Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003)
This was my first introduction to Tsai's work, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a sometimes grueling experience to get through this film. At 81 minutes and maybe five or six lines of dialogue (the first of which shows up almost 45 minutes in), it definitely takes some getting used to, and some of the excruciatingly long takes (a minute and a half static shot on an empty movie theater? Sure, why not?) are maddening to sit through. But once you get accustomed to the odd pacing and the near-complete lack of plot, there's a sort of zen calm that comes over you, and I actually found myself quite entertained by some of the sequences. I didn't get the rapturous joy that some critics seem to have taken away from the film, but I did find a lot of beauty in its tribute to a dying sort of moviegoing experience, and I'd be willing to subject myself to another Tsai film (What Time is it There? seems to be his acknowledged masterpiece) to see if I could reap even greater rewards.
The Ref (Ted Demme, 1994)
Talk about two very different films. A critic friend of mine recommended this as one of his absolute favorite movies, and I suppose I should have known better than to take that recommendation, given his generally awful taste (a very nice guy, though). I like Denis Leary, and he's got Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey as his foils here, yet this is still a completely lame and predictable family comedy. In fact, it's odd that they let Leary say "fuck" every other word and go with an R rating, because otherwise this is like a slightly edgier version of Home Alone. It's heartwarming and awkward and only very rarely funny. Which I probably could have guessed from simply reading about it, but I am always open to the idea that easily dismissed movies are better than they're given credit for (I often champion certain movies like that). That's not the case here, though.