Recently Rated Movies #65: Broadcasting Half Alive

Talk to Me (2007)
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Cinema 4 Rating: 6
Notes: Talk to Me nearly smooth-talked me, alright. Pulled right in from the start, I became convinced that, once again, Don Cheadle was robbed of an Oscar, and also convinced that Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is fast becoming a favorite of mine, should be nominated constantly for the next ten years. I was deep in admiration for this film -- and then the last 45 minutes happened. It has nothing to do with disliking anything in particular which happens in that time, but it has everything to do with watching a film rush too quickly to its dénouement, to the point where I didn't even recognize characters with whom I had just been enamored a short half hour before, watching them devolve into mere cartoons in the name of tidying things up neatly. Edges dissolve, tears are shed, and I was waiting impatiently for the credits to roll. Great detail, though, in the sixties scenes, and the riot scenes are devastating.
Replay/Purchase Meter: Cheadle and Chiwetel (that has something of a ring to it... perhaps a great new team?) need to be seen, and I will watch this again just for them. No purchase though.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [Le Scaphandre et le Papillon] (2007)
Director: Julian Schnabel
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
Notes: I am so close to giving this my highest rating straight off (that would be a "9"), but that would be disregarding my rule of not allowing such a thing until a film has been out at least a decade, no matter how much I love it. It's a built-in device, of the sort that I wish many movie sites would employ, On my list, there are some very beautiful or amazing films waiting for their tenth year to run out. Not that it means a damn thing to those films or their makers; I am but a lowly, but highly-opinionated, worm, but that holding back on a "9" blessing means a lot to me. Having stern lines drawn and following through on them makes the guts of my inner world ripple far more tautly than the guts of my physical being. And sometimes, having such control of my hidden self is all I need. But my inner world is self-imposed, unlike that of the Diving Bell's main figure, Jean-Do, paralyzed except for a single eye, who increasingly has to maintain his sanity through an elaborate fantasy life which he can only spell out to the world by learning how to write by blinking his left eyelid. Sound too crazy for words or images? True story, people. And as horrifying and humiliating as some of his hospital life seems in such a direct context, the film cannot be turned away from. It is hypnotic from the first scene. The main thing I learned from Diving Bell is that, if one is going to lose most of their facilities, hopefully they will have had the good fortune to have edited a high-gloss fashion magazine in their movable past. 'Cause even in his shabbiest moments, Jean-Do finds himself surrounded by beautiful women. Or maybe it is one of the more subtler hints in the movie that due to Jean-Do's increasing distance from those of the opposite sex, every women appears beautiful to him. Hard to know; haven't read the book. Probably should.
Replay/Purchase Meter: Yeah, this one is joining the collection. Can't imagine even fully-limbed life without it now.

Nightfall (1957)
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Notes: Here's to rediscovering actors that we once wrote off for obscure or dopey reasons. In my youth, I became convinced that Robert Ryan was terrible because I saw him in a couple of rather shabby productions late in his career, and so I avoided a great many other films out of which I may have gained varied amounts of pleasure due to his appearing in them. Then, I saw a couple of old westerns, and when it dawned on me that the actor on whom my attention was locked magnet-tight was Ryan, I had to rewrite my internal film textbook. Recently, I have to do a similar repair job on Aldo Ray, whom I have always mildly enjoyed (We're No Angels, especially) but for whom I have never held any great respect. This may have been due to my seeing a porno movie (Sweet Savage with Carol Connors, aka Thora Birch's mom) in the late '70s which feature Ray in a bit part, and from that point on, I thought of him primarily as a sad has-been. And then I watched Nightfall on TCM last week, a missing film on my Tourneur list, which is every bit as tough as another great noir flick from relatively the same period, Kiss Me Deadly. The film jumps through hoops to keep you on your toes, Brian Keith and Rudy Bond are a truly sadistic pair as the villains, and Anne Bancroft is stunning as the possible love interest. And then there is Ray, seemingly as sweetly meat-headed as ever, but with a determined mien that is positively contagious, drawing the viewer (and Bancroft) deep into his plight, no matter how tightly the noose seems to be pulling around his neck.
Replay/Purchase Meter: Since this one seems to be more obscure, it's not available on DVD yet. Tourneur fans need to see this one, and until it hits a disc, I am going to watch this on TCM every chance I get.


EggOfTheDead said…
Is there a list somewhere of your "9" rated movies that have cleared the 10-year hurdle? I'd like to see that.

Not that I give a damn what YOU think ;-)
Rik Tod said…
Hmmm... maybe what I should do instead of that list of my favorite films on the sidebar is to put up a list of my highest rated films. (There is a big difference, you know..)

One could click on the link to my ratings on IMDB, but that list is always a work in progress, and I am still adapting films that I rated years back to my more recent "9" system. And adapting films at all levels to it as well.

And unlike Spout, where I have rated something around 6,000+, I only have just under 5,000 on IMDB (probably because it is easier to rate films in batches on Spout).

My basic rule about the "ten year hurdle" is that we are all so quick to declare that the latest film we have seen is the greatest thing ever. If you were to ask a five year old after they have left a film what their favorite movie is, most likely they will answer the name of the film they have just seen. I would like to believe that adults have a little longer memory on this, but time and time again, I find myself disappointed on my count. The way I size up or get to know new people I meet is to ask them (and I do this with everyone) what their favorite all-time film is. The vast majority of these people will claim something they have seen in the last six months, if not less. This is fine, especially if they are really, truly being sincere.

But it's not so fine when a movie site is relying on considered opinion, but is more often subjected to knee-jerk reaction or bubble-headed fumbling. I was recently tagged by someone new on Spout, and when I checked their profile, they had rated somewhere around 675 films, and everyone was marked with a five (out of five) star rating. From Hailey Duff video flicks to The Dark Knight and Space Chimps. Five stars on Spout means "I loved it", an abhorrent system for rating films, but there it is. Either this person, supposedly a teen or young college age girl, is someone who just loves everything she watches, and possesses zero critical faculties, or "she" is a middle aged dude desperately trying to pass himself off as a teen girl as a gag. If she is really the first thing, then she might be in the right place, because Spout's catchphrase is "Find Movies You'll Love." (Perhaps I am in the wrong place at Spout, since it's more than likely I won't love something but that will all come out in the wash in a few days anyway.)

Sure, I come out of films all fired up and raving how brilliant they are. But I wait a few days to write about them, if I do at all. Why? Because while I may have felt that initial thrill from going to the movies, I let myself come back to this horrible reality and muse on what I have seen for a while. For me, there are no films where "I don't want to have to think." That to me is a weakness. Even when I go to a monster movie, where many people feel they can check their brain at the door, I have to remain on point. There's too much at stake for me. There is a feeling that I get when I see a film I love that is better than any manufactured or nature-grown opiate. But even when I see that film, I still let myself come off the high. I need to reflect. I need to reassure myself that what I just saw is worthy of my further interest.

Somewhere out of this method, I have built the ten-year hurdle. It keeps me from rating films on IMDB with tens as soon as I get home from the theatre (well, nines now, I guess). It allows me to get angered when EW puts out "Greatest This and That of All Time" lists and then toploads them with films its reviewers saw in the past five years, to keep their forever younger audience from running away crying. It makes me not put my highest rating on something like Pulp Fiction until just a couple of years ago, when I was certain that my devotion was true. It proved itself to me, and I, in return, proved true to it.

So, my answer would be "No, there is not really a list, because I really haven't finished it yet." But I could take a crack at it. Looking at the films on my IMDB "9" list that were most recently released, there is Pulp Ficton, Reservoir Dogs, Shawshank Redemption, Schindler's List and Nightmare Before Christmas. There are others that I will probably add in up through 1998, but I just haven't yet. Still doing that updating, but likely I will move Ed Wood, Hard-Boiled, Crumb, Election and The Killer onto that list, amongst others, eventually. Recent films which will likely go on in a few more years would be The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Brick, The Incredibles and City of God.

And that's what I think. Not that YOU give a damn. ;-)

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