|UserReviews 4Approval 94%Soundoffs 54Album Ratings 2125Objectivity 93%Last Active 12-19-19 2:55 pmJoined 09-24-05Forum Posts 22Review Comments 3,534
|10.27.20 ||Just got Nintendo SWITCH||10.07.20 ||tectac's Electric Wizard, Ranked|
|08.26.20 ||tec's Top 100 Albums of All Time ♦||08.21.20 ||FILM: tectac's Kelly Reichardt, Ranked|
|07.07.20 ||Top 25 of 2020: So Far! (Sept.)||06.11.20 ||Favorite Metal of 2020 (So Far)|
|05.27.20 ||FILM: tectac's Hayao Miyazaki, Ranked ♦||05.12.20 ||MUSIC: tectac's Swans, Ranked ♦|
|03.15.20 ||FILM: tectac's Tsai Ming-liang, Ranked||02.25.20 ||FILM: tectac's Robert Bresson, Ranked|
|01.21.20 ||MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2019 ♦||12.18.19 ||FILM: tec's Noah Baumbach, Ranked|
|12.09.19 ||MUSIC: tec's Top 100 Songs of 2019 ♦||11.25.19 ||FILM: tectac's Sergio Leone, Ranked|
|10.30.19 ||FILM: tectac's Darren Aronofsky, Ranked||10.24.19 ||FILM: tectac's Top 10(0) Films of the D|
|10.17.19 ||MUSIC: tectac's Top 20 Metal Albums of ||10.15.19 ||FILM: tectac's Gus Van Sant, Ranked|
|FILM: tec's Noah Baumbach, Ranked|
Baumbach is an acquired taste, but admittedly there's something about his germination of lifeless mumblecore and mainstream comedy (balanced by the appropriately awkward humanity he effortlessly seeps from his actors) that I find endearing and, above all, legitimately sobering. His on-going partership with Gerwig has helped in various ways, but even his earlier, solo-written projects are loaded with pleasantries, both charming and unsavory (in a word: humane).
>> DE PALMA (2015)
Feels weird to even consider this a Baumbach film, given that his presence behind the lens is completely absent. He’s a fictional filmmaker, after all, so having him piece together a documentary about *another* filmmaker is strange at the very least, if not an earnest show of admiration and/or respect. But it most certainly plays like a director-for-hire job, as do 90% of mainstream documentaries (thank goodness for people like Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, my god), and I suppose I could’ve rectified that had I any passion for Brian De Palma. But, alas, I find most of De Palma’s work tiresome and silly, so a deep-dive into his career is not something I find arousing in the least bit. My favorite segments, funny enough, involved De Palma talking about *other* people’s films, because I genuinely enjoy hearing people talk about what they love, whatever it may be. This is more for De Palma fans than Baumbach fans, clearly, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
|11||maudlin of the Well|
>> MR. JEALOUSY (1997)
This is a Woody Allen film with three differences:  Woody isn’t in it,  the cast isn’t stacked with contemporary A-listers, and  the opening credits aren’t done with a white serif font on a black background. A bit less lexical and philosophical than recent Woody pictures (so, more reminiscent of his mid-90s stuff, I guess), but the simple tale of crippling jealousy—the burden it brings, the anxiety it carries, and the damage it delivers—feels patently familiar. Not as downright self-deprecating, either, but e.g. the group therapy snafu—in which coincidences blossom from nothing and conversations rapidly approach hyperbole—emulates Allen’s brand of comedic interaction: It’s thoughtfully funny at times, but it also dampens the effect of the “more serious” elements. Emotional nerves are pinched, almost unexpectedly, but that’s more due to the ubiquitous nature of jealousy itself, not that Baumbach has mined legitimate catharsis from uncharted territory.
>> WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2014)
Critics’ll have you believe this is rancid and soulless, and while it sits near the bottom rungs of Baumbach’s ladder, it’s surprisingly funnier than I ever expected, too, a humor that’s garnered largely from the skewed dynamic of an older, edge-of-existential-crisis couple trying to keep pace with a younger and more jovial set of hipsters. Builds toward a shocking revelation that feels manufactured and haphazardly thrown together, as if someone told Baumbach at the last minute that he needed a “twist” and he had to hurriedly shoehorn one in there. Not even sure of its purpose—to make Stiller and Driver both look like assholes? Okay. Mission accomplished, I guess, but message not received. (I do like the apathetic reaction to Stiller’s discovery, though—lovely subversion.) Weak as a storyteller, but more than passable as a purely comedic piece. Thought Stiller and Watts would be the downfall, but their attempts to embody their younger selves was sublime.
>> GREENBERG (2010)
A precursor to FRANCES HA, in which Baumbach recognized the strengths and weaknesses appropriately, adjusted accordingly, and crafted a superior product. Indeed, Greenberg himself might be the least enjoyable aspect of GREENBERG; yes, that’s intended to be a character trait, and he’s *supposed* to be a miserable, misanthropic negativist, but his pessimism and self-absorption is so consuming and great that it approaches parody in a film that’s clearly meant to be taken seriously in re its faulty, anxiety-ridden humanism. I concede that I occasionally - almost frighteningly - saw myself in Greenberg (e.g. the public freak out during an unwanted restaurant birthday celebration is my exact version of hell), which made for an even greater contrast when I was met with disconnect. Probably due for a revisit on this one - haven’t seen it since its release in 2010 - and hope to react more favorably. The ending is fucking perfect, though—that abrupt cut masterfully deployed.
>> THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (2017)
Turning this into a canonical cocktail because why not: This is exactly the thematic essence of THE SQUID AND THE WHALE laid unto the structural beats of WHILE WE’RE YOUNG, decorated with a dash of GREENBERG’s on-edge cynicism. Heady cocktail, that is, but somehow merely half as intoxicating as I expected. Enjoyed myself thoroughly, but never became wholly gripped with inescapable emotion the way Baumbach surely intended. In fact, the film’s largest sentimental buoys—e.g. the hospital shoving match or the snot-ridden art sale speech—are also its biggest missteps; I found myself significantly more moved by cleverly understated moments, like Jean’s casual but heartfelt “I like hanging out with you guys,” or the subtle, unaddressed differences in how Hoffman acts toward each of his sons. Not sure the absurdism of Stiller’s daughter’s character works all that well, either, but there’s enough pith here to leave a lasting bitterness.
>> HIGHBALL (1997)
Destined to be forgotten in the deepest recesses of American cinema, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give up the ghost that easily. No, this is not masterful in any sense of the word: It’s formally drab, thematically vacuous, and almost aggressively inconsequential, but as a typical fan of Baumbach’s conversational poeticism, this was not only painless but actively pleasurable, despite the absence of any reason to exist whatsoever. It’s not heartfelt or poignant or arresting, but its simplicity works for it rather than against it. Noah shoots scenes in a sub-Altman manner, cycling from person to person, picking up random bits of dialogue here and there, but never really allowing a complete thought to formulate beyond peripheral, in-the-moment entanglement. (The major difference being that Altman lets his camera float, whereas Baumbach prefers the hard cuts.) A total “fly on the wall” film, but a worthwhile one—forget what others are saying. I laughed and I laughed a lot.
|6||Godspeed You! Black Emperor|
F♯ A♯ ∞ [Vinyl]
>> THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005)
Warmed significantly to this on second viewing (and every subsequent viewing thereafter), and while I think MARRIAGE STORY operates as a better vehicle for divorce from the vantage point of those directly involved (i.e., the spouses) at the moment of impact, this works as a more abstract assimilation of the rippling effect that it has on everyone who gets trapped in the wake, both past and present. This also crafts much less reputable (and therefore less sympathetic) characters, but “balance” was never the objective—this feels like divorce through *everyone else’s* eyes, where every smug remark is exaggerated, and every misdeed amplified for the sake of psychological conditioning. Shows, too, how (unfortunately) children (and others) can be turned into both weapons and pawns between a feuding couple. Uniquely hilarious when it wants to be, though occasionally too ‘shocking purely for the sake of it’. (Wish the closing song was instrumental, too.)
>> KICKING AND SCREAMING (1995)
Takes a while to “settle” into itself, but this is precisely the kind of humor I admire—the type that doesn’t denote punchlines or facilitate well-timed rimshots, but grows organically from the small nuances of seemingly banal conversations, bolstered by idiosyncratic characters who feel tactile and personable and lived-in. Love how this is so incredibly “90s” now, and gives the initial impression of a mindless teen rom-com before slowly decomposing into a direct subversion of that particular subgenre and all its typical tropes e.g. one man sleeps with a good buddy’s girlfriend, but it never devolves into a heated argument (with the eventual realization that their friendship is more important than a college fling and yada yada…), it just kind of…happens, and I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. Because life is not always a series of one dramatic signpost after another. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes “perfect” relationships doesn’t last.
The Glow Pt. 2
>> MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2007)
Nary a single redeeming quality among the entire adult cast here, resulting in something very Baumbach-does-Bergman—which, to be clear, I prefer to Bergman outright; Noah’s distinctive style of humor relaxes the immense dourness that would persist otherwise, procuring laughs by plopping his exaggerated personae into ostensibly naturalistic situations and just letting things play out, awkward and bombast and haphazard as they may. I reckon that reading Baumbach’s script would barely entice a chuckle—the harrowed personalities and timely, wry delivery are crucial. Tons of uncomfortable, disillusioned tension elsewhere, between Kidman and Leigh’s familial power struggle to the crushing realization that your best years are already well behind you, a powder keg rife with adamant disapprovals, rumor swarming, incessant nitpicking, and grating passive-aggressiveness. They’ve done it to themselves, though; disturbing in many ways, but mostly just tragic.
|3||Yo La Tengo|
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside...
>> FRANCES HA (2012)
Each time I revisit this, it’s less side-splitting and knee-slapping than I remember, but I always end up rectifying that with amazement at how nonchalantly tender and passively observant it is, resulting in a remarkably affectionate portrait of aimless twentysomething life through bold sincerity sans judgment. That post-college-pre-career flightiness is a reality for most of us, and something so fleeting is difficult to adequately capture without explicitly condemning or glorifying, but Baumbach does precisely that (and, let’s be honest, Gerwig’s help behind the pen is a big reason for this film’s success). More solipsistic than MISTRESS AMERICA, but less demanding of its main character(s) and therefore the tolerance of e.g. misplaced priorities, foolhardy spontaneity, and general aloofness feels ingenuous without necessarily promoting any of those things. Tricky balancing act, but Gerwig and Baumbach nail it. FYC: “Modern Love” traipse for decade’s best scene.
>> MISTRESS AMERICA (2015)
A slow-starter that took maybe twenty minutes to “get going,” before elegantly snowballing into a brilliantly comedic kitsch, a point after which I was either laughing aloud or smiling like a doofus until the closing credits. Takes a very cynical approach to self-delusion but manages to be heartwarming in spite of—or, perhaps, because of?—that very fact, predicated on gauche tendencies and uncomfortable honesty. Sure, “real people” don’t talk like this, but Baumbach is going for ‘presentation’, not ‘representation’, portraying the emulsification of selflessness into pure solipsism and attempts to patch-up narcissism with genuine tenderness (and only partially doing so, which is the perfect way to conclude). More than anything, it’s a film about maturing through a force majeure of emotional betterment viz., being around “better” people makes us “better,” too. And vice versa. Or something to that effect. Posh Connecticut set piece is peak Baumbach.
>> MARRIAGE STORY (2019)
As much as I feverishly enjoy going strongly against the herd, I’d be doing myself (and the cinematic community) a disservice by cloistering my true feelings about this film: It’s Baumbach’s best piece of work thus far, and the most achingly genuine portrayal of marital turmoil I’ve seen since the second half of BEFORE MIDNIGHT. Littered with both characters *and* caricatures, using expressionism to amplify the villainous position of The System and, in essence, The Process of Divorce while simultaneously humanizing Charlie and Nicole, splitting the blame equally and eventually raising one of the most hair-raising hypothetical questions I can recall: Could this all have been avoided if they’d just read each other the damn letters? Pockets of humor occasionally relax the strain in the most awkward of ways and yes, Driver and Johansson give career-best performances, but Liotta and Dern uniformly responsible for the film’s red-hot cattle prod. Don’t miss this.
|Figure since he recently dropped his magnum opus on us, it'd be an appropriate time to bust out the Baumbach ranking. I'm admittedly more favorable toward him than most people, so adjust accordingly. The top three films here are all in my Top 100 of the Decade. |
|I'm not familiar with his work, but since you mentioned Before Midnight, are you going to rank Linklater?|
|I could. I've got three Linklater left to see - FAST FOOD NATION, ME AND ORSON WELLES, and LAST FLAG FLYING. I suppose I can try to seek those out in the coming weeks. |
|Agreed hard on number 1, but disagree hard on Greenberg’s low placement. It actually might be my 2nd favorite Baumbach movie. Ben Stiller was brilliant in it.|
|good words as usual! I haven't seen a good chunk of his work but The Squid and the Whale is my favorite of what I have -- put it on randomly one night and I was so surprised with how much it won me over. from the looks of it, Marriage Story could easily dethrone it tho. |
I'll try it again eventually, but Frances Ha is one of the few movies I've shut off 15 minutes in. couldn't stand it
|@Lark: To be fair, that's the movie of his it's been the longest since I've seen last (back in 2010), so my feelings toward it could change drastically were I to revisit it now. In fact, I'm almost positive they would, given that I can contextualize it within all of his work now. At the time, it was only the second film I'd seen of his (had previously seen SQUID AND THE WHALE, which I've since watched again, several times).|
@Chortles: Can't necessarily fault you there. There's a consistent essence to his work (especially everything from MISTRESS AMERICA back) of careless, aloof, narcissistic, self-absorbed characters that are generally unlikable, grating, annoying, etc., and if you have trouble getting past that, it can make sitting through his movies torture. Especially something like FRANCES HA, which is focused solely on *one* person of that ilk.
I do wish one day you'd stick it out for the ending, though - there's not some huge revelation or anything, but the aimlessless comes to a level-headed conclusion and the final shot provides a tiny moment of clarity among the mess that precedes it. Kind of like a well-timed grace note. Then again, I thought the movie was genuinely funny; if you don't, it'll be a tough sell either way.
|Also everyone with Netflix has no excuse not to have seen MARRIAGE STORY at this point.|
|Also everyone with Netflix has no excuse not to have seen MARRIAGE STORY at this point. (2)|
Ditto on The Report and Prime. Also a very good movie, also starring Year of the Driver.
Tec, definitely give Greenberg another shot, it’s a great film. And Ben Stiller really nailed it.
|'Ditto on The Report and Prime. Also a very good movie, also starring Year of the Driver.'|
I saw the trailer for this the other day and thought it looked corny as fuck. Just kinda had that history-doc-on-autopilot kinda vibe to it, a la SPOTLIGHT or THE POST. But I trust your opinion so maybe I'll give it a shot soon.
|What is the attraction with mumblecore? It's usually just slightly frustrating to watch.|
"incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together"
This is all kryptonite to me, but with that 8.3 rating, I guess I should try.
|I feel the opposite about Mistress America. Frances Ha is probs my favorite movie in general|
|Also what the fuck, Baumbach is not mumblecore, his shit is heavily scripted and shot fairly traditionally. |
|I know he’s not, I said he germinates a crossbreed of mumblecore and mainstream comedy. I suppose that isn’t very clear though. My implication was that he takes very mumblecore-esque themes and airy, minimalist narratives and transposes them onto a more “mainstream” (viz., well-shot, scripted, compositionally sound, digestible) framework. |
I did not mean to imply that his films are similar to those of early Bujalski or Swanberg formally, just in the thematic scale. I guess.
|I saw the trailer for this the other day and thought it looked corny as fuck. Just kinda had that history-doc-on-autopilot kinda vibe to it, a la SPOTLIGHT or THE POST. But I trust your opinion so maybe I'll give it a shot soon.|
I never saw the trailer so I can’t comment there, but the movie was a solid B/B+.
|Damn, I'll have to check it out. Maybe after watching (and inevitably hating) 6 UNDERGROUND. Can't stand Michael Bay excepting one film but something about his movies are fascinating to watch, even if I mostly hate 'em. Like staring at a big beautiful car wreck. |
Also hoping to see AD ASTRA, A HIDDEN LIFE, and UNCUT GEMS at some point over the holiday break. I've been slacking on 2019 films for the most part, and many of the ones I've made an effort to see have been letdowns.