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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 07:15 am:   

Gordon, here's my list.

Robert Duvall's =The Apostle=
John Sayles' =Men With Guns=
Darren Aronofsky's =Requiem for a Dream=
The Coen Brothers' =Barton Fink=
Victor Nunez's =Ruby in Paradise=

As such lists tend to do, this one changed hourly prior to being finalized. At various times I contemplated putting one or another of the following films on it: Billy Bob Thornton's =Slingblade=; Quentin Tarantino's =Reservoir Dogs= and =Jackie Brown= (IMO, Pulp Fiction was way too long); the Coen Brother's =Fargo=; Paul Anderson's =Hard Eight=; Sean Penn's =The Pledge=; Wes Anderson's =The Royal Tannenbaum's=; Alex Cox's =Highway Patrolman= (US funded, thus it qualifies); Victor Nunez's =Ulee's Gold=; and a number of others.

I settled on these because they were the films that affected me the most profoundly. The Nunez film might seem an odd choice, but I thought it was the best "women's" flick I;ve seen.
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DB
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 08:04 am:   

Have you seen A Flash of Green by Nunez? It's quite good also, though it was made in the 80s and wouldn't qualify for your list.
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JJA
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 08:38 am:   

Lucius --

What did you think of Aronofsky's PI?

I'm not sure why exactly, but I'm surprised Sling Blade almost made your list. Not because I don't think it's worthy -- I loved it, and consider it one of my favorite movies. I never got around to seeing SHINE, for which Rush won for best actor that year, but I have a hard time believing anyone deserved to win an Oscar for acting more than Billy Bob did for Sling Blade.
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 08:40 am:   

As a huge opponent of the "happy ending," I loved RFAD. I could watch the last five minutes of this flick over and over again. The sort of free-floating, disoriented affect is unique in recent movies.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 09:46 am:   

I like PI, but I don't understand why it had to be an indie flick -- the screenplay could have easily been turned into a blockbuster. But anyhiw, I liked it but nowhere near as much as Dream.

One reason I liked Slingblade was that it dealt with the south realistically, which I hadn't seen a movie do in forever. The side characters were brilliantly written, especially John Ritter's.
I liked the screenplay, the acting...It was great. Makes my top ten for sure.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 09:59 am:   

DB, I saw Flash. In fact, I have a little inside info about it. Nunez made the movie for American Playhouse on PBS, under a contract that gave him little control. He came in to the studio one morning and found the film had been edited, and badly. He complained and the woman in charge not only aired his movie as it stood but had him blacklisted. He was limited to commercial work for ten years. The only print existing of Flash is the one the woman edited and its a testament to how good a film Flash was that even in its butchered state it plays well. Ed Harris is awesome.
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 10:18 am:   

Lucius, do you think Pi could have been a blockbuster? I don't know the business like you do, but I wouldn't want to have to make a pitch about "a loner guy locked in his apartment with a computer, trying to calculate the name of God through mathematical equations, pursued by a cabal of Orthodox Jews..." Unless I miss my guess, the meeting would be over by the time I reached "equations"...I'll betcha I wouldn't even have time to finish my espresso!
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MarcL
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 10:40 am:   

Still haven't seen Slingblade, but I must. "The Gift" was remarkable for the very reason you mention: The great dialog, and the feel for southern dialect, made me realize what an exceptional scriptwriter Billy Bob Thornton is.

Boy did I hate "Barton Fink." I guess I feel about this movie the way you feel about "The Big Lebowski." It was the movie that made me reconsider my good feelings for Turturro. Although I really liked the scenes with John Goodman, most of it felt like the Coens going, "Hey, that David Lynch stuff, we can do it better." Especially that bell in the hotel lobby. But...I haven't seen it in years. I might reconsider.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 11:07 am:   

Dave, there's a TV show on now about a mathematician who solves crimes by math principles -- Numbers, CBS. When I saw PI I figured out exactly how I'd tweak it, what elements I'd distort. The conflict between Wall Street and Orthodox Jews was great. It would have been an easy pitch.

Slingblade wastes the Gift, Minz. Much better film.

Barton Fink...You say po-ta-to, I say it correctly :-) No, whatever. It all boils down to taste with the Coens. I find their comedies unbearable.
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Minz
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 11:58 am:   

I am not MarcL, nor have I played him on TV . . . too many cervesas, Lucius?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 12:07 pm:   

Sleep-deprivation, Minz. Sorry.

Marc...Fink rules. :-)
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 12:23 pm:   

Lucius---

Many thanks for the list! I wasn't expecting to hear back from you until next month, so this is like an early treat.

I haven't seen all the films here---is MEN WITH GUNS the only one with fantastic elements to it? I think some of the others get a little surreal, like BARTON FINK, but I don't recall any actual trips into the realms of the fantastic. (I'm not looking for any big meaning here, just thinking aloud. I noticed a strong thread of realism in the films you picked, and that set me wondering.)
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 12:44 pm:   

Hi, Gordon...I'm off again on Sunday, so this is a temporary break. Yup, Men With Guns is the only one with fantastic elements, unless you count hallucinations. The list, like I said, chnaged hourly, but on the airplane I settled on these here five. It occurs to me, somewhat late in life, that I may be a realist.
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StephenB
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 02:06 pm:   

It occurs to me, somewhat late in life, that I may be a realist.

What exactly do you mean by realist?

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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 03:07 pm:   

Okay, I mean that I espouse a naturalistic approach to writing fiction, to making films, that I appreciate that kind of work more than I do the fantastic, that I could and have elminated a great deal of the fantastic from my work to the work's benefit. To that extent...
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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 03:22 pm:   

i really admire REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, but i can't say i enjoyed it. fantastic film. won't watch it again though--couldn't possibly be as emotional as it was the first time round.

JJA: on rush in SHINE, he's actually quite good. but the film as a whole is just more academy friendly. i figure when it comes down to pick either side, the tortured artist genius performance will win over the not quite mentally there killer performance.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 03:36 pm:   

There's no doubt that Requiem is tough to watch. I feel the same way about Dancer in the Dark. But I think Dancer is a great film, and I remember it specifically and vividly, Requiem was easier for me because I've known those people and I was used to that kind of scene. Whatever, it's a great film.
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JJA
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 05:18 pm:   

All this movie talk reminds me: a friend of mine referred me to this movie rating site called Movielens (http://movielens.umn.edu/login). It's like a more sophisticated version of the various recommendation systems, like the one Netflix uses. The upside of this one is that you can share your lists with others (though Netflix lets you do this now with their Friends program, you can only share your list with other Netflix users).
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 06:34 pm:   

Thanks, JJA...
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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 07:35 pm:   

it was the grandmother that did it for me in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. but, like you said, it's a great film.

i liked DANCER IN THE DARK, but i found it easy to watch. maybe it was the musical numbers ;)
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 07:44 pm:   

The musical numbers just enhanced the horror for me, especially the last one....Yeech!

Burstyn was awesome as grandma. Who won the Oscar that year? Julia Roberts? Kee-rist!
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StephenB
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 08:23 pm:   

Okay, I mean that I espouse a naturalistic approach to writing fiction, to making films, that I appreciate that kind of work more than I do the fantastic, that I could and have elminated a great deal of the fantastic from my work to the work's benefit. To that extent...

I see.

Oh, and it's good to have you back around, by the way.

Requiem is a really good movie, disturbing, but that's its intention. I've known my fair share of meth heads....

I haven't seen Dancer in the Dark, but I really want to.



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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 08:45 pm:   

Wish I didn't have to go away again Sunday. :-)

Anything by VT is great!
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Rich P.
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:07 am:   

Thanks for the list, Lucius. Nice call on THE APOSTLE. Amazing cast in that one... I thought Billy Joe Shaver, as Sonny's best friend Joe, and June Carter were especially great.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 07:57 am:   

Yeah, and it was an insult that Duvall didn't nab an Oscar for EF. What a performance!
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Dave G.
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 08:22 am:   

A brief digression...movies and TV lost one of their most recognizable faces and voices with the death of actor John Vernon. R.I.P. Dean Wormer.

Proceed.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 05:38 pm:   

Guess who's on double secret probation now. :-)
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Vince Williams
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 12:47 am:   

"The Apostle" and "Requiem" are probably in my top 5 since 1990 too, a couple of amazing beautiful flicks. Robert Duvall's sermon at the end was maybe one of the top 5 mind-blowing heart-wrenching monologues I've ever seen. I could watch that scene a million times and find something new every time. I've seen "Requiem" several times too, phenomenal flick. The colors, camera work, film stocks, acting, directing, everything was perfect. (And former speed freaks know it was accurate as hell too)

In my top 5 since 1990, I would add "Shawshank." The last monologue with Morgan Freeman at the parole board was brilliant. Biggest sin in Academy Awards history: that flick was nominated for all of the major categories and didn't take home a single Oscar. Add "American Beauty" and "Pulp Fiction" to my top 5.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 05:04 am:   

I have no essential quarrel with Pulp Fiction, but Shawshank and American Beauty....Don't get me started. :-)

I watched Fargo again last night, and it' holds up pretty well. I may have underrated it, but the last half hour, I think, is a bit weak....
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 08:33 am:   

Lucius -- I'm surprised at the vehemence with which you despised Fight Club (or rather, the thought of even watching Fight Club). If I'd been asked to make a list of the 5 best American movies since 1990, I would have put Fight Club at the very top of the list. I was not impressed with Fincher before and haven't been since, but Fight Club, I thought, was brilliant. It's also one of those rare movies that, though very similar, is superior to the book on which it is based--even Palahniuk says so.

To round out my top five, I'd go with Sling Blade, Gattaca, 12 Monkeys, and Pi.

Other films that easily could have made my list are: The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs, Memento, Donnie Darko, and Reservoir Dogs.

The only one of the Lucius top five that I've seen is Requiem For a Dream (which I also liked very much), though I'm endeavoring to remedy that; I've got Men with Guns on the way from Netflix, and have added the others to my queue.

I'm a bit afraid to "get you started" on Shawshank, but what is your "essential quarrel" with it?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 08:42 am:   

Lucius---

On rewatching it, how did the scene in which Frances McDormand's character gets hit on by the Chinese guy work for you? I remember people saying at the time that the scene seemed unnecessary, or at best a comic diversion, but for me it solidified the whole film---it was the only point at which McDormand's character (Margo? Marge?) seems to be fearful and at risk. Everything else to her, the whole kidnapping investigation, is just work to her ... which is why I think it's so effective when she says that last line to the kidnapper (about it being such a nice day and all).
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 09:47 am:   

I have no doubt that Fight Club was superior to the book, because I loathed the book. The ending...oh, my god. But anyway, Shawshank was a typical Hollywood product move offering a ultra-sentimentalized view of prison. Here's a white banker, in the 40s, who goes to prison, and his fellow cons, mostly lower middle class or poor, think he's real swell, where in reality he'd likely have had his teeth knocked out, been used for sex, and killed within a week, long before he could impress anyone with his wonderfulness. They speak about him in Gee Whilikers tones one's finds only in comic strips. They become a boy scout fan club. Gosh, that Andy....what a guy! It was fucking hilarious. I thought for much of the movie they intended it to be a comedy. It actually works as a comedy. The old guy, the librarian, James Whitmore, with his pet bird...I thought he was going to do a little song and dance before he hung himself.

Blacks and whites mingle without any sign of prejudice in prison....wrong. Prison is the most highly segregated and racist part of sociery. Like bonds with like for protection. A friendship between a black and a white in a prison in the forties was about as likely as virgin birth. All Andy's little tricks...like locking himself in the warden's office and piping arias over the PA while the convicts listen in a state of transport, instead of---as surely would have happened--howling for his nuts on a plate. It's an entirely unrealistic portrait of prison life. Then there's that voiceover. That ass-kissing he's-my-hero voiceover. Morgan Freeman has made a career oit of being the black man who explains the actions of white character he admires, acting as a catalyst and interpreter. It's debasing, and unnecessary. The scene on the roof, when Andy gets beer for the cons.
"Andy just sat there with a little smile on his face." Jesus. For one thing, we didn't need to hear about the smile, we saw it. A voiceover should compliment a scene, not repeat it. He does the same thing in Million Dollar Baby, repeating, overexplaining to the audience as if they were a theatre full of dumbshits.

It's been said, Ok, but King and Darabont were telling a fable. Well, it's a stupid fable. Typical Hollywood triumph-of-the-human spirit hoo ha. The little guy rises up and whips the system. It's a pure unadulterated product of the studio system designed to make us feel good about our sorry lot, a fucking act of political oppression, the rich telling the middle class that, in essence, if things weren't so rough, if you weren't under pressure, your coal would never yield any diamonds. You'd never be able to overthrow the evil warden, swindle him out of a fortune, and make your way to paradise in some southern clime. Get it? It's a metaphor for life. Bust your ass in a factory for thirty years, be canny with your savings, and retire to Florida with your best bud. In the interim, you have eat the shit of the oligarchy and maybe get butt-fucked once in a while, but there's a better life awaitin'. You may think, perhaps, I'm reading too deep, but the subtext is there. Republican propaganda at its slimiest.

As for the acting, well, it's really irrelevant, but special note should be made of Tim Robbin's performance. He plays Andy Dufresne as if all the while he is gazing on the face of his savior, deriving strength from some calm prospect. St. Andy. There's no arc to his character, no change. He's as self-possessed from the first moment he steps inside the walls as he is the last day. Showing a little anxiety, a touch of nerves, would have been good. Robbin's is pretty much a sleepwalker as an actor, but we could have used a glimmer of emotion if he was, indeed, innocent. But of course the movie plays better if he's guilty, and he plays the part as if he is guilty. A cold, calculating individual who killed his wife. Just like the prosecutor said. That's why I thought it was a comedy. Then I noticed that no one else in the theater was lauging and I was forced to re-evaluate.

That about sums it up, I reckon.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 09:52 am:   

Gordon, I thought the scene worked to solidfy her. It;'s a good scene, the only one where she's out of her element. I guess I thought the weakest character in the movie was Macy. Some of his stuff was really good, but adding a touch more of literalness might have helped.
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Vince Williams
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 10:46 am:   

I disagree with all of the above commentary on "Shawshank" but that's the beauty of film, it's all up to interpretation. Stone thought he was making a drama with "Alexander" but when I saw it, people were laughing through that whole godawful movie. To quote the great philosopher Brad Pitt (lol), Morgan Freeman has "the Voice of God." Morgan could've read the phone book through that whole movie and I still would've loved it. Same with "Seven." I didn't see any Rupublican propaganda in the flick, as the bad guys were all God-fearing bible-quoting money hungry (and probably) Republicans. (Actually, the only problem I had with the flick was the bad guys were all overblown stereotypes, same with Maggie's family in "Million Dollar Baby") I've never been in prison from the 40s to 60s, but it seemed realistic for the time period to me. I had some problems with King's novella, but I thought Darabont took the story to a whole new level. Check it out from a less cynical point of view, it's a beautiful flick.

I forgot Scorsese's "Goodfellas" came out in 1990. I would have to throw that in to the expanded "top 10 since '90" list, along with "Seven," "The Rapture," "Reservoir Dogs," and "Boogie Nights." Maybe honorable mention to "Silence of the Lambs" Best flick ever made: "Cuckoo's Nest" Rebuttals welcomed.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 11:05 am:   

Lucius --

Thanks for explaining your views on Shawshank.

Regarding Fight Club -- if you loathed the book start to finish, then you'd surely loathe the movie. But if your only problem is the ending, you might like the movie (but I kinda doubt it). I also disliked the ending of the book, but it was changed completely in the movie. I'm assuming the problem with the end you're referring to is the very end of the book (the last chapter(s) or epilogue), not the twisty revelation of the nature of Tyler's and the narrator's relationship (which is the same, and would have to be or else it would have been a completely different story).
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 11:11 am:   

How can you disagree with the fact that it;s unrealistic? It's absurd, even if you weren't in prison in the 40's-60's, to think that race relations were better then than in recent times, and equally absurd to think that Andy's behavior, given the relative lack of constraint upon guards and prisoner's in the old days, would have been tolerated by either. Morgan Freeman may have the voice of god, but what he says with it is shit. It's like narration for retards. Beautiful? Wow. I don't think so. I wasn't in a cynical frame of mind at all--just reacting to the hideous acting, the ciunky direction, the laughable script, and the formulaic structure.

Almost all the movies you mention are medocre at best, to my way of thinking, especially Silence of the Lambs and Seven, which was atmospheric to a fault, yet entirely predictable. Any good Catholic would have worked out what was going on and would seen Brad's fate coming. The Rapture was an interesting failure and Cuckoo was made, I believe, well before the 90s. The only good movie Scorcese ever made was a long while before Goodfellas.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 11:21 am:   

JJA, I've seen bits and pieces of fight club, I like Edward Norton as an actor, I do not care for Brad Pitt. What I've seen of the movie is off-putting. I don't generally respect movies that use heavy filters to create atmosphere. That's a cheap way of going about and very much overused. The scenes I've watched haven't done much for me.

The book bored me. He had a good idea, but he fucked it up, as fas as I'm concerned, and I wasn't impressed by his prose style. I made it to the end, but only because I tried real hard.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 11:57 am:   

I'll have to check some of your favorites that I haven't seen out.

I'm with JJA about 12 Monkeys, I like Terry Gilliam, but I'd put Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas higher.

About Fight Club: I saw it once in the theatre. Thought it was alright, but way over-hyped and over rated, and I haven't had much desire to see it a second time.

For a top list of American movies since 90, I think a Tarantino is almost essential. I don't think Reservoir Dogs is as good as his other movies. For me it'd probably be between Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Lucius, I don't think Pulp Fiction was too long, it's a really entertaining movie and I like its length and how it weaves multiple stories. But still, Jackie Brown is almost better in some ways. But I don't think Dogs comes close to those two. I'd probably pick Pulp if I had to.

As Americans go, I'd add a Tim Burton film, even though he's made a few bad ones. For me it'd be between Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood.

Other movies not mentioned, that I think are worth mentioning:

Bram Stoker's Dracula. I know Coppola is a little over rated, considering his inconsitent output of excellence, and his best movie for me is still probably Godfather, but I liked this movie. I think it's a little under rated. Although, I like well made Vampire movies and literature and Winona Ryder.

Mulhulland Dr.: I know some people just don't like this movie, but I'm not one of them.

Eyes Wide Shut: I know it's not one of Kubrick's best movies, and Cruise is in it, but I still really like it. It's also the only movie Kubrick made after 1990. I wish he was around long enough to direct A.I.


How are you defining American made movies anyway?
Do they have to be American born directors?

Because many movies made by "foreign" directors in other countries probably have some U.S funding. Dogville isn't an American movie at all but it probably had a bit of American funding, as an example. So I guess the range of movies for your list could be way more open, depending.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 12:19 pm:   

I'd say American director and American funding--and by an American director, I don't mean a citizen, but someone who's made the majority of his movies in America. For instance, Peter Weir has now established himself as an American director, as far as I'm concerned, as has Phillip Noyce, etc.

And I thought a whole lot of the Bruce Willis and his girlfriend stuff was unneccesary in Pulp Fiction. Fact, you could have cut Willis entirely, gotten rid of Vincent some other way, and you wouldn't hurt my feelings.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:11 pm:   

I don't think Pulp Fiction is a movie with all of its parts neccesary, but that's part of the fun.

Yes, Peter Weir makes American movies. Truman Show's alright.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:14 pm:   

Actually speaking of American SF films staring Jim Carry, I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the better film.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:27 pm:   

And they're both made by non American natives so they aren't totally American.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:31 pm:   

Oh, yeah. Way better. But then you should read Alex Nicol's original script for the Truman Show. If they had made that, they would have had a great movie.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:45 pm:   

Just curious, are you going to start another thread, with the same premise, for "foreign" films, or other country's films?
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 04:04 pm:   

Why sure, I'll start one, but I won't be here to contribute -- I'm off to San Francisco for the week.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 04:09 pm:   

Maybe you want to wait till you get back then?
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 04:17 pm:   

Too late. :-)
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 04:19 pm:   

There's no turning back.:-)
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JJA
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 07:02 pm:   

Lucius --

Wow, great call on MEN WITH GUNS. I just got through watching it. Brilliant.

Any other Sayles movies that are must-sees? Seems this is my first movie of his, though I already had Silver City and Lone Star in my queue. Is The Brother From Another Planet any good?

I see he's working on Jurassic Park IV -- gack! Oh well, hope it helps pay the bills.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 07:25 pm:   

That's by far, i think, his best film. The Brother is okay but not my favorite, The Secret Of Roan Inish is good.

Yup...that's how he makes his movies. By doing shit work.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 09:40 pm:   

re: FIGHT CLUB.

i liked the film, but i'm with you on the book, lucius. the whole thing was just sloppy and unfocused. a good idea. i tried palahniuk's next book, SURVIVOR, cause the ideal appealed to me and i thought he might have improved his basic craft level.

i was wrong.
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Mahesh Raj Mohan
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 01:40 pm:   

lol, ben

I liked Lone Star quite a bit; I'll have to check out Men With Guns.
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MarcL
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 01:54 pm:   

Ben, you might try Lullaby. I read it first of Palahniuk's books and it's still my favorite. It's an outright supernatural horror story...over the top, natch.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 03:28 pm:   

marc: nah, i'm done with palahniuk. two books is enough. there are a lot of authors out there i haven't tried, and it's not like chuck needs me to stay in print.

that said, i actually thought he had an interesting blog/web page deal going. funny how that works out at times.

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