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Scene of Awesome: “Do I need to worry about you, Bob?”

One of my favorite observations from the late great Roger Ebert appears in his review of Lost in Translation. In it, he wrote: “you can only say ‘I feel like I’ve known you for years’ to someone you have not known for years.” It’s the irony of how sometimes you’re able to have deeper conversations with people you’ve only just met than with those you’ve known all your life. With no mutual baggage, discussion is free to soar between you. This is of course an important part of Sofia Coppola‘s masterpiece, in which Bill Murray‘s Bob and Scarlett Johansson‘s Charlotte encounter one another in a hotel bar in Tokyo and together discover how lost they are in their lives. The two connect is a wonderful way, but they know it’s a temporary thing. Perhaps that knowledge is what allows the connection to happen at all.

The other side of the coin is that we can feel distant to the people we have known well for a long time. This too is part of the film for both main characters. With Charlotte, it can be seen in how little time she and her husband (Giovanni Ribisi) get to spend with one another, but it’s also shown in an early scene where she phones home to a friend and talks about how visiting a shrine didn’t make her feel anything. The conversation reaches an abrupt end. She has a need for deeper discussion, but it feels awkward.

Skärmavbild 2013-07-03 kl. 09.53.36

Similar ground is explored with Bob later on in the film, and it’s one of my favorite scenes of Lost in Translation. Bob is in a bath, getting a phonecall from the woman he has been married to for the past 25 years. Bob is going through a midlife crisis; he has probably been aware of this himself for a while – he seems prone to introspection – but spending time with Charlotte has made it more tangible to him. He wants to change things in his life. He tries to communicate this to his wife, and you can really feel how he’s struggling to get the right word out. But he can’t do it. All he can muster up is how he wants to eat healthier food, to which he gets a snippy response about how maybe he should just stay in Tokyo if things are so great there. Then he asks how their kids are doing, to which he gets the reply that they miss their dad but are getting used to him not being around. Ouch.

And then this wonderful exchange happens.

“Do I need to worry about you, Bob?”

“Only if you want to.”

Nothing dramatic. No anger. No tears. Just calm resignation. This is Bob’s life.

 
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Posted by on 3 July, 2013 in Scene of Awesome

 

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Ebert

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Odds are that if you’re reading this post, you’ve already heard about the passing of Roger Ebert. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock, considering the myriad of health troubles he has been having lately and through the years. But it is. You can’t fully prepare for something like this.

Ebert was instrumental in shaping the way I approach movies. Living in Sweden, I never saw his and Siskel’s TV show as I grew up. My only knowledge of Ebert at the time was just of the very shallow “he reviews movies” variety. Once I started getting into movies big time 5 years ago, this would change. I wanted to gain better understanding of films – not just how they work, but how I as a viewer could approach them. I started looking for critics online through who I could learn, and it of course didn’t take long until I found Ebert and his vast collection of reviews and essays.

I did not always agree with him on what movies are good or bad, but this never mattered. What I liked about his writing was how well he could articulate his thoughts and explain why he felt this or that worked, or why this or that didn’t. Later on, I would read his memoirs “Life Itself”, and find out that his wonderful way with words wasn’t exclusive to the world of film.

One of the main things I took from Ebert was his respect for actors. Rarely would you see him slam an actor in one of his reviews. He understood that an actor is but a small part in a big machine, that acting is a two man job shared by the actor and the director, and that so much of how a character comes across on the screen is out of the actor’s hands. Even when he was underwhelmed by a movie, he wouldn’t place the blame on the actors. But he would praise them whenever he felt it was warranted. This might sound dumb, but I always felt a kinship with Ebert because of how he was one of few critics who shared my admiration for Nicolas Cage. Ebert always called Cage one of the greatest actors of his generation, something I will always agree with no matter how much shit the actor tends to receive.

Not only has Ebert been instrumental in shaping me as a movie-watcher, but he is also one of the main reasons why I blog about films. Even that doesn’t fully cover everything. I have been in awe of how the man has just kep persevering and fighting on in spite of his health troubles and losing his voice. He transformed himself, no longer reviewing on TV but writing more than ever, always with a positive outlook. He fully embraced social media and made his voice heard through it. If there was someone in the world I would say was my role model, it was Roger Ebert.

Words fail me now. Even though I never met the man, I know I will miss him regardless. I end this post with two things. The first is a link to a post I wrote over a year ago, where I briefly talked about Ebert and then shared a number of my favorite quotes of his.

The second is my deepest condolences, which go out to the friends and family of Roger Ebert.

 
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Posted by on 4 April, 2013 in Misc., News

 

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Monthly Report: October 2012

Hot diggity damn, what a movie month October turned out to be! With 28 new movies seen, it’s handily the most densely packed month since I started this series of blog posts. Netflix launching in Sweden certainly helped a bit, but it’s also a simple case of film once again rising above other pastimes of mine, as it tends to do sooner or later. Summer was a down-period; now I’m back into the swing of things again.

But it’s not just quantity that makes October a great month for film. The vast majority of what I watched these last 31 days has been good. Only three films failed to make my passing grade of 3/5, which is pretty impressive. It got to the point where I started second-guessing myself: “Can I really give another movie a positive mark? Shouldn’t I give out a low score to show some kind of… I don’t know.” In the end, I feel like I’ve been fair to every movie I’ve seen. Except the Bergman one, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, 2002)
Structurally, this is familiar prison/asylum/escape stuff. It’s competently made for sure, and certainly not boring. That said, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table plot-wise. It is notable, however, for bringing cruelties performed by certain members of the Catholic church to the public consciousness. Young women were sent off to asylums to become, in effect, slave laborers indefinitely. Why? Because they sinned. They flirted with boys, or had children out of wedlock, or were raped. While being based on a true story is never a free pass for a movie to be considered important or anything, it does lend this one a certain weight it might not otherwise have had.
3/5

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (Rodman Flender, 2011)
A bit repetitive at times, and not a very revelatory look at Conan O’Brien, but it – and its subject – has enough energy and drive to make for a fun watch. I haven’t seen any of O’Brien’s work other than the occassional clip here and there online, and I’m not sure I learned much about him here other than what the title reveals.
3/5

Faster (George Tillman Jr., 2010)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went into this one expecting a straight-forward frantic action flick. That’s not what Faster is. It’s a revenge thriller with only sporadic scenes of gunplay and driving antics. For what it is, it works quite well. I was particularly fond of the attempts at characterization of the main players, with all three getting some unexpected depth added to them. The ending kind of flies in the face of what led up to it though, which is a bit of a shame. Still, this is a decent movie, and I’m actually vaguely curious now to see what else the director has made.
3/5

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Posted by on 1 November, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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How I ended up loving movies

How did you become a movie fan?

Maybe you always have been. Perhaps your family would watch plenty of films when you were a kid, thus setting you on a path that has continued through your teens and into adulthood to this day. You might not remember a time when you weren’t into movies. It has always been there.

Or maybe you were a casual watcher for a long time, until you saw that one awesome film that really opened your eyes. One movie to fall in love with that left you wanting more, and so you set out to discover other films hoping to find something to evoke similar feelings. That one great film was the starting point for you.

Neither of these scenarios fit me.

Police Academy

I’m not a life-long movie fan. That said, I certainly watched films when I was a kid. My family went to the cinema every now and then, but most of the movies I saw when growing up, I did on TV or VHS. I could watch the Police Academy films over and over. Same with the Wayne’s World movies, and The Lion King, and Home Alone. But film was never my main interest. I was always more into playing video games, reading boks and comics, and watching pro wrestling. Those were the things I would call my hobbies. Watching movies was just something I did ocassionally.

This casual level of interest continued into my teens. I would watch films at times, but never to any huge degree. When I was around 15 years of age in the late 90s came the boom of the internet, and now I had another thing to occupy my time with in addition to video games and fantasy novels. Even happening upon American Beauty in 2000 or 2001- a movie I fell in love with and which instantly became my new all-time favorite – was not enough to spark any big film interest in me.

More the opposite, in fact. My watching of movies went from casual to barely alive. Perhaps it was a combination of things. Subconsciously, I might have felt that nothing could ever compare to American Beauty. My interest in pro wrestling was also picking up again after a few years worth of sabbatical. More important I believe was the fact that my life was changing, though. In 2002 I graduated from gymnasiet – roughly the Swedish equivalent of high school in the US. Old friends drifted away, leaving less opportunity for random spur-of-the-moment films. And now I also had to worry about what to do with my life. I had some vague plans of going to university, but I wanted to take some time to work and make money first. Job hunting proved harder than I thought, and in the midst of all this, I spent more and more time online. Eventually I went to university for a few fruitless years and felt kind of… lost.

Then came World of Warcraft, and the less said about that the better.

I didn’t notice it at the time, but during this part of my life I hardly watched movies at all. I would spot a trailer at times that looked interesting, but didn’t see the film. Someone might mention how they just saw a great movie, and I’d just shrug and move on. An example: When a friend told me had bought Batman Begins on DVD, it was the first time I ever heard of the film. I just didn’t care about the world of movies. I had other things to spend my free time on.

Things changed in early 2008. I had gotten Transformers on DVD from my brother for Christmas (we both loved the toys when we were kids), and found myself with some other unseen movies lying around for some reason. World of Warcraft was starting to lose its grip on me at that point, so one weekend where I had nothing better to do, I sat down to do some movie watching. I saw 5 movies: Transformers, The Terminal, Hostel, The Butterfly Effect, and Captivity. In a typical story, you might expect me to have had an eye-opening experience with one or more of these. But I didn’t. True, I remain very fond of both The Terminal and The Butterfly Effect to this day, but they’re not amazing or anything. No, the noteworthy thing about these films isn’t the films themselves, but what they led me to do.

On that Sunday, February 10 2008, I went on an off-topic forum at a video game website I frequented and started a new thread, where I offered a few lines of summary on how I felt about these films. This wasn’t something I had any habit of doing, but random threads about whatever were commonplace on that message board. I didn’t put any thought into it. It was just something to talk about with people online. At first, nothing much came of it. Someone chimed in saying they hated Transformers, someone else expressed joy at my liking of The Butterfly Effect.

Then someone said “You should do Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind next!”

Huh? Eternal Sunshine of the what now? I’d never heard of it before but figured that Jim Carrey was usually good for a laugh or two, so I decided to check it out. I wrote a bit about it, and someone told me to watch Death Proof. The suggestions and recommendations kept pouring in. I found myself watching lots of movies. More than at any other point in my life. I had a lot of catching up to do. Not even counting all the films I hadn’t seen from before the millenium shift, I still had pretty much the entire past decade of films that had passed me by. There was so many great movies to take in. The mind-blowing Memento, the heart-melting Amélie, the blood-pumping Crank, and the eye-opening Adaptation, to name but a few. Sure, I saw plenty of underwhelming films as well, but they all helped me refine my tastes. And I went back further in time too, seeing some beloved films for the first time like The Princess Bride and One Flew Over Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and found they lived up to the hype.

I would talk with friends about flms I had seen as though they were fresh new discoveries when they were really old hat to them – I vividly remember a bemused look I got from a friend when I, in 2008, started talking about this unknown gem of a comedy called Anchorman. I would often go to my best friend’s place and bring a bunch of DVDs with me, both to revisit films I loved and to show them to him because by God, he just had to see this Sideways film!

There was no need for me to go to the cinema much, as there was so much to see on DVD whether bought, rented or borrowed. But every now and then I’d head to the theater with friends to see films like The Dark Knight (awesome) and Max Payne (terrible).

Maggie Gyllenhaal

I learned which people online liked the same films as me and prioritized their recommendations. But just following their suggestions wasn’t enough. When I discovered a new actor I really enjoyed, like a Jason Statham or a Maggie Gyllenhaal, I would look for more films starring them. I started paying attention to the people behind the camera too. After falling madly in love with Amélie, I had to see what else Jean-Pierre Jeunet was capable of. And whoa, wait; Seven, The Game and Fight Club are all directed by the same guy? Some dude named David Fincher? What else has he done?

I started reading blogs to further expand my horizons, and began keeping up with film news. I discovered the wonderful writing of Roger Ebert, James Berardinelli and other critics, reading them more to find new perspectives than to find out whether a movie was good or bad. I read books on film – Louis Giannetti‘s “Understanding Movies” had a big effect on my viewing experiences. I would use websites like Flickchart, Filmtipset, and ICheckMovies to keep track of the films I had seen. I started a blog of my own – the first of several – where I would talk at length about movies I watched. Twitter also became a great way to find new people with interesting opinions.

A peculiar thing is the divide that has sprung up between films I saw before and after my cinematic awakening. Films I adored back then still remain among my favorites: American Beauty, The Blues Brothers, Groundhog Day, Terminator 2 and more. Others I might be able to find faults in now, but they still live strong thanks to nostalgia; Interview with the Vampire for example is really pretty corny, but I can’t help but love it. I find it hard to compare movies from opposite sides of the divide, however. Even when they’re kind of similar, like Forrest Gump (seen before my awakening) and The Shawshank Redemption (seen after). I know I have different perspectives on these films, so comparisons feel unfair. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between two great films and can love both equally.

Now, almost four years after that one weekend in February 2008, film is my biggest interest. My viewing pace might have slowed down a bit and fluctuates more, but I do tend to watch a couple of movies every week. And I still find time for my old interests as well. I play video games when I have something fun to play, I keep up with the world of pro wrestling, and I read books every evening – sometimes ones that have had good film adaptations. But movies is where my heart lies.

Considering the short time I’ve been a film fanatic, I sometimes feel inexperienced in the field. Many of you readers have been into the art form for much longer than my four years. The same goes for plenty of bloggers I read and people I follow on Twitter. I’ve also never studied film at college or anything. So I’m not the most well-versed or knowledgeable movie lover in the world, but there’s not much I can do to change that in the present. All I can do is to look towards the future and try to broaden my views in time. I’m still learning, still catching up, still hungry. My rental queue at Lovefilm currently consists of 863 films, and that’s not counting the prebooked ones that haven’t been released on DVD yet, or the ones they don’t have in their database which I keep track of at a different site. The total amount of films I know of that I want to see rises well over 1000. I’ve put up goals to pursue. I want to see films from more countries I’ve never seen films from before, until I’ve tagged every country in the world. I want to explore older movies more so I can find them less threatening. I want to see every movie that Jason Statham or Shannyn Sossamon have ever been in. I want to find that one Woody Allen movie that I’ll love and am sure is out there somewhere. I want to get around to watching highly acclaimed films I haven’t seen yet, like Goodfellas and Jaws (coincidentally, Roy Scheider died on the day my film interest took off.) I want to be a good Swede and finally see my first Ingmar Bergman movie. Most of all, I want to see more great films, whether they’re ones that live up to hype or unexpected surprises. I want to find movies to love as much as I love American Beauty, Amélie, and my current favorite Lost in Translation.

This is how I became a movie lover. The why still eludes me. The way it happened seems so random to me. Was that starting ground of a weekend really just a case of me not having anything better to do? Perhaps there’s more to it. If there is, it’s buried in either my subconsciousness or in the realm of forgotten memories. “It just happened” doesn’t make for much of a story to tell – although I suppose that didn’t stop me from writing these 2000+ words on it.

I still post on that forum where it all started. I make a comment on every movie I see, and have done so for the past four years. People don’t recommend films to me as often. Instead, they share their own thoughts on movies they’ve watched. At times, some even ask me for recommendations. I’ve become “that movie guy” over there. There are worse things one could be.

So how did you become a movie fan?

 
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Posted by on 20 January, 2012 in Misc.

 

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Some of my favorite Ebert quotes

There are times when I’m discussing films online or writing a blog post that I hesitate to say something really apt and true about the movie. Not because it wouldn’t be a great thing to say, but because I know I didn’t think of it myself, at least not consciously. More often than not, it’s from the mind of Roger Ebert.

I’m a big fan of Ebert’s writing, due in equal parts to what he has to say and to the way he says it in. His long experience working as a film critic has given him a keen analytical mind and he’s always able to effectively argue for why he thinks the way he does about a movie. He’s not afraid to go against the grain (he was one of few critics to enjoy Speed 2: Cruise Control, and he has a noted aversion to Stanley Kubrick‘s well-regarded A Clockwork Orange) but doesn’t do it just to be a contrarian (compare with the infamous Armond White). Do I always agree with Ebert? Certainly not. Our views on film differ on numerous occasions. To name but one example, he enjoyed 2012, which I found to be a complete snoozefest. But I still like that review, because in it I sense a similar kind of child-like enthusiasm towards the film as what I have towards, say, Crank (which he sadly didn’t review. I’d love to hear what he’d make of that one). So while I don’t agree with him, I can see where he’s coming from.

After I see a movie, there is a certain ritual I go through. Rate it on this and that site, tweet something about it, rank it on Flickchart, etcetera. The last step in said process tends to be to see what Ebert had to say about it (being of the mindset that the less known about a movie beforehand the better, I rarely read reviews until after I’ve seen a film). For a while, I’ve been saving snippets of his reviews into a document. Quotes that I’ve enjoyed, either because they’re wonderfully worded, insightful or just plain funny. Here are some of them, along with one or two I’ve discovered through other quote collections online.

“Timecrimes” is like a temporal chess game with nudity, voyeurism and violence, which makes it more boring than most chess games but less boring than a lot of movies.
~ Timecrimes

There is also a cute blacksmithess named Kate (Laura Fraser), who must be good, as she has obviously not been kicked in the head much.
~ A Knight’s Tale

This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.
~ Freddy Got Fingered

And although we are treated to very nice shots of Neptune, the crew members never look at the planet in awe, or react to the wondrous sight; like the actors standing next to the open airplane door in “Air Force One,” they’re so intent on their dialogue they’re oblivious to their surroundings.
~ Event Horizon

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Posted by on 18 December, 2011 in Misc.

 

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