Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jason modifies his estimate of total minutes of movies watched

So you may notice since early this year I've been keeping track of all the minutes I spend watching movies. At the end of every post is a running time of the movie(s) I watched, and "My Total Minutes"

As I think I explained when I started doing this, My Total Minutes is based on an estimate of all the movies I've watched since 2005, when I started tracking all the movies I watch. At the time I estimated 90 minutes/feature length movie program (a low estimate for mainstream blockbusters, but fairly accurate for most film festival fare).

Well, in my spare minutes, I've also been going through my records and piecing together how many minutes of running time I've spent watching movies. This is actually a pretty tricky task. Many movies have multiple versions, and I don't always know or remember which version I saw. And it's only trickier since I started watching a lot of silent film. A lot of old obscure shorts don't have running times listed in IMDb, and a lot depend on the projector speed. Anyway, I've finally finished cataloging--to the best of my knowledge--the total minutes I spent watching 2009. 444 movies (also an upward estimate, because I remembered a few movies I forgot to count) and 43,295 minutes. That comes out to about 97.5 minutes/move (actually, 97.5112612612612...). So from now until I make my way through the movies I saw in 2008 (and possibly earlier), My Total Minutes is based on:
  • The total minutes of movies so far in 2010, plus
  • The total minutes of movies watched in 2009, plus
  • The total number of movies watched prior to 2009, times the average minutes/movie in 2009 (I may update this multiplier with the movies I watched in 2010 so far. For the record, it has been 96.9 minutes/movie so far this year).
Anyway, that brings my new (still estimated, but better estimated) grand total to 207,511 minutes. That's right, I just--rather unceremoniously--blew past 200,000 minutes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


And it was cool. Exhaustingly cool. Which I think means I'm old.

Honestly, I take take explode-y action movies, and I can take some pretty wild shit, but the last time I was so exhausted by sensory overload at a movie was AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS. But that time I knew what I should've done to make it tolerable--smoke a ton of pot. With SCOTT PILGRIM, I don't know how to make it less exhausting other than just being younger. Or just accepting I'll be exhausted and go with it.

Running Time: 112 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,728

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for August Comedy Shorts Night

And might have ended up on 60 Minutes sometimes this October.

You see, they're doing a piece on our local historian, David Kiehn and his work finding the real date of the film A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET (turns out it wasn't 1905, like the Library of Congress said, it was 1906. In fact, just 4 days before the earthquake). I won't get into what he did to discover and prove it. I'll wait for you to see it, and let you know when it will be as soon as I know. In any case, it's a pretty remarkable story, the camera crew was there filming the show last night, and as a special treat they played the A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET. I've seen it a few times before, and it's always remarkable to see everyone running across the street, and the one car that circles and comes in frame a half dozen times. Market Street was a pretty hectic thoroughfare back in 1906.

Anyway, on to the regularly scheduled films:
ONE A.M. (1916): Charlie Chaplin playing his drunk character. Remarkable as a one man show, as a drunk Chaplin comes home and wrestles with a rather surreal house that doesn't seem to want to let him sleep. Great showcase of his acrobatic antics.

ONE WEEK (1920): Buster Keaton in one of his best shorts. He and his new wife are given a house as a wedding gift. Trouble is, it comes as a kit, unbuilt. Bigger trouble, the man she turned down to marry Buster messes with the numbers on the kit and they end up with the craziest house ever.

Then a brief intermission, and back to the movies

SATURDAY AFTERNOON (1926): Harry Langdon, the mostly forgotten baby-face comic of pathos gets caught up in a little adventure with his work friend and a couple of fast women. All he needs to do now is avoid his wife.

WE FAW DOWN (19228): And finally, Laurel and Hardy are also hiding from their wives. Initially to go to a poker game, but eventually they get mixed up with a couple of women. Oh, and one of them has a champion boxer as a husband.

And that was last Saturday (wow, a week ago) in Niles.

Total Running Time: 115 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,616

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jason watches HITMAN at Bad Movie Night

More like SHITMAN, am I right?

Eh, it's not even worth it.

Running Time: 90 minutes (but felt much, much longer)
My Total Minutes: 193,501

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jason watches DESPICABLE ME

Hey, what the hell, it was starting right when THE EXPENDABLES ended, obviously the theater wanted me to sneak in and see it. And it pays to keep a pair of 3-D glasses in your pocket for just this situation.

So it's cheesy, very predictable, and doesn't need 3-D. But there's also a certain sense of charm to it. It's pretty obvious Gru isn't cut out to be a super-villain, and his scheme to steal the moon is about as cartoonish as you can get. And of course you know that when he adopts three little girls to help him steal a shrink ray from his rival, he's gonna fall for them and find being a parent is better than being a villain. But the cool parts come from the fact that the girls are actually every bit as cartoonishly evil as he is. The turning point comes in a scene at an amusement park where he blows up a rigged game to get the girls a stuffed unicorn. Cute, but the best part is when the girls get all excited and want to run off and blow up another game. This film is actually a not-very-subtle celebration of the fun of being evil. And I find that...charming.

Running Time: 95 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,411


That's a lot of action stars, and a lot of blowy-uppy stuff, but a surprisingly small-time plot. Stallone (who also directed, yikes!) leads a team called The Expendables, and is hired by Bruce Willis (after Schwarzenegger makes a cameo to turn down the job) to assassinate the ruler of a made-up Caribbean island that's run by the drug trade. Of course, there's a twist, there's a girl (actually, El Presidente's daughter), there's the real power behind the thrown, and there's a lot of blowy-uppy shit.

There's quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but for the most part everyone seems to be taking this pretty seriously (minor exceptions being Willis and Schwarzenegger, who seem to know how unseriously to take it, and the major exception being Jet Li, who still kicks ass even when he's kind of comic relief).

Mostly I felt a vague sense of nostalgia for 80's action flicks--not just for these kinds of movies (which honestly, I was never that hugely into), but for the kind of world where these movies seemed relevant.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,316


So I'm a little ashamed to admit that despite living right across the bay for 10 years and having a cousin who lives near there, this was my first time going to the Stanford Theatre. It's a really nice place, and in the middle of their current program I caught a Dorothy McGuire/Robert Young double feature.

In the first movie, CLAUDIA, Dorothy McGuire plays the title role of a flighty free-spirited very young newlywed (Robert Young plays her husband) who has just moved out to the country. She's kind of a ditz, and doesn't know the first thing about running a farm. She's got separation issues from her mother who still lives in the city. And she drives her husband crazy by flirting with an English (British English, no less) writer just to make him jealous. It's a fast paced, funny little movie with plenty of slick dialog. It's a bit stagy, not surprising given that it was adapted from a play (McGuire reprised her stage role for her film debut).

Next was a melodrama, THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE. McGuire uglies it up to play a homely girl who comes home and takes a job working in a honeymoon cottage that--depending on which local legend you believe--is either haunted by a witch or enchanted with the spirit of true love. Robert Young shows up with his fiancee, just before his commission comes up and he has to go fly in WWII. Over a year later, he comes back horribly scarred, and his disfigurement leads him to seek refuge in the cottage, hiding from his family and his fiancee, who screamed when she first saw him (incidentally, she quickly turns around and swears her love for him. I kinda felt sorry for her--she reacted with shock and as a result is left out in the cold alone). His only comfort comes from a blind piano player (who was likewise injured in battle) and, of course, Dorothy McGuire. Ultimately they decide to marry, although they both feel guilty thinking they're taking advantage of each other. And so, their love makes them beautiful to each other. As I said, a bit of an overwrought melodrama.

Total Running Time: 182 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,213

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a Laurel and Hardy afternoon

The monthly "Afternoon With The Boys," hosted by the Midnight Patrol tent of the Sons of the Desert--the official Laurel and Hardy Film Appreciation Society. Today's theme: vacation (vacating, abandoned homes, etc).

ANOTHER FINE MESS (1930): The boys take refuge from the law in a house whose owner is vacationing, and end up having to impersonate him and his servants (a few fast changes by Laurel) in this hilarious short.

THE FIRST ROUND-UP (1934): Our Gang goes camping, and Spanky proves he's big enough to go along.

Then a brief intermission, and we finished with two more shorts.

SCRAM! (1932): Laurel and Hardy are told to leave town by a judge. But they help a drunk find his car keys in the storm drain (drunk driving didn't seem to be much of a taboo back then) and he invites them to spend the night at his place. Too bad he's too soused to recognize his own house.

THREE MEN IN A TUB (1938): And finally, Our Gang in a rousing boat race, as Alfalfa competes for the affections of fair lady Darla.

And that was Sunday at Niles.

Oh, and since no one else is advertising it, there's a special screening courtesy of the Fremont Film Forum. THE LAST DEAL plays next Saturday, August 14 at 4:00 pm. I know nothing about this movie, and I won't actually be able to see it because I'll be going to a Quakes game. But at least I've informed you.

Total Running Time: 69 minutes
My Total Minutes: 193,031

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for ORCHIDS AND ERMINE

But first a couple of shorts:

FELIX TURNS THE TIDE (1922): That clever cat goes to war--against the rats. Slapstick surrealism ensues. What with balloons anchored to clouds, fighting sausages transmitted over the airwaves, and battlefields stacked with the dead, it's odd that what really struck me was the cats were marching with what looked like the Japanese flag (although a helpful audience member pointed out the flag of the time was the rising sun with the rays, not the solid circle). Still, I don't get it, but it was funny.

BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES (1924): Will Rogers teamed up with Hal Roach to make fun of other movies. Which works much better if you've seen what he's parodying, so I enjoyed about 75% of it. He mocks Valentino as a bullfighter in BLOOD AND SAND (which I haven't seen, so can't say if his mannerisms are correct, but the gags with the tame, restrained, fake-horned bull are hilarious). Then he mocks Douglas Fairbanks in ROBIN HOOD (which I have seen, and his extended "want to see some jumping?" gag is right on). I forget the third one, a weepy drama where Rogers creates real tears by reading a letter from Hal Roach cutting his pay in half. And finally, he ends it with a wicked send-up of Roach's top competition, Mack Sennet's KEYSTONE KOPS. Hilarious!

Then the intermission, and on to our feature:

ORCHIDS AND ERMINE (1927): Colleen Moore stars as a plain, simple girl who dreams of the good life with a rich husband (who provides her, among other things, with Orchids and Ermine). So she ditches her job and moves to New York, getting a switchboard job at the DeLuxe Hotel. Happens to be an oil millionaire is staying there with his valet. A bit of switched identity, a gold-digging competitor for the millionaire's affection, and some important lessons on love vs. money ensue. And, of course, it all works out in the end and it's sweet and funny along the way there.

And that was last night in Niles. Upcoming events: later today is the Laurel and Hardy matinee. Next weekend we have (besides our regular Saturday night show), a Sunday matinee of GUMBY DHARMA about the life of Art Clokey, creator of Gumby. And in two weeks, August 21, we have our monthly Comedy Shorts night, which is always special. But August 21 is extra special, for reasons that I'm not sure I can publish (Ooh! Mysterious!).

Total Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,962

Jason sneaks into THE OTHER GUYS

I want to make this very clear. I did not buy a ticket for THE OTHER GUYS. I saw INCEPTION, and it was playing in the screen next door right when INCEPTION ended, like the theater wanted me to see it for free.


I want my money back.

Running Time: 107 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,862

Addendum: I've decided I should explain more about exactly why this movie sucks. There's a concept in infant developmental psychology called "object permanence." It's the idea that objects continue to exist even if you can't see them. Babies aren't born with this--that's why peek-a-boo works as a game until they master object permanence (then, presumably, it's just a big person acting stupid, which is still funny). THE OTHER GUYS had scattered funny moments, but no object permanence. Or rather, no character permanence. The tough guy decides he likes the wussy assignment. The wuss becomes an excellent cop and cracks the case. The wuss has a tough guy back-story but nothing really comes of it. It's like when they're off-screen for a second, they can reappear as a completely different person. What I'm saying is, THE OTHER GUYS was written and directed with all the intelligence of a newborn.

Jason watches INCEPTION, again

This time not in IMAX. Which doesn't take much away from the movie, but IMAX is still freakin' awesome. And now I'm convinced I know what I believe in terms of what is dream and what is real. But I'm not saying, because just writing about it is boring--no back and forth. See it, find me, and talk about it in person.

Running Time: 148 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,755

Jason watches TOY STORY 3 in 3-D

Apparently when I was gone for a month the only movies in wide release that I had any interest in watching were animated kids movies (haven't seen DESPICABLE ME yet.) Anyway, this story of what happens to the toys when Andy grows up and goes to college was supposed to be excellent, and really it is. Pixar knows story, and they know how to tug the heartstrings, dammit. My only question, having imperfect memory of TOY STORY 2, was Buzz always in love with Jessie and vice-versa? Because I don't remember that, nor do I think it makes sense.

Oh yeah, and the 3-D really doesn't add anything. I think the one thing that IDIOCRACY got wrong is that ASS: THE MOVIE will be in 3-D. In fact, I'm pretty sure if ASS: 3-D was released today it could win at least one weekend at the box office (assuming no 3-D competition).

Oh, and to all the kids who looked for a review of a TOY STORY 3 and read stuff about're welcome.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,607

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Monday, August 2

Two movies, back in Palo Alto.

First, the short ESCAPE FROM SUBURBIA. Director Mayana Bonapart mixes interview with her dad with old home movie footage of her late uncle as a tribute to a man who decided to leave suburbia and travel the world while he still could. A nice bit of personal hero worship.

That led into the feature, TE EXTRAÑO, another fine drama in their Latino-Jewish lineup (along with ANITA and ILUSIONES OPTICAS, which I missed.) It takes place in 70's Argentina, a time when "disappearances" were common, and Jews were disproportionately targeted (whether that's anti-Semitism or just anti-Leftist and Jews were more likely to be leftists I'll leave you to debate.) Director Fabian Hofman tells a semi-autobiographical story of two brothers caught up int he politics of the time. Younger Javier idolizes his leftist activist brother Adrian. But when Adrian's actions get him into danger, the family sends him to live with relatives up in Mexico. Eventually he returns, to a drastically changed world and a broken family. I think you really need to know the history and politics of Argentina at the time, so I confess I was somewhat lost through a lot of the film, but the acting was solid.

And then I ended the night with BENA, a most unusual love triangle from Israel. The triangle is between widower Amos, his mentally ill son Yurik, and undocumented Thai immigrant Bena. Bena speaks no Hebrew, but some English, so Amos can speak to her. Yurik speaks no English, so Amos has to translate. And quickly their small apartment becomes a prison for both Bena and Yurik (parallels here between the marginalization of immigrants and the mentally ill). More excellent, nuanced performances (I know I saw only a little of the festival this year, but that seems to be a recurring theme).

Total Running Time: 189 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,504


And I was so ready to compare it to LE DINER DE CONS (aka THE DINNER GAME), the hilarious French movie on which it's based. But you know what, DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS is pretty funny itself, even knowing pretty much everything that will happen.

Running Time: 114
My Total Minutes: 192,315

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Sunday, August 1

Incidentally, did you know besides Jewfest North and Jewfest South, there's actually a Jewfest East. I tell you, the Bay Area isn't just full of film festivals, it's full of Jewish Film Festivals.

Of course, this is the oldest one, the original celebrating it's 30th birthday. And I missed the whole San Francisco week because of Holehead, but now I'm down in Palo Alto to catch at least a bit of it. 4 movies Sunday:

First up, a documentary about some truly inspiring people, MY SO-CALLED ENEMY. Young Palestinian and Israeli women attend a leadership conference in the U.S, and for 10 days spend time with the "other side" for the first time ever. It's not always pleasant--some are there because they want to see the other point of view, but some are there to air their grievances. And things just get more tense when a rocket attack on Israel is on the news while they're there. But afterwards, they're all friends of one sort or another, and the truly remarkable thing is how many of them keep in touch long afterwards. Much of this is shown through text messages, and director Lisa Gossels followed them for several years afterwards (or at least, that's the impression I got, I forget the exact time scale). Easily the most moving scene is an Israeli and Palestinian friend, visiting the containment wall and next to graffiti decrying the Jewish villains (they're on the Palestinian side), they write out Gandhi's quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Beautiful.

The documentaries kept coming with MY PERESTROIKA, a look at personal stories of the fall of the Soviet Union. History teachers tell stories of how they grew up patriotic, learned a bit more as they grew older, and now can teach with a candor that would've gotten them fired before. On the other hand, people remember happy childhoods giving way to horrible bread lines under Gorbachev. One guy is now a successful menswear merchant, one woman is a single mother who never realized growing up how poor she was. And this is the problem with the movie, it gives so much deference to individual stories that there's barely a point of view. I'm left not knowing if the fall of the Soviet Union was a good or bad thing (I mean, I know what I believe about it, I don't know what the filmmakers and subjects think about it). And it's not even a particularly interesting ambivalence, it's just a collection of life stories that aren't tied together into much of an overall story.

And documentary day continued still, with a pair of odd company movies, starting with THE WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD. Director Regev Contes follows his father Carol around as he, his brother, and his best friend try to run an insurance company. And they do run it--into the ground. A hilarious look at old fat men napping and eating marshmallow pies instead of actually signing up customers. If they weren't losing so much money, they'd just be three funny old guys laughing with each other. And really, they're much better at that than anything remotely related to business.

And another charming people lose at business story is told in BAABAA THE SHEEP SETS OUT TO BRING LOVE TO THE WORLD. Israeli craft artist Itamar (who grew up on a farm and was deeply moved by a night nursing a wounded sheep) makes adorably goofy sponge sheep and sells them at the bazaar. His sheep are very popular, and soon they're taking off, a company forms around investors hoping to take them global, he's mass-producing Baa Baa sheep and other merchandise in a Chinese factory, and everyone loves them. He's a celebrity on Israeli TV, and things are really looking up. Problem is, as enthusiastic as everyone speaks, no one at the major toy expos actually buys them for distribution. Soon there's a question of whether to even keep the company together, and Itamar is clearly over his head among businessmen who look at the bottom line instead of the cute sheep's soul. At times he's just painfully naive, but ultimately he's charming and sincere enough that you root for him even though you know how it will end.

And finally, not a documentary. Instead, ANITA is an Argentinian drama about a Ana Feldman, a Jewish girl with Down Syndrome living in Buenos Aires. She lives with her mother and her brother comes to visit frequently. She's helping out in her mom's store when her mom goes out to pick up a check from the local Jewish center. Sadly, a terrorist bomb rips through the neighborhood while she's gone, and soon Ana is on her own. She's ushered onto a bus to the hospital, but once she's checked and released she has no clue where to go. And so over several days, while her brother loses hope of finding her, she meets a varied cross-section of locals and touches their lives. A charming movie with an excellent performance by Alejandra Manzo as Anita (she, of course, has Down Syndrome herself and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance).

And that was last Sunday at Jewfest (North)

Total Running Time: 388 minutes
My Total Minutes: 192,201

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Jason watches INCEPTION

Or maybe I just dreamed that I did.

Of course, it's amazing. Please don't take my briefest of reviews as anything less than pure enthusiasm. I just don't care about being the thousandth person to write about it on the Internet.

You've heard all about it, so I'm not bothering to rehash the plot, or the philosophical questions, or whether Christopher Nolan's take on the dream-state is at all accurate. I wouldn't know, and that's besides the point anyway (besides, this might all be taking place in Cobb's dream, in which case accurate logic doesn't apply).

I will say that I really liked the idea of "shared dreaming." Isn't that sort of what movies are, anyway?

Oh, and IMAX is beautiful, of course. And this is the first movie in a long time that I have to see again. Not just "would like to," of "would be happy if the opportunity arose." I have to see it again. And given my busy schedule, that will be difficult, but I'll make it happen.

Running Time: 148 minutes
My Total Minutes: 191,813