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Ben Sachs

250 Points: The Hobbit pt 2: The Desolation of the Hobbit

Bilbo and the gold

Bilbo Baggins, guarding the film’s box office receipts

  1. I missed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters. Obviously since I wrote so much about the last one, I considered seeing its follow-up on more than one occasion, but just couldn’t summon the energy, even though a good friend invited me to join her, promising she’d bring snacks from Trader Joe’s.
  2. And then a few days after that, while I was out strolling the boulevard, I passed another friend who was en route to see the thing, on a lazy, chilly Sunday afternoon. But instead of joining him, I went home and took a bath.
  3. So you can see how excited I was to watch this movie. Please keep that in mind as you read this.
  4. Then the film left theaters, and I realized I’d missed my one and only chance for all time. I rushed to my local multiplex and pleaded with its employees to give me a private screening, but they refused, and threatened to call the police. Again.
  5. I despaired, and spent a week wondering what had happened to Bilbo, and Gandalf, and Thorin, and Whorin, and Hewy, and Dewy, and Chewy, and Killy, and Thrilly, and Culty, and the ninety-seven other little dwarves, and everyone else in Middle-earth.
  6. Suddenly, just when I could no longer bear the suspense, a CGI moth flew through my window, gripping an AVI copy of the film in its fuzzy mandible. It landed on my shoulder and mumbled something about how Gandalf was in trouble and “needed me.”
  7. Well, I need you, too, Gandalf! So I decided to watch the movie, after all, and take a lot of notes.
  8. These are my notes.
  9. It’s been fifteen long months since I watched An Unexpected Journey, and I barely remember anything that happened in it.
  10. It occupied a tremendous number of minutes? And presented a great many wolves and goblins that were born in a super-computer’s digital bowels?
  11. I do recall that the movie featured at least one terrific scene: the riddle game between Bilbo and the creature known as Gollum.
  12. Gollum won’t be in this new film, I have heard, which is a minus going in.
  13. Even still, I have no doubt that this movie will do its best to amuse and delight us, because that is how capitalism works. So let’s get right to it! READ MORE >
Film / 8 Comments
April 29th, 2014 / 2:00 pm

My Favorite New Movies of 2012

“Star War’s Uncut: Director’s Cut” (2012)

Here’s a roundup of my favorite newish movies, with some thoughts on each one. If you appreciate and/or doubt my taste in motion pictures, here are my lists from 2009 & 2010 & 2011. And here are some overall notes:

  1. Films marked with an * can be watched for free online; just click on the title.
  2. Roughly half of the films are from 2012; the rest hail from 2008–11. As I argued in my posts “How Many Movies Are There?” and “How Many Movies Have You Seen?“, no one can watch every new release when it comes out (especially when they’ve recently started a PhD program). I prefer to think of my lists 2009–present more as an ongoing project than as definitive statements on any given year. (I also feel free to revise my opinions over time.)
  3. You may find relevant two older posts—“How Many Cinemas Are There?” & “Why Do You Need So Many Cinemas?“—where I decry the habit of so many film critics to consider only feature-length theatrically-released films when making these kinds of lists. (All other cinema somehow disappears at the end of the year! Which is particularly odd at the present moment, when broadband has been revitalizing the short movie form.)
  4. If you want straight lists of the titles without any commentary, just skip to the end.

And now, without further to do, here are 30+ relatively-new movie-things that I saw and have thoughts on, starting with—

I. MY 10 FAVORITE NEWISH FILMS THAT I SAW THIS YEAR AND FEEL COMFORTABLE RECOMMENDING THAT OTHERS CHECK OUT

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Film / 19 Comments
January 14th, 2013 / 8:01 am

250 Points: The Hobbit, or, As Expected, a Bogus Journey

  1. I really, really hated Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. I think it only fair I get that out there, right up front.
  2. Why did I hate them so very much?
  3. Well, it’s complicated.

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Film / 98 Comments
December 20th, 2012 / 6:08 pm

Reminder! HTMLGIANT Meetup: “Two-Lane Blacktop” (Chicago)

Warren Oates, Dennis Wilson, Laurie Bird, and James Taylor in "Two-Lane Blacktop."

This weekend (October 8th & 9th), Chicago’s Music Box Theatre is screening Monte Hellman and Rudy Wurlitzer‘s 1971 masterpiece Two-Lane Blacktop. Long overlooked, Two-Lane has for the past five years or so been enjoying a critical renaissance, and is increasingly regarded as one of the greatest films of the ’70s. (Click here to read some of my own thoughts on it.) And right now is an especially opportune time to see it, what with its grandchild Drive currently killing things in theaters.

There are two screenings, one Saturday, one Sunday, each at 11:30 AM. I’ll be attending the Saturday 11:30 AM show. Anyone care to join me? The movie is 102 minutes long and I was thinking we could grab a coffee afterward, before peeling out onto our nation’s highways.

(Yes, Two-Lane Blacktop really does star James Taylor and Dennis Wilson—in their only film roles! No, they don’t sing, nor is any of their music used in the movie. Yes, they’re both incredible—though it’s Oates who really steals the show.)

… And here’s Chicago Reader contributor Ben Sachs’s Cine-File write-up:

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Events & Film / 12 Comments
October 7th, 2011 / 11:12 am