, just full of animal yelps and screaming four year olds. I tried to watch the special features on this, but, well, they sucked. Which is surprising as Criterion is known for these. I really wanted to see the behind-the-scenes work that went in to making these kids so believable, but all I got was some unexplained video of people walking all actor-like in a room. Nonetheless, great flick.

Oddly enough Walkabout (10) and The Lord of the Flies (43) had certain similarities involving what happens when you're completely taken out of the context of modern life. Walkabout (10) revolves around two kids who are abandoned by their father in the middle of the Outback in Australia and befriend an Aboriginie to try and return home. Things get weird quick. It all sort of unfolds like a cheery mushroom trip. I watched this film on a plane to Hawaii for what would end up being a fairly rough week long vacation, and I can remember the bevy of odd looks my surrounding plane-riders threw me. Whatever, I'm cultured!

Wednesday: The Seventh Seal (11)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween sluts, HARD BOILED (9), and LORD OF THE FLIES (43)

A weekend recap:

I've always said that girls have it easy for Halloween costumes, the dumb/hot ones that is, because they could just pick anything, add the word "slutty" to it, and voila - Halloween costume. You know wear a low cut shirt and hold a tooth drill and you're a slutty dentist. Wear a low cut shirt and hold a bandaged raccoon and you're a slutty wildlife veterinarian. Wear a low cut shirt and welding mask and buy yourself an arc-welding torch and you're ... you get the picture. I've always felt at least a little bit bad about this because, well, I'm not one to deem women sluts and two, it doesn't cover all girls ... just a lot of them.

Well, after venturing to a party in Maple Valley (read: Washington's own armpit) in a "cabin" stapled together out of plywood, I will never retract this statement ever again. Every girl at this party was somehow flaunting that fact that she was born with a) a chest and b) child-bearing hips. There was slutty cops, slutty firemen, slutty stewardesses ... hell, I think a lot of them may have just been dressed as, well, sluts. Our group on the other hand consisted of a fully wet-suited Team Zissou member, a stegasaurus, a three-man blind choir, a Scandinavian mountaineer, an 80s aerobic instructor, and a 1950s couple. To say the least we stuck out a bit. My question is, when girls of this type get together to discuss their Halloween costume ideas, how does the conversation go? I imagine it something like this:

Girl 1: What are you going to be for Halloween?
Girl 2: I don't know I was thinking about dressing like a cowbody, but wearing only my bra, a pair of lacy boy shorts, and assless chaps ... oh yeah and a cowboy hat.
Girl 1: OMG, that is the best idea ever! I'm going to be a girl-pimp and wear only my bra, a lacy pair of boy shorts and a robe ... oh yeah and a felt cowboy hat.
Girl 2: OMG, that's what I was last year.
Girl 1: OMG!
Girl 2: OMG!

And then maybe a pillow fight breaks out or something. Nonetheless my respect is given to those girls who go above and beyond the call of sluttiness and put together an intelligent, creative costume. Sure you might not get to go home with the crew-cutted fellow dressed as a police officer, but you're still a winner in my book.

If you've had a chance to see the film I talked about on Friday, The Killer (8), then you've pretty much seen Hard Boiled (9), John Woo and Chow-yun Fat's follow-up. It's another Hong Kong action bonanza with exploding bird cages, unending streams of bullets and a main anti-hero named, sigh, Tequila. I always preferred Hard Boiled because it abandoned a bit of the namby-pampy, dove-flying symbolism that Woo loves so much, and just gave us two hours of shooting and explosions. There's a scene in a hospital that pits Chow-yun Fat, Tony Leung's cop and an entire squadron of mob hitmen against one another, and if you're not pumped full of adrenaline by it's conclusion, I implore you to get to the hospital and be checked out by a doctor, you're quite likely a robot. You like action? You'll like Hard Boiled.

I'm almost through with Peter Brook's Lord of the Flies (43) and let me tell you, kids are sort of creepy on their own. What, with their dirty faces and inability to fend for themselves, but give them pointed sticks, an unknowable lust for blood and paint them a variety of shades of colors, and I'm having nightmares. From what I gather, this will be a rare time when I actually watch the special features Criterion offers en masse, Brooks brought these kids to an island and pretty much let them run wild in a sort of avante-garde madness. And, if this is correct, you can really tell, these are some dirty-ass, wild and crazy children. I don't think Nanny 911 would have a chance of not getting her bespectacled head thrown on a spike.

Tuesday: Walkabout (10) & The Lord of the Flies (43) cont.

Friday, October 24, 2008

TMFGIF...sort of, plans for the weekend, and THE KILLER (8).

Thank little baby Jesus that it's Friday. I haven't had a day off in like five months, and for whatever reason after working nearly eleven days in a row pretty much from 8 in the morning until 6 at night, I'm more exhausted than I usually am. I'm literally dozing off in my office (read: dingy old couch in the downstairs of an insurance building) trying to fight off the after-effects of a pretty sub-par turkey sandwich. I've convinced myself at least once a day, that said day would be the day I jump back on the running bandwagon, but through this haze of tiredness, all I can see is jumping on to a couch and falling asleep amongst empty Rainer cans, cookie crumbs, and my own obesity. I like to call it the weekend.

You know in all reality, I actually have, for the first time in a long while, a bit of weekend ahead of me. Tonight, ladies avert your eyes, I'm partaking in my annual Fantasy Basketball Draft. In laymen's terms this means a bunch of late 20-somethings will be huddling around their laptops in my living room, hopefully, watching 1980s dunk contests, drinking cold-cheap beer and yelling obscene things about various members of their family. Who'da thunk that the mid-20s would be the most exciting time in my life?

Saturday has offered vague rumors of a party in a semi-far off part of Washington. I've heard that the locale is "built for partying" and that this party will not be stopping until "4 am". All I really care about is that I'll have the opportunity to dress up like world-renowned mid-80s Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg. For you ladies, that means I'll be rocking, very very short shorts and a very tight polo and wielding a stick to knock back the hordes of beauties trying to take me home. I warned you!

Sunday I will call recovery day, but it could involve a little Probama rallying, perhaps a trip to the nerdiest of nerd joints (a record convention) and then the sleep of the dead, the sweet sweet dead. Hope your weekends also involve short shorts and fake sports!

If you haven't seen The Killer (7) I'm skeptical about you. This is one of the modern classics in terms of film. A Chinese action-flick by John Woo that pretty much invented the modern tropes of action films. Slow-mo gun-fire, double-gun wielding, exploding pigeon cages, blind piano playing women ... it's all here. Chow-yun Fat, you uneducated Whities know him as the older ass-kicker in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, plays a jazz-playing cop who, well, if I remember correctly, shoots a lot of people, using a ridiculous amoutn of bullets, and jumps over a lot of things in slow-mo. John Woo, made maybe three more good films before completely jumping the rails in to shit town. This is an out of print Criterion film, so I've only seen it on a well-worn VHS my good friend Bao Tran gave to me many many years ago. Please, do yourself a favor, see this movie.

Have a good weekend. Drink too many beers and do something stupid! I know I will!

Monday: Lord of the Flies (43) and Hard Boiled (9)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some other stuff and why I can't remember A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

I'm in a Criterion lull right now. Fishing With John (42) has been shipped back to Mother Netflix and I'm currently waiting for Lord of the Flies (43) to appear in my mailbox. I don't think I need to tell any one who's reading that my goal of having watched all these films and maintaining a life is, if anything a lengthy one. So far, I've posted 7 times and in those seven posts I've finished two releases. Yes, one of them was a six-episode television series, but nonetheless, this is like the fucking Odyssey of dork-epics. I will not fight a one-eyed giant though, but hopefully I will be wooed to a magic island full of beautiful women and opium.

I watch a lot of, well stuff besides Criterion and I thought while you waited in agony for my next discourse on a Criterion related film, I'd fill you in on some of the other stuff I'd been picking over:

Body of Lies - I'll see anything Ridley Scott makes (except for that Russell Crowe wine movie, oh no siree, I won't go near that) and the addition of Leonardo DiCaprio AND Mr. Crowe made this pretty much a must see. Sure, this movie was exactly one hour too long (the first hour to be exact) but you get to see DiCaprio sporting a Muslim beard, and Crowe reprising his fat executive character from The Insider. Can you do better than that? Not a bad flick, maybe grab it on video.

Mad Men Season 2 - This might be the best television series ever created. And Season 2 is just ramping that feeling up. I'm a Sopranos super-fan, but this show, right out of the gate, has just been blowing my mind. The trails and tribulations of the rich and powerful in the 1960s ad world is too fascinating, throw in mystery, intrigue and a bevy of beautiful lads and ladies, as well as some of the best written dialogue ... certainly in contention for best show ever. Watch it now, or be that schlub who has to sift through eight seasons in two weeks before the finale, like I was for The Sopranos.

Into The Wild - I love this book, and this movie, though not perfect, was an ambitious, visually thrilling stab at it. Emile Hirsch hasn't won me over yet, his attempts at pain and suffering in this movie come across as high school level acting, but he certainly looks the part. The supporting cast is great, especially Keener and Vaughn, and I really felt like Sean Penn got this book in a way a lesser director wouldn't have. My ex-girlfriend hated this movie and I've been waiting to see it for a long time just so I could justify her being wrong in hating it. Hey, Leah, you're wrong, this movie is pretty awesome. Ooooooooh, dis.

It's hilarious to me that when I was peeking to see what the next Criterion film I'd be writing about would be, I was literally shocked to see Roy Baker's A Night To Remember, as I have no recollection of this film, aside from the fact that it was old, British and was about the Titanic. I also remembering that after watching this film James Cameron's Titanic seemed a lot less original, as there was huge chunks from this that ended up in that. Though I can't remember what those chunks are, they were there. I was also sort of proud of myself because I had this image of a band playing on the deck (oh those honorable musicians, playing stupid music until the boat sank and they drowned ... dumbasses) but when I went to the Criterion home page I realized it was just the teaser image for the film. Sigh.

Tomorrow: The Killer (7)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


There's rumor on the street of a second Criterion Quest style blog! I'm too busy/lazy to search out this second, inferior blog, but word on the street is this secondary chump has been talking, you might say, shit. It's cool though, I'm above character attacks, above the weak-willed needlings of some second-rate Sanders. I'll just continue to pump out a slew of thirty page, sometimes boring, posts about movies that my readers barely care about. I'll do this, and you'll like it Criterion Quest Jr., and if I'm inspired (read: drunk) enough one of this days to search your "bitch" ass out, then there's going to be trouble. 'Cause I'm going to find you and I'm going to comment the hell out of one of your posts. I'm going to write things like, "Your blog is not as good as my blog" and "Oh shit, this blog is about the same subject as my blog, but I bet your readers are more bored than my readers ... and that's saying a lot." Yeah, so you better watch out Mr. Shit-talking Criterion Guy. I know you're out there, and I'm on the verge of thinking about deciding to take interest in doing the first steps of, well, something. Booyah!

I finished Fishing With John (42) today! Again, this is like a bizarro fishing documentary that finds John Lurie, an actor/lounge singer taking his friends around the world on fishing adventures. It was good, bizarre, funny, voiced-over by this sort of omnipresent, little-sense making narration man. I just want to say a few things about each guest Lurie has and the impression they left me with, before I move forward:

1. Jim Jarmusch - this guy has to be the original hipster. He seems the most confused about "fishing" but his episode features my favorite line: "The fishermen awoke full of sores and boners". He looks like a white-haired Dr. Jekyll or something.

2. Tom Waits - everything you've ever convinced yourself about Tom Waits is probably true. Take that as you will.

3. Matt Dillon - his teeth are far smaller than I thought they would be. I'm blanking on him. I think he was douchey enough that he made it in to my "I don't remember him" file.

4. Willem Dafoe - My favorite of the group. He's small, and wirey and says things like, "I get a little sweet at bedtime". John and him supposedly die in their episode together. Ice fishing in Maine is the number four killer of famous Hollywood types. No seriously, I read it in a book.

5. Dennis Hopper - I imagine Dennis Hopper is a very, very bad person. He talks a lot about ex-wives who hate him, and generally seems to annoy everyone around him. He also talks about a sequel to Easy Rider, and though it's played like a joke ... you can see the glint of dollah-dollah beeels in his eyes. I do not want to hang out with Dennis Hopper.

6. John Lurie - He looks like a basketball player. He's hilarious, kind of wussy, and probably a real lady killer, if you know what I mean? I would most certainly let John Lurie take me fishing in a remote locale, even with the fairly sure chance that I would be paralyzed for life/die.

Lurie and Jarmusch and Waits will all pop up in a variety of movies throughout the collection and I cannot wait to see them.

Beauty and The Beast (6) has a hilarious description by Criterion about it's amazing surreal effects. This is a perfect case of a 1930s film being over described by the film geeky dorks at Criterion. Yes, this is a Jean Cocteau film, and yes maybe for its time it had some cool special effects, but let me break it down for you: the special effects mainly revolve around these weird hands that stick out of the walls to grab things ... like candelabras and children (kidding!). Also at the end of the movie, Beauty, and The Beast realize they're in love and gain some sort of rocket-jet pack power and literally shoot off in to space, entwined in each other's arms. I'm not kidding, that's pretty much the extent. The rest of the movie just sort of focuses on this hairy guy trying to get his groove on with this sweet lady ... all the while trying not to eat her face.

I liked this movie though, it's sweet, and totally a product of its time. If you want to see the roots of French cinema I recommend this, but it might put the less filmically inclined in to snooze land.

Tomorrow: A Night To Remember

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sleeping, THE 400 BLOWS (5), and FISHING WITH JOHN (5).

My life is actually, surprisingly, fairly busy these days. I've got two jobs, write for a variety of unpaid blogs, and try, to some degree, to have a healthy social life (i.e. drinking and carousing with ladies). To try and get all of this done, I've been attempting over the last two or three weeks to cut my need for sleep to a drastic level. I'm hoping that I can some pull it off so that I sleep somewhere between 4-5 hours a night and still, in the hours that I'm awake, be an uber-functioning work/drink/carousing machine. Thus, my ideal time schedule would be every day to wake up at 7 in the morning, thus giving me three and a half hours before I have to be at my coffee shop job and go to bed anytime between 12 and 2.

Oh the glorious amount of work/movie watching I could accomplish in this perfect schedule ... unfortunately I'm fucking terrible at it. I set a certain amount of things I want to accomplish each night, and end up zoned out in front of the television each night watching America's Most Haunted Homes on the Travel Channel or something equally retarded. I end up half-awake in my squeaky leather chair trying to remember what I was supposed to be working on ... inevitably I throw on a movie of some sort, pass out in my chair and wake up at four in morning with a painful neck crick. Then comes the awesome part, trying to wake up at 7. I have three alarms set (and seriously I don't know how I found it by I have the most annoying alarm ever, somewhere between a bird chirp and broken car alarm) one at 7 (this is what I refer to as the fantasy alarm - the one I set so I know I can sleep a little bit longer), one at 7:30 (this is the actual alarm, the time I'd like to wake up at, eat some breakfast), and one at 8:15 (this is the damn, I overslept, but I still have time to do shit alarm). Almost always, I wake up at 9:15 in a storm of cursing and pillow punching, completely annoyed that I slept through three alarms and accomplished nothing.

I'll get better though ... I hope.

The 400 Blows is a pretty amazing movie that I've sat through a few times in my journey of Criterion discovery. It's the first movie in Francois Truffaut's (a name you'll be seeing a lot around here) in his Antonie Doinel quintology. The series tells the tale of Doinel, a troublesome kid who sort of stumbles through life, talking to girls, smoking cigs, and generally causing mild strife. It's a beautiful black and white New Wave piece, Truffaut being one of the masters, and if you've ever been a sort of rambunctious troublemaker of a kid, you'll a lot of yourself in Doinel. This has one of my favorite tracking shots of all time, as the camera follows a confused Doinel as he escapes school runs down a path and then on to a beach. I'm describing this poorly, because it's hard to describe, but I highly, HIGHLY recommend the film. I couldn't be more excited to dig in to the next four films ... if I ever get to the high 100s ...

Fishing With John (42) is a series of sorts, so I'm clamoring through one or so a day. It's really brilliant though a sort of artsy take-off of cheesy fishing shows featuring John Laurie, a hilarious sort of broken-nosed basketball player looking lounge singer, and a variety of his often confused guests. My favorite so far has been the first episode with hipster-god Jim Jarmusch, but seeing Laurie interact with Tom Waits and Matt Dillon in Jamaica and Costa Rica is pretty hilarious. Especially when Laurie and Dillon, decked out in like Goodfellas style Hawaiian gear try to ride horses through the jungle. It's like if my douche bag friends and I somehow got a hold of a camera from the 1980s and decided we were going to put together a weekly hunting documentary. Sure, one of us would probably die from a misplaced shotgun blasts, but we'd probably shoot some hilarious idiocy in the process. So, if that sounds funny (which I can't imagine it could) you'll enjoy this film.

Tomorrow: Beauty and The Beast (6) and Fishing With John (42)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things gained this weekend, AMARCORD (4), and FISHING WITH JOHN (42).

I'm a terrible high school friend, absolutely awful. I've sort of moved past that part of my life, but still live in the same city with most of my friends, and am pretty much continuously caught between feeling remorseful about not hanging with the old crew and relief that I can live the life I've grown accustomed to, sans occasionally jerky-high school friends. Remorse took a back seat this weekend as I dedicated my Friday night to a once close friend and these things happened:

1. Drunko, as we will call him, arrived at my house at exactly 10:01, completely blacked out after an entire day of drinking. He's a big one this Drunko, and as he was booze-reeking wasted, and I was completely sober, it was immediately pretty awkward as he pushed, shoved and kicked his way in to the house (not in like an abusive spouse way, but in sort of jolly bully way).

2. After he rampaged about the house, knocking things over and threatening to throw an exercise ball "in to the street" I convinced him that we should go outside. Once there, he, in a fit of drunken rage about the sorry state of politics, decided that he would throw all of our many political signs in to the street. This is before he picked up said political sign and smashed me in the arm and face with, yelling that I was too "progressive". Turns out Drunko actually has an interesting point about politics, but this was lost in trying to dodge kicks, punches, and political sign swings. I felt sort of like a unintended competitor on some sort of shitty, amateur wrestling program.

3. We finally, after much prodding and convincing that no bartender in their right mind would serve him a drink, we ended up at his GF's coushy apartment in Fremont. Drunko is a beer-snob to no end, so we ended up splitting a bottle of expensive IPA. And by splitting, Drunko had one sip before vomiting on himself, the couch, and the seat of the toilet. I finished the beer, wished old Drunko a merry evening and continued on my way. Pretty much a wasted first half of the evening. And that's why hanging out with high school friends is such a stressful task for me.

Federico Fellini is, for whatever reason, a sort of daunting classic director for those who are just getting in to it. I think it's because every non-film dork in the world will always crack some mean-spirited comment about 8 1/2, Fellini's best known work, if you try to belittle their love of Homeward Bound and Catwoman. The thing is ... Fellini rules. Yeah, he can be completely overloaded with symbolism and non sequitors, but this is one of the top five directors, visually and conceptually ever. Sure, these films will be challenging, but this challenge will be balanced with beauty and humor and a wild surreality, that if you give a chance, will blow your mind. Amarcord, a series of vignettes about Fellini growing up in Fascist Italy, features, in no particular order, a giant talking wreath of flowers that, if I remember correctly, marries a couple; an enormous fat woman, naked from the waist up (this isn't that weird sounding until you've actually seen it) seducing a fourteen year old, and a smoke filled parade of Fascist elders. This all sounds bizarre, but seen through Fellini's lense, it becomes whimsical, a sort of fairytale youth story woven through the slow crushing imposure of the Mussolini and his fascists.

I've started my next film as well, John Lurie's Fishing With John and goddamn if I'm not excited as hell to dig in deeper. It's a collection of episodes of a, yes, fishing show, lounge singer/actor/sometime director/Jim Jarmusch regular John Lurie put together in the late 80s. It features Lurie an avid, if not clueless, fisherman taking his famous friends to various international locales for poorly advised fishing trips. I've only watched two episodes, but any TV show that features the director of Ghost Dog trying to catch a shark with a pistol and slab of cheese, as well as the voiceover "The fisherman awake full of sores and boners" is sure to be pretty amazing.

Tomorrow: The 400 Blows (5) & Fishing With John (42) cont.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

THE LADY VANISHES (3), I should never have stopped smoking, and Netflix screws me again.

My doctor, if I had enough money and/or medical insurance to be able to afford a member of the medical profession, told me that quitting smoking would help to bolster my sickly immune system and would, to some degree, make me more invincible to sickness. Well, my fake doctor is total fake quack because for the third, maybe fourth time, since I quit the old cancer sticks I'm sick. Oh, and I know I've bitched about this twice in four blogs, but again, I'm fucking sick. And not the quick sickness that swings in for a day or so and then blows away with the wind, this is a lingerer, a sore throat, clogged nose, headache-y mess of an illness that has, for better or worse, clouded me. So thanks a lot Fake Doctor, all you've done is deprived me of the sheer enjoyment of slowly killing myself for the last year and a half. Thanks a lot, I'm going to go blow my nose.

I bring up my smoking and my sickness and my general distaste for my snot-drowned life right now, because I've been trying to think of, well something to write about Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes for three or four hours now and I can only really remember two things about the film:
1. A lot of people smoked a lot of cigarettes in this movie. I can remember, having seen this film in the painful months just prior to my last cig, that I was literally salivating as character after character sparked their unfiltered Lucky Strikes. There were times, when clouds of cell-killing smoke filled the train cars that The Lady Vanishes calls home, that I stopped the film, crawled in to my bed with an entire pack of gum crammed in to my mouth and just rode out the shakey withdrawals.

2. This was the type of 1930s-Hitchcock that I find enjoyable but not nearly as enjoyable as his later work. The plots aren't as intricate, the characters are more cut-outs than anything else, and as a youngin' who grew up on more modern film, the pitfalls and obstacles the two main characters fight through seem, well, wussy. If you're in to Hitchcock, this of course is a must see, and it's not a bad movie, just a lesser piece in the master's ouevre.

Well, I would be telling you something about lounge singer John Laurie's television show, Fishing With John, but f'n Netflix sent me yet another disc that wasn't just scratched beyond recognition but was completely, and totally broken in half. The problem with this is now I have t report this to the Robotic Overlords of Netflix and oh yes, they'll nicely respond and send me another disc, but deep in their caverns their little gnomes will be marking up my record with another smearing blemish. It's not my fault Netflix! Don't stop sending me movies! Blame the postal service! Blame your brutish packing machines! This isn't my fault!

Sigh ... my Netflix credibility is already slipping ... I can feel it.

Monday: Amarcord (4)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The sickness has faded, but I'm sorry to say my opinion on Henry V hasn't changed. I sat through the second half of The Battle of Agincourt this afternoon and you know, it's just too damn jaunty a representation of war for me. I keep expecting that damn singing rooster from Disney's Robin Hood to pop out and sing a song about how evil them naasssssty Frenchies are. And finally, when Laurence "Lloyd Christmas" Olivier gets angry enough to put an end to this definitively namby-pamby fight scene, the movie doesn't end with hurrahs and flag raising. Oh no, it plods on for another thirty minutes as a showcase for the suddenly slimy King Hal and his grabby hands and kiddie-fiddler chuckle. Seriously though, in King Hal's final, er, romantic scene with Princess "Kate" I kept expecting him yell, "look a leper" and drop a big old ball of roofies in her watered-wine. Kind of creepy, one hundred percent boooooring.

I'd heard about Seven Samurai for most of my formative years in film watching. I'd heard about it's influence on the great directors, and I'd never seen anything by Kurosawa, and this was his great masterpiece. On top of that, I'd seen the amazing The Magnificent Seven and I couldn't wait to see the original SAMURAI version of it. You could say there was a lot of hype preceding this release.

And, Jesus, this film just blows the hype out of the water. This is one of the great classics, and you can just see the peeps at Criterion drooling over the chance to release it as their SECOND release. It's starkly beautiful, the acting is superb (and not just Japanese superstar Toshiro Mifune), there's an hour of samurai-bandit fisticuffs and most importantly, the message is absolutely touching. This is a movie about the end of an era, the end of a way of life, and in the deaths and the final images in this film, Kurosawa beautifully shows this. This is truly a classic, and really the first movie in this wonderful series that has me excited to be digging in.

Good God, I feel as if Henry V was my initiation in to the Criterion Quest. A hall of crossbow releasing traps and pitfalls that I had to, uh, not sleep through to gain entrance in to this beautiful blog. Well I did it disbelievers, so be prepared for more ... CRITERION QUEST.

Tomorrow: The Lady Vanishes (3) and maybe Fishing With John (43)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Well, I'm sick. Snotty nosed, head pounding, chaffed nostrils, barely-able-to-breath, goddamn sick. And let me tell you, being blindingly sick and trying to power through two and a half hours of Laurence Olivier's Henry V is not an easy endeavor.

In terms of war movies, I'll say this Olivier's Middle Age-version of blustery manliness is a far cry from the sweat, guns, and bloodshed of today's blustery manliness. Seemingly, manliness in the Middle Ages was defined by brightly colored tights, well-costumed horses, and the ability to stare remorsefully in to the early morning darkness as a narrator plods through another lengthy monologue.

Call me a modernist, but I like my war films full of heroic deeds, gory deaths, pitiful cowardice, and a villain with a twirly mustache and a penchant for kicking dogs. That's my kind of war movie, and I'm sorry if the metal-leggings and mud-pile war scenes just don't do it for me. I'm not done with the film yet, and you can blame some of my cynicism towards Olivier and his nancy-pants rendition of one of Big Will Shakespeare's more testosterone pumping productions on trying to view it through crippling sickness, but as of two hours, I'm not a fan.

There's been some argument on how exactly I should address the first forty films I've already watched. I've heard that perhaps I should just start over, watch all forty films again, but unless medical technology improves a lot more quickly, I'd like to be breathing of my own accord when I power through my last Criterion. Thus, for the first 40 days of this blog, there will always be a fairly short, fairly snappy mini-review of an older Criterion I've already watched.

Coincidentally, the two films today touched on similar themes. Grand Illusion was a film I was told by many, older, film folk was one of the greats. It took me three viewings, and several naps, to get through the film, but in the end I also, really enjoyed it. It's also about war, the First World War, but involves a prison escape (the only prison escape I've ever seen that relies almost entirely on, wait for it, flute playing)* and a more classist view of the military. Again, it's representation of war is an almost excessively mannered one, so don't come in to this thinking machine guns and trench warfare. Oh no, this is more cornish game hen or a snifter of cognac, if you get what I'm saying. Jean Gabin is pretty much just the essence of man, but I prefer his brand of sullen manliness applied to thriller-noirs like Rififi.

Thanks for reading!

Next up: the grim finish of Henry V (#41)/Seven Samurai (#2)

* Seriously this is why old movies are hilarious, because cool ways of doing things weren't really invented yet. So instead of having your main character, you know sweatily machine gun a handful of venom-spouting Krauts while saving the bosomy damsel and riding his trusted steed through the streets of Berlin (or something of that accord) the prison escape is based solely on, again sigh, flute playing. I'm not kidding, the whole crux of this amazing escape rests on some mean flute playing. The fact that I enjoy this movie has a lot to say about just how good it really is.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've been trying to knock out a fascinating exploration of my movie watching life for a half an hour now and have so far come up with nothing, so I'm starting the first post of this new blog endeavor like this: I'm obsessed with The Criterion Collection.

What may you ask is The Criterion Collection?

In their words:

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.

In my words:

These are the coolest movies being released, now or ever, in the most pristine quality, with the coolest extras, and the most amazing packages. These are films for film dorks packaged by, well, film dorks. Luckily, I'm a huge film dork.

The Criterion Collection is ever-growing, collection of films, past and present, that I've been scarily obsessed with since I first discovered them my freshman year of college. Over the course of the last eight years, I've spent (wasted?) countless hours not even watching these films, but thinking about watching these films, dreaming about collecting all of them, trolling about various video stores just to staring at their beautiful packaging. Do we even need to talk about the website and the evenings/mornings/afternoons I've spent poring over their "Sortable List", barely able to contain my excitement at what new films they were releasing in the coming months.

My love of The Criterion Collection and all things related to it certainly cross the border of Strangetown, and all of it came to a head two or so years ago, when I came to the decision that I was going to watch every single Criterion film. I wasn't going to skip the recent 15-hour version of Alexanderplatz they released, I wasn't going to jump past any of the bizarre silent features from the late 1920s - I was, starting with the first film in the series, Grand Illusion, come hell or high water, going to watch every single film they produced.

Ambitious is a weak descriptor of this plan. I thought to myself, "I can easily watch one movie every day for the next year and a half. I can get them from the library and for the next 460 days I can forgoe human contact and gorge myself at the trough of cinematic treasure. Lord knows how many films I actually made it through on this first go, but to say the least, life intruded in a major way. Suddenly their was a girlfriend (and let me tell you if I had a nickel for every time I got a look of disdain and vehement head shake over my choice for the evening movie, I could buy the whole damn collection in small, unmarked bills) and a job(s) and a social life and sweet, sweet beer, let alone the ever-growing number of other, non-Criterion films I wanted to see. One movie a day turned to one a movie every other day to one movie every week to, well, nothing.