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lew crippen / george kaplan mini-challenge


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#1 of 189 george kaplan

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Posted September 29 2003 - 03:18 PM

Both Lew & I are participating in a bunch of these challenges (S&S, AFI, 1930s) and while the challenges are certainly serving their primary purpose for both us (exposing us to new films), the ensuing discussions are often hampered by the fact that everyone is watching these films at different times. For myself, if I haven't seen a film yet, I avoid the discussion to avoid spoilers, and when I do see it, the disussion is long since over. But that's just the nature of the beast with these challenges.

Anyway, Lew & I thought it might be fun to challenge each other to watch 5 films that the other one loves. At least we could have some discussion of why we agree (or more likely, disagree Posted Image (amicably of course)) with each other about these. Of course, everyone is welcome to watch the films and join in the discussion.

The films (in alphabetical order) are:

All That Heaven Allows
Double Indemnity
A Hard Day's Night
Hopscotch
I'm All Right Jack
Ordet
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Spirited Away
Throne of Blood
Toy Story

And if you don't know who's being challenged to watch which film, you don't know Lew or I very well. Posted Image
"Movies should be like amusement parks. People should go to them to have fun." - Billy Wilder

"Subtitles good. Hollywood bad." - Tarzan, Sight & Sound 2012 voter.

"My films are not slices of life, they are pieces of cake." - Alfred Hitchcock"My great humility is just one of the many reasons that I...

#2 of 189 Adam_S

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Posted September 29 2003 - 04:37 PM

Let's see,

Lew
All that Heaven Allows
Hopscotch
Ordet
Spirited Away
Throne of Blood

George
Double Indemnity
A Hard Day's Night
I'm all right Jack
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Toy Story

I've seen Spirited Away several times, and planes, Trains and automobiles and toy story once, I'd be more than happy to break out my dvds of them to give them another whirl as they're all very fine films! (I've also seen double indemnity, but no dvd Posted Image )

I won't hedge in--no sense balooning this out of proportion--but I wondered what films I would challenge you guys with, and threw this list together of the following films
Empire of the Sun
Battle Royale
Lord of the Flies (1963)
Pollyanna (okay a disney film instead of animated)
Forget Paris

I"ll see if I can't get around to watching some of these films (though I was hoping to finish the thirties challenge instead) soon. Posted Image

Adam
 

#3 of 189 Brook K

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Posted September 29 2003 - 04:52 PM

I've seen all but Hopscotch and I'm All Right Jack. Hopscotch is very near the top of my Netflix list but after tomorrow I'm going to go all horror so I don't think I'll get to it until November.
2002 Sight & Sound Challenge: 321  Last Watched: L'enfance Nue
Last 8 Films Watched: In the Loop - A- / It Might Get Loud - B+ / What Just Happened? - B / Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - C- / Drums Along the Mohawk - A- / Punisher War Zone - B+ / Moon - C+ / A Man For All Seasons - B+

#4 of 189 Walter Kittel

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Posted September 29 2003 - 05:05 PM

Swap Hopscotch and I'm All Right Jack in Adam's post and I believe you have the lists for George and Lew. Looking forward to the discussion. ( For myself, I haven't viewed All That Heaven Allows, Hopscotch, and I'm All Right Jack. )

- Walter.

Fidelity to the source should always be the goal for Blu-ray releases.

#5 of 189 george kaplan

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Posted September 29 2003 - 09:41 PM

Well, Walter's right. Posted Image Hopscotch is one of my faves, and I haven't yet seen I'm All Right Jack (though I'm looking forward to it).
"Movies should be like amusement parks. People should go to them to have fun." - Billy Wilder

"Subtitles good. Hollywood bad." - Tarzan, Sight & Sound 2012 voter.

"My films are not slices of life, they are pieces of cake." - Alfred Hitchcock"My great humility is just one of the many reasons that I...

#6 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 30 2003 - 03:52 AM

Very close Adam and right you are Walter. Posted Image

I feel a bit bad, not having included a musical (I had ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’ on the list I sent George, but he did not get that far down my list), though I did consider including The Magic Flute and left it off, as it would really be tedious for anyone who does not like Mozart.
¡Time is not my master!

#7 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 30 2003 - 07:34 AM

Adam I saw Empire of the Sun when it was in the theatres, but not since. I’d have to watch again in order to comment. I’ve got Lord of the Flies in my DVD player and will watch it next (it was next on my unwatched Criterions) I’ve not seen the others.

As for the 30s, I’ve been in a bit of a lull. I have all of the rest on my list (save Sunrise which will be a purchase) in my Netflix queue. It is just a matter of waiting for them to appear. That is true of Double Indemnity as well—but it went from ‘long wait’ to not being available at all, so I guess this will motivate me to go on down to Premier Video and see if they have a copy.

You guys who have not seen I’m All Right, Jack are in for a treat. I actually put it on my list, because when I selected it in one of the Drafts some time back, everyone claimed to have never heard of it.
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#8 of 189 george kaplan

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Posted September 30 2003 - 08:42 AM

Let the games begin. Posted Image

Throne of Blood

Let me start by quickly reviewing my personal thoughts of film aesthetics. Obviously, one can, and should, breakdown an analysis of a film into various aspects (acting, direction, screenplay, etc.). You really wouldn’t have much to say about films if you didn’t do this. But for me at least, in the end, my overall evaluation of a film is not based on all of these various dimensions, somehow weighted into a total impression. Rather, I take a very holistic, gestalt look at the film. Overall, what was my interaction with the film, how did I perceive it, and basically, “Is this a film I ever want to watch again?”, which for me is the same question as “Is the experience I got from watching this film one I want to experience again?”, which frankly for me, is usually expressed in the shorthand “Did I enjoy this film?” or “Was this film entertaining enough?”. There are certainly films I’d rank higher on all or almost all dimensions than others, that would get a lower overall evaluation from me. So, I freely admit there may be some inconsistency in what I say if you expect the breakdown analysis to somehow conform to the overall rating.

OK, getting that all out of the way, let me get to the film.

For me, Throne of Blood is the second best Kurosawa of the ones I’ve seen (behind Rashomon). In some ways it was better than Rashomon (it didn’t leave any hanging chads Posted Image which prevents Rashomon from being all it could be in my opinion), but overall I think Rashomon is better. More than anything, Throne of Blood reminded me of an extended Twilight Zone episode. And while I’m sure this will piss off certain of Kurosawa’s most ardent admirers, I mean that very much as a compliment. Frankly, I find the average 22 minute Twilight Zone episode to be more thought-provoking and have more to say about the human condition, than most so-called ‘deep, art films’. In other words, I really liked the atmosphere of this film, and the way that it was structured. Obviously some of the credit goes to Shakespeare, but this is by far the best Macbeth I’ve ever seen, and I really think Kurosawa gets the credit for me liking it as much as I do (just like I think Bernstein and Sondheim are the reason I like West Side Story so much).

I thought Mifune’s acting was spot on, and while he can go overboard, in this film it worked for me. Unfortunately in Seven Samurai I think he went too far (just like Brando did in Streetcar), which is a major reason I don’t like that film nearly as much as most others do (I consider Seven Samurai to be Kurosawa’s most overrated film – not his worst by a long shot – just his most overrated, since it’s often a contender, for many, as the best film ever made). In any case, I think Mifune pulled it out in this case, and I never felt he was overacting.

Off the top of my head I can’t think of a lot else to say about the film. I thought the cinematography, set design, editing, etc. were all very good, though I don’t have anything insightful to say about any of them, although hopefully Lew (and others) will kick in and I’ll respond.

Now, on to my holistic impression of the film. There are lots of films that I could say nice things about very similar to what I said above, in which my overall impression is “I’ve seen it once, I have no desire to see it again”. But I am happy to report that for this film, I do want to see it again, and I will be adding the criterion dvd to my to buy list. Great pick, Lew! I will admit that the film started out a bit slow for me, and I was worried at one point early on that I’d be making my first post having to say something negative overall, but once the Witch stopped singing and started making predictions, the film really picked up.
"Movies should be like amusement parks. People should go to them to have fun." - Billy Wilder

"Subtitles good. Hollywood bad." - Tarzan, Sight & Sound 2012 voter.

"My films are not slices of life, they are pieces of cake." - Alfred Hitchcock"My great humility is just one of the many reasons that I...

#9 of 189 Holadem

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Posted September 30 2003 - 08:47 AM

I entirely agree with your first paragraph.

--
H

#10 of 189 Dome Vongvises

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Posted September 30 2003 - 08:57 AM

I declare the winner to be.....me!!!

runs off in the other direction screaming like a loon

Seriously, this will be fun to watch.

#11 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 30 2003 - 09:03 AM

Quote:
Seriously, this will be fun to watch.
Dome, we expect nothing other than full participation from you, including all possible points of reference between the films being considered and Star Wars. Posted Image Posted Image
¡Time is not my master!

#12 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 30 2003 - 09:36 AM

Now that was fast George. (I had to go back and read what I wrote about this film in the S&S thread—I really hate to contradict myself in public).

The last time I saw this film (and I’m sure for many forum members) was on the Kurosawa/Mifune retrospective when it came to Dallas. It was a real treat to see this as I had not seen it for many years—a bit like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

I think that you will find that when you see this film again, you won’t be bothered by the slow pace at the beginning. For me Kurosawa is constructing a very measured story, told in just the right amount of time and with the right pace.

For example, we get plenty of very slow, set pieces, where every person and every object is placed exactly—I’m always reminded in these scenes of a Japanese rock garden, sparse, but exact. You don’t have to be at all aware of Japanese culture to feel the tension right underneath the surface—it is only a question of when and how that tension will be relieved. And here, for me, is a part of Mufine’s mastery: he is perfect at instant rage springing from stillness and at becoming uncontrolled when being in control is the only way he can be saved.

Contrast these slow scenes, punctuated by raw emotion with the frantic battles or the desperate run through the forest. Here we have the opposite: action, contrasted with an occasional pause for reflection. I could go on, but basically I find the flow of this film to be extraordinary.

If I knew more about Noh plays, I expect that I would be able to reference some of the things Kurosawa is doing in those interior scenes where everyone is sitting and waiting. But as I know only a little, I’ll leave that to someone with real knowledge.

I agree with your characterization of Mifune’s acting George. He has often been thought by some critics to be guilty of overacting (mostly I don’t feel this way, but I can understand those who do), but in this case he hits the mark throughout. I would also add that I think that Yamada-san (can’t remember her first name, but she is the Lady Macbeth character)) gives one of the best performances of any female in a Kurosawa film. So calm, so quiet, so fiercely determined and so controlling—and all with a beautifully understated performance, the more remarkable as she does not get a lot of screen time to present her character.

Perhaps more later, especially I might have a bit on the cinematography, which I think is outstanding.

In any case, I’m really glad you liked the film George. It has been one of my favorites since I first saw it in the early 60s (no subtitles—now there is a treat). I hope that others will also.
¡Time is not my master!

#13 of 189 george kaplan

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Posted September 30 2003 - 11:11 AM

Dome, we expect nothing other than full participation from you, including all possible points of reference between the films being considered and Star Wars.
I was wondering why that one Samurai was wearing a Darth Vader helmet. Posted Image

Lew,

As far as the slow pace at the beginning, I think you are exactly right. I didn't know where this film was going, so I was starting to get worried, but having seen it in it's entirety, I'm sure I'll enjoy it even more at the beginning.

I am way too ignorant of Japanese culture to know any of the history or symbolism behind any of it, although it would be interesting if someone who does know throws in their two cents.

As far as the actress playing Asaji, I mostly agree with you. I think she does a great job, but I am more impressed by the female lead in Rashomon myself.

One thing both of those have in common is what I assume to be an authentic look (though very strange to me) of shaved eyebrows and painted ones much higher. Anyone have any insight into why that is?

I forgot to mention that I was very impressed with the direction and editing of the barrage of arrows death scene. I'm not sure how they did all of that, but (except possibly for the quick cut with the one through the throat) it looked very realistic to me.
"Movies should be like amusement parks. People should go to them to have fun." - Billy Wilder

"Subtitles good. Hollywood bad." - Tarzan, Sight & Sound 2012 voter.

"My films are not slices of life, they are pieces of cake." - Alfred Hitchcock"My great humility is just one of the many reasons that I...

#14 of 189 MartinTeller

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Posted September 30 2003 - 11:52 AM

Quote:
I forgot to mention that I was very impressed with the direction and editing of the barrage of arrows death scene. I'm not sure how they did all of that


In some shots, the lens Kurosawa uses makes the arrows appear closer to Mifune than they actually are. But they shot real arrows at him. The look of fear on his face is not entirely acting.

#15 of 189 SteveGon

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Posted September 30 2003 - 12:25 PM

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You guys who have not seen I’m All Right, Jack are in for a treat.

I'll second that recommendation. Posted Image


Interesting concept, this one-on-one challenge. Hmmm, who would I take on?

#16 of 189 Jim_K

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Posted September 30 2003 - 12:34 PM


Unfortunately in Seven Samurai I think he went too far (just like Brando did in Streetcar), which is a major reason I don’t like that film nearly as much as most others do (I consider Seven Samurai to be Kurosawa’s most overrated film – not his worst by a long shot – just his most overrated, since it’s often a contender, for many, as the best film ever made). In any case, I think Mifune pulled it out in this case, and I never felt he was overacting.


It's funny that Mifune was often criticized as overacting in Throne of Blood. Some critics were especially harsh on the film when it was first reviewed in the states.

I agree that Mifune pulled it off in TOB, though I don't agree with you on Seven Samurai.

I am a bit surprised that you haven't seen I'm All Right Jack. It's one of Sellers best performances.


Interesting concept, this one-on-one challenge. Hmmm, who would I take on?


I'd take you on Steve but we've probably seen most of the same films.
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#17 of 189 oscar_merkx

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Posted September 30 2003 - 09:01 PM

I have just started watching Throne of Blood as well

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#18 of 189 Matt<>Broon

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Posted October 01 2003 - 01:10 AM

I shall be fascinated to see what George thinks of 'Ordet' which is a beautiful, stunningly shot and paced film but one which I find bluntly unwatchable unless I am in just the right frame of mind.

As for Throne of Blood I think I can safely add my name to the list of fans. Posted Image
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#19 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted October 01 2003 - 02:28 AM

Quote:
I have just started watching Throne of Blood as well
Appropriately so. Posted Image
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#20 of 189 Lew Crippen

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Posted October 01 2003 - 03:44 AM

I just went over to DVDPlanet and ordered Hopscotch, so I should be ready to review.

As I already know that George and I are in about 95% agreement on comedies (for enjoyment, not ranking), I figure one he regards this highly has to be a good purchse.

Now if I can just sort out that Wilder…
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