The Assassination of Jesse James: The Poll

The Assassination of Jesse James: The Poll

****
11
44%
*** 1/2
8
32%
***
2
8%
** 1/2
2
8%
**
2
8%
* 1/2
0
No votes
*
0
No votes
1/2 *
0
No votes
0
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 25

The Original BJ
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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:42 am

I thought Assassination of Jesse James flew by -- I was stunned that a nearly three hour film could be such a breeze to sit through.

Penelope, Hilary Swank and Paul Greengrass are one thing. But The Royal Tenenbaums?! :(

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Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:22 am

Penelope wrote:There are 2 hour movies that are pretty much unendurable (The Royal Tenenbaums leaps to mind)

Them's fightin' words 'round here Pen.

I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on Assassination, though. Sonic has no idea what he is talking about.
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Postby Penelope » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:02 am

There are 2 hour movies that are pretty much unendurable (The Royal Tenenbaums leaps to mind) and there are three hour pics that simply fly by too fast (Assassination of Jesse James is a beautiful example).
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Postby Bog » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:33 pm

Haha, Sonic, I dig what you're saying, which further exemplifies the splendor of film's subjectivity because I was enthralled and if anything the coda seemed a little rushed and I could have gone for more there, inevitably leading to your three word description...

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Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:03 pm

No need to take offence.

I looked, and it's 2hrs. 40 mins., which I wouldn't call "barely" over 2:30. Anyway, that's just the alleged running time. I'm trying to convey an experience. Which can be summed up in three words.....
"What the hell?"
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Postby Bog » Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:49 pm

I guess your review is clever?

I guess that is what you were going for, I personally didn't think any of the film was extraneous and maybe I'm nitpicking and you were thinking of your whole movie-going experience with commercials and whatnot, but it's barely over two and a half hours long as a film, I felt that needed to be said what with "three fucking hours" so peppered throughout

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Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:28 pm

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a masterful, visionary cinematic work of art.

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is pretentious twaddle.

It's both.

"The Assassination of Jesse James, etc." has me rooting for the wisdom of studio imposed cuts. Three fucking hours. It's an exquisite film, with many outstanding individual set pieces. And it's three fucking hours. And I've got nothing against three hour long films. Just those that are unable to sustain such length, and those that have a superb 2hr. 15mn. film hiding behind it.
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This review will be temporarily halted as we spend a few minutes watching a man cross a field on his horse, a snowy mountain range as a backdrop. Lovely, isn't it? Please be patient.
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Too bad, because this film is precisely what SAG Ensemble Awards were invented for. What a beautiful cast! No one has mentioned Mary Louise Parker, who takes a role as big a waste as Gretchen Mol's in 3:10 to Yuma and ultimately makes something of it in the throat-clenching final scenes. It's a performance that's often left unspoken, and that's too bad. And yes, Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell are terrific (although I have somewhat of an aversion to Affleck's fluty voice). But this is Brad Pitt's career peak. Throughout his career, he's ranged from very good to indifferent to lousy... to extremely lousy. In other words, he's generally a lazy actor, very good only when he wants to be. And did he ever want it this time around. For once - and hopefully forever - his callowness is gone, and he possesses the gravitas of a screen veteran. Whether he's a brooding leader or a chortling bully, he is equally charismatic/terrifying. And while we may never exactly pin down who this pathological outlaw is, Pitt clearly knows.
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Now we shall pause for some voice-over:
His fingers pecking away at the keyboard like a flock of migratory birds over a desolate field of seed, Sonic wondered why he was spending time posting about a movie when he had lines to memorize, left-overs to reheat and a trip to plan for. He glanced at his hands. A ten day neglect of the clippers left his fingernails in need of attendence. He wondered about that. But briefly.

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Three fucking hours. Thank you, Ron Hansen. Thank you for apparently writing such a good book that Andrew Dominick couldn't part with any of it. Dominck is obviously gifted enough to convey emotions and themes through the strength of his filmmaking and cast. He didn't need voice-over! And if he did, he didn't need so much of it. This could have been a great film. As it stands, it's only great in fits and starts... which, unfortunately, is how the movie is paced. For three hours.

But anyone who entitles a film "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is bound to make a movie just as lengthy.
"What the hell?"

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Postby Okri » Sun Oct 28, 2007 8:09 pm

I've memorized the "past hope" speech from that episode. Just amazing work.

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Postby flipp525 » Sun Oct 28, 2007 5:57 pm

Okri wrote:Dillahunt's performance on Deadwood remains one of my favourites of recent years

I'll second that. His performance in the episode titled "Something Very Expensive" during the second season was just plain frightening.




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Postby Okri » Sun Oct 28, 2007 5:49 pm

I'll echo all the praise for the film, with another person I'd like to throw on the pile - Garrett Dillahunt. Dillahunt's performance on Deadwood remains one of my favourites of recent years and his turn as Ed Miller was extremely powerful (and I see Filmfan also liked him, so yay!).

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 22, 2007 11:04 pm

With this film, I feel a bit like dws last year with Flags of Our Fathers: I keep wanting to write a lengthy piece on it, but I can never find the time. I finally told myself to just sit down and do it, and, of course, it's a lot shorter than I expected it would be and not nearly as good. But, ah well.

As I said in another thread, I think The Assassination of Jesse James... is a rather terrific picture. I've read the comparisons to Malick (here and in reviews), and though I'm a big fan of Malick, I have to admit I think this comparison is a little wrongheaded. I guess James is a big, auteurist epic with lots of voice-over and great photography...but beyond those relatively superficial (and general) elements, I don't see a ton of kinship between this film and Malick's odes to nature. Dominik's world in this film is infinitely bleaker, less humane, his characters more at the mercy of fate and destiny. As others have pointed out, this is a great revisionist western along the lines of Unforgiven and McCabe, and so, I think Eastwood and Altman are the true forerunners, not Malick.

For me, the film opened with a bang, as I instantly fell in love with the voice-over narration. (I haven't read the novel, but flipped through a little of it in Barnes & Noble the other day, and, yep, those passages are, as expected, taken right from the book.) There's something about the way these passages are spoken -- slightly detached, almost clinical, with an all-knowing attitude that's almost menacing -- that sent small shivers up my spine. The details themselves are riveting, drawing us into what feels like a macabre bedtime story. And of course, story (and myth) are main concepts within the film, obstacles its characters must constantly overcome. The film understands that the creation of myths is a necessary part of any culture, and yet deconstructs the way an adherence to myth can also doom us (literally, for James and Ford.)

And what a perfect cast this film has assembled to convey these ideas! Who better to portray an iconic character overwhelmed by celebrity and myth than Brad Pitt, who must essay the demons of his own over-exposure into his tortured portrayal here. Pitt's performance is both excellent and limited. He's a terrific, riveting presence, and yet, the fact that his character must remain somewhat distant, somewhat enigmatic, prevents the actor from delving as deeply into his character's psyche as he might have.

As others have said, the real revelation here is Casey Affleck (and, once again, who better to play a young man who constantly lives in the shadow of spotlight than the younger bro of our own era's tabloid sensation). His greatest weapon is that cracking, high-pitched voice, which always feels slightly needy, as if on the verge of breakdown. Affleck's range of emotions -- from lust, admiration, jealousy, pride, shame, innocence, frustration, joy -- is simply astonishing. (And one need only look at Ben Foster's similar character in 3:10 to Yuma to see the difference between a cartoon and a devastatingly pent-up portrait of true, human, maniacal infatuation.) I also loved Paul Schneider (by far the weak link in All the Real Girls), who here utilizes his obnoxiously cocky bravado perfectly.

Here let me address the one issue I did have with the film, which Damien seems to share. I admit I found it a little difficult to keep track of who all the minor characters were, and especially how they were all related to one another. But I will vehemently disagree with what seems to be a common criticism of the film's midsection: that it meanders and Pitt & Affleck are kept off-screen too long. This midsection perfectly sets up the climax of the piece, so that the scene when Ford kills James (that's not a spoiler, is it?) feels as predestined as Greek tragedy.

And then there's the film's coda, which I found to be fascinating on a thematic level -- here the film's ideas of celebrity, myth, history, the finality (or not?) of death, the difference between love & lust, etc. culminate -- as well as overwhelmingly powerful. (And yep, the voice-over in those stunning final moments is taken right from the novel's last page, the film's cut to black a terrific period at the end of this self-conscious tale.)

Of course, the film deserves big points for Roger Deakins's beautiful cinematography, with its faded, almost rotted, sepia tones and instantly iconic images of Pitt appearing and disappearing through clouds of smoke. Perhaps one of our best D.P.'s will finally earn his long-overdue Oscar. And the score is dynamite: haunting, overly-precious, the strings aching with despair. The big question I had after watching this film was...who is this Andrew Dominik? I know he made Chopper (which I haven't seen), but as far as I'm concerned, this film vaults him to the top of any directors to watch list. This picture is the work of a master filmmaker: it's so rare to see a film in which every aspect feels so carefully modulated, all elements so in tune with each other. For me, the writer-director deserves a bulk of the praise for orchestrating such a supremely confident debut.

One more thing: Casey Affleck is the lead. Not A lead. THE lead. He has more screentime than anyone else. The film revolves around his character's arc. He's barely off-screen for more than a couple minutes. I haven't seen any FYC ads yet for this film, so I have no idea where WB plans to campaign him. Online Oscar pundits really should start talking him up as a top Best Actor contender because as far as I'm concerned, at this point we're only being complicit in the ridiculousness by discussing his supporting chances. That is all.

Hopefully, as more people see the film, I'll be able to chime in more, because this one really knocked my socks off.

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Postby Penelope » Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:56 pm

If the critics awards do anything this year, I hope they give a good "fuck you" to Warner Bros. and the whole Oscar publicity machine by awarding Casey Affleck in the Lead category. He's not a big star like Brad Pitt? So what. The Best Actor race is too "crowded"? Not in my opinion.

Affleck gives a classic, stunning, staggering, daring, original performance that is clearly a co-lead alongside Pitt (who's very good, as well); he absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination--and, as far as I'm concerned, a win at this point--but he deserves it in the Lead category; it will be utterly shameful if he's unnecessarily shoehorned into the Supporting category--thereby stealing a slot from a genuine Supporting actor (such as, for example, Paul Schneider from this same movie).

And Roger Deakins should prepare his Oscar speech--this movie is simply breathtaking to see--and, damn, am I ever glad I got to see this on the big screen. It's not just those splendid vistas; even the interior scenes are exquisite.

And how about those sets, those costumes (aside: one of the few genuinely great aspects of Michael Clayton was the costumes, proving that contemporary films can also deserve Oscar recognition in this category), the music, the magnificent sound? Not to mention, of course, Oscar-worthy work by director Andrew Dominik; and, hell, let's throw in a Best Picture nomination while we're at it.
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Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Oct 14, 2007 9:38 pm

I saw this last weekend, and have not been able to get the film out of my mind. It is a powerful film with some of the most beautiful cinematography I have seen in years (although I expect nothing less from Deakins) and a powerhouse of a performance from Casey Affleck. I have never thought much of him before, beyond being a likeable goofy character, but here he plays Robert Ford on so many levels throughout the film that I found him fascinating. You can tell when an actors mind is always in motion and Affleck nails it here. Pitt is passable...I cannot think of another actor who could have played that role, but he is not a strong enough actor to carry the non-movie star moments. And I think Garrett Dillahunt should be one of those actors who is cast in every film made.
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Postby Sabin » Sun Oct 14, 2007 7:01 pm

Saw it again. Movie of the year. Much more to come. Fucking watch it already.
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Postby criddic3 » Fri Oct 05, 2007 6:53 pm

Saw this today. I've heard comparisons to Terrence Malick, but this movie is a whole lot better than the two recent Malick ventures, The Thin Red Line and The New World. In those films, scenes dragged on without needing to and the narration didn't seem to fit very well at times. Here, everything makes sense. The acting is exceptional, especially Casey Affleck. I even thought James Carville did pretty well in his brief scene.

No one in the audience fussed during the long running time. It's a very absorbing film.
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