Friday, November 28, 2014


This is not the climactic battle, not yet. It's the setup, which means a lot of politics, strategy, propaganda, hiding, double-crossing, and inspiration (both in speeches and actions.) But the big fight is clearly set up for the next movie. This movie is about recruitment, and everyone does a find job at that. And now I'll just wait for the fourth part of the trilogy to see the big fight.

Running Time: 123 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,679

Jason watches ROSEWATER

It's pretty hard to make a compelling story where the hero is trapped in a cell the whole time. I don't know why you would compound that by making the title a reference to an odor. Since Odorama never really took off, scent is one thing movies don't do well. So I have to give Jon Stewart an A+ for difficulty, and a gentlemen's B for execution. He relies heavily on a number of cliches, especially the prisoner talking to hallucinations of his father and sister. And emphasizing the hashtags in the green revolution protests is a little too slick (although it's interesting to think about this as the first historical event where I can say, "I remember when that was a trending topic!") But then there are moments that are beautiful. Like early on when Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) is walking along shop windows and seeing movies or people he remembers and loves from his youth. Or my favorite moment, when a guard slips up and reveals that his imprisonment is a global cause. That explosion of joy (yes, complete with hashtags) is the turning point of the movie. Jon Stewart clearly made this out of a sense of guilt over The Daily Show's role in Bahari's imprisonment (which is pretty silly) but he wisely de-emphasizes this without ignoring it entirely. In fact, Jon Stewart never appears on screen (which probably would've been annoying,) only Jason Jones, recreating the original field piece.

Ultimately, the earnestness of the movie is appropriate given the subject matter, but I don't know many people who would argue against the thesis that imprisoning journalists is wrong. Still, this movie makes it a compelling story, and reminds us that there are actually enough people who disagree with the thesis that it's still an important story to tell.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,555

Jason enter the Cinema Zone for some cheap blockbuster rip-offs

THE MAN WHO SAVES THE WORLD (aka TURKISH STAR WARS, 1982): I had always heard about the crazily permissive Turkish copyright laws, and how it results in bizarre movies that take a famous character and very little else (like the Turkish SPIDER-MAN, where Spider-Man is the villain.) Well, now I've finally seen one of them, and I can't unsee it. It steals a lot of actual footage from Star Wars, just spliced together out of order and without any of the main characters. Instead, you've got two guys running around in the desert fighting against some evil monsters...with the Indiana Jones theme playing the whole time. There were no subtitles, but I don't think it would have made any difference.

MAC AND ME (1988): By this time I was the only customer left, so it was a private screening for me, Mike Keegan (holy cow! It was Mike and Me!) and our lovely bartender Kae (thank you for the world tour of hot chocolate and liquor!) I knew about this movie only through Paul Rudd's running gag on Conan O'brien. After seeing the movie, I can tell you that Paul Rudd's running gag is the best thing about it. An E.T. ripoff financed by McDonald's and featuring the creepy alien hidden in a teddy bear dancing in a McDonald's. It also ends with the whole alien family becoming U.S. citizens, and I just can't believe that. Americans welcoming immigrants, that would never happen!

Total Running Time: 190 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,452


Michael Keaton is an aging actor who decades ago played a famous superhero in a blockbuster movie that ushered in a new era of big-budget blockbuster superhero movies that have just gotten bigger and more expensive since.

Excuse me, I meant Michael Keaton plays an aging actor...

And that's just the start of how the movie plays with the boundaries between reality and fantasy. Keaton plays Riggan, who is trying to make the move from Hollywood to Broadway by directing and starring in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." His Birdman character talks to him and he can move things with his mind. Or at least he's convinced he can. Edward Norton co-stars as Mike, a darling of the critics who can only "be real" (or, for that matter, tumescent) on stage. Zach Galifianakis stars as Riggan's best friend/producer and Emma Stone as his semi-estranged daughter. As the production is barely holding together, and previews are one disaster after another (including a streak around the block in his tighty-whities) reality and fantasy blur. Not just in Riggan's mind, but in the movie. The percussion soundtrack beating in his head will occasionally becomes a drummer jamming in the background. And the closing scene. Well, no spoilers but I'm still thinking about that scene. And what the jellyfish mean, for that matter. This movie might end up being navel-gazing pop psychology that thinks it's more clever than it really is, but for now it's a movie that deserves to be thought about, and maybe rewatched.

Running Time: 119 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,262


First things first. This is not really a movie about Stephen Hawking's work. There is a movie out about a lot of the physics he worked on, and it's called INTERSTELLAR.

Now, in the postscript of my INTERSTELLAR review I made a cheeky little comment about Prof. Hawking and Penthouse Magazine, and pondered if THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING might answer my question. I had no idea, but yes it does! (Spoiler Alert: his nurse helps him.)

Now the fact that the physics he worked on is something of an afterthought is probably good for the movie. It's about his disease, his wife, his family, and his survival. This story doesn't have to be about a physicist. It could be about...a writer, and it could still be great. Or it could be about a rock star, and be amazing. This one is about a physicist, and it's also great. In many moments it's pure melodrama, in the best sense of the word. But I think what I appreciated most is that it highlighted Hawking's sense of humor. Something that (despite his cameos on The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory) I've never really thought about. But I'm convinced that his sense of humor helped him survive. I love the moments where when he first gets his robot voice his first words are "Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer, do." Or when he's rolling around chasing his kids with the robot voice saying "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Or the whole Penthouse Magazine story with Kip Thorne. That stuffs hilarious.

And can I praise Eddie Redmayne enough? Probably not, but I'll try. He's amazing. You don't really think about the physicality of being motionless, but his physicality reminds me--and I'm not exaggerating--of Lon Chaney Sr. in some of his best non-monster roles. Like when he played a legless criminal in THE PENALTY. That's right, I'm comparing Eddie Redmayne to the original Man of 1,000 faces and I still don't think I've praised him enough. Of course, that's based on one role, so I'll be looking for great performances from here on out.

Running Time: 123 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,143

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Closing Night

And the festival ended with a bang, with WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL. A labor of love about the Catskills, the famous mountain resort area with luxury hotels and especially stand-up comedy. And especially especially, Jewish comedians. The documentary spends as little time as required to tell the history of the Catskills and tell a little bit about the environment, and leaves as much room as possible for the comedians. Jerry Lewis, Larry King, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Jerry Stiller, Mel Brooks, Buddy Hackett (and his son Sandy, also a stand-up comedian, who was there for the film and warmed up the audience before and continued entertaining the audience after.) And, of course, with so many comedians doing their best work (or at least, the best that was caught on video back in the day) you have a pretty amazingly funny movie, that fills packed despite it's rather crisp (75 minutes) running time.

After the show, Larry King appeared via Skype. It might seem he's an odd choice to represent a film about comedians, but he interviewed most of the comedians at some time in their lives and he's a very funny man himself (I still remember his story about getting an "honorary police chief" certificate and then getting stopped by a cop. After the cop told him what he could do with it the punchline was "I'm glad they didn't give me a plaque!")

And, as I already mentioned, Sandy Hackett was there and was hilarious. Director Ron Frank was there as well, and they all had a great conversation and Q&A session (I won't get into the story of the woman who had a long-standing crush on Larry King, but that was a hilarious and kinda awkward part of the evening.)

What a great way to end another fantastic festival.

Running Time: 75 minutes
My Total Minutes; 374,020

Jason goes to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for an all made-in-Niles show

To celebrate our 500th Saturday night show ever, we showed nothing but movies made in Niles. Which was a lot of fun, and also means I've seen a lot of these before, so I can reuse my reviews!

BRONCHO BILLY'S WILD RIDE (1914): Well, we might as well start with our patron saint at Niles. As is often the case in Broncho Billy films, he starts off as an outlaw but redeems himself. He makes a daring escape from the courthouse, jumping from the stand out the window onto a horse and away with the townsfolk chasing him. He could get away, but when he sees the judge's daughter on a runaway horse, he makes a daring move to rescue her. Well, in doing that he is caught once again, submits to the will of justice. But since he's a hero now, justice is pretty kind to him.

THE PROSPECTOR (1912): Arthur Mackley directed and starred in this, and to be honest I had trouble following what was going on. A mining claim, an attempted robbery, some gunplay. But I couldn't tell who was the good guy or the bad guy, or what anyone's motivation is.

THE CHAMPION (1915): One of five films Charlie Chaplin made in Niles. And while I've seen it in bits and pieces many, many times from playing it on the little TV in the museum gift shop, I'd never seen it on the big screen before and hence never reviewed it. Chaplin plays a boxer, first just looking for a gig as a sparring partner for a professional boxer. But when he sees everyone getting clobbered, he decides to go for the old horseshoe in the glove trick. And it well that soon he's facing the champ. Gilbert M. Anderson, out of his usual Broncho Billy role, has a featured cameo as a spectator at the fight (a favor Chaplin returned with a cameo in Anderson's HIS REGENERATION the same year.)

VERSUS SLEDGE HAMMERS (1915): Finally, one I have reviewed before. Most recently about a year ago. And in that one I quoted not one, but two previous reviews I wrote:

Here's what I said when I first saw it back in 2008:
Snakeville comedy also shot in Niles. Sophie has inherited a million dollars. The Count hears of it, and decides to seduce her and marry her for her money. But her sweetheart Pete, the local blacksmith, won't give her up without a fight. Who do you think will win, in this battle of pompous aristocracy versus sledge hammers?
And here's what I said when I saw it again in 2010:
A Niles Essanay production, and one of the few surviving Snakeville comedies. Margeret Joslin is Sophie Clutts, the only eligible woman in Snakeville, AZ, and sweetheart of Mustang Pete (real-life husband Harry Todd). Tall, svelte Victor Potel is a count visiting from out of town who has his eye on Sophie, and so the battle begins. Googly-eyed Ben Turpin plays the Count's valet, who does helpful stuff like light his hat on fire (I guess you had to be there).
Ha! I have nothing to add, other than to notice how my writing evolved over time.

Ha ha! I still have nothing to add!

BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2014): I have, of course, seen this many, many times in various stages of being finished-but-not-quite-finished. This is the second time I've seen it as a truly finished movie (in that the credits are complete enough to include my name as an online backer.) It's still fun. I know the movie by heart and I always enjoy it. Feel free to peruse for yourself all the previous times I wrote about it.

Total Running Time: 101 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,945

Jason watches Anything Goes at Broadway by the Bay

Like many classic musicals, this is one where I've heard all the songs, but never seen the actual story. So it's pretty cool to see the classics like "You're the Top," "Friendship," and, of course, "Anything Goes" in context. 

A boat trip across the Atlantic, with big business deals, romantic entanglements, and an escaped gangster who is public enemy #13 (played by my friend Ray, who relishes these hammy roles and is the funniest thing in the play.)

That was a lot of fun, and I'm sorry I didn't write anything about it earlier, because it's no longer playing in Redwood City where I saw it. But if you can get down to Monterrey this weekend, it's playing two more shows there!

Jason enters the Cinema Zone to see some kids in trouble

A couple of films a couple of Thursday's ago, and it was a weird one.

CARNIVAL MAGIC (1981) by famed sleaze-merchant Al Adamson, making a kid's movie for some reason. Markov "the" Magnificent (yes, that's what his sign says) is a true magician working in a two-bit carnival. And although he has a super-smart chimp named Alex, he's reluctant to put him in the show. Until...he does, and becomes the biggest star. And incites the wrath of carnival's previous star attraction. So...wacky hijinx ensue, in what is sure to be the only "kid's movie" (I put this in quotes because I'm not sure anyone involved has ever seen a child) with the line, "vivisection is such a dirty word."

LOST IN THE DESERT (aka DIRKIE, 1969): Director Jamie Uys (THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY) tortures his son. No, seriously, his son stars as Dirkie, a little boy with a lung condition who survives an airplane crash on the way to his uncle's ranch. And so he and his dog survive (barely) the dangers of the Kalahari, while he endures the tortures of the damned. I'm assuming Dirkie is still in therapy to this day, to get over what his own father did to him to make this movie. Anyway, it's actually a pretty damn good movie, worth torturing your son for.

Total Running Time: 167 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,844

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Wednesday, Nov 12

A PLACE IN HEAVEN is a story that spans the early days of Israel all the way up to today. When an old general passes away, his estranged, ultra-orthodox son travels to talk to a rabbi who knew him way back when. It turns out when the general was a heroic soldier, the young cook who would become a rabbi idolized him. He thought such heroism guaranteed the soldier an anointed place in heaven. The soldier isn't religious, so he offers to sell him his place. They write up a contract to make it nice and legal--a place in heaven in exchange for his favorite food, every day for a month. The breadth of the story is told through the flashbacks of both the rabbi and the son. And the general's life is as tumultuous and morally complex as the history of Israel. And his career advancements take their toll on his family life. And by the end you wonder if he has any place in heaven left, while the rabbi certainly has his own. It's an interesting way to look back at a life, both the life of the general and the life of the nation.

Running Time: 118 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,677

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Monday, Nov 10

THE WONDERS is a strange little Jerusalem mystery about religion and cartoons. Okay, it's not really about cartoons, it's just one of the heroes is a slacker cartoonist whose creations come to life for a few seconds, in an amusing running special effect. That would be Arnav, who is drawn into an intrigue involving a famous messianic rabbi who is being held captive in an abandoned apartment near him. A hard-boiled detective ripped right out of film noir is involved, as is a beautiful redhead (who turns out to be the rabbi's sister. The plot twists and turns over the question of whether the imprisoned rabbi is a good guy or a bad guy. Is he truly a prophet? Is he a con-man who is bilking his followers out of millions? And who is keeping him there, and why? Unfortunately, I was far more keyed in on the cartoons coming to life, and kept waiting for it to turn into something more like WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT so I didn't really pay close enough attention to the main plot. So this might be one that I'd enjoy a lot more on a second viewing.

Running Time: 112 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,559

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Sunday, Nov 9

I'm falling behind on my blog again. Anyway, a week ago Sunday was a musical night at the Camera 12!

First up was the long-ish short, THE LADY IN ROOM 6: MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE, the winner for best documentary short at the last Oscars. Alice Herz Sommer is was 109 years old at the time of the movie (she passed away last February at 110.) She was a Holocaust survivor and pianist who played the piano every day in her London flat. She speaks about a love for life and music, and how her music kept her going through the Holocaust.

That was paired with THE RETURN OF THE VIOLIN, a documentary about...well a violin, but a whole lot more. We start with a beautiful 1713 Stradivarius. Then we put it in the hands of a Polish Jew and musical prodigy Bronislaw Huberman. Then bring on the Holocaust. And watch Huberman save as many Jewish musicians as possible by forming the Palestine Orchestra, which later becomes the Israel Philharmonic. Now have that violin stolen from a New York hotel. And years later have it bought at auction by prodigy Joshua Bell, who returns to Israel and plays it once again with the Israel Philharmonic. Now frame that whole story in the recollections of Holocaust survivor, successful businessman, and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat. What you have is a loving portrait of survival, and the beauty of the continuity that great musical tradition brings.

Then for the next show, we moved on from classical music and the Holocaust to pop music and modern Israel. CUPCAKES is a piece of light-hearted fun from Eytan Fox (THE BUBBLE, YOSSI & JAGGER.) A group of Israeli best friends gather to watch the UniverSong contest, where Israel is a heavy underdog. And for good reason, the goofball, overproduced pop song is just...awful. So to cheer themselves up--and especially for a friend whose husband just left her--they improvise their own song on the spot. And they record it. And next thing you know it's a sensation and their representing Israel in the next UniverSong. Highly unlikely, and leading to scandals private, public, political, and hilarious (I couldn't think of another p word.) After a few hiccups with the local organizing committee that wants to turn them into another cheesy, overproduced, ridiculously costumed novelty act, they decide to go it alone with their simple, heartfelt song. And it's pretty funny and charming.

Total Running Time:193 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,447

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jason goes to Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutante

There are only 654 3 shows left (and one is tonight!) in the Thrillpeddler's bloodiest and best Shocktoberfest yet. And they do tend to sell out have all sold out, so you know, you've been warned. (Although it's always possible for a very few people to show up and be let in if someone who bought tickets in advance shows up.)

Dammit, I need to get better at writing up these reviews faster. On the other hand, they sold out all their shows so it doesn't seem like they need my help. Anyway, on to the show.

The Taxidermist's Revenge: I originally saw this back in 2006 and their Laboratory of Hallucinations Shocktoberfest. A taxidermist who feels his art is unappreciated invites a few high-ranking members of the art elite over for dinner. But first he has to hire a good chemist to assist him with the preparations.

The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether: An original Grand Guignol classic from 1903, based on a Poe story and adapted by Paulo Biscaia Filho (of Vigor Mortis, the Thrillpeddlers' Brazilian friends and colleagues, as well as crowd favorites at Another Hole in the Head. I should take a moment to plug Holehead, it's coming up!) Anyway where was I? Sometimes I feel as if the inmates have taken over the asylum. Oops! Spoiler alert!

Then a brief intermission, where I enjoyed a refreshing beverage.

The Bloody Debutante: The title piece and the highlight of the show. A musical piece of gratuitous gore and debauchery, about a debutante...dressed in Yves Saint Laurent. Her date was a jerk, so she went berserk. The bloooody debutaaaaante! Yeah, she gets gruesome, perverse revenge on a jerk who spilled wine on her dress and then made a period joke about it.

Death Write: And finally, the show was capped off by this humorous two-person scene about writers who argue over credit for their latest work, with escalating deadliness. Hilarious, and of course like all Shocktoberfests it's capped with lights-out terrors!

An awesome night and an awesome show. I say this every time, but I really can't wait to see what the Thrillpeddlers create next.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jason watches NIGHTCRAWLER

Wow...that made me feel kinda a good way (but not that good, dirty, way, you pervert!)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, perhaps the most believably evil villain to ever be portrayed so sympathetically. In the opening scene, when he's committing some petty theft of scrap metal, he first tries to talk his way out with a sociopath's charm, and then just attacks the rent-a-cop and steals his watch.

Lou Bloom (which sounds appropriately close to "low blow") is a creature of L.A. darkness, a man with little formal training but a quick learner who knows if you search hard enough you can find anything (especially on the Internet.) And he's a very curious man, and one looking for stable work. In fact, he's so desperate for work he asks the junkyard operator if he'd take on an intern--the flat reply is "I'm not hiring a fucking thief."

Fortune smiles on Lou when he stops at a horrific car crash, and sees a freelance video crew  (run by Bill Paxton's Jo Loder) film the carnage. Lou is interested in that work, and so when Loder refuses him, he hocks his bike (which I assume isn't actually his) and buys a camcorder and a police scanner. And he's off and running. Soon he has an exclusive deal with the lowest rated morning news show in L.A., and an awkward attempt at romancing the manager Nina Romina (Rene Russo.) He also hires an assistant Rick (Riz Ahmend,) mostly to navigate while he drives, but their working relationships becomes key to understanding Lou's mind. And then he starts manipulating the news. In kinda creepy ways. It's bad enough when he rearranges a corpse to get a better framing with the L.A. skyline in the background, but things get very dark and very creepy by the end.

Jake Gyllenhaal is always an interesting actor, and he's at the top of his game and possibly around the bend in this one. He anchors a fantastically bloody and cynical story of media exploitation and the American dream.

Running Time: 117
My Total Minutes: 373,254


I saw this last Saturday, and there are many things I liked about it--the visuals, the science, the big ideas, the science, the seeming paradox (that isn't really a paradox--more on that later,) the science, the fact that scientists are shown as normal people with families and emotional attachments instead of only bookish nerds, the science... And there were some things I didn't--the treacle, basically. I was prepared to credit Kip Thorne* with most of what I loved and pass off to Christopher Nolan (or perhaps studio meddling) the things I didn't like.

And then, over this weekend, a funny thing happened. INTERSTELLAR became one of the most polarizing films of the year. Fueled, at least in part, by lazy listicles by people who apparently saw a different movie than I did.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Film criticism is an inherently fraudulent pursuit. Fraudulent because it's based on the premise that the critic is smarter than the film--and that is practically never true. And it has ever been further from true than with INTERSTELLAR.

Whatever problems I had with INTERSTELLAR are dwarfed by the disgust I feel for these lazy listicles, and so what was originally going to be a so-so review of a movie that I liked a lot but felt drifted off the rails more than once will instead be a point-by-point defense against just one of these--the Vulture article linked above. First an obligatory warning:

  1. The film has beer drinking despite wheat having been obliterated by blight. First of all, is this really your first gripe about the movie? Or are you softening us up by picking a trivial point and building up to more important points later. In any case, beer can, in fact, be made from corn.
  2. There's no army. Okay, I'm not above criticizing a movie for implausible world-making. But it was well explained in the movie that after a period of war the survivors have settled in to devote their resources to farming. A point underscored by Cooper's chase of a drone aircraft so that he can re-use its brain in a combine harvester. In fact, Cooper and Professor Brand have a conversation about how the corn crop is the highest it's ever been. There actually is enough food--for the moment. Those in the know just happen to know the blight will eventually get to it. This isn't a complaint about the world-building in the movie, but about the movie's view of human nature. It's akin to complaining about THE DARK KNIGHT because in reality the hostages on the boat would blow each other up. You can believe that, but Chris Nolan doesn't--he has through his movies had a complex but ultimately optimistic view of human nature.
  3. The government funds NASA in secret even thought they're the only hope for survival. Well, the ordinary people don't know that. In fact, they're explicitly taught to not waste massive resources on things other than farming. So much so that textbooks are rewritten to claim that the moon landings were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union with wasteful space exploration. I don't know, maybe in this fictional world the government was taken over by anti-science nutjobs and that was part of the problem. Perhaps that's unrealistic, but once again this isn't a complaint about the movie, it's a complaint about a view of human nature.
  4. The source of government funds (for NASA) isn't sufficiently explained. I don't know, maybe it's...taxes? Perhaps people in this future dystopia complain about the government collecting taxes without ever seeing the benefit. Okay, that's clearly unrealistic, maybe the Vulture writers have a point.
  5. NASA only sends people with no family connections. Sure, on the first trips. But they're more desperate now.
  6. At the end, Cooper awakens on a Dyson sphere space station orbiting Saturn, why didn't they just build that in space instead of the whole wormhole mission? Well, if you were paying attention to the movie you'd realize that finding a habitable planet is just one plan (in particular, the genetic seeding of Plan B.) The "move everyone off Earth" plan wouldn't work unless Professor Brand (and eventually Murph) "solves" gravity, which Professor Brand never thought would happen. It simply takes to much energy to escape Earth's gravity through conventional methods--to move more weight, you need more fuel, which also increases the weight (rocket fuel is an insane amount of the launch weight of a rocket.) This is the so-called tyranny of the rocket equation. Manipulating gravity solves that.
  7. Dr. Mann's motivations are unexplained. Actually, they're pretty explicitly explained, but the Vulture writers weren't paying attention. I'll grant a little space-madness to Mann, but his motives are at least internally consistent. Remember that emotional fight between Cooper and Brand over which planet to visit second? Remember how she made a big point that they don't have enough fuel to visit both planets and return to Earth, so if he guessed wrong, he'd have to make the difficult decision between finishing the mission or seeing the daughter he left behind? Well, when they awake Dr. Mann and he says the planet is hospitable on the surface, that gives Cooper hope that he will return and see his daughter. But Mann was lying, he just kept the beacon on because he was incredibly lonely. So he knew that the only choice now was to go to the third planet and complete the genetic seeding Plan B. And he viewed Cooper--who wants to return to his daughter--as a threat to that mission. Rather than try to talk Cooper into going to the third planet, he just tried to eliminate him (that's the space madness part, IMO.)
  8. Elderly Murphy chases her young father out of her room after just a few minutes. Yeah, that actually kind of bugged me, too. I can see it as underscoring that she has made peace with her father, but I don't think he had made peace with leaving her. I would've preferred he stayed by her bedside, soaking in whatever time she has left, held her hand as she passed away, and then ventured out to meet Brand on planet 3.
  9. Why did Cooper in the black hole/tesseract spell out "Stay" to Murph? He wanted himself to stay. He was acting on emotion here, thinking it would be better to have stayed on Earth and died with his daughter rather than go through what happened. But his past self didn't act on that message, which is good, because if he had then he wouldn't be there to send the message--hence avoiding a paradox (Note: I'm jumping ahead here.)
  10. The secret to quantum gravity can be encoded in Morse code. Okay, that's a stretch, I'll grant. I would've used binary again.
  11. The Morse code is sent via ticks on the second hand of a wristwatch. Well, it was patiently explained that the only thing that can escape a black hole is gravity. No e-mail, no carrier pigeons, no carefully scrawled have to encode the data into gravitational anomalies. Remember, this has to be a message from inside a black hole because it's observations on the quantum gravity of the singularity. And it has to be something that near-future humans (or at least Murph) can understand. So maybe just sucking her up into a tesseract would be a little too mind-blowing.
  12. The schools teach that the moon landing was faked. I addressed that above. You might not like it, but it's a self-consistent world. The ordinary people focus on farming, the hidden elites focus on space. I know it's unrealistic to imagine a world where "grow more corn" is more politically popular than "explore space" but that's the world Nolan created. Deal with it.
  13. Textbook companies exist, even though the New York Yankees are a small barnstorming club. I'm not even sure what the point is here. There are still schools, there is semblance of normal life (just corn-heavy and plagued by dust storms.) Why wouldn't there be textbook companies? I don't even get what this complaint is supposed to be.
  14. Who would have piloted the ship if Cooper hadn't shown up? Well, they explained that the other pilots had trained on simulators. Cooper was a better candidate because he had flown for real before. I'm beginning to think the Vulture writers were too busy jerking themselves off about how much smarter they are than INTERSTELLAR to actually watch the fucking movie.
  15. Michael Caine's character doesn't visibly age. WTF? Yes he does, you nitwits. Unless you think everyone over 60 looks the same age.
  16. Anne Hathaway's character is left to raise hundreds of babies alone? Dammit, watch the fucking movie! It's explained that a small group will be raised first, then they help raise the others and build the colony. Did you think she would grow them all at the same time?
  17. Cooper hijacks a spaceship easily near the end. Whatever, I'll give you that one.
  18. Child Murph doesn't look enough like adult Murph. Casting choices are not plot holes, goddammit! And sometimes people look different as a child then they do as an adult. I'm convinced this would not be a complaint if the writers weren't dead set on finding fault with everything in this movie.
  19. Adult Tom sounds different from teenage Tom (and in the wrong way.) Another casting choice being foisted off as a plot hole. People's voices change, especially if they're breathing dust for years.
  20. Topher Grace exists. Are you kidding me?! Three casting complaints in a row! Why not combine them into one point and just say you disagreed with the casting? (Because then you'd only be 19 things smarter than INTERSTELLAR, not 21.) And you're complaining because Topher Grace is recognizable? So is Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck. Hey, that's 7 more points. You could've complained about them and made a listicle of 28 things wrong with INTERSTELLAR. (I apologize to any "name" actors I might have overlooked.)
  21. How did the future humans get saved if they're the ones who engineered Cooper saving humanity? They were saved by Cooper, duh! This is probably the most infuriating (and interesting) complaint about INTERSTELLAR, that there's allegedly a time travel paradox. In fact there isn't. There would be a paradox if the events of the movie didn't happen. To use the chicken and egg metaphor, "chicken travels back in time and lays egg that hatches and becomes that chicken" is entirely self-consistent (if kinda trippy.) The paradox would be "chicken hatches, then doesn't travel back through time and lay the egg from which it hatches, and therefore never hatches." This is the realm of philosophers and theoretical physicists, but the answer isn't, as the Vulture writers so eloquently suggest, "love and wormholes and love and Dylan Thomas" but rather the more mundane "it is entirely self-consistent." Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's a paradox. 
And I'd also like to address a couple of other points that I've seen brought up elsewhere but are inexplicably missing from Vulture's list.

First, the narrative convenience that NASA was just a day's drive away from Cooper's farm in Kansas. Well, that's not necessarily true. This is Chris Nolan we're talking about, and even when he isn't explicitly fucking with our perceptions of time (as he has done through his entire career) he often disregards time in his editing. Batman didn't crawl out of a hole in the desert and appear in Gotham minutes later, although it can appear that way in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES because of Nolan's editing. But even given that and imposing a 1 day limit on that drive, Kansas is in the middle of the country and with no traffic, and minimal stops for refueling you can get practically anywhere in the contiguous United States within 1 day. You can even get to the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA in less than 24 hours (assuming no traffic.) Even faster if you speed.

Second, wouldn't Dr. Brand have aged while Cooper was in Gargantua, and be an old woman by the time he saw her again. Well, maybe. But she spent some time in that time-dilating gravity well of Gargantua, so she wouldn't have aged as much as the people on Earth. It's never specified how much time passed for her, but I like to think she aged just enough so she's of an appropriate age for him when they meet again.

I'd like to reiterate that I don't think INTERSTELLAR is a perfect movie. There are legitimate gripes. I'm kind of fond of Richard von Busack's brief review where he criticizes things such as pacing and casting (things a film critic is qualified to talk about) without trying to prove he's smarter than the movie. I searched a bit (not extensively,) but I couldn't find a negative review I liked more than that one. And I read enough maddeningly off-point negative reviews that it inspired me to write a positive review just to avoid being lumped in with the INTERSTELLAR critics.

I have a theory about the INTERSTELLAR hate. I think it's a movie that proudly displays that it is very, very, very smart. In fact, it is very likely smarter than you. And people take that as an affront and a challenge. So they write reviews (or lazy listicles) trying to prove that they are, in fact, smarter than INTERSTELLAR. But they're wrong, and in a vain effort to try to prove they're smart, they show how stupid they really are. I know I'm not smarter than INTERSTELLAR.

Running Time: 169 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,137

*Dr. Kip Thorne was a professor at Caltech when I was there, but I never took a class from him. I knew him by reputation for two things--first, being a world-leading researcher on black holes, and second having a series of bets with Dr. Stephen Hawking over whether various astronomical observations would turn out to be black holes or not. Now, this might be an apocryphal story spread by college students, but the stake of these bets were always the same--the loser had to buy the winner a 1-year subscription to Penthouse magazine. Which, of course, raises the question of how exactly Dr. Hawking would...ummm...'make use' of Penthouse magazine. Would his nurse assist? Is there some device on his techno-chair just for that purpose? I remember one night in the Ricketts Hovse lounge brainstorming ideas for that. Perhaps THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING will answer this important question.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jason goes to Midnites for Maniacs and gets a double bill of Cassavetes

First the junior Casavettes, Nick, John's son, with his melodrama THE NOTEBOOK (2004): This has become the go-to movie to hate to prove you're too cool for melodramas. Well...I won't argue with that, if you're too cool for melodramas then don't watch this movie. I wouldn't say that I'm a great fan of melodramas, but I am a great fan of Midnites for Maniacs and it's mission to take a serious look at overlooked or poorly regarded films. Melodramas make you feel things--sometimes things you don't really want to feel. Sometimes it's easier for the heart to harden and to just navigate life without feeling much. Melodramas break that. And this one, in particular, is very effective.

Damn, I just reviewed it without telling you anything about it. Well, it's ten years old, easy to find, and has been written about extensively. Its IMDb page has a good synopsis. Read that if you care.

And then the legendary John Casavettes with MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ (1971): So I guess in introduction I should point out that Gena Rowlands--John's partner and Nick's mother--plays the aging version of the female lead (oops! spoiler alert!) in THE NOTEBOOK. And she plays Minnie Moore in MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ, opposite Seymour Cassel's walrus-mustached Seymour Moskowitz. In his introduction, Jesse primed us to think of THE NOTEBOOK as a remake of MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ, and both of those movies as the story of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands. Well, I can see that, but they're very different takes on the story. While THE NOTEBOOK presents a very, very romantic, graceful version (although full of fighting, heartache, and pain,) MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ is many things, but nobody would accuse it of being graceful. In fact, it's kind of a subversion of the romantic comedy genre, hitting all the plot points--mismatched personalities challenge each other, they fall in love, there are bumps on the road, but ultimately love conquers all. But while the typical melodrama tugs at the heartstrings, MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ--with it's hysterical yelling and crazy behavior--slaps you in the face instead. And just maybe a slap in the face is a better way to find love than the tugging of heartstrings.

Total Running Time: 237 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,968

Jason enters the Cinema Zone for some 80s Boner Comedies

Tee hee, boners!

THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982): First up was this painfully sincere while also very funny remake of director Boaz Davidson's Israeli teen boner comedy classic LEMON POPSICLE (1978.) The Israeli version--based somewhat on Davidson's own experiences growing up--spawned (pun intended) eight sequels, while the American version, released between PORKY'S and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH had none, and is largely forgotten. But I'd put THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN up against any of them for comedy, and light-years ahead for sincerity, pathos, drama, controversy (minor spoiler, but there's an unintended pregnancy that is dealt with) and the absolute misery that it is to be a raging mound of teenage hormones.

FAST FOOD (1989): And then there was this...whatever it was. A PG-13 not-very-funny comedy starring Traci Lords and Jim Varney in one of his rare non-Ernest roles. Jim is arguably the best thing about the movie. That needs to be repeated...Jim Varney...not playing the role of the best thing about this movie. And you would think in a movie about a gas station turned burger joint with a secret sauce made from a potion that turns people uncontrollably horny would have something better going for it. Maybe if it wasn't PG-13.

Total Running Time: 184 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,731

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Wednesday Nov. 5

This time I got there just in time, so no time to have a few beers and fall asleep. In fact, I ran, Jason, ran to see RUN BOY RUN at the Camera 7. Were it not based on a true story, this movie would be too unbelievable. Nine year old Srulik, a Polish Jew, runs from the Nazis and lives for weeks at a time with a series of kind farmers under the assumed name of Jurek Staniak. He rarely stays for more than a few weeks or months--either neighbors turn him in as a Jew (to get the reward) or the Germans start sniffing around anyway (his explanation that an infection and amputation is the reason he's circumcised never seems to work.) On more than one occasion people call Srulik/Jurek the bravest person they've ever met, and through the entire thrilling, sometimes harrowing movie, it's hard to argue. And a coda at the end with the grown up real-life Srulik is pretty wonderful.

Running Time: 107 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,547

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Monday Nov. 3

Just one movie last Monday, I was down at the Camera 7 for the French FOR A WOMAN based loosely on director Diane Kurys' family history.

But first...I got there a little early, so I had dinner and a couple of beers at Rock Bottom brewery. Then I struggled to follow/stay awake for the movie. I could tell it jumped back and forth from the 80s to the immediate post-war period, and it featured the return of a long lost brother who was thought to have died in the war. And then I got kinda lost. So maybe I shouldn't even count it as a movie I have seen, but a friend whose opinion I trust--and who was sober and well rested through the movie--assured me that he was also confused and I didn't miss much. So...I guess that's that.

Running Time: 110 Minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,440

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Sunday, Nov 2

Three more movies last Sunday (hey, I'm only a week behind now!)

First up was a special free screening (Although as a pass holder, all screenings are free to me) of BRAVE MISS WORLD, a kinda brutal but kinda strangely uplifting documentary about Linor Abargil, Miss Israel of 1998 who went on to win the Miss World pageant. But what very few people knew at the time was she had been raped by her business manager just a couple months before. It took her a decade to be able to talk about it (other than at the trial.) And when she did, she became a powerful activist (that's the uplifting part.) The movie features her work around the world (most memorably South Africa, known as the rape capital of the world) and interviews from several rape survivors, including Fran Drescher and Joan Collins. It's a very powerful movie, sad and sobering while also giving the audience a compelling hero doing great work.

Well, after that I needed something fun, so I caught HUNTING ELEPHANTS, an Israeli bank heist comedy that I missed when it played at Cinequest. Jonathon's father is the head of security at a bank, but when the security system traps him inside during a heart attack, Jonathon can only watch as he dies. And because Jonathon wasn't supposed to be there, he doesn't even get the death benefits from the bank. So Jonathon's mother starts dating the bank manager (Moshe Ivgy, arguably the greatest actor in Israeli history, taking a more lighthearted role than usual.) And Jonathon spends more time in the care of his crotchety grandfather, a veteran freedom-fighter. And then none other than Patrick Stewart shows up (his introduction is pretty fantastic) as an aging actor and alleged heir to a fortune who is actually (SPOILER!) flat broke (END SPOILER.) Anyway, wacky hijinx ensue, and it's all inevitably leading to the gag of a 12 year old and a trio of geriatrics trying to rob a bank. And I won't bother telling you whether or not they succeed, you'll just have to find it yourself and watch it.

And finally, UNDER THE SAME SUN is a story of two businessmen trying to cross the Israel-Palestinian divide. Set in the near future, the two businessmen come up with an idea to install solar power in the Palestinian territories, freeing them from the Israeli power grid. But knowing the stigma against working with the other side, they both do most of their work in as much secret as possible. But when news gets out, things go to hell. It's an interesting look at the difficulty of people trying to cooperate across nearly impossible divides.

Total Running Time: 285 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,330

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Saturday, Nov. 1

Last Saturday was f*cked up family night at the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.

First up was IT HAPPENED IN SAINT-TROPEZ, a very French romantic comedy about marriage, death, lust, and sibling rivalry. Zef and Roni are brothers, Zef a religious Jew and a classical musician. Roni a secular jewelry magnate. They don't get along. In fact, Zef isn't even really planning to visit for Roni's daughter's wedding. But when Zef's wife is suddenly struck by a car and dies, they end up having a dual wedding/shiva (after all, you couldn't expect the entire family to drop the wedding and come to New York for a funeral.) Travelling there, Zef's daughter meets a very handsome man on the train, and even kisses him. Which is so unlike her, it's usually her cousin (the bride to be) that is so impulsive. Well...things get zanily awkward when it turns out that handsome man happens to be her cousin's groom (although he doesn't see her there, she's hidden in the back room playing music over her mother's coffin.)

Anyway, this is becoming way too much of just a plot synopsis. That was all just the setup. They haven't even gotten to Saint-Tropez yet. It's a pretty funny story that at times threatens to tear the family apart (although they were pretty separated to start out) but ultimately the friendship of the two cousins brings everything together.

And then there was BLUMENTHAL. The late playwright Harold Blumenthal (Brian Cox) dominates this movie from beyond the grave via televised interviews. His brother Saul (Mark Blum) hated the guy, but nonetheless is blocked up over it--literally, he hasn't defecated in days. Meanwhile Saul's wife Cheryl (Laila Robins) is having her own crisis about being an aging actress. And Saul and Cheryl's son Ethan (writer-director Seth Fisher) is probably the most messed-up one, an overblown neurotic relationship-sabotager. The elephant in the room is that Harold's plays were not-too-secretly based on his family's life, and they're not to happy about being reduced to Jewish-American kitsch. Which is actually a criticism that could be leveled against the movie, but reconciling that criticism is also kind of the point of the movie. If Woody Allen made the popular Jewish-American stereotype one of a neurotic New Yorker, then BLUMENTHAL shows that neurotic New York Jews can also be true-to-life interesting characters, and that kitsch is one way of exploring ourselves.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 372,045

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jason catches a sneak preview of BIG HERO 6

And you'll never believe me, because I didn't write this up until after it was released! Anyway, this was a special screening at Pixar for employees, friends, and families--I was a friend.

First up was the short FEAST, a delightful wordless story of a puppy who makes a best friend who feeds him really, really well. Until that man meets a health conscious woman and the feast pizza, french fries, bacon, eggs, etc...turns into meals of brussels sprouts garnished with a single leaf of cilantro. So the moral right there is that vegetarians ruin everything! But the movie continues, and there's actually a much better ending, with a much better moral.

And then BIG HERO 6. This movie won me over in the opening scene introducing the setting as the port of San Fransokyo, a Japanese-infused city by the bay where the Golden Gate Bridge sports Torii arches and our hero, Hiro, hustles underground bot-fighting rings. He's a young genius, but hasn't applied himself to anything worthwhile since his parents died, although his aunt encourages him to join his brother Tadashi at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. There Tadashi is part of a group of robotics wizards (and one stoner-ish "science fan.") Tadashi's big project is Baymax, a rotund, bouncy, medical robot and the second hero of the film. After some unfortunate events leading to a major loss (possibly this generation's "Bambi's Mother gets shot") and an introduction of a truly frightening kabuki-masked supervillain, Hiro supplies Baymax with armor, weapons, and some new programming to become a fighter as well as a healer. And the rest of Tadashi's team joins in to form a sextet of heroes to fight the kabuki-man. Exciting action, real pathos, good comedy. I know this is a kids' movie, but I hope it's okay that I just grinned like a kid most of the time.

Total Running Time: 114 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,859

Jason goes to Cinema Zone and sees HELL HOUSE

I actually saw HELL HOUSE (2001) back at SFIFF long before I started this blog and even before I started keeping records of what movies I have seen. So that means I don't have an old review to fall back on (I probably did write it up back when I was just sharing my reviews with friends and family via e-mail, but that's long lost to the mists of time.)

Anyway, it's a fascinating look at the Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Cedar Hill, Texas and their annual tradition of a haunted house showing their version of real-life horrors of immorality and hell. The point being to save the guests souls at the end. And I remember back when I first saw it I laughed at it. Silly Christians and their phony scares. And I still kind of believe that (I doubt I would be converted by Hell House) but I no longer think they're that silly. Instead I see a group of people dedicated to a belief and a cause, who work hard at it, and are still respectful of people who don't believe. And the work they put into it, and the quality of their's actually pretty good. And this's actually pretty great.

Running Time: 85 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,745

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Monday, Oct. 27

One movie a couple of Mondays ago, ARABANI is a unique look into the Druze community in Israel. As the opening text explains, they are Islam-ish community, wary of outsiders, and most importantly they don't accept converts. The only way to be a Druze is is both your parents are Druze. So that complicates things for Yoseph and his family. Years ago he left the village, married a Jewish woman, and had two kids. Now they're divorced, he has the kids, and is moving back home. And the neighbors aren't happy. Like, scrawl offensive graffiti on his house, kick his mom out of the mosque, and generally threaten the heck out of him unhappy.

This movie was made for what I assume is a minuscule budget, but is a powerful, intimate window into a world I know nothing about. And the nighttime vigil scene is one of the most powerful and understated scenes I've seen in a while.

Running Time: 87 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,660

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jason goes to Niles to see a classic Bob Wilkins Creature Feature Show

Thanks to Tom Wyrsch (director of WATCH HORROR FILMS, KEEP AMERICA STRONG!) for putting this together. This is the third of four shows. You see, when Bob Wilkins did Creature Features back in the day, the movies were shown on 16 mm and the bumpers (skits, interviews, snide comments, etc.) were pre-recorded on video tape. After they were shown, the video tapes were returned to the new department and taped over. So almost none of them exist--except for four that survived, and Tom has reconstructed them, and kindly played the previous two at Niles.

But first, there was a giant raffle contest. I think Tom clears out his garage for these raffles, because there was a stage full of prizes. And I won his Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots! He bested me twice before the film (and we tied one last time) but I'm gonna practice and practice and practice until I can smoke him next time.

Anyway, as the show began there was the classic Bob Wilkins sitting in his big yellow chair and smoking his cigar. I have to pause now and confess that I didn't grow up in the Bay Area and never knew about Bob Wilkins before I came here. And so this is another example of weird 'false nostalgia' I have for a world I never actually lived in. Anyway, the highlight of the Bob Wilkins segments was an interview with George Takei. He's become so huge as a gay icon and Internet star, sometimes I forget he was on this show called STAR TREK. And in this interview he thanked the fans for their rabid support in convincing Paramount to make a big screen movie based on the show.

Okay, then the actual film, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962): Not the Lon Chaney version, not the Claude Rains version, certainly not the later versions (Bob Wilkins had many powers, but not time travel.) No, this is definitely a "lesser known" version (unless you're a Hammer Horror fan.)'s not exactly bad but there's a reason this is lesser known. It has its charms, from the plagiarism-avenging backstory to the Igor-like assistant (rather, a mute sewer dweller who saved the phantom's life) and...heck, I changed my mind. This is actually a great version of the Phantom of the Opera story. No reason it shouldn't be a classic.

Running Time: 115 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,573

Jason goes to Cinema Zone and sees THE TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Jeff Ross of Indiefest and Mike Keegan of...well, formerly of the Roxie but now of an assortment of bay area movie events (including Indiefest) bring a new weekly event, at an undisclosed location. I didn't stick around for Roger Corman's infamous version of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, but I did see this first one

TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK was supposed to be a pilot for a Daredevil TV series that never took off. Bruce David Banner is implicated in a mob crime (he was just stepping in to keep a woman from getting raped and/or murdered, and hulked-out a bit.) So blind lawyer Matt Murdock is his only hope. And the only hope for the entire city against the evil Kingpin (John Rhys-Davies.) But the whole time I'm thinking that you can't put this guy on trial. You especially can't put him on the witness stand becaus...[wait for it]...he's not credible!

Thank you, that is all.

Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,458

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Wednesday, Oct 22nd

One film a couple of Wednesday's ago. HANNA'S JOURNEY is about, of course, Hanna. A German student who, in order to further her career, travels to Israel to do some charity work with the mentally disabled. Her contact in Israel is Itay, a tough but not-too-jaded social worker who alternately teases Hanna with Holocaust jokes and flirts with her. She's not interested, or rather she's just interested in putting in enough work to claim it on her resume. But, of course, as these things happen, she starts to become a bit more interested in him. And she becomes a bit more interested in her own past, and the fact that she has a connection to Israel that she didn't know about before. Fascinating story, and a great acting job by the lead. But maybe I was just tired, because I wasn't really sure what to make of it all.

Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,358

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Sunday, Oct 19th

Okay, technically it's the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival, but I call it Jewfest South for short (compared to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which is Jewfest North.) Anyway, it started weeks ago and I'm finally getting around to writing about it.

After missing the opening night featuring Israel's most popular female singer Rita Jahan Foruz, I did make it out for a double feature on the second day of the festival.

First up was THE JEWISH CARDINAL. The amazing true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Polish Jew who converted to Catholicism and joined the priesthood. And while keeping his Jewish identity (he's quick to remind his parishioners that he's a Jew--just like Jesus) he becomes a favorite of Pope John Paul II. In fact, for a large part of the movie it seems like it's going to be all about their friendship (they even go swimming together in a pool the pontiff had installed.) And, in some ways, it is. But then the tension in the movie enters--a sect of Carmelite nuns build a convent in Auschwitz. Jews are outraged, and Lustiger (who by now is Archbishop of Paris) is on their side. But John Paul seems to be uninterested. For the latter half of the movie this becomes the basis for a kind of unique political thriller--church politics, that is. A fascinating story, anchored by some great performances by Laurent Lucas as Lustiger and AurĂ©lien Recoing as Pope John Paul II.

Then I saw OUT IN THE DARK, which I had actually seen last year at Jewfest North. It holds up to multiple viewings. Here's what I said last time:
OUT IN THE DARK, a drama, thriller, and gay love story set in Tel Aviv and the occupied territories. Nimr is a Palestinian and a grad student in Tel Aviv with a promising future ahead of him. He's also gay, and he takes the big chance of going dancing in a gay Tel Aviv nightclub. Well, that gets him on the radar of the police. Not that it's illegal to be gay, but it's great blackmail material--become an informant or his student visa will be revoked and he'll have to go back home...and if anyone back home finds out about his dalliances, he's as good as dead. In Israel, even in liberal Tel Aviv, he's an outsider viewed with suspicion for being Palestinian. Back home in the occupied territory, he has to keep his lifestyle a secret. And his only friend (and lover) is Roy, a sweet kid from a wealthy family who thinks he--with the help of his father's connections--can solve anything. It's a tense and provocative story about a very difficult situation.
Yup, I'll stand by that review. Nothing to add.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,258

Jason goes to Niles for Baby Peggy's 96th Birthday Party

That's right, I'm friends with an actual silent film star! (And in real life, not just on Facebook. And yes, she goes by the name Diana Serra Cary now.)

First we saw a collection of restored clips from her movies. There's not really anything to summarize or say about it, but it was just cool to see more footage of her at just a couple of years old being a movie star.

And then the birthday cake! Which was beautiful, because it had a picture of her on it, and was delicious, because it was birthday cake.

And finally, CAPTAIN JANUARY (1924): I've seen this over and over again (starting with when I first met Diana six years ago at her 90th birthday party.) And it always gets me. The friendship between the Captain and Jeremiah Judkins (Hobart Bosworth.) The nosy busy-bodies trying to take her away. The tragedy, the comedy, and the beautiful ending. This film always gets me, and it's just beautiful. I like to think I would love it even if I wasn't friends with the star.

Total Running Time: 93 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,072

Jason goes to Niles for a Laurel and Hardy Spoooooooky Afternoon!

HIDE AND SHRIEK (1938): Our Gang has some hilarious adventures in a haunted house, which convinces Alfalfa to quit his Detektive business once and for all (which might be an inside joke, as this was the last of the Our Gang shorts Hal Roach produced.)

THE LIVE GHOST (1934): Laurel and Hardy help a gruff sea captain shanghai a crew, before they are shanghaied themself. The biggest rule on the boat is never utter the word "ghost"--the captain hates that! So when a drunken deckhand falls into a trough of whitewash, ghostly hijinx ensue. Pretty funny.

Then a short intermission, and two more films.

THE TIN MAN (1935): Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly get lost on the way to a party and end up in a spooky inventor's house. He has created a robot to terrorize guest. Which, in this case turns out not to just be Thelma and Patsy, but escaped convict Blackie Burke. Hi-tech sci-fi hijinx ensue.

OLIVER THE EIGHTH (1934): Stan and Ollie each answer an ad from a rich widow seeking a new husband. Sneaky Ollie throws Stan's letter out, only sending his own. But that's not the real reason he's the only one who gets a reply. In fact, she's specifically looking for an Oliver. All seven of her previous husbands have been Olivers, and they've all died at her hand. A pretty grisly plot for a comedy short, but very funny.

Total Running Time: 76 minutes
My Total Minutes: 370,979

Jason watches a M4M exclusive--HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and THE GUEST

Re-using my review from when I watched HALLOWEEN III last year.

HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982): is often unfairly maligned as the "bad" Halloween movie just because it has nothing to do with the Michael Myers character of every entry in the series. The fact is, John Carpenter's original idea with the HALLOWEEN series is to produce a new low-budget horror film every year, to be released around Halloween. And this is really the only time they fulfilled that vision. To all the haters, can you really say this film is worse than an endless string of re-hashed Michael Myers stories (including the remakes)? I think it's a great story on it's own, a cult classic about a madman who plans to wipe out all the children on Halloween using magically booby-trapped masks. Very sick, and a great ending (which I won't spoil even though it's over three decades old.)
I know it has become the hip thing to now like HALLOWEEN III decades after it flopped initially. And I don't want to be the hipster who claims he loved it before everyone else caught on. I always found it interesting, just from the standpoint of how the whole HALLOWEEN series could've been different if it was a different, unrelated, quick-and-cheap horror film released on Halloween every year. But over the past couple of years, it has started becoming my favorite Halloween movie (as in, not just my favorite in the series, but my favorite movie to watch on Halloween.) Especially the cynicism about mass commercialism.

And then we saw Adam Wingard's THE GUEST. Ummm...I'm really sorry I've been so behind on my blog. Because apparently it's not in theaters anywhere in the bay area anymore, and that's a shame because it's kind of brilliant. A family is mourning their son killed in action overseas. A wandering soldier knocks on their door, and introduces himself as David, a friend of their son. He promised him that he'd look after his family, and so they invite him in and at first everything is awesome. He's the cool big brother who helps the young son deal with bullies. He's the sexual fantasy for the older daughter. And he's a great help around the house. And, yeah, he goes out and kills people occasionally, but they're bad guys. He's a good guy, right? Well, I won't get too spoiler-y, but imagine if Jason Bourne was a complete psycho, killing the good and the bad alike, and all he's really interested in is staying alive. Yup, that's it, and it turns dark really, really quickly. And it's awesome.

So...again, I'm sorry I didn't get this written up until it was already out of theaters, but it's a great movie so find it on VOD or DVD or whatever (or, if you happen to be reading this from Philadelphia, it's playing in a couple of theaters there right now!)

Total Running Time: 197 minutes
My Total Minutes: 370,903

Jason watches GONE GIRL

And I liked it. It's the perfect date movie for people who are incredibly cynical and jaded about relationships. Yeah, it's misogynistic, but only as a result of having a pretty negative attitude about just about everyone and everything. Women (at least, the titular girl who is gone) are scheming and manipulative. But men are narcissistic, idiotic cheaters and everybody else just likes to watch the train wreck. Nobody comes away looking good in this movie. Well, maybe [SPOILER ALERT: the sister character. She just comes away looking miserable, but not evil. Everyone else comes away looking evil. END SPOILER]

You can find plot synopses, analysis, and think pieces elsewhere. I just want to say this is a great movie to hate the world to.

Running Time: 149 minutes
My Total Minutes: 370,706

Jason watches SALUTE THE TOFF (1952)

This was at Pixar, but not sponsored by Pixar. They do free screenings every Monday night for employees and guests, so I'm very happy that I have a friend who just started working at Pixar (also happy because she's soooooo much happier there than her previous job.)

Incidentally, this now means I've seen special screenings (although not of the respective studio's films) at DreamWorks Animation, NetFlix, and now Pixar's in-house theaters.

First there was a trailer for next week's film, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, and then trailers for other films that fit with the crime story theme of the feature.

Then a cartoon short, LITTLE JOHNNY JET (1953): Mom and Pop airplane--him a WWII vet, are expecting. But Pop airplane can't find work because everybody wants these fancy new jet airplanes, while he's an old propeller model. When Junior comes along and is a jet, Pop is distraught, until Junior saves his life and helps him win an around-the-world race.

SALUTE THE TOFF (1952) is one of two films shot back-to-back about the character of The Honourable Richard Rollison, aka The Toff. Both films are on BFI's "75 Most Wanted" list of films that are classified as "missing, believed lost." I guess this one isn't (and after this screening it was donated to the BFI collection.) The Toff is a sort of rakish, playboy, modern (umm...for 1950s) version of Sherlock Holmes. The brilliant investigator who doesn't work for (and is sometimes a thorn in the side of) Scotland yard. The plot is a bit convoluted, centering on a missing employee and a valuable business deal. And the print clearly has some scenes cut short by censors (a knife in a woman's back just suddenly...appears as she's already on the floor.) But it has plenty of cool, British B-Noir feel, and I loved it (while also being a little giddy about seeing a "lost" film.)

Total Running Time: 82 minutes (although with some censor cuts it was probably a couple of minutes short)
My Total Minutes: 370,557

Jason goes to the Stanford Theatre for a Clara Bow double feature

Once again, catching up with what I saw a month and a half ago. The Stanford Theatre did a summer-long series of weekly silent films, and I only caught this one, a double feature of Clara Bow, the original "It" girl.

PARISIAN LOVE (1925): A tale of crime, romance, and betrayal among the street people of Paris. In particular, the violent street toughs known as "apache," which for odd reasons dating back to my college days I happen to know is pronounced a-POSH, not a-PATCH-ee, like the Native American tribe. But that's beside the point.

POISONED PARADISE (1924): The forbidden story of Monte Carlo. More theft and romance, as Margot LeBlac (Bow) loses all her money and becomes a housekeeper for struggling artist Hugh Kildair. The plot also involves an eccentric mathematician with a magic winning formula for gambling and thieves who want to steal his formula. And, in another odd connection to my schooling, it's based on a novel by Robert W. Service. I went to a high school in Anchorage, AK named after him (Poisoned Paradise, not being set in the frozen north, is somewhat of a departure for  "the Bard of the Yukon")

Dennis James rocked the Mighty Wurlitzer, of course, and I only regret I didn't see more of this series (and that I took so long to write this that I'm sure I forgot many details I should have included.)

Total Running Time: 159 minutes
My Total Minutes: 370,474