Thursday, January 01, 2009

TRACTOR FACTS MOVIE ROUND-UP FOR 2008

THE BEST MOVIES OF 2008


10. Baby Mama

Michael McCullers and Tina Fey built a sincere social-comedy around a popularized slang term and ended up diffusing the ghettoization of it. Baby Mama says more about class and status than critics gave it credit for, and Amy Poehler's batty-to-gentle performance was one of the year's best.


9. Fighter

In aiming for climactic Karate Kid-type magic, Fighter misfires. But as a teen coming-of-age/female-empowerment film, it is richer than any made-for-eighteen-and-under film of 2008. Aicha, the daughter of Turkish-Muslim immigrants, pushes back on cross-cultural confusion (a recurring dream sequence of Aicha fighting a ninja later reveals itself as her fighting a figure in a burqa) while wooing the interracial love of her life on the mats. Fighter is the ideal pop-friendly picture for young women living in our porous border world.


8. You Don't Mess With The Zohan

The slapstick satire of John Tuturo and Adam Sandler playing paddle ball with a grenade won't bring peace upon Gaza anytime soon, but art this good helps chip away at the stubborn preconceptions held by each culture. Zohan corrects what the 2001 documentary Promises exploited.

7. My Brother is an Only Child

Between the walls of a home, two brothers beef about far-left and far-right politics in Blackshirt-era Italy. The hormones of young manhood run up against ideologies of commies and fascists, producing pimples, puberty, and propaganda. My Brother... makes a nice companion piece to Marco Bellochio's Good Morning, Night, while Italian filmmakers continue to wrestle with politics better than most.


6. Before I Forget

Writer, actor, director, and eloquent idea-man Jacques Nolot continues to explore the life of the over-50 gay cruiser and the consequences that come when men choose sexual promiscuity over commitment and monogamy. Revisiting this movie post-Milk makes Gus Van Zant's film seem even more irrelevant than it already was.



5. Burn After Reading

As our political machines appear to be more incompetent now more than ever, the Coen Bros. cranked out a quick, smartie-pants farce about how close each one of us actually is to having an impact on the national security of our country. Burn After Reading blows through your head so fast that repeated viewings are required. And John Malkovich gives the best supporting performance of the year.


4. My Blueberry Nights

Like Bertolucci, Wong Kar-Wai could probably film a sewage plant and make a more visually evocative drama than most. But that's selling this modern master short. Kar-wai understands the colors of human emotion as much as the moonlight that reflects off city streets. The looping of Cat Power's "The Greatest" (as well as her brief and classically-beautiful appearance) adds a level of unexpected devastation.

3. Tropic Thunder

Hollywood usually condescends to thinking they know so much about the world we live in, that when Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen, and Justin Theroux decide to eat their own in this multi-layered comedy it feels like one of the most refreshing and enlightened films to come out of this industry in years.
2. Be Kind Rewind

In a film about movie love and community goals, Michel Gondry outwits every other visual stylist with his recreations of genre hits and iconic classics, thus giving re-birth to the fascination and fashion that once dominated this medium we love so much.

1. Happy-Go-Lucky

I walked out of Happy-Go-Lucky knowing that nothing else would top it. I worked it into as many movie conversations this year that I could; it hasn't washed off of my memory yet, and I doubt it ever will. Mike Leigh continued along the lines of his pitch perfect class-conscious dramedies, but what he gave us in Poppy (Sally Hawkins), was one of the most debated creations of 2008, and a character that is sure to go down as legendary in cinema.



THE WORST MOVIES OF 2008
1. Inside/Fronteir(s)/Martyrs (tie)
2. Religulous
3. Doomsday
4. The Visitor
5. The Strangers
6. Mamma Mia!
7. Paranoid Park
8. Seed
9. Hamlet 2
10. Snow Angels
Onto 2009! Bride Wars and The Unborn, here I come...

67 comments:

Pat said...

I like this list because it's not just a carbon copy of every other Top Ten list out there. Although they likely won't make my Top Ten, I like seeing the love for "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" and "Tropic Thunder," because I laughed my ass off at both of them.

And I'm happy to see "The Visitor" on someone's bottom 10. I named it the most overrated film of the year myself.

Sam Juliano said...

I am absolutely appalled and saddened that THE VISITOR, which is my #2 film of the year (behind WALL-E) could actually make someone's "worst" list. This was one of the most genuinely moving films of recent years, and several of the schoolteachers in my system admitted the film had a lasting impact on them. Likewise I cannot believe that Pat feels the same way, as the film is anything but overated. Happily, few films received the kind of reviews that this cross-cultural elegy garnered, and kudos for Richard Jenkins for delivering one of the year's most extraordinary performances. I don't think it would be possible to disagree with Fox more than i do here, as I have spent months promoting this film, and some of my most intellectual and difficult-to-please friends and colleagues have been in unison singing its praises. I must say that blogging sometimes uncovers some of the most bizarre opinions of teh cultural scene. This opinion is frankly unconscionable.

But I respect Fox and I respect Pat a great deal as well. I will look through the rest of your Top Ten best right now and voice a further opinion.

Joseph B. said...

Nice call on the criminally under appreciated Wong Kar Wai "My Blueberry Nights". David Staithern deserves a supporting actor nom for his role.

BUT... I couldn't agree less with your naming of "Inside" as one of the worst of the year. "Martyrs", yes. Even add "Frontier(s)" to that list. So much of the French horror wave is gruesome without any consequence or sympathy, but "Inside" really struck me as a political outcry in wolf's clothing. Plus, the film is edited and framed within an inch of brilliance. Needless to say, I loved it.

Sam Juliano said...

OK, I have completed my rant on the astonishing downgrading of THE VISITOR, which I don't think I'll ever get over, but I'll figure out a way (LOL!!!!) Your list is the first I have seen (you are fast!!) so I want to give it a full consideration, Fox. I am waiting to see WALTZ WITH BASHIR on Saturday night before putting the finishing touches on my own list, but the Top 5 seem to be assured: WALL-E, THE VISITOR, THE POOL, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE READER, with the following vying for my final five: DEAR ZACHARY, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE LAST MISTRESS, SYNCHEDOCHE NEW YORK, MAN ON WIRE, DOUBT, UP THE YANGTE, ALEXANDRE, THE DUTCHESS OF LANGLAISE, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, MILK, THE WRESTLER, BOY A, RACHELL GETTING MARRIED, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN.

On your worst list, I have no problems at all with most of your picks, except the aforementioned VISITOR and PARANOID PARK and SNOW ANGELS, both of which were pretty good, thought-provoking films. You don't seem to be a Van Sant fan (ELEPHANT is his Best Film in my opinion, though) I think MAMMA MIA! is rather a guilty pleasure.

The far more important "best" list both pleases and displeases me. Your #1 choice HAPPY-GO-LUCKY is a very good film for sure, and Ms. hawkins in superlative. My British friend and site colleague Allan Fish feels it's lightweight Leigh, but there's more than meets the eye and mind here as it perfectly evokes a person who evinces a most constricting world-view. It's a funny and fascinating character study but one of the best contemporary film artists. (VERA DRAKE and LIFE IS SWEET are my two favorite of all his films)
BE KIND REWIND was fun and sometimes ingenius, but it wouldn't get anywhere near a ten-best list. Still, you are to be commended for your undaunted embrace of it.
I absolutely loathe TROPIC THUNDER, so I won't say anything more.
MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is perhaps your bravest and most exciting top ten choice--it may well make my list as well--it was too easily dismissed, it's a textured, atmospheric, elegiac piece that will one day be seen for its artistry.
I liked BURN AFTER READING but not quite that much. (Much of this is taste I well know)
I saw BEFORE I FORGET on a rainy Tuesday evening at the Cinema Village a few months ago and felt that contrived and over-the-top ending with the cross-dressing apparel spolied some delicate and perceptive storytelling. Still i liked the film, and applaud your decision to remember it, much as I wouldn't go that far.
The Cinema Village was also the scene of the crime for MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD, which again I liked but didn't love. It was too derivative of the better THE BEST OF YOUTH, although oddly enough I had issues with that too, and it was a pale imitation of HEIMAT, the German television opus it tried so hard to follow.
I have never seen FIGHTER so I can't save anything there at this point.
Neither YOU DON"T MESS WITH ZOHAN nor BABY MAMA deserve to anywhere near a Top ten list, but again this is YOUR list and not mine.

At the end of the day Pat is right. You are your own man, and you don't look to please and concensus. Your work at this site, your expertise and your passion allow you to make value judgements that exhibit and eclectic appreciation of cinema.

I don't agree with much of it, but I'll have my own say over the weekend when i finalize.

You have enhanced the film scene here. My congratulations.

Fox said...

Pat-

Thanks. I've been off the internet so much these last two weeks that I haven't been over to see your year-end stuff yet, but you can bet I will be there directly!

Joseph B.-

Your enjoyment of Inside is interesting, and I will head over to your blog too and search for your thoughs on it.

I defnitely agree that there are differences between the three films I lumped together, but part of what didn't work for me in Inside (and Fronteir(s) for that matter) was its political outcry. Not that that is off-limits at all, it just felt like it was thrown in to give the films an edge of seriousness that it couldn't handle.

Sam-

Your enthusiasm is noted.

For me, The Visitor ranks among the worst of guilt cinema alongside movies such as Mississippi Buring and Syriana, movies that set out to make their creators feel socially responsible when it's obvious they know little of what their subject is.

Tom McCarthy's handling of immigration is not only narrow-minded and soft-headed but I feel it will come off looking extremely goofy in about 5-10 years time.

Sam Juliano said...

Well, Fox, we'll just have to agree to disagree with that position comprehensively. Happily some of America's finest film critics (Scott, Zacharek, Sarris, et al) completely disagree with that position as part of the extraodinary critical concensus the film has received. I agree with you on MISSISSIPPI BURNING and SYRIANA, two films I have little regard for but THE VISITOR is another story completely.
But "extraodinary critical concensus" admittedly does not really mean all that much as we all have our own value judgement and aesthetics. For example, I disliked LOST IN TRANSLATION, despite the fact that there was hardly a negative reaction to the critically-lauded film anywhere. I saw pretentiousness there.
The last thing I wanted to do here was to incite any kind of bad feelings, and I sincerely hope you will take my disagreement for nothing more than what it was, a contrary position on film perception. Perhaps the one statement I disagree with the most is your belief that McCarthy and company know "little of their subject" and that their views on "immigration are narrow-minded." That is a bold statement that can only be attributed in my view to personal taste, which of course you are more than free to express here and anywhere else of course.

I attempted in the subsequent lengthy post to illustrate where I agreed and disagreed with you on your lists, and again sincerely hope your silence there (on that post) was in no way an expression of ill will or aggression.

I liked a number of your choices and I stated that clearly. I do hope I am welcome here as I think you are a true intellectual, an excellent writer and an ever-insightful critic. There will be times where I will no doubt be on the same page with you and those will make for worthwhile and meaningful discourse. My apologies if my language here was too acute.

Ed Howard said...

Paranoid Park???? Them's fighting words, mister.

Matt said...

i loved tropic thunder... the visitor was really good, not great, it deserves neither exorbitant priase nor castigation, its just simple goodness... i believe mamma mia was wonderful personally, and paranoid park... wow, now that was amazing.

Fox said...

Ed & Matt-

A couple things on Paranoid Park...

A strong disagreement I had with people who liked the film - and Ed mentions this in his linked review - is the choice of Van Sant to use regular non-actor kids in aiming for a kind of awkward naturalism.

But I don't see it that way at all. There is a difference between child/teen non-actors being natural (ie the girl in The Fall), and just plain bad acting (the kids in Paranoid Park). The skater boy's reaction when he sees the murder reported on TV isn't approaching realism, it's, to me, just bad acting. The kid is too aware that he is being filmed, and it was irritating to me.

I think Van Sant chose these kids b/c they look like models, and, in my opinion, critics make excuses for him when he does stuff like that.

Also. The romantacized or intellectualized nature with which Van Sant approaches skater culture came off as goofy to me. Again, in respectful disagreement with Ed's review, I found the slo-mo shot of the kids verting off the ramp to be silly... it felt like a kind of empty spiritualism. Same for the scene of the skater boys walking down the hall like The Wild Bunch. If Van Sant was trying to be campy or funny that type of shot might work for me, but knowing that he isn't, well, I was just embarrassed.

Fox said...

Oh, and Matt... I forgot to include something I wanted to say about Mamma Mia! in that last comment.

I wanted to like that movie. I went in pulling for it b/c I like musicals and I like the idea of iconic pop music relating to/driving a story, but visually Mamma Mia! was so irritating to me.

This is a story that needs to POP on the screen, yet the director seemed like she didn't know what she was doing with the camera (I attribute this to her training being in theater and not film).

Soiled Sinema said...

Whoahoahoahoa.
Inside?!
The Strangers?

I'll admit The Strangers isn't all the trailers cracked it up to be, but both of these films are stern horror films. I have nothing to say on Martyrs nor do I really want to see it, but I find that films like College Road Trip should be in that category.
Or The Spirit

Sam Juliano said...

Thanks for that clarification on THE VISITOR Matt.

Apparently the only opinions that are REALLY welcomed at this site are opinions that are in agreement with the author. Why praise films like THE VISITOR, PARANOID PARK, MILK, SLUMDOG, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, WALL-E, THE POOL and MAN ON WIRE when you can have BE KIND REWIND, ZOHAN and TROPIC THUNDER? LOL!!!!!!

There is an inherent problem here in that far more passion is regularly expended on what one "hates" rather than what one "likes." And the smugness exhibited in boldly predicting the future fate of THE VISITOR is laughable. Maybe Mr. McCarthy should have asked you about immigration policy before making his film?!?

I am unimpresed.

I promise I won't return.

PIPER said...

Fox, I like your boldness in your comedies. You Don't Mess With Zohan. I haven't seen it, but I like that it's in your Top 10.

I am surprised with Be Kind/Rewind, but I've seen this in a few Top 10 lists.

I have Burn After Reading on DVD and have yet to watch it. I'm going to soon.

But all in all, I'm quickly discovering that 2008 blows.

Joe said...

I frankly don't see the use of a ten-best list that is composed almost solely for the purpose of being "bold" or being "different." Apparently the philosophy of this site is that any film that most of the critics like must be panned or downgraded, as can be seen from some of the recent reviews.
What I would like to see is a true "Best Films of the Year" list and not a snooty repudiation of what most of the critical establishment has settled on to show "independence" for the sake of it.

The placement of "Be Kind Rewind" at #2 tells us all more than we need to know about this blogger's taste and value judgement.

The explanation of why this blogger dislikes "Paranoid Park" one of the year's most thought-provoking films (male models, etc) isn't even worthy of a response. But look at the the #9 and #10 choices! That tells the entire story.

Fox said...

Soiled-

For me, Inside and The Strangers both fall into that new-type of French-sadism that I despise so much. I know The Strangers isn't French, but I feel that it's coming from that same sensibility.

I haven't seen College Road Trip, but I definitely prefer Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins to both Inside and The Strangers.

Piper-

I remember you saying you disliked Be Kind Rewind. In fact, didn't you see that at the Alamo?? (that's The Alamo Drafthouse... not the ACTUAL Alamo, although that would be even cooler!)

Joe said...

How difficult is it to figure out that "The Strangers" is junk, almost from the very beginning? What value is served by announcing to the world that it's one of the year's worst? What 10 year-old wouldn't have known as much? This is true of several others of your so-called "worst" choices.

Fox said...

The explanation of why this blogger dislikes "Paranoid Park" one of the year's most thought-provoking films (male models, etc) isn't even worthy of a response.

OK, then don't respond.

Russell Martin said...

I don't get why it's so "wonderful" that this site master has listed films like 'Zohan' and 'Baby Mama'?!? Is the purpose of making these year-end lists a competition to see who could name the most 'unlikely' choices? What would that prove in an artistic sense?

This was the best year for documentaries in ages, and there is not a single documentary on the list. that's because "Fox" is too busy honoring uneven diversions like 'Be Kind Rewind' 'Tropic Thunder' and 'Zohan.'

And I guffawed at your condescending comments to Mr. Juliano about The Visitor, as if you were some kind of an imigration expert.

Your comments about the movie 'Milk' under the 'Before I Forget' post were extremely egotistical. 'Paranoid Park' is a brilliant film, yet you place it on your 'worst' list.

You really need to get over yourself. You are one of millions on the net.

Fox said...

You really need to get over yourself. You are one of millions on the net.

Russell-

# 4 on my New Years list of resolutions is indeed "Get Over Yourself", so, who knows, maybe check back in a few months and mabye opinions will satisfy you.

Rick Olson said...

The explanation of why this blogger dislikes "Paranoid Park" one of the year's most thought-provoking films (male models, etc) isn't even worthy of a response. But look at the the #9 and #10 choices! That tells the entire story.

God, what a putz.

Good list Fox -- I don't agree with all your choices, but I don't have to. My ego isn't tied up in being right.

Ed Howard said...

Wow, Fox, you've really prompted a lot of rage here. I haven't seen a lot of the silly comedies you list, which just looked so obviously bad that I couldn't imagine bothering. I mean, I'd really love to see a substantial defense of Zohan as art (let alone good art), but I can't imagine anything would convince me to actually sit through that when the trailer alone nearly caused me physical pain. I have less problem with Be Kind Rewind making the list, though it was a real disappointment for me: I saw what Gondry was going for, but he couldn't seem to pull it off consistently. At least in that case, the makings of a great film were there, just not fully put together.

Also, Van Sant is an unabashed romanticist; this is no knock against him in my book. It seems to me, based on the films you loved here, that you're very comfortable with irony and irreverence, and not too comfortable with something that just puts its raw emotions out there in a romanticized, stylized way. Van Sant places a great deal of emphasis on visual surfaces, and very little on dialogue or realistic acting. Among his other recent films, both Gerry and Last Days took accomplished, professional actors and gave them almost no discernable dialogue; the same impulse is behind his casting of attractive but inexperienced actors in Elephant and Paranoid Park. Van Sant says all he needs to say with his images, and Paranoid Park is filled with striking, emotionally rich imagery.

Joe said...

Mr. Olsen, we all know you must stay loyal to your fellow blogger here (one hand washes the other, right? Isn't that the way this game is played?) and I'm just an outsider who never posts at this site right, nor at yours, right?
But what pray tell are you talking about when you say "My ego isn't tied up in being right"? Who has shown on this thread that he's pompous? Me or "Fox"?
You call me a "putz" for having the temerity to disagree with this writer?!? Today's lesson in fellow blogger syncophancy.

I think Mr. Ed Howard's post speaks for itself in a number of ways. It's frankly terrific.

Fox said...

Ahh Rick, it's nice to see you after that run.

Yes, we disagree a lot on here and Coosa Creek Cinema (and elsewhere) but we do so civilly. I mean, disagreement fuels the best coversation.

But for some reason that group gets really po'd about dissenting opinions. I've seen them quite a few times on other sites, and I tend to believe they are all the same person since they never have individual profiles/sites/contact info attached to their names.

Fox said...

It seems to me, based on the films you loved here, that you're very comfortable with irony and irreverence, and not too comfortable with something that just puts its raw emotions out there in a romanticized, stylized way.

Ed-

No, not at all. In fact, I think My Blueberry Nights (a film I loved from this year) runs on "raw emotions out there in a romanticized, stylized way".

I just think Van Sant doesn't accomplish that at all in Paranoid Park nor, for that matter, in most of his other films. But I have said on here before that I think an exception to that is Last Days, which, I think, is a good film.

As for Zohan, my write-up of it is here.

Rick Olson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I am a personal friend of another site coordinator, and I am not involved enough to provide contact information and profiles. (nor do I really wish to) I also know Russell Martin personally, and likewise he is a movie lover who likes to contribute without fanfare. You can call both of us the same person, but you are kidding yourself. I would be happy to provide an e mail address for clarification.

By the way, loved that (expected) friendly salutation to rick Olson there. You cover my back, I'll cover yours, right?

I honestly don't think a guy like you will ever get yourself.

Rick Olson said...

Joe:

I called you a "putz" because that's apparently where you like your arguments: personal. "That tells the entire story" is a snide innuendo ... what story are you talking about, Joe? Care to elaborate?

That comment -- and Russell's "you need to get over yourself" -- go far beyond civil disagreements.

Ed Howard's comment is not personal, it is well-reasoned and well-thought-out.

The rule in civil discourse is that you state your position, your reasons for those positions, then you quit. When you start saying things like "your comments ... were egotistical," or "What 10 year-old wouldn't have known as much? This is true of several others of your so-called "worst" choices." you have compared Fox to a ten-year-old and slammed his choices for the worst films. That, my friend, is getting personal.

It's a well-known phenomenon in psychology that if you respond to someone's opinion personally, it's about you, not the other person. .

By the way, I loved "Tropic Thunder" and disliked "Zohan," but would never run anybody down for disagreeing.

I will always defend my friends from personal attacks. I hope civil discourse will be the tone in the future.

Joe said...

"that group gets really PO'd about dissenting opinions."

I beg to differ. It is you Fox, who gets PO'd. Unlike most site coordinators, who usually says graciously "glad you got something out of it" you get all flustered and go on the attack. You rate your abilities far higher than they really are. Your list is populated by disposable comedies.

Joe said...

Mr. Olsen:

I think "Fox" started the carnage with his aggressive behavior against Mr. Sam Juliano, even though Mr. Juliano seemed to indicate in his posts that he understood that taste played a large part in judgement. As I saw it Mr. Juliano was ignored after providing an in-depth analysis of Fox's full list, an analysis in which he seemingly expressed both agreement and disagreement. His closing remarks, which were complimentary were also ignored.
Apparently Fox was angered that Mr. Juliano had the audacity to strongly disagree with one of his choices (The Visitor) even though Mr. Juliano was civil and provided a good deal of understanding.

Your psychology argument is hardly sound I must tell you--it's all contingent on the particulars. I honestly feel that "Fox" earned the snide remarks as a result of his own behavior. He is hardly the consumate PR man.

Fox said...

Joe (aka etc.)-

I have never attacked someone for their differing opinions. If I counter someones argument with one of my own, you seem to interpret that as "attacking". It's not, it's passionate disagreement.

If that upsets you then please feel free to not come here.

Fox said...

Joe (aka Sam, Russell) -

Dude. Show me when I got angry at Sam for liking The Visitor. Like, actually cut and paste the words I used. I really would like to see them.

Joe said...

I would appreciate not being called Sam or Russell, even though I know both these fine gentlemen. But I can understand exactly why you wouldn't want to believe that there might be numerous people affected by your posts. It might be too depressing.

I think your refusal to acknowledge a long e mail from Sam politely analyzing your entire list was a telling enough snub, which was undeserved, but the pompous commentary about immigration and where 'The Visitor' would be years from now was not in the spirit of fruitful discourse, as it implied that anyone who thought otherwise was clueless. You spoke of your minority perception as if it were a fact.

Anonymous said...

I've known Fox for a long time and we often disagree on movies. For example, I thought The Visitor was great and I thought Tropic Thunder was a total disaster (and I was so looking forward to it). But Fox is someone who will sit down and listen and really try to understand why whoever he is talking to likes a film that he doesn't like. He doesn't do this in order to start a fight or win an argument. He does this because he loves thinking and talking and writing about movies.

Jesus, these are just opinions. Why are a few of you so angry? Its not like this is a discussion about the Israel/Palestine situation. They're just movies.

And I agree with Joe's statement that putting Be Kind Rewind as #2 says all we need to know about Fox's "taste and value judgement". He should've put it at #1.

Happy New Year.

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Sam, Russell, and Joe have a strikingly similar writing style. They must be close friends.

- Chris

Fox said...

Joe-

I'll leave it up to each and every reader to decide what "fruitful discourse" is, but my comments about The Visitor are simply my opinion and are clearly directed at the film and its director.

If somebone takes a dismissal of a film they like as a dismissal of them, then they shouldn't be in the business of discourse.

As for ignoring Sam, well, I responded to him, so I have no idea what you are talking about.

Sam Juliano said...

I hereby call upon anyone here who has offered me impassionaed support to cease posting at this thread. I would like this present discourse to end, especially since it involves people I greatly respect like Rick, Pat and Ed. I think the issues at hand have run their course, and while I appreciate some of the cogent observations, I will be the first to admit that things have gotten out of hand.

I have no ill will towards Fox, although as Joe noted I remain perplexed at the complete non-response to my long post discussing Fox's complete list, which took me a fair amount of time to compose. I came to Tractor Facts a short while ago in part to bury the hachet over a situation that arose back in September at another site where I committed a grievous infraction. At that time Fox did not hide his feelings, expressing himself quite forcefully in a public forum. I thought to myself that eventually I would mend fences with this individual.
I honestly thought I was complimentary enough in my earlier posts today and that I earned a response for my longest post, which I felt was constructive.
Still, the crossfire that has now ensued and the scandalous charges that three people are now one (nice try Chris) are not pleasant (perhaps Fox you may want to access the I.P. addresses of these postings to verify their authenticity--that's usually what I do when an issue arises) and I am sensible to know that it is far better co-exist peacefully.

There is nothing to be gained by this kind of high-strung behavior, a fact that I know quite well.

I call for a truce among all those concerned.

Fox said...

OK...

Since we seem to have come to a calm point, I would like to ask that this post move towards more discussion of the movies and less bickering. (Myself included).

Sam Juliano said...

That's fair enough Fox. From my own end I will withdraw my promise to stay clear of Tractor facts, a rather foolish statement, said out of anger or frustration. I will be happy to come back here.

Jason Bellamy said...

Wow. This was disturbing. You expressed your opinion, allowed others to express their opinion and then got blasted for (a) responding to their opinions and (b) not responding to their opinions. Tough crowd.

This actually reminds me of all the backlash over those who dared to dislike "The Dark Knight." How dare you, Fox, have a top 10 list that doesn't look like every other top 10 list! That's why I come to the blogosphere, dammit! For cloned opinions. Yikes.

As you know, I disagree with you on several things -- Happy-Go-Lucky most of all -- but good lists. "Tropic Thunder" won't make my top 10, but it's close. (Though that says more about the year in film than about "Tropic Thunder.")

Fox said...

Jason-

Well said and succinctly summed up as always!

The back-and-forths you and I have had here (not to mention the week long debate about documentaries we had on your blog!), are a pefect example of the passionate disagreement I aim for on this this blog where opinions are never silented or shouted down. In fact, in just the past month we got into it pretty aggressively over Milk and JCVD. Aggressively... but with cool heads, as it should be.

Chris mentioned this in his comment above, but what I hope to do here is invite debates b/c it helps me think through my own thoughts of a movie. Just recently, Ed Howard made me reconsider parts of Paranoid Park b/c his point-of-view, as so did Solied Sinema in their recent write-up of Slumdog Millionaire.

I've had the same emotional conversations/arguments here with Bill R., Jonathan Lapper, Rick, Marilyn, MovieMan, Piper, Fletch, Evan Derrick, Pat and many others who that I am unintentionally leaving out know but you know who you are.

People are free to say whatever they'd like about this blog, or my tastes, or my writing, but the quieting of a commenter's opinion or disrespect for the individual expressing that opinion is something that does not happen here.

I'm not quite sure what happened here today, why it happened, and/or what went wrong, but I hope it doesn't happen again.

I'm looking forward to your year-end Top 10 Jason, but just know that if you dog my beloved Poppy anymore than you already have, well... just get ready!!! :)

nick plowman said...

Happy-Go-Lucky, Burn After Reading, My Blueberry Nights....love them all.

Kudos on a great write up here!

And as a worshiper of the awesomeness that is Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, I feel so ashamed that I haven't seen Baby Mama yet. I must rent it asap. Ugh.

Sam Juliano said...

Jason Bellamy:

Calmly, let me try (again) to express to you and anyone else who is interested in what happened here:

I spent about a half-hour analyzing Fox's list (check back on the thread to see the post I am referring to) Fox is not one of my fans as a result of "mistrust" that emanated from an incident at another site last year. As the proprietor of a very successful site myself, I can never be accused of ignoring any commenter, especially a commenter who leaves a response as long as I did here. Coming on the heels of a strong but still polite disagreement on THE VISITOR (one that inspired Fox to curtly note--"your enthusiasm is noted") Fox then acted like my long and thorough commentary on his ten-best list didn't even exist, as he went on and addressed the other commenters after me. I continued to believe he ignored the longer post as a result of lingering ire over being called out on THE VISITOR.

It is clear that I am not welcome here. Even when I proposed letting bygones be bygones, and again stated my resolve to come back, Fox again remained silent. His message is clear. I have never in my years of blogging, ever, met a host like this. And to be honest, with a long blogroll, a full time teaching job and five young kids to raise (not to mention films to see, reviews to write, and other blogs with effervescent hosts to traverse) I don't really need to come back here. Perhaps my attempts to broaden my horizons yesterday was ill-advised and unecessary as my present blogosphere is more than wide enough.
What I did back in September at Movie Zeal (a site where I continue to be welcome, and one whose proprietors still enthusiastically visit my own site) was in very poor judgement, wrought at the time out of laziness and taking too much on. My subsequent work has shown I am most capable when I apply myself. Still, I know I am an old fart, a New Yorker--actually a north New Jerseyite near New York--and I am not part of the Texas Tractor Facts inner circle---the same way that Russell Martin and Joe--accused of being the same person no less (check the I.P. addresses when you have an issue like that!!!!!) are part of my site's network of commentors.
Fox will accept my comments, but it's clear he's cool to them. That's fine, we can all co-exist Jason, within our own sphere.

Quite by accident yesterday I came upon the blog of a man named Ed Howard. His blog is magisterial--full of art house reviews, scholarly discourse, and serious discussion and appreciation of foreign-language and independent cinema. Mr. Howard's ten-best list was extraodinarily-impressive and essential reading for any serious lover of cinema and the arts. I have added Mr. Howard's site to my blogroll, and will visit there often. So yesterday, I feel that in a hotbed of hostily, I was thrown a New Year's present by the cinema Gods, one as exquisite and elaborate as one could ever hope for.
For that I am deeply appreciative.

I wish you Jason, and any others who may visit Tractor facts a Happy New Year. I may yet come across you on other sites, and be part of fruitful discussion. I assure you my "bunch" is only lethal when provoked. LOL!!!

Happy New Year!

Sam Juliano said...

Actually Jason, two of my longer posts were ignored, if you look back at the thread. My "We'll just have to agree to disagree" which ended with some glowing compliments for the hosts, was ignored. Check back on the thread. It all goes back to my most "unwelcome" disagreement on THE VISITOR. I still can't understand why such a polite difference of opinion would be so surprising. The film is doing 92% at RT, and some of our finest critics adored it.

Some of you are complaining here about why it's a no-no to contest choices "off the beacon track" yet by that same reason, is it fair that proper discussion should be muted?

Fox laments: "I'm not sure what happened here today." I'll give you my opinion. Two long and polite posts written by me were completely ignored. I find that rather ungracious and hu miliated. Jason (and anyone else interested) look back on the thread and tell me I'm wrong.

RC said...

great list...there's some on the list i haven't seen yet, but i love your take on the one's i have seen.

the bottom 10 surpise to me was that the visitor made your list...i like that style of film (love the station agent) and so surprised to see it make bottom 10 -- don't worry, i won't hold it against you.

Sam Juliano said...

R.C.:

As you may have noticed from my prior submissions, I did everything I could to erase any lingering bad feelings as a result of my love for THE VISITOR. I honesly feel my own affinity for the film is what is being held against "me."

Jason Bellamy said...

Jason (and anyone else interested) look back on the thread and tell me I'm wrong.

OK. Sam, with all due respect, you're wrong. I have read all the comments (including the one by Fox wishing that all this end; so, sorry, Fox). I read them before I first commented here. I've read them all again twice more.

Yes, your lengthy comments failed to get a response. In my personal opinion, you could have assumed that Fox was willing to “agree to disagree,” as you yourself suggested you both would have to do. Instead, you took nonresponse (and the hardly volatile line, "Your enthusiasm is noted") as an insult.

At that point you, sir, at 10:37 launched the first blow: "Apparently the only opinions that are REALLY welcomed at this site are opinions that are in agreement with the author." Within the same comment you implied that Fox's opinions are somehow disingenuous. You used the words "smugness" and "unimpressed." And you said that "more passion" is given to what Fox "hates" rather than what he "likes," which ignores that his "Best 10" films got blurbs, while his "Worst 10" list was done by title only, and also ignores that when you disagreed with him on "The Visitor," Fox didn't feel the need to respond with a lengthy comment.

From there, things spiraled downward, and it seems that friends of you and friends of Fox got into a pissing match of sorts. And now I feel I've wandered into this pissing match, which would make it my first ever.

I don't care for it. And I invite you to e-mail me if you feel the need to continue this discussion. But you invited me to comment, and so I have.

Sam, it strikes me that you make some very harsh statements for someone who turns around and implies that you were humiliated by a lack of a response, or that your opinions are unwelcome. As Fox has done, I invite you to look at the comments section of his review of "Milk." The two of us disagree passionately. Your implication that you aren't wanted here because you're not from Texas (I'm not either) and because you disagree is beneath the kind of discussion that goes on here, and insulting for all of us.
You are welcome at my blog, at Fox's, at Ed's. Nothing whatsoever about your love from "The Visitor" is being held against you. It's those kinds of accusations that are tiresome, in my personal opinion. Your discussion wasn't "muted." It's right here in the comments section. I read it. If Fox didn't welcome it, he'd delete it.

Please note that Fox and I disagree above on "Happy-Go-Lucky." And he disagrees with Ed on "Paranoid Park." There's no blacklist here except for the one you keep implying is there. Please, for all of us, stop with this insistence that there is all this grudge-holding. Instead, continue to post your opinions on movies you love and loath. Expect your comments to be embraced sometimes, challenged sometimes and, yes, ignored sometimes. That’s the way it goes.

Now, can we all please kiss and makeup and move on?

Sam Juliano said...

Jason: I just read this lengthy response and you do make some excellent points. I don't want hard feelings either and want this affair to end. I am not so sure that some of your own conclusions are shared by fox, as he remains silent, but I'll not contest you. Nonetheless, I would like to politely respond to some of your points, with full closure in mind, but I am leaving the house now to see WALTZ WITH BASHIR with my wife and a friend.

I will get back to this thread (again with no further bitterness) in the morning. Thanks for your most reasonable intervention.

Fox said...

Nick-

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on Baby Mama. Not many of my friends/family shared the same enthusiasm I had for it, but in the least - especially if you like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler - you should have a good time.

Fox said...

RC-

Thanks. I have a review up of The Visitor that explains more of my feelings about it. If anything, it's definitely a movie I feel I had many back-and-forths about... in third place behind Happy-Go-Lucky and The Dark Knight (I confess being obnoxiously obsessive about talking about that movie).

I am curious to see how it will age. I do dislike it on just regular terms, but it feels like a film that may loose some of it's love with time. Just a gut feeling...

p.s. I did post a review of it back when it came out on DVD if you're curious!

Fox said...

Sam-

I wish you no personal ill will, but I think it's obvious that we don't get along. How about you go your way, and I'll go mine?

At no specific fault of any one person, this thread created too much high-drama over something silly. We all have enough drama in our real lives, why have more from a blog?? I've been watching Season 2 of Dawson's Creek, and now I feel like I've been living it on this post.

This is the last thing I'm going to say about this topic.

Sam Juliano said...

Fox: Your silence right along implied this final decision you now render me, and I must say I'm relieved.

Jason, the deliberate decision to ignore my posts was exactly a result of the perception that Fox has now admitted publicly. There is no need now to go back to your final post, where you make an offer to both of us to "kiss and make up."

Had Fox not pulled the plug, I was willing to do my part in assuring a happy ending. Still, I have made the acquaintances through blogs of your site and that of Ed Howard's and from time to time I'll drop in and say hello. Thanks very much for the time you expended on this affair, and best wishes to all.

PIPER said...

Fox, I just really really want to be number 52 here.

Yes I saw it at The Alamo Draft House. A horrible experience in a wonderful setting. The good news is that I got some kick-ass t-shirts on my visit.

You're really taking your lumps here. There's a lot of rage out here.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Wow, Fox, sorry I missed all of this. Where in the hell did all of this come from?

I haven't seen enough movies this year to have much of an opinion on your lists unfortunately. I saw a few though. I liked Tropic Thunder but didn't see quite what you were seeing I guess. I found it to be a good comedy with some good observations but not something that will make me revisit it anytime soon.

But I do love Happy Go Lucky. Great choice for number one.

Fox said...

Piper-

Speaking of kick-ass t-shirts from the Alamo, my wife bought me a De Palma shirt for Christmas. But it's no ordinary De Palma shirt (not that there is one...), it's an iron-on that says De Palma in the shape of the classic triangle Def Leppard logo. I LOVE IT!!!

P.S. If you go to Mondo Tees' web site there are other director tees just like this (Ozu spelled out like the classic OZZY t-shirts).

Jonathan-

Tropic Thunder is the #3 movie this year and you know it!!!

Actually, you know what I just thought of? You and I have been heavy Eddie Marsan Best Supporting Actor lobbyists, but there is a chance that either Tom Cruise (your fave!) or Robert Downey Jr. - both from Tropic Thunder - could steal his sunshine.

Now, I really like both Cruise and Downey Jr. in TT, but I would hate to see Marsan lose out to one of them.

bill r. said...

Christ, what the hell happened here? How did I miss out on all the good times. I've only read a fraction of the responses, but this is a wonderful thread to which I shall return again and again.

Good work, Fox. Seriously, I don't even know how this happened.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Cruise was good in Tropic Thunder but Downey was brilliant! That's the problem with the Oscars. You have actors who all deserve an award (Ledger for Brokeback, Marsan for Happy Go Lucky, Downey for any number of films he's done), then they don't get it for the one they should have so later on they squeeze someone else out and so on. Ledger will get it, I'm sure, and Marsan will have to wait and win for a lesser performance. Problem is he's not a big star so he may never even get nominated again for all I know.

bill r. said...

Of the movies I've seen from this list, Tropic Thunder and Burn After Reading are by far the best. Two comedies that don't run out of steam...that's rare.

Speaking of which, the guy further up who complained that this list consisted of disposable comedies? I get the feeling that he thinks all comedies are disposable.

Actionman said...

You put GARBAGE like Zohan on a best list and a small masterpiece like Snow Angels on the worst list. Geez...

Fox said...

Actionman-

Whoa. Sorry we clash there. And seeing as how you look kinda bad-ass in that pick, I don't think I wanna argue with you to much over it.

Fox said...

"...then they don't get it for the one they should have so later on they squeeze someone else out and so on."

Yes. It's that "(insert actor) deserves it because he/she didn't win one for (insert movie)", or "they've been around soooo long, they deserve one." No they don't!

Ok, so maybe I was happy to see Martin Scorcese finally win even though I wasn't too excited about movie about The Departed, but nobody "deserves" it. Ideally it should go to the best performance,... even if that means Peter O'Toole getting shafted again.

I'm pretty sure that people like Marsan and Downey would hate to get a sympathetic "lifetime" win over an actor that they felt gave a better performance.

Fox said...

Bill-

Speaking of comedies and best actors, I wish comedies would get more love from the Oscars. I know Tropic Thunder will probably get some love with Cruise and/or Downey, but I would like to see more.

I woulda loved to have seen Jim Carrey nominated for Me, Myself, and Irene.

I know we talked about Malkovich before, but he deserves to be in discussions for Best Supporting.

bill r. said...

Man, everybody hates you now, Fox. I'm glad I'm not alone anymore!

Seriously, quit liking movies that appeal to you personally.

bill r. said...

PS - What are you picking for the Really Important Film Club? I keep checking to see if you and the other holdouts have made a decision, and you haven't. So come on, what's the scoop?

Kat Candler said...

This is something I blogged about a long while ago ..

"It's a shame that the Oscars rarely go to comedic performances. Cause if they did, there'd be Oscars sitting in the homes of Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Alec Baldwin, Gene Wilder, Peter Sellers, Bill Murray ... Why is it that people think comedic performances are easier than dramatic performances. In my humble opinion, it's quite the opposite. Sure, there are a lot of comedies and comedians out there, but great comedies and great comedians, that's a different story."

PIPER said...

Okay Fox,

You brought up Me, Myself and Irene and now I'm pissed.

Let's get this thread kicked back up again.

Actually I'm fine.

gil mann said...

Why is it that people think comedic performances are easier than dramatic performances. In my humble opinion, it's quite the opposite.

I think everyone knows this deep down, but drama, especially the really maudlin kind, just fakes people out with its perceived weightiness.

Any half-decent actor could've played Tom Hanks's part in Philadelphia. There are maybe ten who could've pulled off those scenes in Turner & Hooch where it's just him and the dog.

p.s. It's possible to simultaneously admire Fox's professionalism and yet lament the egregious waste of flame-bait. Most bloggers would kill for a guy like Sam in the comment section.

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