Mineshaft Gap

It's a screening log, no more no less. Maybe I'll have something interesting to say one of these days...

Friendship and Revenge.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Jones, 2005)

Jones's masterful, sad elegy to friendship and the land is one of the most underappreciated films of 2005. It is film that wears its innate nihilism on its sleeves, yet is sad for those feelings. The brilliant strategy of the film is to do away with concepts for heroes and villains and instead showing a group of tragic people that exist in this world. In the end it is not important that there was no Jimenez, the reveal of the photo shows that even Pete could not have truly believed it, but that friendship could exist. In the world that Mel and Pete longed for together, it is the longing that proves the salvation of humanity.

And so, my final top ten of 2005.

2005 Top 10:
1. Cache
2. A History of Violence
3. The New World
4. The Squid and the Whale
5. Grizzly Man
6. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
7. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
8. Match Point
9. Brokeback Mountain
10. The Devil's Rejects

The Dancing Chicken.

Stroszek (Herzog, 1976)

Bruno S. may be one of the all time most underappreciated actors. In Herzog's masterful Stroszek he gives a performance of such bizarre intensity and wit that it almost feels that he is less acting than just inhabiting the screen. Herzog's own talent with visual beauty, lyrically on display here is also utterly moving. The images are bold and last with you for some time. I doubt that the dancing chicken will leave my head for days. Sad, funny and moving without schmaltz or sentimentality, Herzog has hit upon something very true in this film.

Why does Herr S. Run Amok?

Signs of Life (Herzog, 1968)

Herzog's first feature is an interesting look at his themes in their infancy. Stroszek is a Herzogian hero, driven mad by life, but seems incomplete compared to an Aguirre or a Treadwell. The film is visual sumptuous, though. The scenery is a character in the film, representative of the world crashing in on man. The acting is all solid, and if puts you off kilter in a very subtle way. The film is definitely experiential, and it depends on your identification with Stroszek.

Overall, an interesting first feature and one that completely shows Herzog's future promise.

Random acts.

For Ever Mozart (Godard, 1996)

Placed next to the genius of In Praise of Love, Mozart is a seemingly random and needlessly vague film. Perhaps if I had seen it before the his 2001 masterwork, I would feel differently. But as is it lacks the punch and cohesion of the Love, while trying to mine similar territory, it is a weak Godard effort.

Eulogies and Odes.

Eloge de l'amour (Godard, 2001)

Godard's In Praise of Love is a tragic masterpiece. In a career of sad films, this is perhaps his most heartwrenching and yet it sneaks up on you unexpectedly and powerfully in the closing moments. It is a film about memory, and the fear that we can't ever remember for long. It is a eulogy to love, through the inability for "adults" to put aside their lives and love another.

Edgar's search is one for a story worth telling, and his inability to find it in face of pressures from the outside(America) and the inside(his own misunderstanding and fear of love). It is combined with politics, art and life. In the tradition of all the great works of the Western world, it is dense and rewards the viewer for the work you put into it.

The photography of Paris is nostalgic of his New Wave work, and that of the countryside brims over with the most beautiful colors. In Praise of Love is his most beautiful film.

Godard defines clearly that which he is against (Spielberg, Titanic, Julia Roberts) and has much to say about what he is for (a meaningful art, love). The tragedy of the film stems from his own sadness that the former is causing the later to disappear.

My 10 favorite films of all time:
1. Citizen Kane
2. Eloge de l'amour
3. Dekalog
4. Rashomon
5. A Woman Under the Influence
6. Playtime
7. Dr. Strangelove
8. The Royal Tennenbaums
9. Au Hasard Balthazar
10. Hannah and Her Sisters

My Last Welles.

I saw my final unseen Welles, The Immortal Story. It's a bizarre film, probably made more so by seeing off a many generations down tape. It's a strange little tale about the importance of art and faith, well shot and with a striking use of color. Definitely minor Welles, especially compared with his next completed and released feature, F for Fake, but still with a lot of interesting aspects.

High School.

What an odd, bizzare, wonderful movie Heathers is.


**Major spoilers follow**

Cache is an utterly brilliant, haunting and affecting piece of moviemaking. Haneke builds and maintains such a palpable tension that it left me more scared than any horror film I have seen.

It's visual trickery and audacity make me want to singe Haneke's praises to anyone I can find. What he does here with point of view and implicating the viewer in the proceedings constantly keeps you off track. As it steadily reveals the frightening past of Georges and in turn all of France(and perhaps all of the western world), we learn all we need to know and are still left with questions.

The last shot is much discussed, but most average viewers are coming at it completly wrong. Trying to decide logically if the sons were behind it all along, or if there is an explanation of who sent the tapes is a fallicy. Michael Haneke sent those tapes, to make both the audience and the viewer aware of their forgotten misdeeds. After the final shots of Georges trying to sleep away his guilt followed by the young Madjid's fate, we kno all we need to about the fates of the fathers. So in the last shot Haneke asks one last question: What of the sons? Is the final shot redemptive, showing how the next generation can learn from the last's mistakes? Is it threatening, is it by chance?

The answer is not what Haneke is after, he simply wants you to ask the question.

Current 2005 Top 10:
1. Cache
2. A History of Violence
3. The New World
4. The Squid and the Whale
Grizzly Man
6. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
7. Match Point
8. The Devil's Rejects
9. Broken Flowers
Brokeback Mountain

Minor Boyle.

A Life Less Ordinary is a cute, fun little movie. I can't imagine anyone other than Ewan McGregor in this part and Boyle's camerawork is fun.

Tracking Shots.

Nouvelle Vague, Godard's rumination on classism, male/female dynamics and metaphysics, is one of his most successful later works, and one that ranks amongst his best films. Making great use of French film icon Alain Delon, the film connects present and past, rich and poor all through the device of the tracking shot, a movement that Godard had all but abandoned by 1990. His return to this classic tool of the cinema combines with beautiful language (apparently mostly quotations of one sort or the other) to effectively update Renoir's Rules of the Game.

What is Godard saying in his New Wave? He condemns the consumer culture of used people and used emotions, but in the end there is hope for reconciliation between the proletariat and the bourgeois. And as always in Godard, that hope is love.

Love and Memory.

Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour feels stuck between two worlds. Thoroughly modern in style and structure it still feels so connected to the films of the 40s. Where as Godard and Truffaut were both clearly enfants terrible, Resnais's handful of years on them put him still with one foot in the tradition of classicism that the younger filmmakers have progressed from.

None of this is in any way a criticism, however. The film's presentation of a simple man and woman in love, is full of more human emotion than any of the classical melodramas that came before it. It seems to proceed from a simple logical argument. He says that she can never experience the pain of loss that those affected by Hiroshima feel, and she sets out to show him that he is wrong. Along the way we see feminine pain on the order of Dreyer and masculine repression of Hawks. A tragic, wonderful film.


I'll admit, there is something in me that resists silent films. Perhaps it's my conditioning by the media of the 1980s and 1990s, or just some genetic predisposition, but they can't get to me and I am usually somewhat bored. This is sad, because otherwise I might think F.W. Murnau's Sunrise was the greatest film of all time.

Certainly one of the most beautiful and moving, it is a great entry point for me to just what those critics that decryed sound were talking about. This film simply would not work with dialogue, it's expressionism is plain and untouched by that use of sound. Instead it combines amazing imagery with a moving melodrama to produce a height of drama. Maybe now I'll finally get it.


Final Destination 3 does away with almost everything that made the second film an interesting, in hollow, genre entry. The major rollercoaster set piece is lacking, and on the whole the fillm lacks anything of interest.

JLG finds his faith.

I have no idea why Catholic church would attempt to ban Godard's Hail Mary. A haunting and beautiful film, its only crime might be to suggest that Mary and Joseph were human beings that would have been bewildered by what befell them. It is also incredibly interesting to watch the old hard line Maoist refinding the faith of his youth. He fashions here a simple, beautiful film that is anchored by a wonderful performance by Myriem Roussel as Mary. In fact, the only fault I can find is that it almost seems to indorse creationism in classes, but then again, not really.

I could imagine no other response from a Christian than deepening of faith through this film, but the only response I could imagine from The Passion of the Christ is disgust so what do I know.


Notre Musique is a film of dualities. Heaven/hell, man/woman, Palestinian/Israeli, life/death, art/destruction, war/peace. It sees this duality as the very essence of both life and all its problems. But from this duality there can come devices, strategies, arts to bridge the gap, to overcome and to unite. Godard posits that the cinematic image is the great hope for uniting the world.

The central scene in the film is Godard's lecture on montage. He sees this essential joining of two disparate things, shots, meanings, light as a literal ability to join Israel-Palestine, life-death. It comes to a point where it all becomes music, unifying music.

In reality, all is shot-reverse shot and if war is just the other side of peace then peace is obtainable, since war is.


Dirty Harry is a disgusting film. Nothing more than a misanthropic, pro-fascist tract, Siegel's film posits that everything would be okay if the damn liberals would let us torture suspects.


JLG does Shakespeare.

Literally. Godard's King Lear is a film of bizarre beauty, and lyrical ugliness. The film is destruction of Shakespeare's text and a recombination into a poem on the importance of art. Either that or it is an elaborate practicle joke that Godard has deftly pulled on all of us.

Probably second to Soigne ta Droit in my least favorite Godard's, and certainly no First Name: Carmen, or Passion. King Lear is interesting in sections and maddening in others. Of course that is certainly what Godard intended, so perhaps it is wholly successful.


Michael Showalter's The Baxter is a sweet, charming little movie that doubled me over laughing. Perhaps it is just my own self recognition in the schlub that doesn't get the girl(until lately), but it just hit me right. Showalter gets superb performances from his cast and his cute, quick script moves things right along to a thoroughly satisfying ending.
Plus, the scene with Peter Dinklage gave me a headache I laughed so hard. A really nice movie.


The Matador is a pleasurable film. Not laugh a minute raucous like The 40 Year Old Virgin or Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; it is rather a well investigated character study that just happens to be pretty darn funny.

Probably the best work of Pierce Brosnan's career, The Matador works by actually creating a surprising plot that reveals each bit of exposition with ease. A classic example of a ridiculous plot grounded by performances that ring true. The interplay by Brosnan and Kinnear is the film's main virtue, and Hope Davis makes the most of her minimal screentime. I'm very interested in seeing what Richard Shepard does next.


Lars von Trier's Epidemic is a mind fuck of epic proportions. I have little to no idea what the hell happened in the film, and its mix of fiction and documentary is frightening and bizarre. It is also hauntingly beautiful.

What an odd film.

Japan in Cinemascope.

A very minor effort by Sam Fuller, House of Bamboo is destroyed by a horrible plotting and ridiculous character relations. The entire Stack romantic subplot, for example, is atrocious. Ryan, however is very good and Fuller's direction is solid if borderline overdoing it. His first film in scope, he doesn't quite know how to frame in this rectangle, yet.

An oddity.

Now I get it.

I never understood Godard's pronouncement, "Nicholas Ray is cinema." I liked Rebel without a Cause all right, but that was my only experience with him and it didn't inspire me to look more. But after watching On Dangerous Ground, it clicked.

A great noir/potboiler/character piece with wonderful use of location shooting, Ray's film is a testament on sadness and loneliness. It is a textbook case for the use of doubling and reversals for dramatic effect. The camerawork is moody and atmospheric, easily conveying the melancholy tone. Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino both deliver superb performances.

In the modernity of this film, in both the tale and the telling, I see what the French critics of Cahiers felt Ray was a model for the cinema's future. Looking at it now, I wish that half of the current filmmakers could be this deep and daring. It even manages to earn its sentimental ending. A wonderful film.

Style and Substance.

Compared to Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, Barefoot Gen is a film that has no style, and no sense of balance. In Takahata's breathtaking film, we see the internalization of the violence of the atomic bombing, not the outward view of the attacks. Shinzaki's film plays almost as a bad gore film for much of its length and is far too episodic with little connection.

Barefoot Gen is a pale copy of a masterpiece.