04 February 2009
Picture: Still Life (62/5)
Director: Michael Haneke, Funny Games (58/7)
Actress: Miriam Toews, Silent Light (45/5)
Actor: Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon (58/6)
S. Actor: George Clooney, Burn After Reading (43/5)
S. Actress: Alexis Zegerman, Happy-Go-Lucky (60/7)
Screenplay: John Patrick Shanley, Doubt (55/7)
Scene: Barbed-wire/staple-gun match, The Wrestler (40/3)
sk18 from Mike D'Angelo on Vimeo.
[Well, it's not ideal—the audio went out of sync, for one thing—but it's better than nothing. WARNING: This clip is not for the squeamish.]
Haneke previously placed 13th for the original Funny Games (1998), 12th for Code Unknown (2001), 14th for The Piano Teacher (2002), and 2nd for Caché (2006).
Of the actors, only Clooney has an extensive Skandie history—mostly with the Coens. In the lead category, he came in 15th for Out of Sight (1998), 5th for O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), 8th for Intolerable Cruelty (2003), and 10th just last year for Michael Clayton. This is his first supporting nod. Sheen finished 8th in Supporting in 2006 for The Queen. Toews and Zegerman are new.
Shanley had not previously written an eligible film during the Skandie era, save for, uh, Congo.
Posted by md'a at 12:13 PM
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As a very distanced observer of the annual Skandies, I figured Still Life would place much higher.
Speaking of "people staring profoundly into space" ... it's even the frackin poster for this piece of boring twaddle.
This is actually the first of Jia's films to make the top 20. Until now he's been more admired than loved by the August Voting Body as a whole. (I might have thrown some points at Xiao Wu, but that film—still far and away Jia's best, imo—was never commercially released.)
Remember when Jia included several bits of humor of the sort that would have fried Reygadas's self-important little mind? That was awesome.
Blastoff and the martial-arts fan were the two tolerable elements. Any other humor or wit I must have slept through.
Nobody is more surprised than me that I gave this picture points.
Jia did have "Platform" at #2 in the poll for undistributed films of 2000.
Only because Mr. Malade couldn't give it negative points.
The foiled opening robbery, with him pulling out that wicked knife, counts as comedy to me. I secretly believe this is a Jarmusch movie.
Could you use Vimeo or Dailymotion or somesuch instead of YouTube?
If by "martial-arts fan", Victor, you mean the scene with the Chow Yun-fat worshipper, that was so awesome. Remember when they each showed off their ring-tones, and then the ring tone transitioned to the story of the woman? Awesome.
I personally think Jia Zhangke is the most overrated Master in international cinema, so I'm glad the Skandies have shafted him until now. But here the characterizations are better developed and integrated into the signature pan-from-figure-to-scene-showing-garish-Chinese-development style that is way overrated. Prior to Still Life, I think critics were far too willing to give him points for having the "right" idea (downside of the Chinese economical miracle), rather than vividly expressing an interesting, but perhaps less fashionably correct idea.
Trying Vimeo now. It's super slow, though. Two hours plus to convert following the upload.
It's true that Jia's been oversold by his champions. But I also think he's been underrated by the AVB, which has been exceedingly self-conscious about distinguishing itself from Film Comment / Cinema Scope orthodoxy. Everything that's moving and intelligent and beautiful about Jia comes together in Still Life like never before. But there's a lot of really great stuff in Unknown Pleasures as well. It's a more uneven, flawed film, a bit too deliberate in spelling out its social / political themes. But it also engages with the aimlessness of youth in really genuine, direct ways. You've got to delve into mid- to late Hou to find something close to it. (I know a lot of you hate this stuff. Your loss.)
But I'll freely concede that Platform and The World don't entirely come together, and Jia's documentaries kinda suck.
It's true that Jia's been oversold by his champions. But I also think he's been underrated by the AVB, which has been exceedingly self-conscious about distinguishing itself from Film Comment / Cinema Scope orthodoxy.
I don't think this is self-consciousness. More that the AVB tends to reflect my taste (since I selected everyone), and both Jia and Hou are too digressive, meandering and diffuse for that sensibility. We like even our slow, not-much-happens cinema in more concentrated doses. Hou at least has the advantage of being kinda dreamy sometimes; Jia can be a real-time slog.
That's Ed, I believe it may have been Enyclopedia Gromit who correctly noted above that Platform did very well indeed in the Undies.
I don't think this is self-consciousness. More that the AVB tends to reflect my taste (since I selected everyone), and both Jia and Hou are too digressive, meandering and diffuse for that sensibility.
This is fair. On rereading, I think my remarks sound like more of an imputation of bad faith than I intended.
But if there is any kind of deliberate self-fashioning behind the collective sensibility (and really, we are a diverse bunch), I think it has more to do with giving comedy and genre films a fairer shake than the highbrows, and not with denigrating sacred cows for its own sake.
Speaking as caster of the first stone at Jia, in this thread anyway, I definitely agree that people who love a film/director will have more and more-interesting things to say about it than people who are simply bored silly. And I acknowledge that my anti-Jia potshots probably sound as annoyingly eye-rolling to Waz, CStults et al as this guy on Bergman or Michael's cheap shot at Reygadas does to me. But really, that's all I'm really capable of saying about Jia because ... well ... gawd, he is just more boring than ass.
I realize Michael backed off on this somewhat, but I can confidently state that I'm not *trying* to distinguish myself from the Cinemascope/Film-Comment line. It's just that I'm confident enough in my own judgment to disagree without pause when I do, which will happen relatively predictably more in some ways than in others, given developed tastes. Where self-consciousness does come in, in my case anyway, is something Michael did point out generally about the AVB -- trying to judge "entertainment" films as in-principle equal to "art" films. Looking over my Top 10s for the last 20 years I can't avoid saying that I'm proud that every single Top 10 has in the mix at least one film (and usually more) of "frivolous" types: comedies, musicals, adventure and kids films, martial-arts movies, or cartoons. And while I personally don't speak as the biggest fan of superhero or sci-fi films, others in the AVB do.
...and let it be said, re: my dumb cheap shot at Reygadas, that I like Reygadas, that I admired Japon and genuinely enjoyed Battle in Heaven and Silent Light. I just think he's still developing, and hasn't hit his masterstroke yet. Sort of like how I felt about Jia prior to Still Life.
I like Jia (I actually find him less boring than, say, Tsai Ming-Liang) but I have to admit that Still Life is already fading from my memory, even though I just watched it less than two months ago, and in fact when I try to think about it, more often than not I realize that I'm actually recalling a scene from Up the Yangtze (which I coincidentally watched the same weekend as Still Life, not having a clue beforehand that they're basically the same damn thing, even though one's a documentary and the other is fictional).
Uh, no pun intended (although I wish I had).
Have you watched Tsai's films in prints or on video? I can tell you from personal experience that there's a huge difference—The River was deadly when I tried to watch it on my TV set but came thrumming to life on the big screen.
By the same token, I just now rewatched Still Life and found it even more tedious than I did the first time. But I'm not changing the rating because I suspect that watching at home (in this case on my computer, not even on a good-sized TV) places undue emphasis on the dull foreground action at the expense of the magnificent backgrounds. (But the foreground action is still just way, way too dull.)
I'd totally forgotten that this film ends with its own little Man on Wire moment.
I don't think I've ever seen a Tsai film in a theater, so yeah, I've only seen them on DVD. Although it's funny you mention The River, because that's the one that DIDN'T bore me.
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