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As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

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The Last of Robin Hood

A title as good as "The Last of Robin Hood" deserves a better movie. In fact, it deserves a good movie.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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The Monthlies

I was watching Akira Kurosawa's 1948 "Stray Dog" the other night, in which a nightclub owner said one of his chorus girls was "sick" with "her monthlies." This is not something you could have heard in a Hollywood film in 1948. But it reminded me of several things I wanted to let you know about this particular month:

1) It's Un Mumf de Odienator at Big Media Vandalism again -- that is, the third annual Black History Mumf! Odie kicks things off with a stellar appreciation of "Boyz N the Hood," capping it with a personal note:

Black History Mumf is all about my confessions, which I wrap up and hide in these pieces. Growing up, I was Tre minus the bad temper. I was the smartest kid most of my friends and family knew, and for that I was ostracized, beaten up, and ignored by the girls. They went for the guys I knew who sold drugs. It seemed like everybody I knew was up to that, or stealing cars, so I wanted to participate as well. I wanted to belong, to be popular, to have the girls like me too.

But every single time I tried to get involved with shit I had no business involving myself, the other parties would make me go home. "Go home," they'd tell me. "You shouldn't be here. You're going to be somebody." I hated them for that. It still stings a little bit when I type this now, which is fucking absurd because I really should be thanking these people for shooing me away every single time. If they were still on this plane, I could thank them for keeping me from their fate. This movie reminded me of how lucky I am. I may or may not "be somebody," but the one thing I know for sure is I'm still here.

Keep checking back here for more Black History Mumf throughout February.

2) As you can see from the banner in the right column, it's The Muriels -- a new award every day until February 28! (At the end of it all, maybe I'll show you my individual ballot.)

So, guess what movie got the 25th Anniversary Award for Best Film of 1984? (Hint: "Nobody knows who they were or what... they were doing.") Guess what won the 50th Anniversary Award for Best Film of 1959? (Hint: ROT.) Best Directorial Body of Work of the Decade? (Hint: "This is defamation.") Best film of the Decade? (You don't need a hint. It's "Mulholland Dr.," once again. No surprises there.)

And my condolences to Paul about Charlotte.

3) Finally, you must check out Dennis Cozzalio's awe-inspiringly (and intimidatingly) comprehensive The Movies of 2009: Personal Best at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. If I tried to something this ambitious it would probably take me until 2013. (I appreciate the photo at the top of the post, too.) Dennis's ability to get under the skin of "Summer Hours" and capture the feeling of watching it demonstrates why he's one of the people I most enjoy reading:

"Summer Hours" may seem to be setting up for a contentious family feud over property rights, but it's clear early on that Assayas has no interest in such finite debates. What interests him is the dynamic between people who aren't used to spending time together who must now face serious implications for their future. The movie has a great deal invested in the consideration of how much memory and meaning are tied up in physical objects and surroundings as opposed to within the rather less tangible reveries that may be permanent part of the makeup of a family, reveries that can be sparked by something as simple as a sweet wind or a shaft of light, dust dancing in its path. Near the film's conclusion, as the camera traces a new path through the gardens of this lovely property, lilting past a group of teenagers who have no truck with Hélène's past but who may be now forging their own connection with its lushly ambient confines, we feel liberated, unburdened by the weight of history and its representation. The world feels fresh, new, waiting the coming summer hours where a new history can be written.

This reminds me of one of my favorite moments in the movie, when the daughter announces that she is engaged to be married. Her siblings laugh -- and she knows why, but we don't. And the movie, respecting the shared history of family, just leaves it at that. No expository dialog, thrown in for the convenience of the audience. We don't need to know what they know, just that they know it.

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