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Archive for August, 2008

Heroes of Contentiousness #10: I Heart Huckabees

I Heart Huckabees @ Amazon

With a healthy Film Contentiousness Quotient of 48.29 (details on the math here), David O. Russel’s bizarre comedy about metaphysical detectives is the tenth film to earn the dubious honor of a place in our canon of contentious movies. At the end of this post, we’ve listed all the films which have so far been featured.

The plot, as far as the word applies to I Heart Huckabees, concerns a young man who is freaked out by the strange coincidences he sees all over. He hires the services of a existential detective agency to help him figure out the meaning of his life… and in the words of the director himself, “hilarity ensues“.

Or not. No one argues the film is clever and original, but claims that it is “hilarious” are tenuous. A lot of people found the wacky humor and quirky philosophy spot-on, but just as many agreed with the Christopher Smith’s description of it, as “a high-concept, high-minded piece of pseudointellectual trash” (Bangor Daily News).

So let’s settle it. Personally, I was extremely turned off by this film, and even more so by those who rolled their eyes and claimed that I “just didn’t get it”. Well, I got it! And I like cerebral humor when it’s funny (see: Being John Malkovich), but I couldn’t stand this film. Smirking, cocky, falsely convinced of its own hilarity… ugh, I wanted to break its nose. But, anyway, have your say:

I Heart Huckabees

  • Great! (56%, 9 Votes)
  • Terrible! (44%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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Here are a couple battling opinions from Criticker users.

Tate: “Zany, whack-fest with hilarious moments and unusual but terrific performances. Not really seen anything like it.”

Shmendrek: “One of the most painfully pretentious films I’ve ever seen. Beware the type of person who enjoys this film.”

And last week’s poll is closed, on Transformers. By a pretty wide margin, Criticker users have deemed it TERRIBLE. Poor Shia!


As promised, here’s a list of the films we’ve featured so far in order of how contentious they are. We’ll keep this list up-to-date as we feature more and more films with a high FCQ.

1. Eyes Wide Shut – FCQ 59.33 – Poll Result: GREAT!
2. King Kong – FCQ 52.74 – Poll Result: GREAT!
3. I Am Sam – FCQ 52.61 – Poll Result: TERRIBLE!
4. Dumb & Dumber – FCQ 52.01 – Poll Result: GREAT!
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – FCQ 51.13 – Poll Result: TERRIBLE!
6. Brotherhood of the Wolf – FCQ 49.2 – Poll Result: GREAT!
7. I Heart Huckabees – FCQ 49.05 – Poll Result: pending…
8. Saw – FCQ 48.77 – Poll Result: TIE!
9. Transformers – FCQ 46.93 – Poll Result: TERRIBLE!
10. Marie Antoinette – FCQ 45.44 – Poll Result: GREAT!

Festival Award Winners

We always find it interesting to discover the movies which are making waves in film festivals around the world — not just the major festivals like Cannes & San Sebastien, but lesser known ones as well.

Today we’ll highlight a few films which have triumphed in a few recently-closed festivals, from Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the good ole USA.

Norwegian International Film Festival
This festival is based in Haugesund, Norway and features films from over 35 nations. It closed on August 23rd, giving its Film Critics Award to a highly-acclaimed movie from France, The Class (Entre les murs), an autobiographical account of a teacher’s travails in a Parisian suburb. You might have heard of The Class already, as it had picked up Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or,

Sarajevo Film Festival
Sarajevo’s film festival was established 14 years ago, during the war which both saw the birth of the modern Bosnian state, and ripped it asunder. The festival’s goal was to promote culture within Bosnia, opening the isolated land to the outside world … and letting the world in. It’s grown into one of the most important cultural events in the Balkans.

This year’s winner of the Heart of Sarajevo was Buick Riviera, a Croatian road movie about two men who fought on opposite sides of the Bosnian war, and happen to meet in the middle of America.

Rhode Island International Film Festival
The biggest festival in the nation’s tiniest state has been steadily gaining in influence since its inception 11 years ago. It’s now among the USA’s most important, drawing tens of thousands of moviegoers and screening hundreds of films, many of them world & US premieres. This year’s Grand Prize for Best Feature went to The Full Picture, a low-budget film from debut director/screenwriter Jon Bowden, about a man who hails from a messed-up family and struggles with commitment.


Did you like this post? Let us know, and we’ll try to make it a recurring feature at Criticker’s blog!

DVD Report – August 26th

Let’s see … we’ve got a number of interesting new releases on DVD this week, including a charming coming of age story from Europe (Son of Rambow), a timely documentary from Supersize Me’s Morgan Spurlock (Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?), and a unique half-animated look back at the infamous ’68 DNC (Chicago 10)… and the pick of the bunch is a action flick about mixed-martial arts?! Redbelt, directed by David Mamet from far out of his comfort zone, is the favorite of Criticker users this week.

We all knew it wasn’t going to be the Diaz/Kutcher Vegas comedy… though even that one was more loved than Spurlock’s documentary. Man, that guy’s shine has come off quickly.

What Happens in Vegas…73 Rankings – Average Tier 4.27
Set in Sin City, story revolves around two people who discover they’ve gotten married following a night of debauchery, with one of them winning a huge jackpot after playing the other’s quarter. Unhappy pair try to undermine each other and get their hands on the money — falling in love along the way. What Happens in Vegas… @ Amazon

Son of Rambow55 Rankings – Average Tier 5.74
SON OF RAMBOW is the name of the home movie made by two little boys with a big video camera and even bigger ambitions. Set on a long English summer in the early 80’s, SON OF RAMBOW is a comedy about friendship, faith and the tough business of growing up… Son of Rambow @ Amazon

Redbelt38 Rankings – Average Tier 5.79
A fateful event leads to a job in the film business for top mixed-martial arts instructor Mike Terry. Though his refuses to participate in prize bouts, circumstances conspire to force him to consider entering such a competition. Redbelt @ Amazon

Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?13 Rankings – Average Tier 3.62
Morgan Spurlock tours the Middle East to discuss the war on terror with Arabic people. Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? @ Amazon

Chicago 108 Rankings – Average Tier 5.63
Archival footage, animation, and music are used to look back at the eight anti-war protesters who were put on trial following the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Chicago 10 @ Amazon

Neglected Gems: Germany Year Zero

Germany Year Zero @ Amazon

Roberto Rossellini’s final piece to his war trilogy, Germany Year Zero (Germania anno zero), is a stark, uncompromising film. The first two parts of the trilogy, (Rome, Open City and Paisà), took place in Italy, but here Rossellini has moved the action to post-war Berlin, where we follow a child named Edmund around the Allied-occupied city’s rubble.

Edmund explores war-torn buildings, interacts with other youths and is seduced by an older gentleman, who represents Berlin’s still-palpable Nazi presence and is, of course, homosexual and probably a pedophile. Where were all the gay Nazi pedophiles when I was growing up?

The film, crafted in devastated Berlin not too long after the end of the war, is uncompromising and extremely dark. This is not an emotionally uplifting coming-of-age tale, in which little Edmund meets and conquers war’s demons. The style is neorealist, which was a European post-war movement in cinema emphasizing reality and eschewing studios and traditional “acting”. In Germany Year Zero, the effect on the viewer is brutal.

Look on the bright side kid, the movie will be over soon

Criticker users have been nearly unanimous in effusive praise for Germany Year Zero, though not too many have seen it. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like everyone’s cup of tea. If you’d like to read more about it, here are a couple in-depth reviews at Sense of Cinema and the BBC (spoilers at both!)

Regenerate TCIs Whenever You Want

Some of you have already noticed a new feature we silently introduced yesterday, the TCI List page. Here, you can see your 50 most recently calculated TCIs and generate more. It is kind of a complement to the PSI List page.

Hey MajorTom — you have great taste!

On the TCI List page, you’ll be able to see where your newly-generated TCIs fall into your top 1000, and how many films in common you have. We think this is going to be especially useful for new users to Criticker, as well as anyone who ranks a bunch of films.

Take notice that this isn’t replacing the automatic nightly regeneration of TCIs — just acting as a complement to it. If you don’t want to use this tool, it won’t affect your recommendations.

If you find any bugs or problems, please let us know!

Apple iTunes

New Feature: IMDB Link

We’ve added links on most film’s information pages, which lead directly to the IMDB entry.

This was a quick little improvement that a lot of users have asked for. This will help you get further information that we don’t have in our database. The links are available for the great majority of films at Criticker.

Buy New! Toast 9 Titanium

DVD Report – August 19th

This week’s set of new releases on DVD includes Keanu Reeves as a cop in Street Kings, and Amy Adams as a dazzling American actress who upends the world of a proper British governess in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. For some reason, we can’t get enough of Keanu-as-Cop (Point Break, Speed) and we love Amy Adams regardless of the role. Now if only we could somehow combine the plots of that Hannah Montana movie and Prom Night, this week would be awesome.

Street Kings100 Rankings – Average Tier 4.45
Tom Ludlow is a veteran LAPD cop who finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When evidence implicates him in the execution of a fellow officer, he is forced to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part of his entire career, ultimately leading him to question the loyalties of everyone around him. Street Kings @ Amazon

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day29 Rankings – Average Tier 5.97
Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged London governess, finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day @ Amazon

Prom Night24 Rankings – Average Tier 1.54
Donnas senior prom is supposed to be the best night of her life, one of magic, beauty, and love. Surrounded by her best friends, she should be safe from the horrors of her past. But when the night turns from magic to murder there is only one man who could be responsible, the man she thought was gone forever. Now, Donna and her friends must find a way to escape the sadistic rampage of an obsessed killer, and survive their Prom Night. Prom Night @ Amazon

Life Before Her Eyes, The10 Rankings – Average Tier 4.30
A dramatic thriller about Diana, a suburban wife and mother who begins to question her seemingly perfect life–and perhaps her sanity–on the 15th anniversary of a tragic high school shooting that took the life of her best friend… Life Before Her Eyes, The @ Amazon

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert TourLess than 5 Rankings
A 3-D concert film of the 2007 Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus tour. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour @ Amazon