Thursday, January 31, 2013

I finally saw: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

It looks like I was scratching a lot of long-gestating cinematic itches this past weekend. First From Dusk Till Dawn on Saturday, then this on Sunday.

And what was so significant about finally seeing The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain?

Well, I'll tell you.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain has long been my go-to movie when looking for an example of something with an unwieldy title or something that would sound fairly arcane. In fact, I just searched, and I've used it that way exactly four times on my blog. Here are the examples:

4/16/09: Lame of name

"And without even a memorable title to distinguish them, these films endure no better than half-remembered trailer fragments. Two years after they've left theaters, they're totally gone from even the bear-trap minds of the hardcore cinephiles.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? Now there's a film I can remember."

3/26/10: How (not) to advertise your movie

"If they really didn't think we would be able to handle the outrageous grammatical complexity and highfalutin vocabulary of the title How to Train Your Dragon, they should have called it something else. It's not like it's The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. It's not like it's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

8/14/10: Tainted!

"Both Mission: Impossible III and Inside Man were part of the initial 300-400 movies they give you automatically when you first join Flickchart, movies that are considered the most popular. (They do this so that new Flickcharters aren't immediately confronted with My Dinner With Andre and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain)."

8/3/12: No "short wait" to revisit the original

"If a title is really popular -- say, Star Wars -- then Netflix probably keeps a dozen copies at any given distribution center. (I'm just throwing out numbers here -- I only have a vague idea of how large each distribution center is, and how many distribution centers there are.)  But if the movie is not very popular -- say, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain -- then one or two copies per center would suffice."

Yeah, maybe I need to choose a new movie to use in this scenario. Actually, I have done so already, and would do so more if I didn't have to look up the damn title -- Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles -- every time.

The Englishman had been on our instant queue for some time, and it was one of the top three movies my wife seemed most enthusiastic about every time we passed it, so I knew it would get watched sooner rather than later. Sunday night, that time finally came, and I felt like I was finally putting my money where my mouth was.

Actually, there were reasons other than my love affair with the title that I might have seen this movie sooner. In my mind, I've been carrying on a love affair with its lead actress -- you know, the kind that takes place between a movie lover and an exquisitely charming star -- for nearly 20 years. I became smitten with British actress Tara Fitzgerald when I first saw her in A Man of No Importance back in 1994. I then saw her in Sirens (which I did not like very much) and Brassed Off! (which I liked quite a bit), but never (until now) saw her only other prominent movie ... well, ever. (She transitioned to being a TV actress pretty much full time in the mid-2000s, having made a handful of movies I've never heard of in the early part of that decade.) There's just something so button cute about this woman.

I also consider myself a Hugh Grant fan, so there's that as well.

So how did Hugh, Tara and the movie acquit themselves? And most importantly -- that title. Is it literal, or metaphorical?

Well, let's start with the title. It's most definitely literal. In fact, the premise of the possibly true story is quite wonderful, and makes the movie fit in well with the late 1990s trend of blue collar Brits banding together to overcome obstacles (see The Full Monty, Saving Grace and especially Waking Ned Devine, to which this movie is most similar). The "Brits" in this case are actually citizens of Wales, though there are two proper Englishmen in the movie as well (Grant and his stuffy compatriot, played by Ian McNeice). The Englishmen are in Wales (during World War I) for the purposes of cartography. They're using new technology to document the height of Wales' tallest supposed mountain -- which, if it does not exceed 1,000 feet, can only technically be classified as a hill. Swelling with local pride over the difficult-to-pronounce protuberance known as Ffynnon Garw ("Rough Fountain"), the citizen of the town agonize while waiting for the two mapmakers' final analysis of its true height. When Ffynnon Garw comes up just short, the townspeople conspire to artificially add 20 feet of height to their hill, to make it a mountain -- yet must also waylay the two mapmakers in the small village long enough for them to take a second reading, without letting on that that's what they're doing.

Although it's not as memorable nor quite as good as the films mentioned above, it's a damn charming little movie that mostly stays on course. Grant is not in full-on stammering mode, but he does have a couple great comic deliveries, most notably on his several attempts to pronounce the hill's name. He stumbles through these attempts in trademark Grant style, his eyes pleading for help out of a paralysis brought on by awkwardness. Fitzgerald doesn't really show up until the second half of the movie, but that's enough time to have seduced me again with her charms -- though never to the extent that she did in A Man of No Importance (which came out the previous year). Her role is a bit of a comedic one, and leads to some of the film's broadest moments -- not necessarily a good thing. Colm Meaney is worth mentioning as an innkeeper with questionable morals, who brings plenty of good cheer to the proceedings as well.

But perhaps the film's most unexpected surprise is the significant role essayed by Kenneth Griffith. Don't know who that is? I didn't know his name either, but I instantly knew his face, from the film that introduced Grant to most of us: Four Weddings and a Funeral, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Here he is in that film:

Still don't remember him? How about this hilarious exchange between his character (who we shall call "Old Man") and Grant's Charles during the first wedding?

Charles: How do you do, my name is Charles.
Old Man: Don't be ridiculous. Charles died 20 years ago.
Charles: Must be a different Charles, I think.
Old Man: Are you saying I don't recognize my own brother?

It's funny even in print, but the senile indignation mustered by Griffith just pushes it over the top.

I think I'd always assumed that this was just some random old man, perhaps a relative of one of the filmmakers, who had never been heard from before or since. Turns out that Griffith had over 100 credits in movies and TV, starting as long ago as 1941. (He died in 2006 at age 84.)

You might say that a little of him goes a longer way, but he's still quite enjoyable in the role of the parish priest, conflicted about asking his parishioners to work on the Sabbath to meet a deadline, but swelling with enough mountain pride to overcome his hesitations. I have to wonder if the actor himself had become a bit senile by this point, as his emotions don't always seem to be on the same page as the other actors' -- a couple times he even seems to be tearing up when the scene doesn't necessarily call for it. But he also produces a couple of those priceless looks of shocked befuddlement that seared him into my memory the first time I ever laid eyes on him, back in 1994.

Looking for a third straight I Finally Saw tomorrow? Too bad. I haven't finally seen anything else since Sunday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I finally saw: From Dusk Till Dawn

Who knows why it took me 17 years to finally see From Dusk Till Dawn.

Actually, I do. It came out during that phase when I looked down my nose at Quentin Tarantino for really wanting to be an actor. "Yeah, I'm a director, but what I really want to do is act." It could have been the derailment of his career, if he'd let it. I assumed that FDTD was some massive ego stroke on his part, and that the self-deception would permeate the project.


In fact, Tarantino is pretty darn good at playing a demented psycho. The surprising part is that he actually underplays being a demented psycho. I figured he'd at least chew the scenery, but he doesn't even do that. There's nothing he does that's at the same ill-advised intensity level of the "dead ni**er storage" scene in Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino's work was just one of many pleasant surprises in this movie.

For example, how good is that first half? How nice is it to see George Clooney (who was not yet GEORGE CLOONEY) playing "a bastard, but not a fucking bastard"? (Great line -- actually, his last of the movie.) He really commits to being a bad person, but he's also not chewing scenery -- in fact, what I really admired about his work was the couple throwaway facial tics he employs to subtly underscore the significance of certain moments. He delivers the best of Tarantino's sharp dialogue, but Tarantino also saves plenty of that for the opening conversation between a Texas cop (Michael Parks, so great years later in Red State) and a liquor store cashier (John Hawkes, so great years later in ... everything), the main thrust of which is whether mentally challenged people should be allowed to work in food preparation. The scene walks that Tarantino fine line of poor taste and walks it well. I love the way the scene devolves, and how Hawkes' character really was trying to do the bidding of Seth and Richie Gecko when they gave him specific instructions on how to behave with the cop -- specific instructions that he followed to the letter, to no avail as far as psycho Richie was concerned.

And how good are Harvey Keitel and the members of his family, not only the professional actor (Juliette Lewis), but the novice (Ernest Liu)? Okay, Liu isn't great, but he holds his own. And I'd never seen Keitel in a role like this before: bearded, subdued, that familiar trope of the pastor who's lost his faith in God, but seeming new-ish here. Lewis also goes way under-the-top, something she's been accused of very few times in her career. In fact, she's got some priceless, low-key facial reactions, like when she's trying to figure out what the hell Tarantino's talking about when he tries a clumsy innuendo, referencing a moment in which he imagined her asking him to give her cunnilingus.

And how good is that second half? Maybe not as good as the first half, but totally different, and to some people, probably better than the first half. Like, maybe to Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi. That's some straight-up Raimi-Jackson monster stuff in the second half, and some incredibly imaginative weapons with which to kill them. Few settings encapsulate that wild west spirit we believe exists in "lawless" Mexico than the Titty Twister -- even before you know it's a vampire hive. And as good as all that vampire-killin' is, the movie's most enduring moment for me may be Salma Hayek's exotic dance with a large yellow snake. I don't usually like to speak too much about my male heterosexual desires on this blog, but -- hubba hubba.

So yeah, I liked From Dusk Till Dawn. I liked it a heckuva lot.

When I wrote my first in this "series" called I Finally Saw last October (A Nightmare on Elm Street), I set out to determine if the film still holds up -- though "holds up" is a phrase you usually use about films you've already seen, but not in many years. So I'm really trying to figure out if I could still see the movie through the eyes of the people who saw it (and loved it) when it was brand new.

I didn't think it was possible to return to that mid-1990s moment when ultra-violence seemed fresh and new, and "Tarantino-esque" was only starting to become a made-up word.

But there I was, watching this movie, feeling like a giddy 23-year-old again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

And starring ... everyone on the planet

Before there was the spectacularly unfunny film Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, it had always occurred to me to wonder what it would take to make the most expensive movie ever made. Not to accidentally make that movie through epic mishaps and extremely poor planning, but to set out to do it.

A huge number of special effects and pricy locations would undoubtedly be part of it, but I also figured you'd have to hire every prominent actor you could think of, even to play the bit parts, at the full salary it would cost to get them.

That's kind of what Movie 43 did, though I suspect it didn't cost a billion dollars.

Think Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve had big casts? They've got nothing on Movie 43.

Here, why don't I list the names of the people who appear in this movie, just to stagger you:

Dennis Quaid
Greg Kinnear
Will Sasso
Seth McFarlane
Hugh Jackman
Kate Winslet
Liev Schreiber
Naomi Watts
Anna Faris
Chris Pratt
J.B. Smoove
Kieran Culkin
Emma Stone
Richard Gere
Kate Bosworth
Jack McBryer
Aasif Mandvi
Justin Long
Jason Sudeikis
Uma Thurman
Bobby Canavale
Kristen Bell
John Hodgman
Leslie Bibb
Katrina Bowden
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Chloe Grace Moretz
Patrick Warburton
Matt Walsh
Gerard Butler
Seann William Scott
Johnny Knoxville
Halle Berry
Stephen Merchant
Terrence Howard
Elizabeth Banks
Josh Duhamel
Tony Shalhoub

And that's only the people I had heard of.

So, will there be anyone left to see this movie? Yes, there'll be you. Unless you are also in the cast and I just don't know it.

Is there any way that a movie like this can be anything but a disaster? If the critics are to be believed, no.

But it's not like all these people are part of one big plot. This is a sketch movie, not unlike sketch movies we used to get in the 1970s (Kentucky Fried Movie) and the 1980s (Amazon Women on the Moon). Neither of those movies were big hits with me, so I don't expect this one to be, either.

But I'd by lying if I said I weren't intrigued merely by the fact that all these people were willing to participate in the first place. KFM and AWOTM didn't have casts like this, not even close.

The actual making of this movie is not as hard as it may seem. Each actor had to commit to only one of 11 directors, and many of them probably shot for less than a week. It's kind of similar to how Cloud Atlas was more a feat of editing than a colossal exercise in logistics. 

Strangely, though, the 11 directors are not made up of more than a couple superstars. Again going only on the names I recognize, these 11 directors include Elizabeth Banks (debuting in that role, I believe), Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Brett Ratner. That leaves three names I don't recognize at all. And of these eight I do recognize, only two would be considered big names in comedy: Farrelly and Odenkirk, though Odenkirk's best appreciated career achievement may be the role of Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, which is either a straight drama or the blackest of black comedies.

So I can only conclude that all these people were in it for the experiment. The chance to throw heaps and heaps of spaghetti against the wall, and if it flops to the ground like a wet mop, not to have to absorb any of the blame themselves.

Or maybe they collectively commiserated the loss of the sketch movie that was at least somewhat more prevalent in their childhoods, and decided to conspire to bring it back.

Or maybe they just wanted to cut loose. Two cast members in particular strike me as odd choices for this movie: Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts. In fact, less than a month ago, in a post about The Impossible, I commented that I didn't think Watts had ever appeared in a comedy. Let's hope this movie doesn't do for her Oscar hopes what Norbit did for Eddie Murphy's.

The pushing up of the release date of this movie (I'm pretty sure it was once slated for February) is the first thing that doesn't bode well for Movie 43. The second is its 18 Metascore. Yikes, that's a low score. It'd be the dog of the week if Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters didn't have the exact same score as of this writing.

So maybe I won't make this one of my first movies of 2013, as I had once thought I'd do. When I've got the resounding hatred of critics and a personal history of not really enjoying such movies to inform me, that's a pretty good reason to wait for DVD.

I'll set this meager bar for the movie, and see if it can exceed it: Just be better than Gary Marshall's aforementioned movies, with their ridiculously large casts.

And Naomi Watts? Be funny.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No restrictions

Earlier this week I wrote about a movie (Mama) I was surprised to see get a PG-13 rating. Now I'm writing about one I'm surprised to see get an R.

Who would have thought that any studio desperate to capitalize on the dying embers of the Twilight phenomenon would slap a restrictive R rating on the same type of movie?

You could argue that Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is not going for the same audience, but I think you'd be fooling yourself. It may be one extra degree removed, but the relationship is pretty explicit. Hansel & Gretel reminds a person of Red Riding Hood, which reminds a person of Twilight. Not that far to go.

In fact, so sure was I that it would be PG-13 that when someone posted the red band trailer on Facebook and speculated that this meant the movie would be R, I did everything short of calling him a fool. Yet he was right.

The curious decision to include enough violence and/or nudity to earn the R shows that studios are no longer shying away from the R the way they once were. They clearly recognize that an R rating does not stop determined teenagers, and may in fact give them greater encouragement to see the movie in question. Which basically means that studios think theaters don't really police the selling of tickets, and they're probably right. After all, there isn't the same kind of penalty for selling movie tickets to an underage person as there is for selling cigarettes or alcohol to that same underage person. There actually may be no penalty at all. Or perhaps there's a theoretical penalty that never gets practically enforced. Can you imagine someone engaging in this kind of sting, sending a 14-year-old to buy tickets to an R movie the way they sometimes send 14-year-olds to buy cigarettes? I didn't think so.

And by placing greater "restrictions" on the audience, they're actually removing the restrictions they place on their filmmakers. My guess is that however good Hansel & Gretel ends up being, a couple of bloody witch beheadings and perhaps an errant tit or two will make it that much better.

And it's not just the latest potential Jeremy Renner franchise (seriously, doesn't this guy have better things to do than this movie?) that shows studios are noticing the box office power of R-rated films like Ted and The Hangover. In three weeks A Good Day to Die Hard will drop, also with the same R rating that the original three Die Hards carried, the same R rating that was abandoned for Live Free or Die Hard. As though to welcome the return of the R rating with open arms, Fox has been running with the tagline "Yippee Ki Yay Mother Russia," as though promising to complete John McClane's trademark phrase -- which was famously clipped before it could finish in Live Free. (Which is kind of the opposite of "living free," when you think about it.)

Hansel & Gretel is a bit different, though. We all know that R-rated action movies can succeed, but R-rated fantasy? It's been a much more untested realm. I think of movies like Excalibur, The Sword and the Sorcerer and Conan the Barbarian from my childhood, and I remember even then being confused about why I wasn't allowed to watch them. How could a movie with men carrying swords be rated R? It just didn't compute. Excalibur in particular took on a huge fascination for me, though not enough to have sought it out as an adult, I guess. In fact, I've seen none of those three.

In recent years there have been a couple other fantasy movies that have scored Rs, specifically, two movies from 2011: Immortals, probably a bloodier 300 (I didn't see it) and Your Highness, a stoner comedy that happens to be set in a fantasy world, and includes some boobs and a prosthetic monster penis. But neither of those movies seemed to expect their audiences to cross over with the Twilight audience.

You could say that even more than Ted and The Hangover, there's another recent successful entertainment commodity that gave MGM and Paramount the courage for this particular R: Game of Thrones, in which bare-chested women and gushing blood are so commonplace, they are almost gratuitous. Yet that has been one of the great critical and popular successes of the past couple years, its content not the least impediment to reaching a wide audience.

Lest you be worried that the next Pixar movie is going to be rated R, let me assure you that there are plenty of movies still content to go the "old-fashioned" route. On the very same day that A Good Day to Die Hard releases, a more traditional Valentine's Day movie also hits theaters: Beautiful Creatures, which is as naked a capitalization on Twilight as anything that's come out since Twilight first hit the scene.

Quaintly, it's rated "only" PG-13. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

R for feaR, or "If I were 13 I'd piss my pants"

The most sustained period of dread I've ever experienced in a movie theater was back in the mid-1980s, when I saw Poltergeist during what must have been a re-release. (I was young, but there was no way I was only eight, when the film had its first run in 1982.)

What I remember was of course fear, but more than that was the feeling that I couldn't escape from it -- that it surrounded me. It was not only the current fear, and the fear I'd already had, but the sense of the fear I still had waiting for me. I remember feeling a distinct sense of relief during the sequence in the middle of the night, when nothing is terrorizing the living hell out of the family and they just sit there, bonding in hushed whispers. I knew for at least five or ten minutes, I could relax.

The PG-13 rating did not yet exist when Poltergeist came out, but I really wish it had been there to save me. I was too young to see Poltergeist, even if I now consider it the top horror experience of my long and distinguished career.

Just as today, I think the R rating should have saved some 13-year-olds who weren't much dissuaded by Mama's measly PG-13.

Simply put, this is a scary fucking movie. At times, anyway.

But movies are not rated based on how likely they are to scare you. Movies get an R because of explicit sex, violence or language. (Which means that this post has already done enough to earn an R.) Mama has none of these things, but it can still scare the living shit out of a person.

A person over 17, methinks.

It makes me wonder whether the MPAA follows the letter of its own laws, but not the spirit.

If the point of a rating is to prevent children from being traumatized by things they shouldn't see, then the MPAA needs to give itself the leeway to be more flexible. I didn't think you'd ever see me advocating more stodginess on the part of the MPAA, but here I am.

The MPAA needs to have a sort-of sniff test about what should get an R. Yeah, I know they've got generic descriptors like "intense images" and "graphic images" and "adult content," but do they use them? It would seem like Mama would have been a perfect chance to do so.

You probably want to know at this point why I think Mama is so scary. Why don't I let the short film that Andy (Andres) Muschietti wrote and directed, before expanding it into a feature, speak for itself:

Were you a little chilled by that? Were you a lot chilled by that? Do you think at age 13 you'd want to watch that?

Now imagine a whole movie of that. And imagine feral children who scamper across the ground like spiders.

I suppose that Mama is not nearly the only example of a disturbing horror movie that got the lenient PG-13 rating, which provides almost no obstacle to maximum potential box office grosses, but it's the first movie I've seen that I remember causing me to wonder whether it wouldn't be just too much to handle for the average 13-year-old. And don't forget that those younger than 13 are almost certain to see it. The PG-13 rating is as much a guideline as anything, and I'm sure 10-year-olds are finding their way into this movie.

Let me pause in my prudish stance to assure you of something: I am not in the least critical of Mama itself. In fact, Mama scared me like I haven't been scared in the theater in some time. Even if the film weren't exceptionally crafted and acted, that alone would prompt me to give it a full recommendation.

I just wonder if the nearly 40-year-olds of 2040 won't be wondering whether they should have seen Mama when they did.

Then again, if they loved it as much as I (ultimately) loved Poltergeist, maybe that won't be a bad thing.

Up and running

Mama is the first movie I've seen released in 2013, which means I've just finished creating my two new Microsoft Word documents devoted to the films I see in 2013.

Always a fun moment. Glad to be back on the horse after putting 2012 to bed.

The Chastain Wing

Upon coming out of the theater where I saw Mama last night, I noticed that the only other movie playing in that wing of the theater was Zero Dark Thirty.

Making that the Jessica Chastain Wing of the theater.

And this wing shows you just how much this woman can really do. If you popped back and forth between these two theaters, you'd get the same terrific cheekbones and the same determined chin. But the Chastains you'd see would be entirely different.

In Zero Dark Thirty, you get Maya, an intensely focused CIA officer who is hellbent on finding the world's most wanted terrorist. She's headstrong and she plays with the big boys, but there's something hesitant about her, a softness at her core that leaves her not-so-secretly squeamish at what she and her government have to do to find Osama bin Laden. She's the consummate professional and she dresses the part, her fiery red hair acting as the sole sartorial hint of her rebelliousness.

In Mama, you get Annabel, a tattoed rock chick whose dark brown hair is cropped short with bangs at the front. She plays guitar in a hard rock band that might dabble in metal, though she wears Ramones t-shirts, tipping off her punk influences. She's tough and unsentimental, yet she demonstrates the same seriousness of purpose as Maya -- she won't abandon her boyfriend (boyfriend only!) when he decides to adopt his two nieces, who have spent the last five years living in a cabin in the woods.

Damn, can Chastain act.

Don't read this section if you haven't yet seen Mama

But then come back and read it once you've seen the movie. Don't forget!

It's a pretty common tactic to end a horror or thriller with the wounded survivors huddled together and finally safe, having survived their ordeal, knowing on some level that what lies ahead of them will be comparatively smooth sailing.

Not in Mama.

Oh yeah, the movie ends that way. But the future sailing hardly seems likely to be smooth.

For starters, you've got the minor detail that one of the two sisters dies. Although it's not spelled out in so many words, that's what the ending implies, and you have no good reason not to believe it. So, there's that.

But then what about the other dead bodies?

The therapist who had focused his entire career on the two feral girls has been killed, and so has their aunt, who actually fought their uncle (a brother, not an ex-husband) for their custody. How are you going to explain that to the cops, since there isn't a shred of evidence of the corporeal spirit who actually did the killings?

Add to that the fact that their uncle, who survives the ordeal, is the brother of a man who was wanted for murdering three people five years earlier, and was widely considered to have had a mental breakdown. This guy and his punk rock girlfriend are still going to be able to keep the surviving girl, even though the events that transpired (including the death of one of the girls) would have only confirmed the general suspicion that a judge was wrong to leave the kids in these people's hands in the first place?

So yeah, good luck with rest of your lives, folks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An unlucky year for famous flops

When I started my last two recurring monthly features on The Audient, it was to answer a specific need. I felt I wasn't making enough room in my viewing schedule for films that were released before 1980, despite having more of an interest in them than your average person. So I launched Decades and then Getting Acquainted, both of which were designed to give me a structured reason to watch these films.

In unlucky year '13, I have a different need I'm trying to address now: I'm trying to see more bad movies.

Why would someone set such a goal, you might ask?

Well, I've always thought that watching movies should be a balance between watching great examples of cinema and watching schlock. Not an even balance, mind you -- but for at least every five movies that show you the best way to do things, you should have one to show you what not to do. My high school film teacher, who might otherwise strike someone as a snob, always touted the benefits of seeing schlock. (That was the actual word he used, and I'm appropriating it here.)

When I was reviewing movies for All Movie, I was fed a steady diet of not-very-good to downright bad movies. But that gig ended in late 2011, and since then, the balance has tipped -- unsurprisingly -- in favor of movies I actually want to see.

I know this because I keep a spreadsheet of all the movies I've ever seen, and because it's a spreadsheet, it's possible to apply formulas to the data I'm keeping. One such formula tells me the percentage of movies I've seen that I've liked. I keep a running tally of thumbs ups and thumbs downs, and add to that number each time I see something new.

For quite some time, the percentage of movies I'd seen that I liked was hovering around 64%. I don't know if that seems good or bad to you, but most people might think it's a shame to spend over a third of your time watching movies you don't care for. Me, I was comfortable with it.

In recent years, though, that number has been creeping upward. Now it's over 67%. And whether it's rational or not, I have been rooting for it to go back down. Every time I see a bad movie and the percentage creeps downward by a couple hundredths of a percent (more than it creeps upward when I see a good movie, since I've seen more good movies), I silently cheer the result. Not so much as to falsify the results, but enough that it makes me feel like I'm keeping a certain equilibrium.

You might logically say "Vance, even 67% is nowhere near the one out of six bad movies ratio you advocated earlier. You'd have to get up around 84% before you'd be at that level."

True, but that's assuming I was starting from scratch. I can't change my past viewings, I can only control what I'm seeing now. And these days, it's probably more like one in ten bad movies.

Plus, there are degrees of badness as well. The truly instructional bad films are the truly terrible ones, and they are also usually the most fun. Most bad movies I see these days are only a marginal thumbs down, what one might describe as worthwhile failures. And while worthwhile failures always contain plenty of instructional moments, they aren't the cautionary tales that I may be looking for.

So, this is a very long way of saying that my new series is called Famous Flops, and starting in February, I'll be concentrating on the worst of the worst, one per month, and then writing about them here.

That's right, I am going to identify movies that are famous for being terrible that I have not yet had the (dis)pleasure of watching. I'll laugh, I'll cry, I'll wince, and maybe sometimes I'll actually like them better than their reputation, which will be an interesting result in its own right. (Hey, if I haven't told you already, I describe Gigli -- which would have been a perfect candidate for this series, had I not already seen it -- as "not that bad.")

My goal will be to watch this movie at any point during the month that I can fit it in, and then write about it close to the end of the month so you have a chance to watch it too. Okay, okay, you may not want to play along. But if you do, it's just one movie, and you may share my fascination with gawking at cinematic car wrecks.

And if you do, here's my first title: Ishtar. In February, I'll be watching the Elaine May film known primarily for being a flop, even though it starred Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. Seems like a perfect place to start.

I'll see you back here around the end of February to discuss.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Washed-up old man -- er, men

So who's more washed up, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Johnny Knoxville?

The tagline for The Last Stand is "Retirement is for sissies," so at least we know which one is the sissy: Schwarzenegger, because he chose to retire.

Knoxville just stopped being in things.

Granted, it was never all that likely that a fruitful acting career would spring from Knoxville's origins as a charismatic daredevil willing to expose his body to a gauntlet of torture and abuse. But for awhile it was looking like it might. In the early- to mid-2000s, he was going pretty strong with roles in Big Trouble, Men in Black II, Lords of Dogtown and Dukes of Hazzard. And proving he was no mere beneficiary of the more forgiving standards of mainstream cinema, he also appeared in a John Waters movie, A Dirty Shame.

However, around 2005, he stopped appearing in projects that were not directly some kind of spinoff of his formative Jackass series. It's unclear from some quick internet searches whether this was his choice or others'. But I tend to think that most people who quit acting are forced out. It's like the athlete who chooses to retire while his/her services are still in healthy demand. It does happen, but it's extremely rare. And Knoxville was, or should have been, in the prime of his career.

In the last year or two he's begun dabbling in some apparently straight-to-video titles, and he did appear in last year's Fun Size. We are also going to see him in next month's Movie 43, which I'm really anticipating. So maybe he lost the acting bug and then got it again. Or maybe there were personal issues. Like I said, a quick internet search doesn't give me any answers.

I can say that the net result is to slightly taint Schwarzenegger's comeback by giving it a straight-to-video feel. The January release date already does that to some degree. The billing of Knoxville as the movie's most prominent co-star only completes the tainting. They could have gone with Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare or Luis Guzman, but I guess those guys don't really have "poster names."

I'll definitely be catching up with this on video in May or June, though. I am as curious as anyone to see if Schwarzenegger's still got it. Though apparently, not curious enough to have watched Expendables 2 to make that same assessment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hope Springs eternal

A billboard has been abandoned on Victory Blvd. in Van Nuys, CA.

It's the billboard you see above, and it's for a movie that was released in theaters last August 8th, over five months ago. And that detail isn't going to be lost on anyone, since the billboard itself specifies the release month.

If anyone thought that maybe they left it up to advertise the DVD release of Hope Springs, well, we're nearly a month-and-a-half past that as well.

I've noticed advertisements come down too quickly (before the movie has even been released) and linger on way too long (maybe a month after the movie came out). But rarely have I seen the kind of pure neglect that I'm seeing in this case.

I drive east down Victory Blvd. most days on my way home from work, and each day I still see it there, nearing the intersection of Van Nuys Blvd. In fact, I resolved to write about this unusual scenario a couple months ago, but vowed to wait until it finally came down to see how long its stay would ultimately be.

Today I realized that you tend not to notice something not being there, so this might be a flawed strategy anyway. And I ended up having a free morning with nothing else to write about. I'll still hope to notice when it finally comes down and inform you of that fact.

Any number of factors could be at play here, but the most likely is that the ownership of this billboard has entered into some kind of limbo, meaning no new transactions can occur on it -- and leading to a lengthy period of (unnecessary in this case) free advertising for whomever happened to be the final occupant of the real estate. I have to wonder if it's also not considered to be an undesirable location for a billboard, as the approach to it is partly blocked by another billboard (or sign, or some other kind of obstruction).

In either case, it's starting to look like Hope Springs may still be around when spring springs ... and possibly even when the August release date on the billboard could logically be referencing August 2013.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

212 New Releases in 2012: A guided tour and strategy overview

by Don Handsome

One more year-end wrap-up on The Audient, but the difference is, I'm not writing this one. For more on Don Handsome's incredible feat, here's Don:

Am I right in assuming that all Film Nuts have their own Number? 

I posit that our Numbers equal the maximum amount of time we can physically sacrifice to the gods of the cinema as represented by the number of newly seen films (repeat viewings should not count toward Numbers, as these represent a very different style of viewing) divided by a relevant unit of time. A Film Nut’s Number is stated regularly in conversation about the movies, as in: "I try to see one-a-day," or "I’m doing three-per-week," or "I can't feel good about myself if I’m not seeing at least ten-each-month." We wear our Numbers on our sleeves, but they are not out in the open to be judged. In the unspoken code of the Film Nut, it is understood that none of us would ever short change the movies, and so our Numbers are just facts about us that break the ice and bridge conversations. But our Numbers DO mean a lot to each of us as they represent our time doing something we love to do.  

My Number is 250 Films Per Year.  I’m proud of this Number - it's all I can do for something I love. For me, 250 is comfortable: I’m seeing about 150 new releases and another 100 non-new releases for the first time each year and it just feels right. I’ve been with this Number for about six years now, and with it I never feel like I shortchange the medium or that I’m cheating my personal life.   

This is the story of how I threw my Number under the bus for no good reason.

Because readers of The Audient don’t know me, I feel as if I need to provide some context. While I’m not as rigorous a list-maker as our friend Vance, I do believe in tracking what I see and I certainly take some pride in having seen a ton of flicks in my time. I am not a professional but I am a film geek, a snob, and an obsessive. I pride myself on cultivating a deep film vocabulary. I am an honest fan and a reliable dabbler. In short: I am a Film Nut. And because I have been friends with Vance since we were three, we’ve developed much of our nutiness in tandem. We’ve been sharing our film lists on Oscar nomination day with each other for about 15 years now – since a time when both of our Numbers were probably about 100 per year. Nowadays, I think our Numbers are generally in the same ballpark and while I usually see more new releases each year, Vance edges me out in older films seen for the first time. But I think he was taken aback when I announced to him that I was going to try to set a personal record 200 new releases in 2012 – effectively increasing my number by 50.

SPOILER ALERT – I made it. I more than made it, actually. I SMASHED IT.

I saw 212 new releases in 2012, and since I saw 121 (love that symmetry) older movies for the first time, my Number for 2012 was at 333. It was a big step up. It’s the most films and the most new releases I’ve ever seen in one year. It's more moves than either Vance or I have ever seen in one year. So a few months ago Vance asked that I commit to documenting this run for The Audient and I happily obliged.

Before I continue, here’s the product - all 212 films I saw in 2012, from best to worst:

1              Silver Lining Playbook
2              Zero Dark Thirty
3              Looper
4              Moonrise Kingdom
5              Oslo, August 31st
6              Newlyweds
7              The Cabin In The Woods
8              Sleepless Night
9              Holy Motors
10           Bernie
11           Damsels in Distress
12           Rust and Bone
13           Killer Joe
14           Fat Kid Rules The World
15           Beasts of the Southern Wild
16           Waiting for Lightning
17           Sound of My Voice
18           Django Unchained
19           Girl Walk // All Day
20           The Imposter
21           Alps
22           Compliance
23           The Loved Ones
24           Killing Them Softly
25           The Deep Blue Sea
26           Prometheus
27           Wreck-It Ralph
28           The Bay
29           Jesus Henry Christ
30           V/H/S
31           Deadfall
32           The Dark Knight Rises
33           Fitzgerald Family Christmas
34           Shut Up and Play the Hits
35           Red Hook Summer
36           Klown
37           Your Sister's Sister
38           Lawless
39           Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
40           Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
41           Sinister
42           Ruby Sparks
43           Marley
44           Jeff, Who Lives At Home
45           Beyond the Black Rainbow
46           A Cat in Paris
47           The Amazing Spiderman
48           Turn Me On, Dammit!
49           Cure for Pain
50           The Queen of Versailles
51           Magic Mike
52           Coriolanus
53           Kill List
54           Tonight You're Mine
55           Knuckleball!
56           The Hunger Games
57           Friends With Kids
58           Celeste and Jesse Forever
59           The Perks of Being a Wallflower
60           The Kid With a Bike
61           The Five-Year Engagement
62           The Hole
63           Argo
64           The Loneliest Planet
65           The Perfect Family
66           Headhunters
67           Pitch Perfect
68           Goon
69           The Secret World of Arrietty
70           The Pact
71           Lola Versus
72           Take This Waltz
73           Chimpanzee
74           Extraterrestrial
75           The Master
76           Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
77           Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
78           Ted
79           Head Games
80           Footnote
81           Premium Rush
82           The Avengers
83           The Do-Deca-Pentathalon
84           Lay the Favorite
85           Liberal Arts
86           Paranorman
87           21 Jump Street
88           Get the Gringo
89           The Corridor
90           Safety Not Guaranteed
91           Hope Springs
92           Anna Karenina
93           This Is 40
94           Irving Welsh's Ecstasy
95           Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
96           Dark Shadows
97           Gerhard Richter Painting
98           Bachelorette
99           The Vow
100         The Campaign
101         The Comedy
102         Take Me Home
103         Vamps
104         Lincoln
105         Contraband
106         Jack Reacher
107         One for the Money
108         Flight
109         2 Days in New York
110         From Rome With Love
111         Trouble With the Curve
112         Butter
113         The Grey
114         The Good Doctor
115         The Hobbit
116         The Words
117         Wanderlust
118         Dark Horse
119         Safe House
120         360
121         Norwegian Wood
122         Casa de Mi Padre
123         Men in Black 3
124         For a Good Time Call…
125         Arbitrage
126         Hitchcock
127         Skyfall
128         Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
129         Mirror Mirror
130         Total Recall
131         Jiro Dreams of Sushi
132         Cosmopolis
133         Life of Pi
134         Savages
135         Price Check
136         (Rec)3 Genesis
137         The Watch
138         Red Lights
139         God Bless America
140         Les Miserables
141         Sleepwalk With Me
142         Snow White and the Huntsman
143         Man on a Ledge
144         The Details
145         The Innkeepers
146         American Reunion
147         Cloud Atlas
148         The Snowtown Murders
149         Battleship
150         The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
151         Katy Perry: Part of Me
152         Chronicle
153         Hotel Transylvania
154         Good Deeds
155         Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
156         Lockout
157         The Odd Life of Timothy Green
158         Detachment
159         The Raid: Redemption
160         This Means War
161         The Hunter
162         Giant Mechanical Man
163         The Bourne Legacy
164         The Impossible
165         Chasing Mavericks
166         The Color Wheel
167         Brave
168         Union Square
169         Apartment 143 [Emergo]
170         Safe
171         Silent House
172         Indie Game: The Movie
173         The Pirates! Band of Misfits
174         Ice Age: Continental Drift
175         L!fe Happens
176         The Letter
177         Beneath the Darkness
178         The Woman in Black
179         Haywire
180         The Man With the Iron Fists
181         The Raven
182         Hysteria
183         Snow on tha Bluff
184         The Devil Inside
185         Act of Valor
186         Fun Size
187         Stolen
188         Paranormal Activity 4
189         Sparkle
190         Rock of Ages
191         The Three Stooges
192         The Chernobyl Diaries
193         The Babymakers
194         Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
195         Step Up Revolution
196         Project X
197         The Dictator
198         John Carter
199         Red Tails
200         Piranha DD
201         Red Dawn
202         That's My Boy
203         Wrath of the Titans
204         The Lorax
205         Gone
206         Hit and Run
207         Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
208         The Expendables 2
209         The Apparition
210         Rise of The Guardians
211         Branded
212         The Collection

I don’t know that I want to editorialize about these films beyond the editorializing that the order does for me. This post is not directly about what I liked and didn’t like (and I’m frankly still exhausted by this run) but I will say that even though I am ABSOLUTELY positive that my top films are the ones that I most treasure from 2012, I am disappointed that they aren’t unconventional choices. This is not how I identify as a film fan. Typically I like movies that non-Film Nuts have never heard of. But we can’t all pick the Ruby Sparkses each and every year.

Lesson #1 from 2012 is the more new releases one sees, the more the element of surprise is eliminated from the ranking equation. I have a firm scoring system (to be discussed) that is designed to remove all the mystery from why one movie ranked higher than the other. The problem with seeing so much is that you begin to lose definition on the fringe, and though you still appreciate small innovative films, they tend to lose out to all the noise.  Thus I found that I’ve been gravitating towards films that leave a lasting impression on the whole instead of movies that may have made a significant stride towards advancing the medium, and I’m not sure this is a good thing.

Why Would I Want to Mess with My Number?

The short answer is that I did it because I could. Or maybe I did it because I’ve always wanted to just let it rip and see how many films I could see in a year. But there was no real driving reason behind it. While I argue that 2012 was a fine year for film, I wouldn’t say that it was an exceptional year. But nonetheless at some point in the year I made a choice that 2012 was the year I was going to really push myself. It was one of those organic-but-arbitrary decisions that is probably a result of deep psychosis, but because I believe that there has to be a tangible explanation for everything, I’ve come up with the following excuses:

·         The Slow Start – I saw my first film (Norwegian Wood) right about when I normally start seeing new releases – in late January. But then the next movie I saw was Chronicle nearly a month later in mid-February. And then I wasn’t on the board again until I saw Goon on March 6th. By the end of March I was at only five movies for the year and that made me freak out. I remember giving myself a pep talk around tax day, in which I vowed to turn this around before it got out of control. I guess I listened to myself, because by the beginning of July I had seen 50 films;

·         Chasing The Cabin In The Woods - On April 20th I saw and adored The Cabin in the Woods. It was so clearly the best movie I had seen at that point in the year, that I wondered if it would actually top my year-end list. There is something so intoxicating about seeing a film that captures your imagination that you can’t help but chase more of the same; and

·         The Holy Ranking System - Prior to 2011, I ranked the films I saw in the year by piecing together a list.  I would find relative positions by deciding that one film was better than one but worse than another and with enough tweaking throughout the year, I would eventually end up with an order. It was never perfect and I never liked this method because it always insulted my empirical sensibilities. I would actively target movies that I felt were too high or too low, but would ignore others that didn’t jump out at me and I was always nagged by the possibility that I could be inflating the actual quality of films that I wanted to like above films that might be superior achievements. 

Surely top ten lists and year-end rankings are understood to be models of personal finesse and taste, but I was bothered enough by this that in 2011 I developed a scoring system to do away with much of the guessing. My system is based on a ten-point score with movies gaining points based on categories such as "gut reaction," "style," "look," "editing," "story," "performance," "sound" and "wow factor." I won't go into much detail, but please understand that I have clear parameters set for each category (except wow factor, where I allow up to one point for just being sucked into a movie's aura) and I believe that they work really well at approximating the very things I watch films for and the very qualities I want to be scoring. I ran a test of the system in 2011, and I really liked the results I got – they both felt true to my impulses AND were defensible. I liked the results so much, that I grew a little infatuated with my system and I couldn’t wait to see how well it would work for me in 2012 – the more films the merrier. Of the three excuses I’ve provided, I think this had the most influence on my record-setting run in 2012.

How Exactly Does One Raise Their Number?

While I believe in the purity of the theater experience, and prefer the theater in all circumstances, I don’t hold myself to seeing everything in the theaters. Like all of us Film Nuts, I feed my Number by going to the theater, renting movies from the store (and sadly, my beloved neighborhood video store closed this past fall, becoming another Dunkin Donuts that I won’t patronize), utilizing Netflix, visiting a Redbox or two, and watching through iTunes, OnDemand or Amazon.  But Lesson #2 of 2012 is that you just have to embrace the many different watching options that are out there, and appropriately I embraced some new-to-me "delivery mechanisms" that are primarily responsible for getting me up and over my goal:

·         I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas in 2011 – I’m not too much of tech guy, and I never thought that I’d venture into the tablet world. But the Fire really works for me. It's not overly complicated, but I can read books on it and I can rent new movies cheaply from Amazon, download them onto my device and watch half while sitting on the bus on the way to work and half while sitting on the bus on the way back from work. I did this approximately 18 times in 2012;

·         Mastery of the Business Trip Cram Session - I have a job that takes me out of town every month or so. I travel for meetings and workshops that take place all over the southern part of my state during the daylight hours, but since I generally travel on my own, my nights on the road are generally mine. Years ago I embraced seeing one movie while travelling, either in the theater or via hotel pay-per-view rentals, but in 2012 I truly familiarized myself with the theaters of downstate Illinois. With no obligation to be home with my kids for dinner, I found I could start watching films at around 5PM and not stop until I’d seen three, sometimes four, movies;

·         I discovered Drive-In theaters.  I’ve long been obsessed with the Drive-In. This is an offshoot of an obsession I have with California, which is not where I live. I associate Drive-Ins with quintessential Route 66-style Americana that is so evident in southern California. As I discovered this year, drive-in movie theaters are actually part of the lore of Route 66 all along that old road -  which just so happens to have historically begun in Chicago, where I live. So this year I really pushed the Drive-Ins, seeing as many movies as I possibly could there. Around here, the Drive-Ins are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and none of them are less than an hour away from where I live, but I still managed to see eight movies at the Drive-In:

§                   The Amazing Spiderman (End of the year ranking: 47/212);
§                   The Avengers (82/212);
§                   The Bourne Legacy (163/212);
§                   Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (202 / 212);
§                  Prometheus (26/212)
§                Snow White and The Huntsman (142/212);
§                   Ted (78/212)
§                   21 Jump Street (87/212)

On the whole, it doesn’t appear that the Drive-In yielded too many gems – most of the above films are middling at best, but only three of the above were films I planned on seeing anyway (The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy and Prometheus), so it could be argued that the Drive-In helped give me an edge this year. Incidentally, it could also be argued that there is a profound “Drive-In Effect” on these films. Nearly all of them are actually higher than maybe they need to be (Prometheus especially) - maybe that ranking system of mine needs some tweaking.    

·         We Dumped Cable - Last December, my wife and I decided that we would like to save over $100 per month by swapping cable for a Roku Box and a Hulu subscription. This has its drawbacks (I felt incredibly disconnected from a healthy baseball obsession that I have) but it had a measurable effect on my film totals in 2012. With this life change we never ended up adding new television shows to our repertoire in 2012, and in fact we jettisoned two sitcoms and one procedural from our watching rotation. This action saved us roughly two-hours a week for 22 weeks throughout year – that’s time for about 22 movies, if you’re counting at home.  

·         Let Time Be the Decider - In April I decided that I wouldn’t let desirability drive my film choices.  Instead, in some cases, I would adopt the philosophy that a movie starting NOW is as good as any and whenever I had the chance, I simply would walk into a theater and get a ticket to see the next unseen film starting at that theater regardless if I wanted to see it or not. Utilizing this methodology, I saw the following films:
      Branded (211/212);
§                     The Collection (212/212);
§                     Fun Size (186/212);
§                    Hit and Run (206/212);
§                    Red Dawn (201/212); and
§                    The Watch (137/212)

Lesson #3 of 2012 is that this methodology is junk. I may have added several films to my Number using it, but nearly all of them are bottom feeders.  Clearly, this is not a worthwhile strategy and I will never engage it again.  

More Lessons Learned 

I have always maintained a working list of the films that I want to see in a given year. Typically, I only add films to this list about which I hear or see something that peaks my interest. My theory is that I am my own best resource and that films I recommend to myself are generally the films that hit best with me. Admittedly, I do a lot of talking about movies that I want to see at home, at bars, with Vance, and around the office, so I am aware that discussing my watch-list may bias me towards them and incite a self-fulfilling prophecy. But with the establishment of a working scoring system, I thought that I might be finally able to see if  "The List" really works.

Lesson #4 from 2012 is that The List really works. As 2012 started I had four films on my anticipated film list to start the year (The Cabin in the Woods, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper and Django Unchained).  Throughout the year I added 12 more. With the exception of Gangster Squad, which didn’t open in 2012, I saw all of them. Here is how they performed:

§           Bernie (10/212);
§          Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (39/212);
§          The Cabin in the Woods (7/212);
§          Cloud Atlas (147/212);
§           The Dark Knight Rises (32/212);
§           Django Unchained (18/212);
§           Killing Them Softly (24/212);
§           Lincoln (104/212);
§           Looper (3/212);
§          The Master (75/212);
§          Prometheus (26/212);
§          Rust and Bone (12/212);
§          Silver Linings Playbook (1/212);
§         The Sound of My Voice (17/212); and
§          Zero Dark Thirty (2/212)

There is a pretty excellent track record here. Five of The List movies were in my Top Ten for the Year (in fact, my entire top three comes from the list), an additional other four of them are in my top 25. The List isn’t perfect -- I didn’t really see the charm of the intentionally vague The Master, and I didn’t like the minutia of Lincoln set against Speilbergian pomposity -- but even those two are in my top half for the year. The lowest ranked of all of these is Cloud Atlas which I almost missed seeing because, even though it was on The List, it kept feeling like a chore (it was). Still I think that the success rate here speaks for itself. 

Lesson #5 for 2012 is that regrets are OK. I did, at some point, come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t see every film in 2012. There are regrets here. I clearly wish I had never seen The Collection, and I have a hard time justifying that I saw that vile film, but didn’t see Seven Psychopaths, Amour (I actually couldn’t see this without traveling to New York or LA), Promised Land (apparently my Gus Van Sant obsession no longer applies to films he’s directing for other people), Not Fade Away (I’ll make it up to you, David Chase), Room 237, How To Survive a Plague, The Paperboy and Samsara. These are my biggest regrets for the year, but I’ve come to realize that we need to save things for later. New Releases are only part of my Number and I look forward to the above list filling in some of my 2013 Number and beyond.

Lesson #6 for 2012 is that you should always stay true to your Number. So my new Number is 333 per year, right? Absolutely not. I’ve alluded to this in the above, but let me come right out and say it – pushing myself in this way was not fun. I’m tired. I spent more money on movies than I have in any other year, and I stressed myself out numerous times throughout the year. I shirked some friendship responsibilities and in the end, I found that I didn’t even enjoy watching the movies anymore. It was an awful experience. So my Number stays at 250. As I said, 250 is comfortable and I owe it to the movies to enjoy seeing them.

What’s 2013 Look Like?

In order to keep my number at 250, I’m obviously never walking in to a theater to see the next available movie again. This was a fruitless exercise. And I think I’m going to eliminate the Kindle Fire from the methods that I use to watch films – there are plenty of books to read on the bus. But I do vow to expand The List in an effort to get back to what’s most important about being a Film Nut: Loving The Movies.  

So what’s going to be first in 2013?  Like Vance, I think I’ll see Gangster Squad first -- it’s the only movie currently on The List.  But I won't see it for a couple weeks -- not until I spend some time at home researching what is on tap for 2013 and not until I recharge my battery by indulging in some rewatches of tried and true classics (Blue Velvet, I’m looking at you).  Oh yeah, I’m also going to finish the complete series rewatch of The Sopranos that I started last night (David Chase, I told you that I’d make amends). 
What can I say?  I come heavy or not at all.