Ghost World.

I watched the movie Ghost World last week when it came on T.V. It was my first time seeing it, and so of course it was the made for T.V. version--all curse words bleeped out. The story follows these two girls, Enid and Rebecca, after they've graduated from high school. The film is also based on a graphic novel, which you can see here:

I vaguely remember it coming out in 2001, yet I never managed to see it. Overall, it was better than I expected and was not a bad way to pass a couple of hours.

As I said, I enjoyed what I saw, though admittedly I did not see it in its entirety. I started in about 20 mins late and then had to watch the earlier scenes on You Tube to try and fill in the gaps. Basically it's about "trying to find yourself" at that age but it's done in a fresher, wittier way. It's also directed by the guy who did Crumb. The film does a good job poking fun of bad art--there is this scene with this PC, flake of an art teacher who believes all art needs to have deeper "meaning" and so one girl brings in a tea cup with a tampon in it and she gets an A for "expressing her femininity" blah blah blah.

Here is the trailer if you'd like to watch:


Groucho and Company

This is just too cool. The Marx brothers film, Horse Feathers, is online. Granted, I think they are overrated- they should really be called Groucho and Company. But, free is free!

Here 'tis:

The Directors

On Reelz Channel, which is a cable TV channel devoted to movies, there's a lot of fan stuff, and a fair bit of fluff. But there's also a series called The Directors. This is a series worth watching, if you happen to have cable TV, as you get with each featured director's episode an overview and interviews. The director being featured is interviewed, but so are many people who work with them, and not just actors. It's always interesting to hear from cinematographers.

Not all episodes are created equally, and not all directors are geniuses, artists, or even auteurs. I find myself interested mostly in directors who have a body of solid work that I appreciate artistically. I usually skip the episodes about directors that do mostly fluff. Some of the episodes are a bit sycophantic, basically promotional puff-pieces; but some other episodes go quite deep, and one is left with a quote or two that one thinks about for days afterwards. Michael Mann had some thoughts that inspired a personal essay of my own.

Three of the best episodes I have seen from this series were on directors Michael Mann, Richard Linklater, and Ed Zwick. The Ridley Scott episode was pretty good, also. The Clint Eastwood episode, while not as profound as the Michael Mann episode, was one from which I learned a lot of new background that I hadn't known before.

It's interesting to learn about how each director works. I've learned some new ideas from more than one episode in the series, along those lines. I'm very interested in photographic style—I mentioned cinematography already—and certain directors excel at this, while for others it seems they barely pay attention to it.

The Directors is a series that can give you a taste of a director's work and style. A snapshot overview or summation, if you will. But each episode usually gives contextual clips from each film the director has made, leading up to an overview of The Work Thus Far. You can get a sense of what movies by a given director you might want go watch, or watch again.


The Queen.

I watched the film The Queen the other day, the one that of course won Helen Mirren the Oscar. She definitely did a terrific acting job, though the film itself was rather straightforward and dull. Or maybe that's just because it's about a bunch of uptight Brits. Oh and James Cromwell was in it too, and he was just as great. It just shows the range he does have, from playing the Queen's hubby to George H.W. Bush.

The film focuses around the event of Princess Diana's death, and how the Queen refused to address the issue publicly. I actually got this DVD when it was selling for like $5 at Circuit City's liquidation sale.

You can watch the trailer here if you're interested.

Pretty much it's just standard directing, no real great shots. More like a "made for T.V. movie" than a real film. Why don't they make those anymore? They were at least campy fun. Straightforward but well acted. If you didn't know of this period of history, the story itself isn't that interesting to stand on its own. I don't think that years from now many will care what the Queen did after Diana's death. But this does give a slice of the Royal Life, if that's what you're into.


Some years ago I, and Art Durkee, interviewed Godfrey Reggio, the maker of the -quatsi trilogy. As I've recently been watching 'avant-garde' films, I thought some readers might like to watch the film that started it all. Here is Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance. It's cool that it must be in public domain.


Godzilla's Revenge

In a B film kind of mood recently. One of my faves of all time is the 1968 children's gem, Godzilla's Revenge. It's not as good as The Curse Of The Cat People, but it's far above what it initially seems. In my memoirs, I write of it:

The original Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, in black & white, released in the mid 50s, is 1 of the classic monster movies. Yes, it had a hammy, spliced in Raymond Burr in the American version, & a too moralistic tone about nukes, but what young boy, watching the film for the 1st time, did not get goose bumps when the film’s opening credits roll to the ominous sound of Godzy’s immense footfalls? The sequel, Godzilla Raids Again, or Gigantis, The Fire Monster, was in some ways even a better film. After a few years’ hiatus, Toho Films started churning out cheesy Godzy films every other year in the 60s. Godzy would battle other Toho monsters- Mothra, Rodan, Ghidrah. The most successful 1960s film in the USA saw Japan’s Godzilla take on American monster champ King Kong. This Kong was a far cry from the ahead-of-its-time stop-motion action Kong of the original American film. Nonetheless, the man in the monkey suit approach was feasible for the film’s purposes & the battle ended in a de facto draw- Kong winning in the American version & Godzilla frying his ass in the Japanese version. The zenith of this craze came in 1968’s monsterama Destroy All Monsters!, in which every Toho monster made an appearance.
By the early 70s I eagerly awaited every new Godzilla release as it hit the Ridgewood Theater, then watched all the films whenever they came on tv. I could do a good imitation of Godzy’s roar. The films came out a year or 2 after their Japanese release. Of all of the Godzilla films post-1960 1 stands head & shoulders above- not because Godzilla battled such a terrifically monstrous foe, but it was the only Godzilla film not JUST a Godzilla film. The film- Godzilla’s Revenge- made it stateside in late 1971-early 1972. I snuck in to see it with Ziggy & Georgey G.
The setup for the film is a lonely little Japanese boy’s fantasy life. The hero is 6 or 7 year old Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki)- the quintessential little Oriental kid, in baseball cap & micro-shorts, who loves monsters. There have been others in Japanese & Korean monster films, but none so vividly portrayed- much less the center of a film. Ichiro has a problem- because he’s small & effeminate some older, larger boys constantly pick on him & the prissy goody-2 shoes girl he hangs with. Worse, he is a ‘latch-key child’. His poor working class parents are rarely there for him when he gets home from school & several scenes bespeak his profound loneliness. An elderly toymaker, Inami (Eisei Amamoto), lives nearby, & acts as guardian, but his presence is not enough to fill what is missing. There’s always been a recurring subtext of possible pedophilia in many Oriental monster films- a young boy & an overly-protective grandfatherly figure- but no film gives off those creepy vibes like this. It’s nothing in the script, per se, just the way certain scenes play. The old man’s affections for Ichiro are too much. Intentional or not, it’s there & contributes to the empathy most viewers feel for Ichiro- especially when confronted by tormenting peers.
To escape Ichiro retreats to dream & fantasy. Nowadays he would be diagnosed with some faux psychiatric disorder & thoroughly medicated, but in the late 60s Ichiro is just a likable wimp. He plays with a Godzilla doll, so we know the film is acknowledging Godzilla is a pop figure- not a real life (in the film’s cosmos) figure, although other scenes may contradict. This film’s portrayal of real world scenes & nabes in Japan is a very different aesthetic from the mostly studio shots & cardboard miniatures of Tokyo that dominate other Godzy flicks. Ichiro dreams he’s on a secret mission to Monster Island (a 1960s Japanese precursor to Jurassic Park), where he is befriended by Godzilla’s son Minya- an odd little dinosaurlet with sleepy eyes, who can weakly blow smoke rings, not yet strong enough to consistently breathe fire. Minya was introduced into the series a few years earlier in Godzilla’s Son. But, in this film Minya is more than a little monster; he can speak- in English (& I presume Japanese in the original undubbed version, although I hope the Japanese Minya’s voice is less goofy than the Bullwinkle/Barney the Dinosaur-like voice the American Minya has), & can shrink & grow in size at will; from smaller than Ichiro 150-200 feet tall, compared to Godzilla’s 400-500 foot size.
The 2 become pals not only because they can converse but Minya can relate to Ichiro’s being picked on. Godzilla spends a portion of the film teaching Minya how to defend himself- mostly from a larger monster named Gabera (the name of the head bully that torments Ichiro, as well close to the name of Toho’s rival Korean monster star Gammera), but other monsters- mostly in stock footage from earlier Godzy romps as Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, the aforementioned Destroy All Monsters!, & Son Of Godzilla. Alot of Godzy connoisseurs loathe this film because it cannibalizes these other films, is seen as strictly a cheesy kids film, as well not being a true Godzilla film, but the use of earlier films’ footage puts that footage to better use in a superior film than those it came from, + all Godzilla films are cheesy kids films- this 1 only explicitly so, & the fact Godzilla serves a mythic & psychological context deepens the plot’s resonance. Since Godzilla is acknowledged by the adults in the film as a fiction, the boy’s knowledge of him must come from watching the films. Thus the use of stock footage in his dreams makes perfect sense since this would be what Ichiro’s knowledge of the fictive Godzilla is based on. Minya serves as the ‘invisible friend’ many children conjure to battle loneliness. It’s worth noting Minya can speak to Ichiro only when he is at his smallest boy-like size- not when a normal-sized monster. In the film’s ‘real world’ we discover Ichiro’s monster fantasy is not only an escape from childhood bullies, but he’s managed to get caught in the middle of a bank robbery escape, taken captive by criminals, the leader in dark shades & the follower a dummy who loses his driver’s license, only to pursue Ichiro to retrieve it. Ichiro responds to his kidnapping by dreaming he is back on Monster Island, where Minya gets his butt whipped by the electric touch of Gabera. Through a series of waking & dream scenes we see Godzilla take vengeance on Gabera. Ichiro derides Gabera as a ‘loser’ because he is not strong as Godzilla. Since this is Ichiro’s dream he is only acknowledging the lessons learned from his own real-life experiences & projecting his own insecurities about the ‘real’ Gabera- his bully- onto the vanquished monster. Minya, inspired by his dad’s strength & courage, takes on & defeats Gabera himself- further solidifying Ichiro’s belief might, indeed, makes right. Violence becomes Ichiro’s paradigm for conflict resolution- in Godzilla’s world it is highly effective. I am not going to screed on the rightness nor wrongness of this for that is not the point; violence is effective when total- ask Native Americans. The problem for Ichiro is not a diminution of his soul- but the limiting effect Godzilla’s fictive success has on his ‘real life’ ability to see other ways to resolve conflicts. This will haunt Ichiro long after film’s end. Regardless, Ichiro, similarly inspired, plots & executes an escape from the Keystone Kops-like bank robbers by setting traps & using a fire extinguisher. Like Home Alone, over 2 decades later, the child outwits the criminals who pursue him into the police dragnet.
Ichiro is hailed as a hero. This means little to the 5 bullies, especially Gabera (the boy), who still pick on Ichiro. Ichiro, swelled on his fantasies & real life adventure, viciously attacks the older, larger boy, defeats him, then gets his kicks tormenting a sign painter by honking a horn- causing the old man to fall & spill his paint. Gabera & his cronies, in rote fashion, befriend Ichiro (& his tag-along girl friend), & all is well. Not really.
While the dynamics of the bully-victim relationship have never been depicted better in any film (even serious films), Ichiro has not really triumphed. He has defeated moronic criminals & stood up to tormentors, but neither were what really ailed his existence- they were symptoms, not causes, of his woe. The bullies picked on Ichiro not simply because he was small- some of the ‘lesser’ bullies were no bigger than him, but because Ichiro was withdrawn, thoughtful, creative, with meager social skills. The cause of this his de facto abandonment by his parents- his father working long hours as a train engineer, his mom late hours as a beautician. Without their approval & guidance Ichiro clomb into a shell. The possibility he was sexually abused by the elderly neighbor would only heighten the child’s incipient inward fantasy life, making him more susceptible to bullies who need to find easy quarry in children eager & imaginatively able to withdraw to a better place.
Why is Ichiro a ‘latch-key kid’ in the 1st place? 1 look at the nabe & city where he resides gives you a clue- a prototypical 1960s industrial wasteland riddled with factories, pollution, broken machinery, traffic jams, & deserted buildings. This excess led to the ecological movements of the 1970s- you can almost smell the smog from the city as it comes off the screen. The counter-zeitgeist of those years had odd little commercials featuring a cartoon character that rivaled Smoky Bear in ecological circles- Woodsy Owl. A few years later the Godzy series tackled this in Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. Minya & the dreams/fantasies are escapes from working class poverty, an indictment of it by their very existence. Yet, the film does this quite subversively- on the surface an oft-told tale of a boy’s acceptance by peers, underneath it shows the deleterious effects of peer pressure. Although his parents work long hours they have little to show for it. The lonely boy needs a friend, so invents 1- Minya, gleaned from watching Godzilla’s Son (thus the stock footage of his dream)- which explains why he can talk. All ‘invisible friends’ talk to their creators. It’s also why Ichiro’s ‘asylum’ is the lush, tropical Monster Island.
When Ichiro is hailed as a hero for his thwarting the bank robbers, & accepted into the gang his triumphs are, at best, Pyrrhic. Nothing has fundamentally changed in his life. He still lives in a small, shitty apartment in a crime-ridden area a tv broadcast in the film charitably calls a ‘semi-industrial neighborhood’. His parents vow to be there for him, but viewers know they will not- not for lack of care, but for the reality of their circumstances. Ichiro’s ability to ‘stand up’ to delinquent bullies allows him peer approval to become a budding delinquent bully, as well- 1 more despotic than Gabera ever was. Tormenting the hapless painter the bullies had earlier in the film means Ichiro has merely jumped a social fence stuck in the middle of the same problem of urban childhood loneliness, degradation, &- for lack of a better term- ‘desoulment’. He will doubtlessly conform to the bullying code (evidenced by his harassment of the painter, & acceptance as ‘1 of the gang’) since he did not ‘rise above’ his problem through intellect, merely steamrollered it (reinforcing to the lesser gang members theirs was the better way; Ichiro merely the better fighter & leader than Gabera). Ichiro learns success can be attained by retreating from problems with self-delusion or eliminating problems by force. The film’s seeming happy ending, with his guilt-ridden dad covering for his son’s delinquency (thereby making a connection with his son?), portends later, greater travails in Ichiro’s life. This is not a criticism, just acknowledgement of a reality the film may not have been aware of. Delusion can never bring true joy, & Ichiro is on a path many a disillusioned (or delusioned?) young male has trod.
The film is also a warning against the influence of pop culture for it’s Ichiro’s misplaced imago of Godzilla as a de facto father figure, who can only resolve things in id-like rages, which leads to his Pyrrhic victories, & most likely doomed post-film existence in a world where pedophiles, criminals, & bullies seem the only figures of triumph & masculinity. Another aspect that makes the film so good is Ichiro is the nickname of the film’s director- Inoshiro Honda, the 1st & best of the Godzy film directors. How much of himself & his childhood the director imbued into Ichiro I do not know, but given this film shows alot more craft & care in the boy’s portrayal & human elements than the typical monster mash I would reckon alot.
Industrial wasteland, deserted buildings, crooks, bullies, pedophiles….sounds like a kid we all know, eh? This film resonated deeply with me from the 1st time I saw it- I knew this was the best of the series, although not cognizant why for the deeper reasons stated. I knew Ichiro, & what he was going through.

Anyway, enough with the words, here is the whole damned film!:

<a href="http://www.joost.com/0070028/t/Godzilla's-Revenge">Godzilla's Revenge</a>


Revolutionary Road Part Deux.

I went and saw Revolutionary Road today. The reason I wanted to see this film is because of the Richard Yates novel, which is excellent. But before I get to the base of my thought, I need to complain first.

I went to a matinee that charged me $6.50. I have this movie card thing that if I use it each time I go, I am supposed to get free passes and crap like that. So today I was given a free small soda. "Cool," I thought. So I went to the concession stand and thought I'd get a small popcorn with my free soda. Why not, right? Well, the price of a small popcorn is $5.75. That is absolutely ridiculous. Even with the free drink, I was not going to pay almost the admission fee for a bunch of corn kernels I can pop myself at home for free. Fuck that shit.

Anyway, so I saw the film and have to say it is by far the chattiest film put out by Hollywood I've seen. I agree with Anthony in that the book is definitely better, but the movie was better than I thought since the original dialogue came from Yates and not Hollywood. The directing was mediocre, but there were some nice shots of both Frank and April behind their windows that appear like prison bars, but I've never been impressed with Mendes' directing ability anyway.

I think more could have benefited by showing less. For example, there is an opening scene with the couple screaming at one another on the side of the road. This was poorly placed, I thought, since it's like getting the orgasm before the strip tease. Mendes doesn't allow the characters to work up to their intensity--such as in the final scene of the film, which I thought was much better. By that point you realize why the two of them are so miserable and hate each other, and so narratively it works better.

There are also some moments of "pukey dialogue" where April tells Frank he's the most beautiful thing in the world because he's a "man." (The scene is staged and fake in other words). And this is Leonardo she's speaking about, so it's kind of funny. There is also another cringe moment when she says how she felt so free and wonderful and alive "the first time he made love to her." Barf. I squirmed in my chair. But the initial fighting scene was too much too fast, and even in the much greater and far superior Bergman film Scenes From a Marriage, the couple allows the viewers to get to know them first, before they begin screaming at each other.

I suppose if I'd not read the Yates book and also had never seen the superior Bergman film, I might have thought higher of the Mendes film. Maybe. But I didn't think much of American Beauty, so likely my admiration would not have gone far. Both the Yates novel as well as the Bergman film do an excellent job of getting into the minds of this couple, tearing them down, dissecting their motivations. Bergman is of course more cerebral and philosophical, while Yates is more realistic. With Bergman, you always know you're dealing with artifice since the characters are so intelligent. Scenes From a Marriage the screenplay is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written--it's up there with Ibsen and Strindberg and O'Neill and you can read a review of the film here.

As for Frank and April Wheeler--the characters in the Yates novel, for lack of better expression, they are doomed. They are in fact incapable of being happy anywhere because they are miserable, ungrateful, very selfish people. Not once did they really consider their kids, for example. Frank was pretty much a wannabe and April a failed actress. Had they moved to Paris, it would not have been long till the both of them were engaging in hanky panky with fellow Parisians. They would have hated themselves there. Though the interesting thing is that there were so many times in the film where they took their surroundings for granted, like one scene where they're walking through a wooded area. Their idea of "hell" is merely themselves, and that is something they'll never learn. Though they are more insightful than most drones in the fact that they realize they're drones who are "just like everyone else."

If you see the film before reading the book, don't let it stop you from reading the book, which is by far the superior work. The film just pretty much acted it out, and there were certainly times I felt my own imagination was better.

The Three Stooges

Just below, I rhapsodized on the intellectual skill of Abbott And Costello's comedy. But, they were slapstick kings, as well. Perhaps the only comedy team to equal or surpass them were the Three Stooges.

Yes, there were Shemp, Joe, and Curly Joe, but there are the three original Stooges (at least the three original on film, not Vaudeville), some of whom appeared in a few A&C films. They were the Howard Brothers: Moe and Curly (along with Shemp), and Larry Fine.

Here are a few shorts that show their skills. This first one is not as far-fetched in its courtroom antic, as I know unfortunately too well:

Here's a clip of a pie fight:

Here Curly struggles to eat:

Here the boys essay the Nazi threat. Note the sign that opens the short:

Watch I'll Never Heil Again.divx in Entertainment Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com


Revolutionary Road

A couple of nights ago I saw the film Revolutionary Road with a friend of mine. As cliché as it sounds, I found the book to be better than the film. The basic story is still intact, but many of the positive effects of Richard Yates’ prose were lost in the transposition from literature to the big screen. While I don’t think the film is terrible, it doesn’t really distinguish itself from the ‘unhappy white people in suburbia’ genre, in the way that the book did.

Some scenes come across as more melodramatic than I remember them being in the book. Sometimes this is because Yates would write about a couple fighting in a way that went beyond typical scenes of WASPs yelling at one another. For instance, when I think to the opening of the book, where April and Frank Wheeler are fighting by the side of the road, I don’t so much remember the kind of conventional exchange that was in the film, but how Yates described the encounter, such as how their faces twisted into “shapes of hatred.”

Another example comes at the end of the film. While I won’t ‘spoil’ the ending for those who haven’t read the book/seen the film, I thought Yates handled the scenes with April Wheeler much better than the film did, because I don’t think he had to be as obvious in order to have an emotional effect.

I also think the film was missing some of Yates’ humour and his critiques of the various characters. The friends of the Wheelers, Shep and Milly, were not as developed in the film, and got off a lot easier than they did in the book, where they were shown to be drones despite thinking that they were above the ‘suburban mindset.’ The film didn’t show this with Frank Wheeler at the end of the film, either. The film depicted him smiling blandly while watching his children, while the book was unambiguous in showing him to be as much of a cipher as those he and his wife and friends used to mock.

Had the film had a better director, and had the screenplay worked harder to communicate certain things in more visual and less soap opera-ish ways, I think it could have been a lot better. Some parts of the film were nice looking, but the overall appearance of the film was very ordinary—it is not a film that is memorable for stunning visuals. I Googled the director and saw that he was the director of American Beauty—another over-rated film about how ‘things aren’t ok in suburbia’.

As for the acting…I thought Kate Winslet was better than Leonardo DiCaprio. My friend was impressed by one of DiCaprio’s ‘emotional’ scenes in the film, but I think they could have found someone else who could have done the character much better. Some of the actors who played smaller roles were better than him.

So regardless of whether you see this film or not, I recommend you read the book. Unlike the film, it goes beyond just being about an 'unhappy 1950s couple.' See Jessica's review of the book here, if you haven't already.

Stan Brakhage vs. Chris Marker

Watched The Criterion Collection DVD, By Brakhage, which featured some of the more well known films of this avant-garde filmmaker. While some interesting shots, it once again shows how limited most avant-garde films are. Recently, with the death of painter Andrew Wyeth, I was reminded how so many portions of his paintings, taken by themselves, are as abstract as anything the Ab Exers painted; except that these were portions of his work, which were subsumed into a greater work of art, one not dependent upon the total imbuement of the viewer.

Similarly, Brakhage's films are often interesting ideas, mostly silent, that could work as portions of a larger film- interludes, or credit sequences, or even old fashioned internissions. Compared to someone like Chris Marker, who played not only with visuals, but narrative, and actually engaged his audience, Brakhage comes up short, well short. His influence can be seen, though, in many films. The most famous is the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was clearly modeled on portions of Brakhage's Dog Star Man. But, Kubrick does the very same thing that Wyeth did on canvas- he takes the experimental imagery and motion, and puts them to a higher purpose in his art.

That so few of Brakhage's films have sound shows his dedication to the image, but also his lack of true artistic push- to actually communicate something. His films are, in a sense, tools for hire, not the things those tools could make. Having seen many Warhol Factory films, and the like- going back from the silent era to modern Internet videos, much of Brakhage's work does not hold up. There's a juvenile quality about them, in the worst sense. I'll write a longer piece on this soon, but, for comparison, here is a film that shows just how short Brakhage's films fall. It is a film by a director who's name is unknown, but that I saw as a child on Sesame Street. Note how much more evocative it is than the several Brakhage shorts that follow. And it's not because there is a discernible narrative, but how the film's images build and open up the imagery to several interpretations. Brakhage's films- like the worst Modernist poetry, is open to almost limitless interpretation, therefore, it has no real meaning, and is not trying to communicate anything of intellectual heft. He wants you, the viewer, to declaim the film's 'genius,' rather than provide anything to actually erect that claim.

Here is the Sesame Street film:

Now, here are some Brakhage clips.

Now, is this film closer to the phosphenes you see when you rub your eyes, or is there anything that engages you, like the weeping flower?

Now, here's a clip from Dog Star Man:

And, just as a comparison, here is La Jetee, by Chris Marker:

Marker's film simply is FAR more inventive and daring, on multiple levels, than any of the films in the Brakhage DVD. Watch all of the above, and see for yourself.


Abbott and Costello

One of these days I'm going to have to go back and rewatch all of the Abbott and Costello films I saw to death as a child. My dad loved them, and every Sunday morning, after church, from 11:30 am to 1 pm, we would watch one of their films on WPIX, Channel 11, in NYC.

Simply put, no comedy team put a higher premium on intelligence and verbal dazzle. The Marx Bros. were just Groucho, the Three Stooges were slapstick alone, and Laurel and Hardy were emotional slapstick.

Here are a few routines, starting with the famed Who's on First?:

Here's another, the famous Math routine:

Just listen to the little comments in between.

But here's a routine that's my favorite. I piss my pants all the time seeing it:

Just fantastic blends of intellect and humor, verbal dazzle and slapstick. Abbott and Costello rule!


La Dolce Vita.

Last night Dan and I rewatched the great Fellini classic La Dolce Vita. The visuals are stunning, but I admit to forgetting much of what happened in the film since the first time I watched it. It's not my favorite of the Fellini films in terms of what I "like", but I admire it. I must admit that I prefer Antonioni to Fellini, overall.

On a shallow note, I don't think Anita Ekberg is that great looking (yes I am secure in myself). The reason is that for all the beautiful Swedish actresses I've seen in Bergman's films, perhaps I'm a bit spoiled. She also does not compare to Monica Vitti. She just has too much makeup on and her body is out of shape--lots of back fat. Her big boobs also don't help matters. She just looks very "large" in that photo.

Perhaps guys will think otherwise, but I still think I'm right. I know this is petty sounding, but that's what blogs are for. Marcello, however, is always nice eye candy.

This films take jabs on many things: shallowness (hey, go figure), celebrity, obsession, religion, etc.

Dan states in his review:

"Whatever the reality is, the fact is that there’s never been a better film about the anomy of the human condition- and it’s not just modernity under scrutiny, for clearly Fellini shows that the pilgrims at the Madonna sighting, are as lost as any of the modern glitterati, thus implying it is endemic to the human condition, and reflected in the very picaresque structure of the film. La Dolce Vita is one of the great works of art by one of the greatest artists of the last century, and in that statement, there’s not a hint of irony."

And just for some laughs, here is a very bad review (spelling errors included) of the film from some boob off Amazon.com:

This film is a mess. It doesn't even come close to his other films. It has a few moments but the overall tone of this film is very simular to that of a fart. I hate to bash Fellini because I do love his films. I have heard people say he's overrated. I could never understand why someone would say such a thing. Now I know why. Because they watched La Docle Vita and never bothered to watch any of his earlier films.

La Dolce Vita is an attempt at delivering the same message that Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura did. I also despise L'Avventura. Antonioni was the worst thing that ever happend to Italian Cinema. I understand that later on in his career Fellini admired Antonioni's films. I think La Dolce Vita was the result of Fellini's admiration for Antonioni. I really wish Fellini spent more time admiring Pier Paulo Pasolini. Pasolini's flims blew Antonioni's pretentious crap away.

Oy! Can we be anymore wrong?

But here are some Marcello clips from various films:

George Washington

Last week I saw David Gordon Green’s film George Washington. Like All The Real Girls, this film is one that could have taken a more predictable turn, but instead focused on characters instead of obvious plotting. By this, I mean that it isn’t hard to see how the accidental death of a young man could have turned into a predictable Hollywood film.

I think that overall All The Real Girls is probably the better of the two, but this one shares many of the later one’s positives, including a unique approach with dialogue, good characterization that avoids stereotypes, and a poetic approach to the presentation of images, where the eye can linger on a shot as it would on a poetic line.

Here is a snippet of Dan’s review of the film, where he discusses the narrative approach of the film, as well as how the film achieves its poetic effect in its contrast of dialogue and images.

That said, this film is not really a narrative, more of a simple series of linked vignettes that trace a several week period over a summer, which opens with a dreamy panoramic and poetic monologue spoken by a young girl named Nasia (Candace Evanofski), that weaves poetry out of the banal snippets that drift in and out of even the most prosaic minds, such as, ‘I like to go to beautiful places where there’s waterfalls and empty fields.’ This is not immanently poetic, but juxtaposed with the camera work it takes on a heightened, almost ecstatic, state. Some criticize the film by stating real children do not speak that way, but, a) I’ve known them, and a read of Anne Of Green Gables shows they’ve always been around, and b) the poesy is not of the character, but what the character says in relation to her station on life.

Here is a taste of the film courtesy of Youtube:



Here is a review of the above named Bela Tarr film.

He's someone I want to watch more of because, while this film is not perfect, it is far beyond most Hollywood tripe.

Here is a video clip:


Tokyo Story.

I just rewatched the great Ozu film Tokyo Story and I feel like I got a lot more on the rewatch than my initial viewing. This is a kind of film that the impatient and restless would claim "nothing happens" but yet everything does. The characters engage what appears to be "mindless chit chat" but what they say reveals much about their character. Upon rewatch, for example, I think it might be possible that the mother knows that she is ill, yet does not want to burden anyone with her problems. There are some moments where she mentions death and "if something should happen to her" that implies she might know, yet we are never really sure.

It's sad to see how these two parents are treated by their kids--not badly, but merely indifferently. They keep shuffling them around from house to house, unsure what to do with them. Yet the father also admits, when he gets drunk with his friends, that his kids too have disappointed him--such as his son, the doctor, who is only "a small country doctor" and nothing more.

Also, the parents seemed relieved that their kids turned out "better than most" and they are satisfied by their being "better than average." It shows the mentality of people, how so often success is valued not by what one does, but what one does relative to others.

In Dan's review of the film he notes:

" It is not a film that provides easy answers, and it lacks all the phony sentimentality and contrivances Hollywood films wallow in. It is not melodramatic in the least. When Shige, as example, bursts out in tears, when Koichi says their mother has not long to live, it is not Ozu’s melodrama, but the character’s own, and there is a huge difference in recognizing that. That the film so perfectly captured all the Japanese conventions of the era, yet still resonates with worldwide audiences, is the mark of a great work of art, and a testament to the great circularly narrative screenplay by Ozu and Kôgo Noda, which deftly interweaves symbolism, such as train tracks and laundry, while capturing the way real people talk and react. Never is there a forced moment nor false reaction. The character building is superb, and the very relaxed and slow pace of the film shows what such a style can do. The film’s score, by Kojun Saito is a tad over the top, at times, but understated far more often than not."

But here is the trailer you should watch:


Patrick McGoohan Dies at 80.

Known prominently for his role as Number 6 in The Prisoner, he was in a number of films as well. Click here to read the AP article about his death.

Dan has a lengthy review of the series here, where he also notes:

"It was a very expensive show to produce during its day, & ultimately was considered a financial failure. The furor over fan reaction to the series’ final episode caused PM to leave the U.K, & actively seek stage & film work stateside. The show’s brevity is 1 of the factors in its becoming a cult favorite... But, truly, the real reason is that great art usually is not appreciated at 1st blush- it takes time for the masses to digest & appreciate."



A while back I went and saw Oliver Stone's latest, W., on President Bush. I reviewed it here. Overall, a disappointing film, nothing to compare with Nixon nor JFK, but then, it's been over a decade since Stone last had a good film.

The trailer is below. At least Woody Allen has had a few good films since his Golden Era of 1977-92 ended. Stone? We'll see.



In light of having just read and reviewed the Nabokov classic Lolita, I decided to watch the film version. In my review I make the argument that Lolita is a very good book but not a great one, and that's one of those books that critics have overpraised throughout the years, all the while just repeating from one another.

Although we own both the 1962 Kubrick version, as well as the 1997 film by Adrian Lyne, both films have their merits. On one hand, it is hard to top Peter Sellers as Quilty. Yet, I think Jeremy Irons makes a perfect Humbert, and Dominique Swain makes for a good, bratty Lolita. The 1997 film is more sensual than the Kubrick film, and even the die-hard Kubrick fans (such as myself) view Lolita as a good film, but one of his lesser works by comparison.

It's been a while since I've watched the Kubrick version, but I plan to watch it again in the near future. For one, the 1997 Lolita bears a lot more skin, throws her legs around more, and she is physically wet a lot of the time. The 1962 Lolita has her in more conservative attire--something more appropriate for its time.

Here is the scene when Humbert first sees 1997 Lolita:

And to contrast, here is where Humbert sees 1962 Lolita:

Still a bit risky for it's day, but the later film is much more sexualized.

All The Real Girls

A friend and I watched David Gordon Green’s All The Real Girls the other night. I’ve long been curious about this director after reading some of the reviews of his films on Cosmoetica. If you read them over, the reviews of the first two films describe someone with the potential for greatness, but then the third details a kind of regression as he has began making more conventional Hollywood films. To be fair, though, I’ve only seen this one film, so far. I was impressed with this well-written and visually gorgeous film, so if the director is now working below his potential, that is truly a shame.

In terms of ‘what happens,’ this film could easily have been turned into a more conventional drama, like something from Dawson’s Creek. The quality of the dialogue, and the stress on character development over a standard melodramatic romance plot, really help to propel this film beyond the predictable film it could have been.

It has some beautiful cinematography, and for those who lament how so many movies these days are so rapidly edited and manipulated with CGI, this is a film where you can really enjoy looking at the visuals. There are many poetic shots where the director will linger on an image.

Here's a little sliver from Dan's review:

"... Other images and scenes that stick are the aforementioned crippled dog, the scenes in the clothing mill, where fluffs of material in the air give way to time lapse clouds over the Appalachians, and a scene where Noel confesses how she accidentally killed a boy on a fishing trip with her dad, and then scarred herself as punishment, so she would never forget the pain, among a bevy of others. These all endear, but mostly reify the characters to the audience, for this film is also shorn of so many of the stereotypes about Southern life that Hollywood seems to thrive on. This is due to the terrific screenplay by Green, adapted from a story that he and Schneider wrote. Green shows that he has a good ear for realistic dialogue, and knowing how to edit the moment so that the most seemingly mundane words take on a poetic resonance. In short, what his characters say is not particularly deep, but the ideas behind those words are. His average folk simply have grasps that surpass their reach."

Here's the trailer for the film:



I posted my review of Vertigo here. It's one of Hitch's most overrated films.

Here is its re-release trailer from the 90s.



Michelangelo Antonioni's first English language film, Blowup, is a landmark and great film. I reviewed it here. I thought of it today after a fellow who does reviews for the No Ripcord site, where I post reviews, wrote a rather mediocre review. He has a habit of trying to sound deep and politically aware, and this is the second time I've caught him not reviewing a film, but spouting stuff that had nothing to do with the film. The first was his review of Oliver Stone's JFK.

I replied to him this way:

The film's actual title- in credits- is Blowup- no hyphen.

Second, you repeat one of the worst examples of critical cribbing, that I nailed when I reviewed this a year or two ago: http://www.cosmoetica.com/b441-des374.htm

The two leads have NO NAMES. Not once are their names uttered in the film. This claim is from a press kit, possibly, but not anywhere in the film. Where did you get the claim, other than from other reviews?

It should be fun to see his reply.

Anyway, here are The Yardbirds, from the film, and its trailer:


The Graduate.

Yesterday Dan and I watched The Graduate for the first time. It's one of those films I've known about for a while, obviously, but never gotten around to watching. I remember an old coworker being surprised when I said I hadn't seen it, since she knew I was into "older movies" and I guess the reason I'd not seen it is because I 1) never had the chance and 2) it seemed just like a "better made Hollywood film," or in other words, something that would be pretty good but nothing great.

Well, The Graduate is a very good film, and there are some excellent technical shots. I told Dan how I thought it was a lot more innovative than Breathless as a film.

Anyway, I looked online and found this funny recut trailer, where it is presented as a horror film. Very well done, I have to say.

And for those Anne Bancroft fans, there happens to be a Charlie Rose interview posted in it's entirety.

There are a number of scenes where the Simon & Garfunkel music blends together very nicely, and just to give a comparison, it did not seem forced like the way it did in Love Story.

Overall, it's funnier than I thought it would be, and Hoffman gives a great performance. Anne Bancroft isn't bad either. I wish more of Hollywood would make films like this.

Mysterious Skin

My review of an interesting, and potentially great, film, but one which fails for its director's over-indulgences.

'For all its focus on sexuality and abuse, the film’s strongest points come in portraying teen angst in a real manner, better than even Stand By Me, as well as the loneliness children feel in small towns, especially the pointless frustration that talentless youths feel. This is because, for all the idolatry bestowed upon him by the three other teens - Wendy, Eric, and Brian - the fact is that Neil is utterly run of the mill and forgettable. And, at some level, he knows this, and reviles the others for their worship. The film has moments that evoke the best in films like My Dog Skip, My Life As A Dog, The Curse Of The Cat People, and Godzilla’s Revenge, all terrific films that deal with often overlooked aspects of childhood. The film suffered many slings along the road to production, from bad reviews to attempts at censorship and banning and, at a cost of $10 million, made less than a tenth of that in box office, according to online sources. It’s too bad, because films like this, despite their flaws, should be made in Hollywood, not by self-marginalized directors like Araki (who seems to revel in gay and sexually bizarre subcultural themes).'

Here's a video clip:

Welcome to the Cinemension Blog

This is really the opening post for this blog, aside from the test post. Those readers familiar with my website, Cosmoetica, and my all film subsite, Cinemension, may be wondering why I started this blog, slightly apart and separate from those two entities. The reason is money. Cosmoetica is a non-commercial site, and I lose money on it. Not alot, but I make bupkus. The reason I do not lose alot of money is because almost all my pages are text only- a few kilobytes worth of information. Compare that to your average blog page, or page of any popular website which is loaded with high tech stuff, video links, images, etc. The average Cosmoetica page is anywhere from 1/200th to 1/10,000 the size. Thus, unlike many sites that have audiences as large, or larger, than Cosmoetica, I am not hampered by a need to have ads to pay for the information that rides online.

However, in a sense, I've felt that this has shortchanged my readers- especially those who love my film reviews. They should be able to get a sense of what the films I write of are like. So, why not let a big corporation like Google, who owns Blogspot, chip in a bit for your entertainment and enlightenment??

The folk involved in this venture are me, my wife Jessica, and three people who are also interested in cinema- albeit with differing perspectives: Art Durkee, G.M. Hendricks, and Anthony Zanetti. The former is an old friend who has collaborated on a number of other ventures with me, while the latter two are men who were fans of Cosmoetica, and had an interest in film.

Within a month or two, here are some things to be expected: first, unlike Cosmoetica, this venture won't be 90-95% me, for good or ill. Second, this is a starting template for the blog. I plan on redesigning some of Cosmoetica, as well as this blog, but that will evolve, under no time nor aesthetic constraints. I did, however, want to get the blog going before Cosmoetica's 8th anniversary, in two days.

Here are some ideas agreed to by the contributors, but we'll see how much time erodes these:

-diversity of writers, opinions, and links are good. There will be no ghettoization

-old ideas, posts, essays, reworks, etc. are fine. Quality trumps 'newness.'

-NO ADS. I do not see money in this venture. If proven wrong, and monetization could yield rewards, perhaps.

-trying to spread the word about the blog, Cosmoetica, and the sites/blogs of other members, as well as using networking tools available

-cinema is visual, so videos are encouraged- from films, interviews, etc. Praise YouTube!

-NO COMMENTS ALLOWED. Readers can contact me, or the others via the email posted. Period. The fact is there are 999 trolls, idiots, psychotics, and liars, for every sane, intelligent person online. Anonymity grants a masque for those who are unstable.

-After a while, if there are any readers or writers I feel interesting enough to join the stabble, I may expand the list of Cinebloggers. There will be no guidelines save good writing on cinema, and a sanity that stands above the aforementioned online psychoses.

-Lastly, I'd prefer to avoid the trite need for a list of the best this or that. It's just silly, and plays to the Lowest Common Denominator. I have my own list of great films, but it's that- a list, not a ranking.

Enjoy the blog. My first 'real' post will follow.