A Discussion: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

In this edition of a still-nameless feature, I talk to my friend Ashley about a film that moves me to tears every time I watch it: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. There’s a little love for Michael Stuhlbarg, disappointment with love, and frustration with aliens’ names. There are some spoilers, so proceed with caution.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the Best 10 Seconds You’ll Never Hear

It came out recently that AMC Theaters had been posting a note (which they’ve also decided to remove) for moviegoers explaining the 10 seconds of silence in Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I have some thoughts on the silence, so proceed if you’re cool with spoilers.

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Hatewatch: The Bone Collector

I’m violating the spirit of a hatewatch and not actually watching this movie. A re-watch in this instance is completely unnecessary because I remember exactly what it is that I hate and will never come to appreciate.

Here is all you need to know about The Bone Collector: Denzel Washington is a quadriplegic who beats up Leland Orser’s character by biting and using the controls on his bed! Yes, a completely paralyzed man beats up another man. Suspending disbelief is an important element in many movies, but this one is asking the viewer to believe in something more ridiculous than a Norse god or a guy dressed like a bat fighting crime.

In short, The Bone Collector is a piece of shit. Don’t ever see it. Ever.

A Discussion on Wes Anderson’s Rushmore

Welcome to a new feature at the still-young Back Row, Center Seat. My friend Ashley and I have some pretty disparate opinions on certain films, so we thought it would be fun to periodically sit down and discuss our differences. Will one convince the other to a change of opinion, or will we remain solid in our love or hate? Watch this space to find out!

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Hatewatch: Daredevil (2003)

Where do I even start with this mess?

The beginning is as good as any place to start, so let’s go there first. The opening credits are clever enough; using the lights in New York cityscape windows to mimic Braille. And the very first shot of Daredevil himself is pulled right from the Guardian Devil graphic novel. Then, after these first five minutes, the movie goes completely sideways.

The Ben Affleck voice over is terrible. As soon as he starts telling the story, the skin crawls at what a shitty actor Affleck is. And not even an endearing shitty like you routinely find in B-movies; he’s just a full-on turd. When you can tell a shitty actor just by hearing his voice, well, I mean…that pretty much tells you everything, right?

After the accident that gives young Matt Murdock his special “radar sense”, we see some special effects that are actually relatively decent. For 2003, anyway. The sound of the I.V. dripping causing sound waves which Matt can “see” is effective in demonstrating how these new powers work.

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I kind of like the direction that was taken. It’s not perfect, but in a lot of ways it’s better than the absolutely nothing that we see in the Netflix Daredevil series. At least the film makes an attempt to be true to the comic. But, as a friend on Twitter pointed out, sometimes even staying true to the source material can be a failure.

A typical example of Daredevil’s radar sense.



Then, seemingly within no time at all, Matt is fighting the neighborhood bullies that kicked his ass 10 minutes ago, and doing so with the powers that took almost no time to hone. Well, except for that time he slid down a metal rail.

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The fight sequence is horrific, but only until you see a grown Matt Murdock fight Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner). Their fight is so ridiculously bad that you almost feel embarrassed for them. It can’t even attain CW-level fight choreography. I mean, the little boys who live next door to me have staged better fight sequences than this.


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The script is cliched, basic, and predictable; there is nothing humorous, novel, or remotely interesting within it. And it seems as though every line is delivered in such a way to draw our attention to that fact; almost as if the cast is screaming for help by giving the flattest, most uninspired deliveries possible. And that’s just Affleck and Garner!

Now, let’s get to the rest of the cast. What was Colin Farrell even doing? Mark Wahlberg recently said he asked for God’s forgiveness for Boogie Nights, but it would be great if Farrell asked for OUR forgiveness for what he did with Bullseye. In the comics, the character is a homicidal maniac, but Farrell’s portrayal is more camp than straight. That doesn’t offset Daredevil’s seriousness as much as it is just bewildering; like they’re in two separate movies. What is really strange about Daredevil is that most of the supporting actors do a more convincing job of acting than the stars. Joey Pants is Joey Pants, and the ethnically ambiguous and versitile Erick Avari is always fun to see in a film. Add in a cowering Leland Orser as Wesley, and the supporters really aren’t too bad.

The only real redeeming quality of Daredevil is the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Perfectly-cast as the physically imposing Kingpin, he could have been even more menacing, probably even iconic, with a director who had taken the project even remotely seriously. Although a bright spot in the film, his potential was wasted due to the weakness of everything else around him.

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With some touch-ups to the script and casting changes at three of the main parts, Daredevil could have been a decent film rather than the flaming turd that it is. The bottom line is that Mark Steven Johnson ruined everything that could have been good with this movie, and it’s a damn good thing he’s gotten relatively few chances to direct in the last 14 years.

Hatewatch: The Conversation

So, The Conversation. It’s, um, not exactly my favorite movie. As with some other films that I dislike, it can either be hard to put my finger on why, or I have irrational reasoning for the dislike.

With this film, it’s a little bit of both–the irrational is that it has far too much saxophone, and Harry’s (Gene Hackman) rain jacket is ridiculously thin and it bugs me to no end. But there’s a large amount of dark matter in my dislike–there’s something there, but it isn’t quite quantifiable. Like Blade Runner (if you follow me on Twitter, you already know how I feel about that film), I’ve given The Conversation a number of chances, although not as many. There are things to like each time I watch, whether they’re things I’ve always liked, or new things that pop up.

This time around, I tried looking at my hatewatch a little bit differently; it’s weird, but I tried not hating it, so let’s see what happened.

The first thing that struck me on this viewing was, in surveilling two individuals at the start of the film, Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) says to Stan (John Cazale), “I don’t care what they’re talking about. All I want is a nice fat recording.”  There are two things going on with that line: 1) Harry’s a professional, so it doesn’t matter what is being said or who he is surveilling; he has a job to do. 2) He’s divorcing himself from any sort of morality on his part and on the part of those he’s monitoring. Both things will crash down on him with a weight he couldn’t have imagined.

We then get a glimpse into Harry’s psyche after he unlocks about three different locks on his apartment door, only to find a birthday gift waiting for him as he walks in. This results in an immediate call to the super wondering how he was able to bypass not only the locks, but the alarm system! Later in the film, we hear Harry tell Amy (Teri Garr), “I don’t have any secrets.” But we all know person who won’t let anyone into his/her life does have secrets.

After some misdirection, we see how truly serious the situation is in which Harry finds himself, and realize that perhaps his paranoia isn’t so unfounded.

Because Harry has no life beyond his job, he lives through those he surveils. It leads to a sparse and lonely life. The pacing of the film is deliberate, but not in a bad way. It mimics what I can only assume is the solitude of being in a business that requires long hours sitting in the back of a van or on the top of a building while listening intently to the lives of others. David Shire’s simple piano score fits incredibly well with the pace and highlights, again, a sad and lonely life.

At the end of the film, the phone call that says “We’ll be listening to you” leads to a sweaty Gene Hackman in a chair playing the sax in the middle of a destroyed apartment, and that image is a perfect representation of what this film feels like to me.

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This time around I really found myself identifying with Harry–a loner, not a fan of human contact, and a bit suspicious of others. After this third or fourth watch, The Conversation‘s status as a hatewatch is now in serious jeopardy of turning into true appreciation.