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A year or so ago, I tried to get back into the habit of writing about the movies I was watching by posting notes on Netflix.com, where you are limited to a maximum of 200 characters (!). It offered the opportunity to practice writing concise sentences that carried some opinion or idea about each movie.

I highly recommend the practice of limiting yourself (or requiring for yourself) 200 characters for your thoughts on the movies you watch–whether you write on- or off-line. It is a great chance to free-write, revise, re-revise, pare down and otherwise find out what you really think about a movie.

Starting with “I really liked it,” (which takes up a precious 17 characters) I would often end up with something about why I liked it, or I might find out that I didn’t “like” it at all, or I would discover some elements of the movie that I responded to and some that I didn’t. You can even find out that you highly respect how the film is working even if it doesn’t really work for you.

Here are a few of the comments I posted a while ago:


The Best of Youth
Beautiful, hopeful, devastating, and hopeful. Twice as hopeful as it is devastating. Let me be clear: get this in your queue. Oh, it’s over 6 hours long, BTW. That doesn’t matter. Do it.

Flags of Our Fathers
Very rich film. This was my second viewing. The photographs in the end credits are very stunningly close to the tone and content of the film. The film isn’t over when the credits start rolling.

Letters from Iwo Jima
Very fine film that finds its sympathetic characters by placing everyone on a continuum somewhere between popular notions of Japanese’ rigid sensibilities and the best of modern (American) sensitivity


The Lives of Others
Stunning. Subdued. Many layers to characters and their motivations. The final shot is one of the best final shots I’ve ever seen in a film. Worth revisiting. Good interview – feelings vs. principles

Thumbsucker
I really enjoyed this film, and then when it was over, I began to be troubled by how opinionated it was about its content. Then I was troubled by how much it is like most other “indy” films


THX 1138
Nothing horribly original. Very close to 1984. Not breaking new ground. Sex as a political act. The car chase is kind of fun. I like the calculation of the cost of the surveilance of main character.

Sweet Land
Larissa said she liked it.

Zodiac
Good. Very good. The fascinating stuff is not the murder scenes, but the responses of the characters to the murderer, and their various ways of coping with the case.


Primer
“Worth revisiting just so I can figure out what the hell was happening in this film.”

Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell
“I laughed a lot. The funniest stuff is some of the extras, and footage of Ferrell staying in character while other SNL actors come undone. This guy loves to show skin.”

Pan’s Labyrinth
Very good. Much intensity from the question: What is going to happen to the innocent characters? The filmmaker is capable of allowing horrific violence. We know that the girl will probably die…

Hot Fuzz
Funny moments – quick, playful coolness. This movie gets super wierd. I thought the tone shifted toward the end a little, but the shift made room for some jumping whilst shooting in a small town.

Why We Fight
This film casts a broad net. A little too broad. Good questions. Not much meat to the claims made. Some preaching to the choir. I wanted more of the specific and less of the general. More stories

Twister
This movie is stupid. The special effects are stupid too.

Fahrenheit 9/11
Great opening credits. Politicians being made up.

The Squid and the Whale
Hi, look at me! I’m an independent film! I have kids that are more cynical and arrogant than the adults! I’m glib! I’m ironic! I’m knowingly cute about somethings and let it all hang out!

American Movie
Resilience.

District B13
A lot like The Transporter. Maiden in distress. Some good action and fighting sequences. The Bad guy was really bad and so you wanted him to get what was coming to him.

La Lengua de las Mariposas (Butterfly)
Great movie. Great final scene. Pre-coming-of-age film.

The Sisters
Talky, and not in a good way. Improbable and unbelievable interactions btw. characters. Self-consciously confrontational dialogue. Deconstructing Chekhov for the benefit of a modern audience.

Harvey
This might have been better to see live on the stage. Jimmy Stewart does Forrest Gump.

The Professional
Dialogue was pretty stock. Gary Oldman is a strong presence as usual, but this time, he was an unbelievable cartoonish freak. Most of the characters were pretty flat. Natalie Portman was interestin

Das Boot
Despite the dated soundtrack, this is the best submarine movie ever.

Hands on a Hard Body
Fascinating documentary about adults who put themselves through several days of voluntary competetive torture. The layers of these characters are peeled away as the days go by.

The 2005 Academy Award Short Films Collection
This collection has everything. Exploding cows, a ghost, the mafia, warheads blowing up crows, naked women in a grocery store, Euthanasia. Two or three shorts were memorable.

The Man with the Movie Camera
The movie camera deepens our ability to see.This film fills the viewer with the wonder of seeing as if for the first time.A joyous celebration of life and film -very modernist, and childlike atonce.

Hook
I like the idea of this film, only without Robin Williams. And without Dustin Hoffman. And without the heavyset black kid rolling like a bowling ball. Oh, and without the whole Peter Pan part.

Independence Day
I saw an advanced screening in ’96. The only thing that kept me from leaving quietly into the night during the president’s “won’t go quietly into the night” speech was the joy of laughing at it

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
*****-This is really a 4-star film, for me, but one of the people in the theater when I saw it was a LOUDLY laughing woman who made this one of the more joyous theater experiences of my life.

The Sixth Sense
This film was scary and a huge surprise for me, even though I saw it a couple years after it was in the public’s conscious. It is one that sticks with you, which can’t be said of many finer films.

Corpse Bride
A couple of hilariously exaggerated characters, and a fascinating palate of muted colors and strikingly bold moments of color. But, alas, there are songs in it.

The Good Shepherd
I got to the end of this one for the second time and followed the nuances of the cat-and-mousing a little better than the first. But, I still don’t get who the good shepherd is supposed to be.

Russian Ark
This was very good. I could have done without the deconstructive narrative, and the two “guides” that lead the viewer through the film and I could have just gone with the bodiless camera, I think…

Borat
Brilliant moments punctuated by jokes about sex. Some of the jokes about sex are very funny, some of them are not. I was not happy to find out that some of the scenes were staged. Defrauding.

Extreme Rollercoasters
About what you’d expect. Although, the engineers are interesting. Apparently, there is an art to understanding and manipulating the adrenaline-induced feelings of riders in the design phase of RCs.

The Puffy Chair
This was good. I applaud the neorealistic techniques that these young filmmakers use. This is the first “Mumblecore” film I’ve seen. It makes me want to see more of them. The main character is a jerk.

Poetry in Motion
This film about poetry reminds me of why I used to avoid poetry.

Army of Shadows
This is a very good film. THE film about the French Resistance. Although there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of resistence – more like “French Trying Not To Get Captured” or “FrenchTryingToEscape”

Battlestar Galactica
An amazing show. The 3rd and 4th seasons start to lag a little in the middle, but this is an amazing character-based show that happens to be set in space. I liked the 1st and 2nd seasons the best.

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