Best Scenes

I was already preparing a list of alternative awards to post here. You know, best nude fight, worst nude fight (the winners seem obvious), the "who-knew-he-was-so-funny"-award (that would be for James Marsden), etc. However, seeing how I quickly ran out of inspiration and couldn't rival Jim Emerson anyway, I decided to list a few of my favorite scenes from this year instead. One award I think deserves giving out anyway: the "would love to see show up in any movie"-award. It goes to Garret Dillahunt, who gave very different but equally fascinating performances in No Country For Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and on the smaller screen in John from Cincinnati.

Now then: my favorite scenes, in no particular order.

  • Carla Jean's last stand - No Country for Old Me
    closely followed by: every other scene in which Chigurh interacts with other people. And every scene with Ed Tom bell talking. And any scene...you know what? The whole film is pitch-perfect. Just go see it, alright?
  • Goin' to Acapulco - I'm not There
    closely followed by every scene with the electrifying Cate Blanchett as the electric Bob Dylan
  • The awkward conversation leading up to the first kiss in Waitress
  • The scene with Adam Goldberg, his girlfriend's phone in one hand, a dictionary in the other, getting progressively more agitated, in 2 days in Paris
  • The bathhouse fight - Eastern Promises.
  • 'not many people have basements in California' - Zodiac
  • Jesse James in the fog, waiting for the train - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Closing ass-kicking - Death Proof
    closely followed by: "You saw my car, I saw your ... legs" & Stuntman Mike sniffing Rosario Dawson's feet.
  • Falling Slowly - Once
  • Sex under a Tree & The first sleep-over - Lady Chatterley
  • The mano-a-mano fight in Tangiers - The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Le Marais - Paris je t'aime (not my favorite, but the short that lingers most)
  • "They fucked with the wrong Mexican" - the best of the Grindhouse trailers
  • Making soup - Ratatouille
  • The champagne and the two glasses in the fridge - Michael Clayton
  • Jeff Daniels as the blind Lewis chatting up a waitress - The Lookout
  • Toby Kebbell making his bid to be the manager - Control
There really are so many more I could mention, and this is all before having seen There Will Be Blood, Sweeney Todd, Juno, Into the Wild, Away from Her, Inland Empire and others being mentioned for awards. This was a pretty great year for film, wasn't it?

So, what were your favorite scenes this year?


Lady Chatterley

Unfortunately, despite some wonderful shots and an great, layered and open performance at the center, Lady Chatterley (Ferran, 2006) is a messy, messy film. The film is fragmented, moved in strange bursts. An omniscient narrator suddenly comments in voice-over, saying about 4 lines, an hour into the movie, and only comes back once for a longer stretch of text. Near the end, a character suddenly read out a letter looking into the camera. None of it has any specific reason, and none of it makes sense.

Ah, but of course, for a film based on Lawrences book, it's not about the structure, the main question is: how are the sex scenes? And I have to admit, the sex scenes here are perfect, both erotic and providing insight into the characters and their evolution. Be warned: this is explicit, and much is shown both of the female and male anatomy, although the early sex scenes take place almost fully clothes (let's just say garters are convenient). But it never feels exploitative, and starts feeling almost natural.

However, then we come to the ending, and it's simply awful. The characters suddenly start communicating with words rather than actions, and their words couldn't be blander and unlikely. The gamekeeper especially is suddenly revealed to have a sensitive side. He suddenly confesses to be all angsty over being unlike other people, and his sudden "sharing", according to the idea there currently seems to be about the ideal man, is both entirely out of character and boring, almost negating all the good that came before.


The year in movies - pt.1: new oldies

I did a bit of statistics on the many, many movies I watched in 2007. As it turns out, and contrary to my expectations, I watched about the same amount of pre- and post-millenial movies: almost 80 films made before 2000, and almost 80 made in 2000 or later.

Of these films, the most popular decade were the 50s and 90s (with 17 movies each), closely followed by the 40s (15) and the 30's (13). But of course, it's not about the numbers, and in the above counts I did not make a distinction between films seen for the first time and old favorites. What were the biggest discoveries?

First of all, I saw three early (or at least earlier) Almodóvar films, two of them for the first time: Matador and Átame. I love his more mature work, but these early films are just so filled with film making fun that it makes me giddy just to think about them. The bright colors, the shoulder pads, the camp... I just love it, and I'm determined to explore his entire oeuvre.

Then, of course, the noirs. I can never thank my dad enough for giving me that DVD box. The titles it contains might not have been the biggest ones, but they show the full range of what you can do within the boundaries of the genre, a genre now even more firmly established as my favorite. I also watched "The Big Heat" and "Double Indemnity", two films deservedly considered to be among the best noirs ever made. I just love the cynicism, the photography, the wit; I love the crooks and the dames; I love the endings, too. I'm sure I'll often revisit D.O.A. and the Hitch-Hiker on rainy days, and I look forward to watching even more classics I missed. So if you're still looking for a birthday present...

Of course, 2007 was also the year I discovered Godard. I saw Masculin/Féminin, Bande à part & A bout de Souffle, and Alphaville is waiting in my DVD drawer. I'm still undecided on whether I really enjoy his films beyond just the intellectual thrill they give, but I understand now why he's so revered.

There's more, of course. I finally saw some eighties classics (Say Anything, Back to the Future 2&3, Fast Times at Ridgemont high), some western classics (including my first Montgomery Clift film, Red River), saw two classic Hitchcock films for the first time (Rear Window and Notorious), two by Ed Wood, watched four films by Antonioni (two of them for the first time) and grew to appreciate him even more, watched my first Bergman film, my first Malick... All in all, I think this year made me a more well-rounded film lover, expanded my knowledge and my taste. At the same time, it's made me realize that there's more to explore than I'll ever have time for, but why would I complain about having so many more films left to discover?

Next time: some awards. Suggestions still welcome.



This is such a well-made film in every detail. The cinematography is great, the acting ,even by those who are on screen for only minutes, is pitch-perfect, I loved the period details, and even the small character moments work. Despite the jumping structure, the film never feels episodic, and I was fully engrossed. And I liked the point Fincher made by having three different actors portraying the Zodiac killer: you might think you know something about who did it because you see the murders happening, but really, you can't even tell if it's the same guy.

So, a very well-made film. A great film? For that, I don't know if there's enough under the surface. Sure the film's about obsession, about making the viewer as obsessed as the characters are, but it doesn't really tell you anything about what would make someone more susceptible to obsession than another, about what it's really about.

I wonder what Fincher could do with a costume drama, a romantic comedy, a musical for all I care. It seem he's pretty much mastered this genre, and it would be interesting to see him go outside his comfort zone. It might make him loosen up a little. Benjamin Button is a start, and I'm curious what will come out.

Tell me what movies you like, and I'll tell you who you are...

My movie-lovers profile, courtesy of CJ Kennedy.

Your approach to movies is more intellectual than Glimmer’s. That’s not to say you don’t like to have your emotional buttons pushed in the right way, but you like to be able to get your mind around a movie as well as your heart.

You’re a cinema omnivore and your tastes are going to continue to expand as the years go by. You’ll voraciously move from genre to genre but you won’t be stuck with just one. Your non-movie friends already raise their eyebrows at some of the strange things you like, especially the things older than you are, but just wait until you’re waxing poetic about French cinema from the 30s or silent films or Japenese films from the 50s and 60s.

There’s a hint of pride in your taste. You’re probably looked upon as “the movie girl” in certain circles and you like playing that role, but you’re careful to tend the impression that your tastes are pretty refined.

Your tastes are pretty gender neutral though leaning towards masculine. I wouldn’t be surprised to find you spent many nights watching movies with your dad or perhaps an older brother when you were little.

Finally, you’re a Coen fan so clearly you’re operating on a higher level of movie appreciation than your average person :)

In short, you’re smart and cultured and you don’t care who knows it. You can also be a romantic sentimentalist as long as you don’t feel you’re being pandered to. Sometimes you maybe wish you could be less the former and more the latter, but you’d never sell out your intelligence.

Sound about right?

It's the end of the year...

Which means the time of short days, Christmas cards, and especially of year-end lists, the first of which have been rolling out. I'm planning my own little year end extravaganza: one post about statistics (how many films I saw, how many new how many old, how many for the first time, how many in the cinema etc.), one reviewing my most notable cinematic experiences of the year, maybe a top 5 or 10 of older films, and in any case a top 5 or 10 of 2007 releases.

The latter is tougher than it sounds, and not just because ranking your favorites is always hard. Quite a few good 2006 releases weren't released in the Netherlands until 2007. In order to be more or less comparable with American groups, however, I will make a top 5 of films released in America in 2007. This means for instance that Little Children will be out of consideration for the 2007 list, but Once, which is officially a 2006 movie, will be in the running since it wasn't released theatrically in the US until this year. Since I do want to give attention to some of those 2006 films, I'll also make a short side-list of 2006 releases seen this year (sounds confusing? Well, maybe it is...)

I might also do a couple of acting lists. Cinematography I'll skip: it wouldn't yield anything beyond raving about Roger Deakins anyway. I might even give out some weird awards, I'm not sure. We'll see. Suggestions for categories are welcome, in any case.

Anyhow, enough technical details. On to what I really want to talk about: which films do you think I still need to catch up on before making my final list? I'm not talking about big films that still need to be released, like Sweeney Todd. There's no press screening date for that as of yet, and I refuse to download it, as I think it's a movie that needs to be seen in theaters. I am talking more of releases from a few months ago that I might have missed. I'm already planning on watching Zodiac (it topped Jeffrey Wells' list and is mentioned on several others) and I'm considering whether I have the energy for Inland Empire. But what else should I check out? Half Nelson? Gone Baby Gone? In the Valley of Elah? Into the Wild? Let me know! And in case you're wondering what I have and have not seen, I kept a handy filmlog.

The Guardian also has a list, incidentally. Interestingly enough, in the top 8, most films are films they gave 4 or 5 stars in the original review... Except for the #2, which only got 2 stars at first. The film? Eastern Promises. Confirming that it's a film that - while it might not look all that interesting at first- grows on you as you think about it more.

Also: added to my DVD-collection as of Sinterklaas: Marie-Antoinette (Coppola, 2006), Brick (Johnson, 2005), La Luna (Bertolucci, 1979) & Tystnaden/The Silence (Bergman, 1963)