I have a blog, or so it seems. I shall ... update it.
I took the Tennessee Bar Examination last Wednesday and Thursday, as many of you know. It went pretty well, I (would like to) think. The first day was a multiple choice examination - 200 questions in six hours (two sessions). My bar review service had provided me with a hell of a lot of sample questions, so I'd taken hundreds of them and think I was well-prepared for it. The second day consisted of 12 essay questions (same time situation), and was the one I was really worried about, because each would of course require me to produce the correct rule of law for each situation, and my preparation for this section (many more subjects tested than on the first day) had been comparably slim. Still, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, and I feel that I may have passed enough questions to get my license. Anyway, thanks to everyone here who checked in with thoughts and encouragement - I really did appreciate all of it.
Since then, I've seen some motion pictures. [b]The Village[/b] is garbage. The atmosphere and the tension-building are a step down from [b]Signs[/b] (which was amazing in those regards, for most of its running time) and while its twist wasn't as repulsive and Shyamalan's last, it was in many ways just as bad - boring, uninteresting, unremarkable. An utterly disposable movie. [b]The Rules of the Game[/b], on the other hand, was certainly not. Renoir's handling of material that runs the gamut of emotions and content is deft and masterful. For much of its length, it plays like a French counterpart to the American screwball comedies of the same time (of which it would be the best I've seen, even if it had no more ambition), but quickly and subtly shifts into a more emotional film, delivering moments of genuine power and massaging the plot to highlight points of irony and tragedy. Brilliant movie. The 9 is for 92 at the moment.
More good, dirty, fun in the vein of [b]Super Troopers[/b], although I prefer that effort on the whole. Broken Lizard?s brand of low-brow humor doesn?t aim high, but the group does know its range of effectiveness, and doesn?t stray. This one is a sardonic lampooning of an easy target that wins over on its general insanity and collection of occasionally inspired non-sequiturs.
[b]The Fog of War[/b] (Errol Morris, 2003) [b]80[/b]
It?s not a masterpiece of the form (like [b]The Thin Blue Line[/b]) or as weirdly ambitious as Morris?s last movie ([b]Fast, Cheap, and out of Control[/b]), but this film is a historian?s delight ? an important player in American foreign policy essentially narrating his participation in the most significant international events of the 1960s. Although McNamara is often evasive when the questioning edges into the realm of his personal feelings, his recollections are cogent and candid when it comes to statecraft and warfare, and sometimes surprisingly raw and emotional.
[b]The White Sheik[/b] (Federico Fellini, 1952) [b]68[/b]
In terms of style, this one feels a lot like the screwball comedies that were prevalent in America ten to fifteen years earlier, albeit with the lascivious sensibilities of a Fellini movie set in Rome. What sets it apart from those American cousins, however, is the movie?s far more cynical undercurrent - idealists are disillusioned, romantic heroes emasculated, convention is triumphant. While the conflict in the screwball plot is resolved in a fairly standard manner on the surface, there is resignation in the air. It's a minor accomplishment, but Fellini's combination of cutting cynicism and slapstick is deft, and a balancing act that something like [b]Bringing up Baby[/b] doesn't even try. [b]Sheik[/b] is a better movie.
I don't remember the last time something with this level of hype so easily met and often exceeded my expectations, which were soaring despite my best efforts not to truly expect the first honest-to-god truly great comic book movie. Probably because there has never been such a happy marriage of expectation and delivery for me.
It's such an incredible tonic after so many disappointments. I have anxiously awaited things like [i]The Lord of the Rings[/i] and [i]Iron Man[/i] and have been rewarded with often great results, but those events were never quite in the rarefied air of the franchises that sank their teeth into me in the 1980s - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman and so even though they more or less delivered, the anticipation was never at the fever pitch levels on which I longed for Episode I or Indy 4. After the Lucasfilm debacles, to finally have something like this deliver in spades makes it all the sweeter.
The beautiful thing about the movie is the way it builds. It clicks from the moment it begins with a fiendishly-planned bank heist that serves as the perfect introduction to this Joker. I loved it, but from there I honestly sort of watched half in fear that it would not be able to sustain itself, only to experience moments of euphoria as it not only maintained its momentum, but continued to top itself. One of the negative blurbs noted that it was weighted down by continuous climaxes, but I just found it relentless and intense. I can certainly anticipate a slow build of tension, but that isn't this movie - that could be no movie driven by the Joker, especially [i]this [/i]Joker.
Speaking of which, this is the definitive Joker. This is the perfect representation of that character and no other set of storytellers in any media has managed him quite like this. Every other villain is a character with emotions, motivations, and ideas. The Joker has never been that; he is a concept - chaos and malice incarnate. Here, the Joker's clownishness becomes a sort of flippancy in the face of the brutality for which he is responsible. It's as if, after 70 years, someone has finally realized the potential of the motif. Yes, the Joker looks like a clown, he likes to laugh, he is insane. But in the hands of Nolan and Ledger, he simply does not care. It's chilling and at the same time, to see it fully realized was spine-tingling.
The Joker is the driving force of this movie - everything springs from him both narratively and thematically as he hurtles like a freight train through several other precariously positioned plot threads - the Bruce-Harvey-Rachel triangle, the prospect of final triumph over corruption, Batman's existential doubts. Although this is much for a movie to handle, and it is admittedly very busy, it never collapses under the weight of all of these moving parts. Rather, Nolan weaves them together flawlessly, the Joker's psychotic plots unrelentingly driving Harvey down the path to becoming Two-Face as the actions of both of those men force Bruce/Batman to ponder his own role and choices.
Although I have a bit of a quibble with the way the film couched itself thematically at the very end, there is almost nothing else I would consider a mis-step. These characters are not slaves to their legion of past characterizations; they forge new paths and yet manage to each distill the essence of familiar characters onto the screen. Although Two-Face's time is short (I had almost assumed that this movie would end with his transformation and leave him as the villain of the next film), I was not disappointed at a lost opportunity because, much like the Joker, it was a perfect realization of Two-Face, even on a much smaller scale (and it finally makes up for the debacle that was [i]Batman Forever[/i])
I began to think, as we moved into the final act, that this wasn't just a great Batman movie, but maybe one of the greatest Batman stories told in any medium. None of the movies, the 1989 version or even [i]Begins[/i], belongs remotely in a conversation with it. The animated version of the 1990s, while definitive, is simplistic and watered down in comparison. Because of its realization as a live action film with actors who not only play it straight but with deadly earnest, it has a weight that 99% of the comics do not aspire to or cannot achieve. The Dark Knight stands with [i]The Dark Knight Returns[/i], [i]Year One[/i], [i]Arkham Asylum[/i], and perhaps a few others as the greatest Batman stories ever told. In all honesty, the only one I would put on its level is DKR, but perhaps I'm still too close to the movie.
Regardless, this is it. All I wanted from this new franchise was a perfect Batman movie. [i]Begins [/i]was wonderful in many ways; though it had deep flaws, I might have been okay if that was the most that I could get in the way of a Batman movie. Like [i]Spider-Man 2[/i], [i]X2[/i], and [i]Iron Man[/i], it was a great ride and it knew its characters. Although I hoped that [i]Dark Knight[/i] might use what was established there as a platform to reach even greater heights, I really never thought that they could get it so perfectly right. They will never top this movie - not with another Batman movie from the same team, not with any other costumed super hero. This was the perfect super hero movie with the greatest hero and the greatest villain and I cannot conceive of a better movie of its kind.
So I saw one of my favorite movies at the arthouse today and it kind of got me thinking about movies (bear with me now). As I thought about this movie and then other movies, I sort of wondered what my favorite performances were and stuff and one thing led to another and then I did this, which is what my personal Oscar ballot would look like if every movie I'd seen had been released in the same year.
[i]Picture[/i] 2001: A Space Odyssey Aguirre, the Wrath of God The Big Lebowski Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Raiders of the Lost Ark
[i]Director[/i] Francis Ford Coppola - The Conversation Werner Herzog - Aguirre, the Wrath of God Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo Stanley Kubrick - 2001: A Space Odyssey Alain Resnair - Hiroshima Mon Amour
[i]Actor[/i] Bruce Campbell - Army of Darkness Klaus Kinski - Fitzcarraldo Paul Newman - The Hustler Peter Sellers - Dr. Strangelove James Stewart - Vertigo
[i]Actress[/i] Juliette Binoche - Blue Anna Karina - My Life to Live Guilietta Massina - Nights of Cabiria Frances McDormand - Fargo Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive
[i]Supporting Actor[/i] Alec Guinness - Star Wars Samuel L. Jackson - Pulp Fiction George C. Scott - The Hustler Orson Welles - Touch of Evil Robert Walker - Strangers on a Train
[i]Supporting Actress[/i] Diane Keaton - Manhattan Angela Lansbury - The Manchurian Candidate Kim Novak - Vertigo Liv Ullman - Cries and Whispers Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
[i]Animated Feature[/i] The Incredibles The Iron Giant Laputa: Castle in the Sky Toy Story 2 Transformers: The Movie [i] Foreign Language Film[/i] Aguirre, the Wrath of God Hiroshima mon Amour Rashomon The Rules of the Game Shoot the Piano Player
[i]Animated Short[/i] Duck Amuck The Cathedral Rabbit of Seville Rejected Robin Hood Daffy
[i]Documentary Feature/Short[/i] Burden of Dreams Grizzly Man Night and Fog The Thin Blue Line Touching the Void