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  • 16 Jan 2016 at 1:24 pm #8006

    Greg S.

    If you still don’t understand what happened to the markets in 2007 to 2008, The Big Short is a quick and entertaining way to get up to speed. After that, go back and read Michael Lewis’ book. Christian Bale is fantastic in the role of Michael Burry. Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling also do well in their roles.

    Another film that I recently watched at a local art house theater was Louder Than Bombs (2015). Quite a good film — a family drama with Isabelle Huppert as the deceased mother who haunts her family’s lives in a dreamy way that reminded me of the mother in Mallick’s Tree of Life.

    23 Jan 2016 at 4:28 pm #8054


    A blizzard out there today, so I’m inside watching a DVD this afternoon based on a story that takes place in a blizzard (though the movie changes this setting).

    I just watched Far From Men, a French language movie released in theatres in 2014 but on DVD in the US only in November 2015. It is based on Albert Camus’s short story “L’Hôte” (“The Guest”), collected in his L’Exil et le Royaume (Exile And the Kingdom) (1957). The story will always have a special meaning for me personally, as it was the first anything I read by Camus, back in 1975, and it was my introduction to existentialism and the absurd. The movie does alter the text somewhat: The movie puts the French colonialism/Algerian struggle for independence in the foreground, whereas that conflict is more focused on the individual and the choices that he makes. This is not a matter of better or worse, at least in this case (though I generally prefer the original text), just different. However, sometimes the alterations are detrimental: e.g., the ending, which imports much philosophical meaning to the story. Nevertheless, I like the movie. It is a good contemporary literary adaptation (which I generally find disappointing, even insulting to the source material); moreover, it is a good literary adaptation starring Viggo Mortensen (I’ll never get over my disdain for The Road movie, and the even worse On the Road movie!). Reda Kateb is also good in the starring role of the Arab prisoner; Mortensen also co-produce the movie.

    Now I might reread the short story to refresh my memory on the details, since it has been 40 years since I last read it.

    26 Jan 2016 at 3:14 am #8068

    Greg S.

    1975 was about the time I first read The Plague, Ken, also my first Camus, and it really left an impression.

    I went to see Paolo Sorrentino’s new film, Youth, yesterday. I really liked Il Divo and La grande bellezza and now am a big fan of Sorrentino’s. Excellent acting by Michael Caine (in the style of Toni Servillo) and Rachel Weisz — and also by Harvey Keitel for the most part. Paul Dano also is quite good. The friendship between Caine’s and Keitel’s characters is quite good. Jane Fonda makes a cameo appearance as a US screen diva who cusses like a sailor. Not the best scene. Not sure I like the ending, either, but don’t let that stop you from going to see it.

    In Youth, Sorrentino seems to have moved into the realm of magical thinking on his Magic Mountain setting in an alpine spa. Hans Castorp sends his greetings. There is even a tip of the hat to Iñárritu’s Birdman. Any one of Sorrentino’s wonderful tableaux is worth the price of admission, but you usually get six or seven memorable ones each film. This is a film that you can watch several times. Lots of “end of an age” themes to ponder.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by  Greg S..
    31 Jan 2016 at 12:24 am #8108

    Rick Wallach

    Supreme Leader Snoke reminds me of Kermit the Frog with psoriatic arthropathy.

    28 Jun 2016 at 6:23 pm #8373


    The DVD/Blu-Ray release of James Franco’s “The Sound And the Fury” is today. It’s even “confirmed” by the Amazon page for it: And yet it is “unavailable”. I doubt the store sold out the entire inventory on the first day. What happened?

    31 Aug 2016 at 5:51 am #8540

    Peter Lovett

    Ken, “Far From Men” I thought was an excellent film when I first saw it in the cinema and then reinforced my view when I recently purchased the DVD. The theme of choices came through for me strongly, the choice that the teacher had to make about what side he would take and his prisoner deciding whether to live or die.

    On reviewing the film I was struck by the symbolism of the school lessons; at the beginning he was teaching European geography in French, by the end of the film it was local geography in Arabic. It was clear what choice he had made. The whole essence of Camus existentialism came through strongly for me in the mountainous terrain where the two main characters were on their own in the wilderness struggling to understand one another. This was heightened by the excellent sound track. It is certainly one of the better films I have watched and it will be re-watched in time.

    05 Sep 2016 at 10:28 am #8548

    Richard L.

    James Franco is a busy man.

    I’ve watched him in the first part of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the mini-series of the book, and he was splendid. The TV editing detracts from the movie, but otherwise I think it is grand.


    This is interesting:

    “Kea Wilson’s We Eat Our Own, on shelves next week, is a scary novel about the filming of a horror movie deep in the jungle. She filled Flavorwire in on the films she watched to get inspiration, reading Joseph Conrad and Cormac McCarthy. . .”

    “I’m a chronic re-reader, but I’ve probably read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy the most—probably about seven times over the years.”

    24 Sep 2016 at 8:15 pm #8584

    A Program on the Films of Ethan and Joel Coen

    Logo/Voice: The following program is brought to you in part by generous contributions from The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, Independent Lens Enterprises, British Petroleum Disaster Relief, The Andy Warhol Institute of Advanced Studies in Pop Art. And from listeners like you. Thank you.

    GS: Welcome to Devil’s Advocate, a radio show dead-set on deflating, if not destroying, the hype and BS in today’s media. Coming to you live from the heart of greater Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m your host, Greg Samsa, the ole Devil himself. Veteran callers know the routine. Call in about a media thing and give your opinion. Be brief, specific, intelligent if you can. Likes, dislikes, loves, hates all fair game. No hate crimes. Salty language okay but the light type. If I don’t like your point, I’ll counter it. If you’re semi-bad, you’re on hold. If you’re lousy, you’re out for the day. This is no democracy, folks. We’re a suzerainty; I’m the Sizzling Suzerain. Today’s topic: the films of Ethan and Joel Coen. (WHOOSH) Sound of the flames! Devil’s lines are open. Josh, my old nemesis!

    Josh. No I’m not.

    GS: No? Okay, my new nemesis, Josh from Oshkosh 2. What’s your Coen thing?

    Josh: Wood chipper.

    GS: One in Fargo. Gaear uses it to grind up his partner in crime, Carl. Your take, Josh.

    Josh: Cool.

    GS: Why?

    Josh: Scene speaks for itself, man.

    GS: Have a cool day, Josh. Who’s next? Ben from Brooklyn, New Yawk.

    Ben: New York, thank you.

    GS: Just playing accent, Ben. Be glad I didn’t rub you a whole lot rawer. Your Coen thing?

    Ben: I like the chipper scene. Carl’s all blood and bone meal except his last leg which Gaear’s having a helluva time getting in the chipper. Foot sticks out with a white sock on it. (chuckles).

    GS: Kinda gross, isn’t it?

    Ben: Yeah, but figure: White sock and foot don’t jibe with grinder. Got this weird equation: dark deed plus white sock equals bizarre comedy minus murder. Like a slapstick cartoon! (guffaws)

    GS: See you in the funny papers, Ben. Lines lighting up big time. Dr. Goz from Berkeley, Caleye-forn-eye-ay! Dr. Goz, umm. Bet you get lots cracks at that handle?

    Goz: I do indeed, but I brush them off like dead weed. I must say, you deflated the last caller when you should have elevated him. The caller implied the Coens’ uncanny skill at transforming extreme violence into dazzling comedic forms, the chipper scene in Fargo being a prime example. The white-socked foot moves in accordance with Gaear’s ineffectual cramming of the leg. Thus the entire limb appears to wiggle as if conscious of its own excruciating pain; then it wags utter finality at the viewer, a dying gasp if you will, as Chief Gunderson waddles up, pistol in hand.

    GS: (loud sound)

    Goz: What is that?

    GS: Yawn.

    Goz: Do you need a pillow? If I may continue my point. This ingenious filmic combination of fetal life, grisly death and skilled policing efface violence in a sudden expansion of atrocious humor. On a first viewing I must admit that I did in fact grin at it and might have laughed aloud had not brutal reality aroused my superego to the scene’s inherent horror.

    GS: If you superego-ed it, Josh from Oshkosh 2 humped it with his id.

    Goz: Oh I think not, I think not. Now I should like to–

    GS: On hold, Doc, while I pop a benny. Titania from Cleveland, Oh-hi-yo.

    Titania: Liked a lota things in No Country for Old Men, starting with Chigurh’s hairdo.

    GS: Mop-head, 60’s retro on a horrific killer–ridiculous, laughable!

    Titania: All those dead bodies in the desert, deputy says, “It’s a mess, ain’t it?” Sheriff replies, “If it ain’t, it’ll do till one comes along.” (chuckles)

    GS: (laughs) That’s the only thing in the film that grabbed me. It’s in the novel, too. Read it?

    Titania: Yes. Thought Carla Jean was better in the book. Of course book’s one thing; movie’s another. Can’t expect the movie to copy the book. Film’s gotta do its own art thing.

    GS: Look, the Coens got the film rights. They used McCarthy’s title. Did their own spin on the book–all okay of course. But they didn’t preserve the integrity of the novel.

    Titania: Meaning what?

    GS: Meaning Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the soul of the story. In the film he’s emasculated.

    Titania: Bell’s an anachronism in the book and the film. No match for Chigurh. Evil wins in both.

    GS: Got some re-reading to do, my dear.

    Titania: No. You got reading to do, like New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani on the novel.

    GS: Read her and dismissed her.

    Titania: Talk about a narrow mind, yours.

    GS: Might wanna check the fit on your own thinking cap, Ms. Titanic.

    Titania: You’re fulla (bleep).

    GS: What the hell?

    Caller: (yelling) Great show. Thanks for having me on.

    GS: Didn’t get the ID, caller. Noise out the gazook. Your cell exploding?

    Caller: On my bike. Barb from good ole Brainerd, Minnesota. How’s that?

    GS: (shouting) Clear but loud, Barb. Fan of Marge Gunderson?

    Barb: You betcha! Cop like her can police my neighborhood anytime, keep things right.

    GS: Even if she’s seven plus months pregnant, I suppose.

    Barb: Ja. I came in second in the Harley Hog International. Woulda won if my water hadn’t busted–prematurely I might add. Gunned my hog right off the track to the hospital. Women can do anything they set their mind to. Go, Marge!

    GS: Atta boy, Barb. Thanks for roaring in. Watch the fuzz and road rage. (normal voice) Ida Marie from Salt Lake City’s joins us.

    Ida Marie: I just cannot believe what I am hearing on this show. Laughter at horrible murder. Applause for a police woman great with child who risks her life and the life of her fetus.

    GS: Listen up, Ida Marie. Before Fargo hit the national market, Marge Gunderson was touted as a new kind of film hero in New York City and L.A. She’s kept that rep well, even in the boonies.

    Ida Marie: She was and is a new kind of fool. Any police department that would allow a woman so pregnant she can barely walk to pursue killers should be indicted for criminal behavior.

    GS: Look, Ida Marie, we do film art here. When you approach disquieting things like the Coens, you need to suspend your disbeliefs. Or just stay in church. Who’s next here? Horst from Chicago, Ill-eee-noise.

    Horst: Into mock speech, huh?

    GS: Tension reliever, beats boredom.

    Horst: Ever think it might bore the hell outa callers?

    GS: I don’t give a flying fart, Horst. Gimme your Coen thing or get out! (pause) Horst is gone gosling. Probably Vesseling up die daises. Come in Clyde from Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Clyde: Coens barf left wing propaganda. If you’re a Gentile hunter like that neighbor feller in A Serious Man, you’re automatically anti-Jew. Look at the Karl Mundt stuff in Barton Fink. It–

    GS: Hold your mule, Clyde ole boy. A Serious Man pokes fun at Jews, too, like in the Bar Mitzvah scene and some other places. The hunter/neighbor was trespassing on Larry Gopnik’s property. Wouldn’t like some clod messing on your plot, would ya?

    Clyde: Dudn’t happen in my neck of the woods. Law-abiding folks follow the Second Amendment to a t. Movie lefties keep bashin’ patriotic Americans. Like to blast ’em.

    GS: Like Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin I presume.

    Clyde: Don’t know about that. In that Fink mess Mundt turns out to be a serial killer yelling “Heil Hitler.” Like all gentile salesmen are Nazis. If there’s a nastier way to blast loyal Americans, don’t know what the hell it is.

    GS: You got things backassward, Clyde. Mundt wasn’t a salesman.

    Clyde: Sure was when he was pretending to be Charlie Meadows.

    GS: What did he sell?

    Clyde: Insurance. Said so.

    GS: What do you call a Knoxville person, Clyde?

    Clyde: Knoxvillian. Don’t ye know that, son?

    GS: Really? I was thinking Knoxvilloid. Have a hoof-stompin’ time at the gun show, Clyde. (off air to assistant Jen) What happened to the lines? System screwed up again?

    Jen: Don’t think so. I tested it. There’s one now. (pause) It’s Professor Goz.

    GS: Crap. Aw put him on. Maybe he’ll stir things up, or I’ll stir him up. Bored outa my gourd. Professor Goz, you’re tenacious.

    Goz: I left to attend a matter. Just dialed you again. As I was saying, the Coens are masters of comedic violence. They are to film what Cormac McCarthy’s sacred violence is to literature.

    GS: Some similarity but far more different than alike.

    Goz: Now I wish to speak a bit more on the transformative nature of some of the best of the Coens. Let us consider developments in each of the following films: F–

    GS: Hold time, Doc. Be thinking how to condense what you’re gonna say, IF you stick around. Brock from Kalamazoo, Mis-shee-gan!

    Brock: The Big Lebowski’s a winner. Fantasy, dance scenes, all great! Big shaggy lug flying through the air. Some junk he’s doing!

    GS: Believe it’s grass, Brock. The Coens have gawked at too much superhero silliness:
    Superman, Spiderman, that kinda junk. Their dance stuff’s warmed over Busby Berkeley.

    Brock: Who’s Busby Berkeley?

    GS: Check the net.

    Brock: Gals line the bowling lane, legs wide apart, Big Lebowski’s a flying bowling ball, turning like a hog on a spit, down the lane between their legs. Lots of crotch shots, horny guy’s dream.

    GS: Junior high voyeurism with special effects. Bet you like the film’s dialogue.

    Brock: Bet you don’t. (snickers)

    GS: Got an assignment for ya, Brock. See the Big L again. List all the “fuck” word scenes, then add up all the “fucks” and e-mail them to the Coens. (off air to Jen) Just one light?

    Jen: He’s still on.

    GS: I feel like a cockroach flying through the noise of ultra hot air. (on air) Be mercifully brief!

    Goz: Very well. In Fargo a brave policewoman large of child becomes a heroic crime fighter. Rather she morphs into that role, for in pregnancy crime is not a natural state for her. The hotel in Barton Fink metamorphoses into a fiery hell where Meadows/Mundt strides through the flames, a satanic killing machine. Fink himself, an idealistic simpleton, morphs into a criminal abettor. At the end he thinks that he has found his literary voice, but he is still a wretched writer with a shallow imagination. In A Serious Man Rabbi Marshak morphs into a figure of compassion and wisdom. For example–

    GS: Hold, Doc. Kamlesh from Mumbai. Welcome to Devil’s Advocate. How’s truth in India? (long pause) The ole satya silence, huh. (Pause) Don’t freeze me out Ms. K!

    Kamlesh: Namaste. (pause) May I request that you open the line to Dr. Goz for a three-way conversation.

    GS: Open oh Sesame! Goz, you puffed up Rabbi Marshak. Old goat’s a dotty wizard dabbling in useless artifacts. Marshak’s cruelly aloof to the needs of Barton Fink and others in his synagogue. He did return Danny’s transistor which the teacher confiscated–small potatoes!

    Kamlesh: Please note that the rabbi quotes from the Jefferson Airplane song “Somebody to Love” before he returns the radio to Danny. Then he counsels Danny to “be a good boy.” These elements suggest compassion and wisdom.

    Goz: Moreover, suffering and yearning pervade the song and Larry Gopnik’s life.

    Kamlesh: Danny seeks refuge in drugs because he too finds life lacking. Importantly, he tries to pay Fagel the $20 debt. Thus he takes a big step toward sound maturity and good sense.

    GS: Danny Gopnik remains the classic American brat child. No evidence he’s gonna chuck drugs. Weird scene that kicks off the film, what the hell’s it for?

    Goz and Kamlesh (overlapping) Highly significant/Thematically keen.

    GS: Excuse me, it’s a Jewish fairy tale. The Coens just threw it in, said as much.

    Kamlesh and Goz (overlapping) Be wary of artists on their own work! Authors on themselves are often suspect.

    Kamlesh: Dr. Goz, we seem to be of one mind.

    Goz: To the amusement and/or chagrin of the “Devil.” (Goz and Kamlesh laugh in unison).

    GS: Polly want a cracker.

    Kamlesh: As an old man invited into the shtetl for soup, Traitle Groshkover is real. When the woman stabs him with an icepick and he wanders seemingly unhurt out in the snow, he is unreal, a spirit, a dybbuk. Will he fall dead, or wander forever as spirit? We don’t know. Uncertainty is a key theme in the film.

    GS: Real or unreal, he’s a curse on Larry and his family. Talk about a dysfunctional bunch!

    Kamlesh: I respectfully disagree. He is not a curse. I seriously doubt that the Coens believe in curses. Perhaps this is the reason they played down the shtetl scene. They wished to correct any misinterpretation of the film as a curse story.

    Goz: I agree, Kamlesh. As physics professor, Larry fills a whole board with complex equations representing the Uncertainly Principle. Neither Larry nor anyone else in the film is certain about the meaning of life. What role does Hashem (God) hold in life? There is no real clue. Uncertainty.

    Kamlesh: As Professor Norman Holland has shown, how a film begins and how it ends are key to understanding its meaning. In my view, the woman shuts out Groshkover thinking she has banished evil. At the end the teacher is trying desperately to open the cellar door to protect his students against the coming tornado. In both instances a closed door, limited understanding. Uncertainty.

    Goz: The Coens give us an updated Job story. In his profound suffering, in his desperate yearning for God’s answer, Larry Gopnik is a postmodern Job. The first two rabbis he meets for advice are false comforters.

    Kamlesh: I respectfully disagree. Unlike Job, Larry is not a perfect man. He compromises his ideals by taking the student’s bribe money and changing his grade. Larry never achieves what he desires the most: to be a mensch, a serious man. He is a pathetic yet sympathetic character.

    GS: The dybbuk’s a joke, nada. Goy with Hebrew “Help Me” on his teeth, a tall tale. Bar Mitzvah scene, a sham starring semi-stoned Danny Kopnik. First two rabbis, public relations wonks. Rabbi Marshak, the wonderful wizard of Temple Oz. My learned ones, the Coens have put you and many others on. A Serious Man believes in nothing except jaundiced humor.

    Kamlesh and Goz (unison) Cynical/Simplistic.

    GS: Jen, why the hell we off the air?

    Jen: (Shakily): FBI.

    Woman Agent: Mr. Samsa, you are detained on suspicion of a hate crime.

    FBI File 66y6r2d269: Sierra Golf Sierra (Samsa, Gregor Švanda). Released, insufficient evidence. Libel suit initiator: Sierra Hotel Hotel (Schmidt, Horst Heisskopf) Verdict: Innocent. Defense atty: Delta, Alpha Mango (Dershowitz, Alan Morton), FBI FileTz69kyOJS01OJS00752xaj199.

    25 Sep 2016 at 10:14 pm #8585

    Nick Adams

    Is it true that the Coen Bros. next film project is Ross McDonald’s “Black Money”?

    08 Nov 2016 at 8:33 pm #8678

    I belong to the Oak Hammock Film Club affiliated with the Univ. of FL. The head, a former Harvard man, and I are the only clubbers who ever write anything detailed to the club list, though there is usually substantial discussion after a film. It shall be the Forum’s blessing or curse that I occasionally include one of my pieces here. They vary in form from conventional essays to dialogs like the brilliant one on the Coens. Anyway here’s a nonfictional one. Most all my film writings include a picture or two, but I don’t know how to visualize such here.

    Reactions to Robert Reich’s Inequality for All

    (Saw this film at Gainesville’s Hippodrome film theatre and sent my opinions of it to the Oak Hammock Film Club List)

    I got moist eyes watching this incisive documentary created by Robert Reich et al. It struck home even more poignantly a crisis I’ve known all along, one that has engulfed struggling people I know, including younger members in my family and Sue’s. As this graph shows, American capitalism has nasty habits of making the rich richer and the poor poorer, of eroding the middle class.

    I had a telling graph here but no picture Forumed.

    In the past, strong leaders emerged to inspire government and society to make needed reforms, e.g: Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.

    Where are such heroes today? The only one I can think of is diminutive, courageous Robert Reich, but his film may be just preaching to the choir. However, its focus on the thoughtful faces of his UC Berkeley students gives me some hope that from them and their likes across the nation will emerge truly civic-minded leaders who will inspire critically needed reforms. But it takes time for these to come to the fore. And time may be running out to correct the inequities and injustices of the last 30 plus years.

    (Here I had a picture of Reich in open discussion with his Berkeley students. How in hell do I Forum pictures for my writings?

    The only criticism I have of the film is that it barely mentioned Reich’s problems with the Clinton administration. I know he wrote about these in Locked in the Cabinet, but it would have been helpful for the many of us who haven’t read the book to give some of its excerpts in the film.

    Clinton got us a large surplus and that was good, but as Reich noted, under Clinton income inequality continued to soar. After Clinton and into Dubya’s regime the greed and machinations of bankers and Wall St. fat cats made the situation worse. Of course, home buyers contributed to the mess by their ignorance of mortgage fine print and their greed for interest-free loans.

    The easy money policies of Alan Greenspan and his promotion of subprime mortgages and money-hogging derivatives no doubt were key factors in the near collapse of the whole financial system. Clinton bears a lot of blame because of his love affair with Greenspan’s policies. I recall several times when Greenspan appeared on television, began spouting his arcane gobbledygook, and Clinton and Congress hung on his every word (though they probably understood little of it). Alan was the great Fed god from the sky who could do no wrong.

    But he messed up big time.–Bob G.

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