Free-Talking on Cinema, Movies, and Film (April, 2011)


Free-Talking Series: Next Post

[Note: The monthly Free-Talking post is updated every five days, give or take a day every now and then.]


So last week I was in Phoenix for a software training course. Or to be more accurate, in the middle of the anonymous, endless suburban sprawl that is greater Phoenix. I went looking for a Borders (to feed my manga addiction) and in the same mall found a 25 screen movie theater. Yes, you read that right. Twenty. Five. Screens. Needless to say there wasn’t anything like 25 movies filling those 25 screens. Between Arthur and Hop Russell Brand alone occupied five of them, which says pretty much all there is to say about that.

Luckily for me a couple of the screens were given over to limited release films. Not being much of a one for nature documentaries, I went with Win Win over African Cats. It went over really well with the audience and I enjoyed it too. The screening was close to sold out, which really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Writer-director Tom McCarthy’s track record (The Station Agent, The Visitor), indie favorite Paul Giamatti, likable characters in realistic situations, and a big dose of formulaic comedy are a recipe for mainstream arthouse gold.

Multiplex-wise this month I’ve taken in just two movies, the compromised by its ending scifi-thriller Source Code and the excellent dramatic thriller Hanna. My local mixed multiplex/arthouse theater gave me the beautifully photographed and acted Jane Eyre. It also gave me the best movie I saw in April, the French drama Of Gods and Men. A contemplative dramatization of the last months of a small group of Trappist monks in Algeria who were kidnapped and murdered in 1996 by Islamist terrorists, it builds subtly but inexorably to its emotionally overwhelming conclusion.





Insightful review of Underworld at Only the Cinema

The Furious D Show presents “Studio Notes for Classic Novels” (here’s a sample, and it was hard to pick just one: “To. R. Bradbury. Re. Fahrenheit 451. Does he have to burn books? Magazines make better product placement opportunities.”)

Love HK Film published its annual “best of Hong Kong cinema” nominations

The Bioscope on Mr. Bean and modern silent comedy



The March “movie of the month” was writer-director Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. A remake of a 1978 American film called Fingers (written and directed by James Toback and starring Harvey Keitel), it moves the action from New York City to Paris and re-focuses the character drama. File that away for the next time you play the “remakes that are better than the original” game.

The title change made for a good group discussion topic. The story follows a few months in the life of a man in his late twenties who is experiencing an existential crisis. The crisis is symbolized by the competing life demands of putting through shady real estate deals, a line of work in which he was mentored by his loan shark father (who sometimes uses his son as a collection agent for hard-case clients), and training for an audition as a concert pianist, an avocation he inherited from his professional musician mother, who died young and still haunts him. The film is richer and more complex than a bare bones description can capture, but it should suggest some of the possible readings of the title, with its echoes of loss and disruption, romantic longings, music, and emotions and physical sensations alike.

It takes nothing away from the rest of the filmmaking to locate Romain Duris’ extraordinary lead performance at the film’s beating heart. It’s a highly physical performance; his body language reveals the character’s thoughts and feelings as much as his expressions and much more than what he says. I’m convinced you could follow the story just by watching his hands.

Last Month: Footlight Parade (1933)
Coming Next Month: Double Indemnity (1944)



A reader recently commented on Nir’s review of The Crow that it was her favorite film and she’s watched it a total of 65 times. Now I can’t compete with that, but if I really started to think about it I bet I could come up with a few films I’ve watched more than 20 times.

What’s the most number of times you’ve watched a movie? Is it your favorite film, or were you a hostage to someone else’s movie fanaticism?


Free-Talking Series: Prior Post

47 responses to “Free-Talking on Cinema, Movies, and Film (April, 2011)

  1. Not a whole movie, but just a scene. Within a year of two of our family getting a VCR (in 1980), I taped William Castle’s The Busy Body off of a local TV station. I watched the movie in its entirety several times- but I kept coming back to one scene in particular (in which Sid Caesar’s character pretends to be a police officer, “Lt. Patani”, in order to ask Dom DeLuise’s character some questions). That one scene I watched over and over and over and over again, like a little kid with a beloved book or movie. I think it had something to do with a very surprising shot (it was actually sort of shocking, even, the first time I saw it) near the end of the scene, and the music that accompanies the revelation… To say more would be to venture into spoiler territory, so I’ll just stop typing about it now.

    As for the movie I’ve seen most often, it’s most likely either Plan 9 From Outer Space or Psycho. I’m not sure what having The Busy Body/Plan 9 (not to mention Psycho) on my most watched movies list says about me, but there you go…

  2. I don’t know which film I’d watched the most amount of times but American Psycho is deffinitely up there. Also, Lost in Translation, Citizen Kane (bi-annually, or so), and a 6-part anime series called FLCL. Those are my most watched, I think.

  3. I saw “LA Confidential” six times in the theater. That would be my personal best if it wasn’t for “The Empire Strikes Back.” My brother and I were so crazy about that movie when we were kids that our parents to took us to see it about a dozen times (no exaggeration) when it was in first run. I’ve seen it a half dozen or so more times since then thanks to the re-releases and various special screenings. I’ll never see a movie more times on the big screen than I’ve seen “Empire”!

    The other movies I’ve seen the most are classics that I’ve been watching at home every so often since I was first old enough to watch them. Movies like “Stagecoach,” “The Court Jester,” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Relatively more recent favorites are “Yojimbo” and “The Mission” (the Johnnie To film), which I think I must watch pretty close to once a year.

    • I love The Court Jester and The Inspector General, Danny Kaye was a favourite of mine since I was a kid. And I wasn’t born yet when “Empire” came out but it’s easily the greatest Star Wars film and I’d also watched it many times. Pretty much equally with Episode 4, I love them both.

      • You’re determined to make me feel old, aren’t you? I’ll have you know I was a precocious movie loving child. `_^

        “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is fun too, and yeah, “Star Wars” is another I’ve seen lots of times and love.

        • Richard Winters

          Nir was not born yet when ‘Empire Strikes Back’ came out? Just how old are you Nir? Do you still get carded? I’m not much of a sci-fi junkie, but I think the Empire movie was the best of the ‘Star Wars’ series. It was directed by Irvin Kershner who died just recently, but he made alot of interesting and underrated films. The best movie George Lucas did in my opinion is still ‘THX-1138’. As for movies I have seen over and over again there really isn’t any. I have seen ‘Network’ a few times as well as the bizarre black comedy ‘Where’s Poppa?’ and Nicolas Roeg’s stylish thriller ‘Don’t Look Now’, but nothing in the range of Mike and his ‘Busy Body’ viewings.

    • I love LA Confidential, it’s one of my absolute favorite film but oddly, it’s not one of those movies that I feel the urge to see repeatedly, I have only seen it 3 or 4 times so far. And that’s not to say that I’m not victim to compulsive watching as I have seen some movies like 50 times ;)

  4. Thanks, Nir, for the mention of Citizen Kane- I’ve seen that one about as many times (four or five) as Plan 9 and Psycho. Now that I think of it, I’m guessing that I’ve seen The Third Man and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World about the same number of times as well. Four or five isn’t that many, but seeing new movies is usually of more interest to me than seeing a movie (even a favorite) for the Nth time.

    And one more thing on The Busy Body- I also watched the opening credits over and over and over and over again. I just love the music (by Vic Mizzy, who was possibly best known for the theme music to The Addams Family TV show and Green Acres), and the aural/sonic bridge from the credits to the rest of the film is pretty cool.

    • The Third Man is an honorable mention and I’d also watched it many times.
      I’d already watched There Will be Blood around four times; that, like Lost In Translation I watch when I want to feel better, through melancholia. It’s strange but there you have it.

      @Richard, I was born in 1981 and I’m a proud 1980s kid. The Back to the Future trilogy, Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Van Damme/Seagal films, Danny Kaye films and musicals like Mary Moppins are my childhood memories. Well, what’s left of them.

  5. I saw Star Wars / Episode 4 eight times in the theater. Over the past few years, I’ve stumbled onto Tombstone a number of time while channel surfing, and wound up watching whatever was left to the end each time.

    • Tombstone is an awesome movie. Val Kilmer’s best performance to date.

    • Ken’s comment brought to mind “Major League.” For several years running it seemed like every time I channel surfed I would come across “Major League,” usually on one of the struggling superstations. And since I would always stop to watch at least a few scenes, if you add up all the partial viewings (and added them to the full viewings) I’ve probably seen that movie a frighteningly large number of times.

  6. I’m like Mike – I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie into the double-digits (I feel like around 5-7 viewings is the most I’ve seen of one film – there’s just so many good films that I haven’t seen that I can’t justify watching only one over and over).
    However, there is one scene that I’ve scene upwards of twenty times – the final showdown between Tuco, Blondie, and Angel Eyes at the end of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The tight close-ups, tense score, and the slow, almost ritualistic movements of the characters into position gets me every time.

    • There is a scene that’s as good or even better toward the finale of Once Upon a Time in the West where Charles Bronson’s having a stand off with Henry Fonda. And after then get into position, Fonda with the sun behind him, etc, there’s a flashback indicating who Bronson’s character is in relation to Fonda’s. It’s brilliant, emotional, and Morricone’s score is brilliant.

    • “there’s just so many good films that I haven’t seen that I can’t justify watching only one over and over”

      My mind agrees, but my heart can’t resist the pull of the old favorites. ^_^

  7. Hey Nir,

    That’s an amazing scene as well – you’ve probably already seen this but if not, check out the mash-up this guy did on YouTube of that scene and the Arcade Fire’s song “My Body is Cage”:

    Great band, great movie. Morricone’s score is still better though.

    • I’ve never heard of the band and didn’t particularely like the song because I don’t listen to most songs that contain lyrics (I actually hate lyrics); so I don’t listen to most of the contemporary music that’s out there. But it did somehow, stragely, slightly work with that classic scene. :OD

  8. edited April 7 to add “Connections” post (March movie: “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”)

  9. I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned a Christmas movie as a many-viewed title. I watch one of the versions of A Christmas Carol almost every year with the Alistair Sims version narrowly leading the musical version Scrooge in total screenings; the Muppet version may be catching up, if I really kept track.

    Most of my high viewing count movies are probably action movies. I’ve seen Ronin and The Magnificent Seven many times. I love Yojimbo, The House of Flying Daggers (which I saw five or six times in the theater), and Once Upon a Time in China. Sometimes after I buy a DVD I’ll watch it a bunch of times then not look at it again for years. How to Steal a Million is a recent one I’ve seen several times after a long hiatus.

    • I can’t believe I forgot about Christmas movies! Must be because it isn’t the season. :-) All the “Carols” you list are favorites and so is “Miracle on 34th Street.”

      • My fave Christmas Carol version is the Patrick Stewart version from 1999. His performance is magnificent and it’s a terrific adaptation of the novel. Also, it’s a very sad verion.

        I have a bone to pick re House of Flying Daggers. While almost everyone that’s watched it loved it, I saw it about a year before it came to North America and was excited to see it after what Zhang Yimou did with Hero. And when I watched it originally, I sat there enojying the costumes and within the first 15 minutes I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she [Zhang Zi Yi] wasn’t blind?” And lo and behold, I was right. and I hated that I was right. I hated that part of the film, I hated the daggers redefy gravity without a single explenation, and I pretty much disliked the film as whole.

        Now, please explain to me why I am the only only person that hates the film? I love Hero but I also really dislike Curse of the Golden Flower (for being really boring and having one of the worst music soundtracks).

        • 1) Because it’s a masterpiece.

          2) You hate the flying daggers, but you’re okay with the flying people? Wuxia is a fantasy genre. Accept it or move on.

          3) The heroine’s blindness being faked was a plot twist I never saw coming. (Blind masters are the next thing to commonplace in the martial world, after all.) I haven’t liked the movie any less on subsequent viewings, either. If anything, knowing about the plot twist makes me appreciate Zhang’s performance all the more, because there are scenes where I actually forget her character isn’t really blind.

          4) “Curse of the Golden Flower” is too beautiful to hate, but it is really boring. I feel the same way about “Raise the Red Lantern.”

        • It’s easy for me to say why I love HOFD and I will offer a theory about why you don’t. One, it’s just gorgeous. For a couple of years after it’s release I swear I saw it in every electronics store as the picture display for HDTVs. Secondly, I love a classic tragic love triangle story and I found the story very affecting. The performances were very strong. I had my doubts about the blindness, too, but couldn’t be sure. The behavior of Leo toward Xiao Mei in the early scenes seemed just a bit off, until we learn of their previous relationship and can see it in retrospect. And the action scenes are thrilling, for another reason (and I include the bean dance in that category).

          I think the problem you have with the movie may be in the way you saw it. This is a movie that demands the big screen and the big sound of a theater. There really is something about scale and immersion that affects the experience of film and a film like this one, so much about sensory and emotional experience, is fatally diminished on a computer monitor. You can sit at the edge of a pool and enjoy dangling your feet in the water, but it’s nothing like the experience of diving in and feeling the rush of icy water around you.

          • I watched it at home, originally, and the same went to Hero. But Hero was so astonishingly well shot, performed, scored, etc that I went to see it in the theatres when it came out. Same goes to Beat Takeshi’s The Blind Swordman Zatiochi. Saw it at home and 6 months later went to see it in theatres for the experience.

            Maybe I wasn’t in the love triangle, magic knives mood so I’m gonna rent it on Blu-ray and re-watch it this week. :O)

  10. I’ve probably watched Raiders of the Lost Ark about 40 times, which equates to one viewing a year. Others that rank high on my most-watched list would be Jaws, Seven and The Godfather. Some films just never get dull.

    • Jaws I’d watched more than Raiders or Seven and Godfather I’d watched once and am not a huge fan. And I still hadn’t watched the second or third films.
      Believe it.

      @Helen, I don’t find it to be a masterpiece, even aesthetically, and I can’t explain why. I simply foudn it average throughout and I really can’t explain why. And I know of the “weight vest” Kung Fu technique, whiuch would explain how people can fly. But being able to direct daggers telepathically really ticked me off. It doesn’t seem like Kung Fu. It didn’t belong…

      And Lawrence of Arabia and Stalker (1979) I watch around once a year. I love Lean’s work and I love Trakovsky’s.

      • Richard Winters

        I’m shocked you weren’t impressed with ‘The Godfather’, however ‘Godfather 2’ is even better. I think you may like it. Pacino’s performance is outstanding. I’m glad I’ve met someone else who likes ‘Stalker’ that is really an amazing film and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

        • Tarkovsky is my favourite director so I own all of his movies (all 7 of them) from Kino International to Criterion versions. I own the book that Stalker’s loosely based on, “Roadside Picnic”, and I’ve played the 3 PC games that were inspired by the film. :O)

          The reason behind why I’m not a Godfather fan is because I don’t like the Italian mob. Cosa Nostra et all really bother me because of the Italian clichés that has resonated throughout the decades and the whole “living with your mother who cooks spaghetti for you, etc” is an annoyance. I also hate the “you mess with one of us you, mess with all of us” ideal because I believe that everyone can fight their own battles, which is why I much prefer the Yakuza; they almost never get into fights because they’d end up in wars and bloodshed. I’m going to rewatch The Godfather one day just so I could watch the second at one point in my life. I’m told that the first two films are basically one long movie and that the third’s the epilogue. Again, I hate the Italian mob so I’ll need to get in the mood. But Goodfellas is a movie that I love. It’s not mainly about the riches and the power, it’s about the hard work that goes into being a footsoldier and that I can relate to.

          I also didn’t like Pacino in the first Godfather film; I thought that his performance was decent at best but also that his character would not have become the Godfather that he turned into because I didn’t see it in his character to become that. It was lacking the portrayal. But that’s just me, and now that I’m far more experienced in movie watching I may enjoy it more, especially its cinematogrphy.

          • Richard Winters

            You make some good points in regards to the Italian stereotypes, so I won’t argue with those, yet I still found it a good film from a technical standpoint. I guess that is why I thought Pacino’s performance was so brilliant because I too did not see him becoming a Godfather in the first film either, but believe me by the second fim he really exudes an evil. It’s like a metamorphisis and it is chilling.

    • Whenever I watch “Raiders” (I seem to circle around to it every few years) I’m always surprised how much I enjoy it. I think it’s because it’s hard to believe any movie could be so ridiculously entertaining even after you’ve seen it so many times you can recite the dialogue.

      “Some films just never get dull.”

      Exactly. :=D

  11. That’s why I want to see it because I hear that it’s a whole new ballgame. But I really enjoyed Marlon Brando… he’s one of my faves. Missouri Breaks with him and Jack Nicholson is a terrific Western.

    Did you notice how all of the nice people in The Godfather died (like James Caan’s character) and all of the jerks survived (only temporarily longer, though)?

    • Richard Winters

      Wow! You’ve got to be the only person on the planet that says ‘Missouri Breaks’ is a terrific western. Most people consider that a bomb. I know I watched it with an open mind several years back, but found it to be absurd and plodding. Brando, a great actor for sure, seemed to be overacting and camping it up for no reason. The story is slim and the second hour seemed to go nowhere, but I may try watching it again at some point.

      • What I loved about it is that, yes Brando hams it up in only the way that he can but it’s Nicholson’s subtelty that I loved. Especially the final confrontation. I didn’t find it weak at all; maybe I just love Westerns too much.
        And 6.4/10 on IMDB ain’t too bad, either.

        • Richard Winters

          I don’t know how reliable the IMDB rating system is and I know it has come under some scrutiny and question, but I will agree with you Nicholson gave a very subtle performance in that film and it was unusual for him. Similar to the one he did in ‘The King of the Marvin Gardens’.

          • IMDB contains the worst forum on the internet and its score system is remarkably unreliable, because of others’ personal opinions but it’s kind of a guide. Just kind of. I disagree entirely re its top 250 but now that’s my personal preference.
            Nicholson is an amazing actor. Cuckoo’s nest, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown… you name it. And, yes, even Missouri Breaks.

  12. @Richard, huzzah! The critics liked it! They’re on my side! Woohoo!

    • Richard Winters

      Well, I know famous critic Leonard Maltin did not like it. In his review book he gives the film a rating of BOMB, which is the lowest possible. Here is what he says about it: “Jumbled, excessively violent pseudo-event; a great director’s worst movie and one of the worst ‘big’ movies ever made.” I know when it came out it did quite poorly at the box office. What does Helen think of the movie? If she hasn’t seen it she should and then her opinion can be the tiebreaker. =)

      • I’d love othear what Helen says. I think that it’s a good movie, not a great one.

        • Guess I’ll have to watch it now. :D

          Jack and I got off to a bad start. I first saw him in movies only after he’d already started playing (and parodying) “Jack Nicholson.” When I finally saw “The Shining” a couple of years ago it gave me a whole new appreciation for him as an actor, but I still have to catch up with most of his Seventies films.

          • Richard Winters

            You’ve GOT to see him in ‘Five Easy Pieces’, which may be his best perfromance ever. Also, ‘King of the Marvin Gardens’ and the one that made him the star that he is today ‘Easy Rider’. He is real goofy in the chessy Roger Corman cult film ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ where Jack plays a masochistic dental patient and has a full head of hair!

  13. updated April 13 with this month’s “few good blog posts”

  14. I agree that Five Easy Pieces is his best performance and it’s also my fave movie that he’s in. I watch it here and there to remind me of that feeling you get from an amazing screenplay.

  15. post updated 3/18 with trailer of the month (“Mesrine”)

  16. Saving Private Ryan is probably on top for me, I must have seen it about 50 times ah ;) I just will watch it nearly every single time it’s on TV. Sometimes TNT will have it back to back to back on Friday-Saturday-Sunday and I will be watching at least two of those. I just can’t enough of it!

    • It’s the new personality test for movie fans: are you a see it once (maybe twice) or a see it 50 times kind of person? :D

      • I am a “see it once” person; not just because of the ridiculous prices for movies (#13.53 CAD for a movie!!!) but because I can wait for video. The only exception was Inception. I watched it once and it blew me away. Then I’d watched it again in IMAX because it was sold out at IMAX for weeks and then a third time, during its final week, with someone who needed to see it in the theatres.

        I hadn’t watched a film in theatres more than once since I was 16 or 17… Those were the Face/Off and The Rock days of the 1990s…

  17. post updated 4-25-11 with monthly recap


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s