8/31/09

M. Night Shyamalan is cute.

As a director, M. Night Shyamalan is cute. His movies aren't much to look at, but I've always thought he himself offered more visual appeal than his films. Not that I'm saying he's Brad Pitt (even though Pitt post-Jolie doesn't do it for me) he's got a boyish cuteness and his voice is sexy.

His films? That's another story. Just plot-driven blah and once you decode the "twist" there is no point to the film. But it's nice he's made some appearances in them for the reasons I give. I liked him dressed up in that cop uniform in Signs. ( Or whatever it was--The Village? Who the fuck knows).

ROAR!

So here's to my little fantasy, to balance all the female babes, we need some cutie-pie male ones. I like the tee shirt with the messy hair.



Grace Kelly Lives






Ok, the evidence is in. Recently I've posted on sexy stars like Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch, but, let's stick with pure beauty this time. I mean mathematical and symmetrical perfection of face and form.

Nowadays the two reigning Ms. Perfects are Halle Berry and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but, as gorgeous as those two babes are- and one might argue a few others, is there really any toppling of Grace Kelly from the throne?

And this comes from a man who prefers brunets to blonds. Ok, I think a young Jean Simmons or Vivien Leigh might've given the soon to be princess a run for the money.

But, just look at those cheeks, eyes, and body. Plus she was a nympho!

Excelsior!

8/30/09

Still More Human Condition

2/3's of the way thru and still a good film. A bit preachy, and Part 4 was not as good as Part 3, but it's an interesting schism within the lead character. As he gets closer to real humanity- in its full ugliness, he gets farther away from his ideal of happiness, yet he's a better person.

The film is not great and some editing was needed, but quite ambitious, and the rare film deserving of the moniker epic.

8/29/09

More Human Condition



This film obviously influenced many later films, such as Full Metal Jacket. The third part is really a change from Parts One and Two, in that the main characters is starting to ethically collapse. But wel done.

Not a poetic film, but good.

8/28/09

"Monica Vitti’s Hands"

I was going to post this on my own blog but then I decided since it is film related, I will share it here. I had the image in mind of Monica Vitti's hands in L'avventura where there is the contrast of her long, slender fingers against the rough, sharp rock and it offers a good metaphor to play off of. I was just happy to be able to actually find a photo online that put me in mind of my poem.


Monica Vitti’s Hands
*after Antonioni

Somewhere, a solid drop of upheld stone
soaks into the smallness of her
slendering tips, parted within the lines
of foam, an island that lives as everything
slips. Tangled, her hands grasp
rock, as struggle ceases her
clasp—her mind has dangled
stranger things, when it’s late
should she say it? She is trying to impress
what little is left of him, his fondness
worn, that primitive
being. Calling, her name
only melts with afternoon
sea, an image incomplete, still
beneath the devolving harbor
that unpieces. A woman weaves starfish
in her hair and goes unfound.

Copyright by Jessica Schneider

I know where Kubrick got his idea from!


Dan and I were watching The Human Condition tonight, and there is an interesting scene in part 3 where a character is getting picked on and beaten up by his fellow recruits and the character is pretty much a whiner but you feel sorry for him. Anyhow, this put us in mind of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which obviously took some of the ideas from this film.

Not only that, but the recruit then goes off the commit suicide via way of rifle in the latrine, no less. So it was just interesting to see where Kubrick stole his idea from. I remember when I saw Full Metal Jacket in the theatres and this scene scared me. I would have only been eleven at the time.

Tommy

Not big on musicals, and rock musicals are notoriously bad.

Yes, there were the hippy plays cum films, but the ultimate fictive rock film is The Who's Tommy.

A clip below:

8/27/09

The Human Condition

Busy few days, so I'm finally watching Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition- a new Criterion Collection release, and a mamoth sized film at 9 1/2 hours.

That's over 2 hours longer than Bela Tarr's Satantango!

Here's the trailer:


So far, so good. I'm a third of the way thru, and, naturally, some trims should have been made, but, since it's the length of a de facto miniseries, I tend to compare it to some of the classics of that genre, like Upstairs, Downstairs, Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots, and The Thornbirds. And it's better....so far.

A bit preachy, and actually a bit too tame in its depiction of Imperial atrocities at work camps, since, by most accounts, even visiting Nazi officials- men who were running the European death camps, were startled at the brutality of the Japanese treatment of POWs. Of course, the first part of this film came out in 1959, so some restraint is to be expected, but overall, I'm hooked into the main character; a humanist who's at wits with his inner self.

More to come!

America's Bardot






Ok, so I have stated that Brigitte Bardot was the sexiest babe to ever hit films. Not most physically perfect, but sexiest. There's a difference.

But, there was one babe who might've given her a run for her money, and that was Raquel Welch. During the late 1960s thru early 1970s, she was THE film sex symbol in America.

Like BB, she was no great shakes as an actress. But, she had the misfortune of never being cast in big films by A list directors. Most of her films were schlock or crap comedies with Bill Cosby. Ugh! Bill Fuckin' Cosby?

Just look at her. During the Cold War's height there was the male fantasy of life after the H Bomb dropped and being left with only Raquel Welch to repopulate the world.

Naturally, me and my little pals would sneak in, and even pay, to see what latest crap Ms. Welch was in.

Anyway, I'll still give BB the edge in sexiness, even though I always preferred brunet Latinas, of which Raquel was one.

Any other babes in the league of BB and Raquel?

8/26/09

More Bardot








Ok, so it's obvious that Brigitte Bardot was not a great actress. Her assets, though, were obvious. She was probably the sexiest major film star ever. Not most beautiful nor most gorgeous. but the body, the strut, those feline eyes and pouty lips.

Sexy is not mere looks, but attitude. BB, as she was known to the press, blew away all comers.

I mean, c'mon, Marilyn Monroe (aka MM)? Today she'd be considered chunky. Grace Kelly would certainly get a nod for most physically perfect female to ever grace the screen, but she never portrayed sexy, even though she apparently, like BB and MM, was a nympho.

No, the sexiest babe had to be BB.

Case closed.

8/25/09

Bardot's Ass

Ok, I agree with Jess's claim below. Catherine Deneuve had a prettier face than Brigitte Bardot.

But, here is Bardot's ass:





Many who know me know I know ass, and BB's was prime time once upon a time.

8/24/09

"Theme de Camille" by George Delerue.



This is the famous song found in the Godard film Contempt. I love this song, and it's about the only thing that made the film watchable. Although I don't really like Godard very much, I have a sentimental attachment to the film because of this song. Some might claim that it is this song and Brigitte Bardot's ass that make the film worthwhile.

Which leads me to ask, who do you think is better? Bardot or Deneuve?

Both blondes with brown eyes. Personally, I choose Deneuve. And who do you think has aged better? Deneuve or Bardot? Again, I choose the same. Though I like Bardot for what she called Sarah Palin.

Read Dan's review here.

Woodstock

Still got Grace Slick on the mind, and an interesting fact is that the only major rock act to appear in the 3 iconic 1969 mammoth concerts (Monterey, Woodstock, and Altamont) was Jefferson Airplane.

That said, here's a clip from the classic film, with the Master Blaster:

8/23/09

Ran

One of my big regrets is that I never have enough time to see all the films I'd love to, nor read all the poems and books I'd love to.

While the last few years of foreign film watching have greatly edified my life there are still some classics that elude me.

Such as Akira Kurosawa's Ran:



Some tell me it's overrated in comparison to earlier black and white classics he made, but, having seen Kagemusha, and knowing that's a damned good film, and knowing most Kurosawans believe Ran is superior, I gotta watch it soon.

8/22/09

More Endings



Akira Kurosawa's High And Low is another of his films that really stretches form, but it all aids in the denouement.

As I wrote:

Filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer once opined about mood defining a story. He stated: ‘Imagine we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered: everything in it has taken on another level; the light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because we have changed.…This is the effect I want to get.’ Alfred Hitchcock used this ploy in one of his best films, Rope, whose entirety is sort of an inverse of this film’s first 55 minutes, while Kurosawa follows a parallel track in regards to character. What changes in the scene on the train is not a willful manipulation of a character, by a screenwriter, but an organic and believable flowering into character, due to circumstances that are not contrived. Instead of knowing of a corpse behind the door, the audience’s first hour has let us become that corpse- or thing, with knowledge of itself. In essence, we know what Gondo will do because his character has been so skillfully revealed, despite many seeming moments that paint him as something other than his true self. That the remainder of the film shows a more complacent Gondo (check out the scene where he whistles as he mows his own lawn) is, thus, not in the least implausible, for it is the logical outcome of all that has gone before.


This is one of the cardinal rules of quality fiction (in any genre) that is always violated by the Dumbest Possible Action and the us of dei ex machina. Kurosawa, in this film, shows that by following logic and rules, one can still totally leave a percipient engaged and questioning his experience.

That's why he's a great artist.

8/21/09

Somebody To Love- A Cheat, or Viva Grace Slick!

Ok, this is not even a music video, but Jess recently had me listen to a CD of Grace Slick and her first band, The Great Society. The Great Society predated her turn at the helm of the Jefferson Airplane.

But, damn if the vocals Slick uses on the songs on this CD do not blow away her work with the Jefferson Airplane.

Listen to this version of the great hit Somebody To Love:



There is a rawness and animality to her vocalizations that transcend the mere art of singing. And she does it on many other of the 17 songs on the CD. It's like a rock/folk mix with Gregorian chanting and aboriginal music. And it's better than the more polished version she does with the Airplane. And I always thought that was a great song.

I know it's a long shot, but I think I'm gonna try to see if I can interview Ms. Slick next year. While she's not a great singer, per se, she has a great voice. She's sort of the opposite of Billie Holliday, who certainly did not have a great voice, but was arguably a great singer.

Viva Grace Slick!

More Kurosawa



Above is a clip from Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well. It is one of the great filmmaker's best films.

Oddly, although he is more well known for his period piece costume dramas, I think the master was better in films like this, Ikiru, and High And Low- all drama set in then Modern Japan.

In my review of the film I wrote:

The film does a wonderful job of showing the utter corruption that is inevitable with the eternal corporate mindset that slacks off public responsibility for mere profit, and the particularly Japanese obsession with falling on the sword, so to speak, for one’s superiors. Wada says, ‘You don’t understand bureaucrats. A good official never implicates a superior, no matter what the cost.’ He later tells Nishi, ‘You’re up against a terrifying system that will never yield,’ to which Nishi replies, ‘Everyone feels that way and gives up. That’s how they get away with it.’ But, ultimately, it is the long kowed Wada who is correct. The saddest thing is the corruption this film details is so minor league today that it seems almost childish compared to Enron, Worldcom, and the many others in the years since. In a sense, Iwabuchi isn’t even the top criminal in the film. That would belong to the corporation’s little seen President, Arimura (Ken Mitsuda), who, late in the film, when things seem to be going against the corporation, even sends over a vial of poison for Iwabuchi to do himself in, in case things don’t go well. Ever the corporate toady, Iwabuchi nor only thanks his superior for the vial, but for even telling him the correct dosage needed for death. Watching this film, far more than any of the period pieces put out, explains exactly how the militarists that arose in the early Twentieth Century were so easily able to lead their country down the path to near oblivion.


Yet, while being a cogent film on the tenor of then Modern Japan, it is also a damned good thriller, something even the brain dead fare of today cannot match. It also puts Hitchcock to shame.

8/20/09

Rashomon's Ending

Is this the worst ending to a great film ever?



Then the rain ends and the sun breaks out.

Yuck!

Double yuck, especially coming from the great Kurosawa.

8/19/09

Tony Quinn Weeps

The end to Federico Fellini's 1954 film, La Strada:



Memorable, but what other memorable ends work so well?

PS- this sort of inspired the end to Woody Allen's Sean Penn film, Sweet And Lowdown.

8/18/09

Brakhage Redux

Apparently Culture Vulture's still having problems linking things up in my post there, so I reposted the piece, with links, on Cosmo.

8/17/09

Stan Brakhage

My review of the DVD, By Brakhage is now online at Culture Vulture.

Currently there are missing links to some of the films of his I discuss. Basically, I systematically destroy the argument that his films' incoherence is a boon to the viewer.

Here's his most famed film, Mothlight:



Ok, not exactly La Dolce Vita, nor even 2001: A Space Odyssey, but is it really art? Probably, but bad art.

In short, as I pointed out in my review of My Kid Could Paint That :

1) Claimed abstraction in art is rarely, if ever, abstract. Why? Because there simply and rationally can be no such thing as non-narrative nor non-representational art. Yes, you read that correctly. A smear of orange color is a smear of orange color, and can represent a smear of orange color. That smear, or dot on a piece of paper, also has a narrative, and that narrative is, ‘smear/dot on a canvas.’ Yes, that is a narrative, but its utter banality and bereftness points out just how creatively barren a work with such a paltry narrative is. Imagine the mind that could create, or be fascinated by, such an inane display of so-called skill and talent, and such a ridiculous narrative thread. It might take a few seconds to craft, but only a few thousandths of a second to grasp. Art is a form of communication, but a higher form of communication than mere language, therefore the skill in which the communication is laid out is essential to its determination of excellence. Art is a verb, the how an idea is communicated; not the idea (the noun) itself.

2) One can, as do many of Marla’s buyers, imbue anything one wants into the painting/artwork, but while great art constructs no, or few, boundaries, what it can do is give linkage to imbue, a bit, of non-obvious things into itself; but NOT the whole thing. If the whole thing can be imbued there is no reason to work at art- the whole rationale behind found art. This displaces the creative impulse from mostly on the artist, and slightly on the percipient, to being 100% on the percipient. So, if the percipient of the claimed artwork is doing all the creative heavy lifting with imbuement, what exactly is left for the so-called artist to do? This folly, naturally, sunders art from the realms of skill and craft. Art that works on multiple levels of interpretation is usually a deeper and more profound thing. Claimed art that has infinite levels of interpretation is a scam, because, logically, if something means everything it means nothing.

3) Intent in art means nothing. One can claim they intended something, but so what, if it fails that claimed intent? Since there is no true way to know what an artist intended, it has no bearing on the art. What is left of the art is all that is required; that someone was going through a divorce at the time, had gall stones, was pro or con a certain political position, or was squabbling over a real estate transaction, might be interesting, but those facts are just as likely non-factors as factors. This false idea, of intent having stature in art, also allows for absurdities being propounded about certain art and artists- like Pollock’s drip paintings somehow representing the nuclear age because they somehow represented the whirl of the atomic shell.

4) If seen as a subset of intent, the art then becomes less about itself and more about the backstory; a further reduction of modern life into the disease of the celebritization of everything. As example, Jackson Pollock’s pre-drip paintings showed him to be a meager, callow, and highly imitative artist; but it was his heavily promoted tale of woe (alcoholism and failed love life) and ‘rebirth’ that made him a ‘star’ in the art world, not any real skill.

5) Finally, there is the plain old common sense notion that if something is claimed as art, that any layman can do with no effort or in little time (draw a dot in the center of a piece of paper, use a roller to paint a canvas one color, toss paint at a canvas and let the drips fall where they may), then it is simply not art. Now, this does not negate great photography nor cinematography, but I only mention these two art forms because folks often mistakenly claim both can be done with little effort and time; without realizing that most photographs, even by claimed Masters, simply do not rise to the level of art. It takes years of practice, and understanding the ‘impending moment,’ to make a truly great photo, or scene in a film, work. As mentioned earlier, simply contrast Marla’s painting sludgefests to the young violinist in the documentary stock footage- he shows skill, she does not; it’s really that simple. In fact, in the best moment of the film (and one he should have used as a template for the whole film) Bar-Lev torpedoes the hilarious claim that the DVD painting Marla did, to prove her abilities, is substantively no different from any of her other work, by showing side-by-side stills of the DVD painting and others; even as gullible patrons ooh and ah over it. One sees, also, that there is no logical coherence (and not even a Keatsian Negatively Capable coherence) between the titles of Marla’s paintings, and what is on the canvas. The names are immanently random and the paintings utterly generic messes.


Ok, now go watch the Fellini film!

8/16/09

George Washington

Jess mentioned this film in her last post.

Here's the trailer for his for his first film:



I've not seen Snow Angels, but, as I'm harder on art than my wife, I'll likely put this one on the backburner for a while before I watch it.

8/15/09

David Gordon Green: Has He Lost It Or What?


I don't know if I should be disappointed in David Gordon Green or what. I watched his latest film Snow Angels today, which is an adapted work from a novel by Stewart O'Nan. Green showed some great potential with his earlier films George Washington and All The Real Girls, but ever since Undertow, his films have just been stuck in muck.

The biggest problem with this film is that there are too many losers with too many problems. Again, we're given glimpses of people in a small town and they suffer one tragedy after another. The only thing realistic and good about the film is the relationship between the two teenagers, as opposed to the adults, who are just ridiculous. Yes someone will have the occasional affair, or have the occasional drinking problem, but not to this degree. On a film level, just in terms of cinema, this is not in a league with his first two, though Green does manage to sprinkle in the realistic dialogue, even though the characters are not particularly memorable or interesting people.

"Oh you're just criticizing it because it's a 'tragic tale' and you're biased against films about working class losers," is what you're thinking. Not at all. Snow Angels actually reminded me of a worse version of The Jimmy Show--in that it's not nearly as well written and not as realistic. Yes, there is power to be found in realism. The guy who plays Kate Beckinsale's husband is just a ridiculous, cliched character, and the last third of the film devolves into soap opera trash.

The only thing redeemable is the relationship between Arthur and the teenage girl, and there are some other good dialogue moments, but Snow Angels was very, very disappointing, largely in part because I thought the film was off to a good start, and then it just took the cheap, Hollywood way out. Granted, since this film is based on O'Nan's novel, it's not really Green's "fault" per se, but why choose poor material to work with? Why is Green, who clearly has screenwriting talent, wasting his time on these adapted screenplays? His best work is his own material.

How critics could rave about this and criticize his earlier work just shows how dumbed down they like it. Sorry, but drowning, alcoholism, adultery, murder and suicide shoved into one just does not work. The film spent TOO MUCH TIME on this boring shit, when it should have been focusing on Arthur and his relationship with his dad (Griffin Dunne) who, by the way, is far more interesting than Sam Rockwell's loser character.

Watching this only made me want to rewrite the damn thing from start to finish. Ugh. Bad, bad stuff. And any good is ultimately drowned out by all the bad. I certainly won't be reaching for a Stewart O'Nan book anytime soon. Another film this reminds me of is a lesser Sweet Hereafter, even though that's not a great film either. Here's the trailer:



And here's a real snow angel for you.

Paul Naschy Lives!

When I was a child, my friends and I would often sneak into local theaters during late summer mornings or early afternoons. Back then, many theaters were open 24 hours, to try to maximize profits. Sometimes we'd outright sneak in, and other times we'd do little errands for the theater owners to get in, especially for skin flicks and horror crap.

Back then, the crap that ran in off hours was usually B film detritus- Toho monster flicks, Ray Harryhausen flicks, soft to hard core porno, Hammer horror films, AIP-Roger Corman crapola, and, if lucky, stuff with monsters and chicks.

Enter Paul Naschy and the films he scripted.

Naschy was the king of Spanish exploitation and horror films. Many of them showed nudity, too!

Imagine being a six or seven year old in the early 70s, and seeing stuff like that.

Well, recently I saw a boxed set of Naschy films really cheap at a Half Price Books store, and given the decades intervening, will savor my watching of the films.

Anyway, here is a clip of the films in the Naschy boxed set:



And, if you wanna find out more about the grand man himself, check out his website: http://www.naschy.com/

8/14/09

Apur Sansar

Or, The World Of Apu, is a great film, and the end to The Apu Trilogy.

My latest review is here.

8/13/09

Bela Tarr And Silence

Hungarian director Bela Tarr is a bit of an enigma. Having seen most of his mature film work, he seems to have come to the place where his surname can be grafted on to a thing as an adjective.

I.e.- just as film mysteries with an odd twist have become known as Hitchcockian, sci fi tales with a twist ending Serlingesque (after the creator of the tv show The Twilight Zone), and inhuman dramas with long deliberate pauses Kubrickian, so too is it right to call deliberately paced films that focus on the internal human predicament Tarrian.

Here is the opening to Werckmeister Harmonies, and note the way the young man is anally trying to orchestrate the others:


Here is a later scene from the film, wherein a mob stops momentarily upon a memorable discovery:


And here is Satantango's opening:


In all instances, watch how Tarr focuses on a thing or two. His long takes dwarf even those of Theo Angelopoulos.

Here is an interview with the man:

Werckmeister Harmonies



The review is up.

8/12/09

Russian Ark

Alexander Sokurov is a Russian film director who is one of the bigger names in world cinema. His most hailed film is Russian Ark (Russkiy Kovcheg). But, it's not a particularly good film.

It's main claim to fame is having been shot in one long (and truly) unedited take.

However, as I wrote in my review of the film:

Russian Ark (Russkiy Kovcheg) is one of those films more notable for the technical expertise it exhibits (or preens of) than any real artistic merit. It reminds one of Mike Figgis’s 2000 film Timecode, wherein that whole film was supposedly done in four separate single takes, in real time. That claim was debunked by a simple watching of the film, and the film itself was notable for being a screenplay disaster. The four stories, which occupied one fourth of the whole screen the whole time, had volume turned up on one section while the others were backgrounded, and then switched, which made it difficult for the viewer to even stick with whatever tale he preferred. Technically, the film was a mess, and, as there was no real story, just a gimmick, the film bombed critically and financially. Russian Ark, made in 2002 by the infamously somnolent director Alexander Sokurov, has a similar gimmick. While not following four separate stories, it is claimed to have been shot in one continuous take, directly onto a High Definition portable hard drive. It also claims that it was shot over one day, and in real time. While not a technical film expert, I did notice several scenes where the camera passed over black spots, making it the perfect place for an edit to occur, so I tend to believe that the claim of its 87 minute single Steadicam shot are overblown, if not outright false, even though the filmmakers have stated that the completed, unedited film, was done on a fourth attempt by cinematographer Tilman B├╝ttner. It could very well just be a slicker version of Alfed Hitchcock’s more clumsy attempts in Rope.


Like Timecode, it lacks a coherent tale, and is content to just windowshop through Russian history. There is little doubt it is a beautiful and accomplished film. But, it says absolutely nothing and ends on an incredibly pretentious note.

Here is the trailer, which is a bit of a cheat, for it does not really give you a sense of the anomy of the film:



Here is a longer clip that gives you more of a sense of what the film really is. For most it will be bad, sort of like a museum trip with an inexperienced docent as your guide:



All in all, a film worth seeing, I guess, if only to see another way in which a film can go wrong for, surely, no film has ever quite failed as spectacularly, and specifically, as Russian Ark.

8/11/09

Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs

One of the things I dislike most is censorship.

This cartoon is a good example of censorship at its worst:



So, I must be a racist then, right?

No, but I do favor letting realities be seen. In 1943, the year of this cartoon's release, America was far more racist than today, and this cartoon gives a good look, however inadvertently, to the white racist psyche.

But it also has nice digs at the then current time, such as the rich queen hording rubber tires and sugar in days of rationing for the Second World War; not to mention Murder, Inc.- with its rubbing out of Japs for free, and mention of 'Rosebud,' from the then contemporary Citizen Kane.

Then there's Prince Chawmin'. He's an early version of what would be considered cool in today's hip hop BS culture: i.e.- he's the original pimp daddy.

There's also a great parody of the bland Disney company's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, as well as a great jazz score.

In short, just as bigoted people are not necessarily evil, just ignorant and pitiable, so one can watch this cartoon, enjoy it, even if there are cringe-worthy moments. Does that alone make the cartoon a great one? No.

It's clearly not, but it is enjoyable, and quite a bit better than the agitprop films the Japanese and Germans were releasing at the same time.

Plus, pre-Jessica Rabbit, was there a more curvaceous babe in cartoons than So White?

8/10/09

Days Of Heaven

Terrence Malick has released only four completed films in his four decade career, yet all are superb. Two are utter masterpieces: 1998's The Thin Red Line, which was unfortunately overshadowed by Steven Spielberg's horrid Saving Private Ryan.

That film was every bit as grim as Spielberg's film, including bloody reality, but it had a transcendent core that the cliche-ridden Spielberg film lacked.

On the other hand, some would argue that a film Malick made twenty years earlier, Days Of Heaven, was even greater. I would not, but the arguments can rage over which of the two is better. What is inarguable is that both are great. Indeed, both are masterpieces of American and world cinema.

My review of the earlier film is finally up at Cinescene, and I take my usual shots at some of the poor criticism that swamped this film, even by those critics who 'liked' the film. Of course, like has nada to do with excellence, and is especially galling when a film like this is so manifestly great.

Simply put, most critics just whiff when they try to take on a film, or any work of art that is so great, and in my reviews (which are technically essays, not merely reviews- but hail the power of the key word in search engines) I not only critique the artwork, but the critics who consistently muff their jobs, for only in doing so can they, and the art loving populace, truly get the most out of art that is great and not so great.

Herein a clip from the titular film:

8/9/09

French Sci Fi

It must have been in the early to mid 1980s that I first got a dose of French sci fi on public television. It was a twin bill of Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451- his first English language film, and Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville.

I've seen the Truffaut film 2 or 3 times since, but have yet to rewatch Alphaville. Trufaut's film was based upon the same titled novel by Ray Bradbury, whereas, I believe, the Godard film was original.

Nonetheless, both films were crashing bores. While I recall a few scenes from the Truffaut film, and the bad sets, the Godard film seems lost to me. All I recall is striving to stay awake, since the Truffaut film, which ran first, came on at about 10 pm, and the Godard film started around midnight.

Anyway, here's a slice of Godard:



And, as I'm not ready to yawn again so quickly, I'll pass on the whole film, but, as I am a generous sort, you can take a looksy and remind me of the sleep I missed:

Francois Truffaut And French Cinema

Francois Truffaut is one of those directors who is solid, competent, but has little to say. Unlike his bitter rival, Jean-Luc Godard- who had some technical talent, but slathered on his politics with foot thick butter, Truffaut was sort of like his gastronomic foodsake, truffles.

His films are wan, filigreed, and after a second viewing, you realize just how little was given to you.

Of all the French filmmakers whose work I've seen- admittedly only a dozen or less, the only one who seemed consistent was Jean-Pierre Melville, and even his films are lightweight. The only ones who reached greatness were Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, and Robert Bresson, and even their work is hit and miss.

I shall watch more, but French cinema (at least that I've seen) seems to pale next to the Italians, and even the Brits. The Spanish are equally hit and miss, as was New German Cinema- let's face it, after Werner Herzog, it is a long, steep cliff.

Anyway, here's to Truffaut:

8/8/09

Commercials as cinema?

Ok, it's a cheat, but since Jess has posted this a couple of times on her blog, why not her, for fun; especially since this blog gets more viewers who'll need a laugh?

As a former member of this union, I say, watch it, or fuckin' watch out! Eh!

Andrzej Wajda

This Polish filmmaker has been said to have been an influence on all his later filmic countryman. Having seen a few films of his, he's good, but I've yet to see something great.

Here he is getting an Oscar:



And here is a review I just posted of Maids Of Wilko, a film of his.

8/7/09

Another Bad Scene.

For some reason this Ryan O'Neal clip from "Tough Guys Don't Dance" was not included in the other bunch. I would have included it. Oh God, oh man, would I have. Oh God, oh man.

Worst Movie Scenes Ever!

I remember I found this clip a while back and so I just had to post it. It's pretty funny, and it only gets funnier as it goes on. So give it a watch.

Dawn of the Dead.


Dan and I listened to Ann Counter yap on CSPAN at this Young American Bullshit I'm a fucked up right winger college kid convention and I don't understand where she gets her facts. She likes to rewrite history. Anyway, the above picture is how I felt afterward.

But onto better things. The movie. Dawn of the Dead. Huh? I admit this will probably piss off a lot of Romero fans, but I was kind of bored. The DVD we have contains a number of different versions. There is the Theatrical U.S. Version, the European Version, and the Extended Version. Extended Version? I watched the U.S. Version and it finished at 2 hours and 7 mins and that felt way too long.

I thought the blue paint was cheesy, the blood was bad and having the film in color just doesn't work. Night of the Living Dead was so much better. Visually, the black and white only made the zombies scarier. Also, there were more details in that film, like the radio announcements, as well as the individual character development was stronger. In Dawn of the Dead, they just start killing and shooting right away, and what they're shooting at isn't that scary, it's more stupid looking, so I was a bit bored.

I get it: we're in a shopping mall, and people are walking around like zombies, we're all consumers who don't think for ourselves, etc. Overall, I would not rank this with Carnival of Souls or even The Last Man on Earth, which I recently watched, and thought was much better than this.

Anyhow, I don't think Dawn of the Dead is bad, and I suppose I can see how some like it and think it's funny, but it just might not be my thing. Others who write for this site: if you disagree and think this is great I am more than willing to listen. Is it just nostalgia?

Roy Andersson

Swedish director Roy Andersson is -like the French Tati in the 60's- heavily influenced by the visual comedy genre. I remember enjoying his first long-feature movie, and absurd comedy:
SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR. A dark comedy about the world coming to an end, an never ending traffic....etc


That one second of "weird" silence b/w the doctor and his assistant before people coming in:




Here's the modern world sacrificing a young virgin with the blessing of the catholic church and the jewish rabbis..., the angle shooting that whole scene, and the ridiculously meticulous rituals...the use of sound!






here when one of the main characters is in the subway...




They're screening his second movie in NYC, unfortunately I don't have the time to watch it on big screen (the first movie was shot in 70 mm!)
http://www.filmforum.org/films/you.html

Le Samourai

One of Jean-Pierre Melville's best films, and a chic classic whose only real flaw is its ending.

The trailer:



I'll have a full review of this in the near future.

La Strada

Federico Fellini's La Strada suffers from a bit too much schmaltz. Nonetheless, it's a very good film and gives free range to Giulieta Masina's great comic talents:



Masina would later kick ass in Nights Of Cabiria, but this is where her talents first were revealed.

Fellini made better films, but perhaps none with as many memorable seriocomic moments.

8/6/09

What I liked about John Hughes.


When I think of the 1980s, it is impossible not to recall some film you would have seen by John Hughes.

From National Lampoon’s 1983 comedy Vacation to his later works such as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, to Uncle Buck, there seems there is a comedy in there for everyone.

But the most represented in his films were of course teenagers, notably in the film The Breakfast Club, as well as my personal favorite of his: Pretty In Pink (1986).

I recently rewatched Pretty In Pink after having purchased the DVD at a Circuit City that was going out of business. The film stars Molly Ringwald as she is preparing to go to prom.

Although the story sounds trite, Hughes tackled deeper issues that you won’t find in the Hollywood stuff of today. For one thing, Molly Ringwald’s character (Andie) comes from the poor side of town, and amid her standard high school issues, she is also battling an alcoholic father and the stigma of being poor as a contrast to the rich kids in school.

Hughes handled the topic well in the film, and he never managed to get too didactic or condescending. He also wrote believable dialogue, and kids were actually discussing deeper issues of their day, rather than the films being one lame joke after another.

James Spader also makes an excellent appearance in Pretty In Pink, as well as Andrew McCarthy as Andie’s love interest and Annie Potts as Andie’s friend. But John Cryer as Duckie is probably the most memorable performance.

More information about Hughes’ work can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000455/

Nights Of Cabiria

Giulieta Masina is fabulous in her husband's film. Federico Fellini went better than he did in La Strada, and the film succeeds without being sentimental in the extreme.

Here is the film's start:



Here is the famed Good Samaritan section that was long excised in American prints. It's only available untranslated, even on the Criterion Collection DVD:

8/5/09

Lost Continent

Ah, how threads run- from zombies to a Spanish horror film to, well, a Spanish film star- Cesar Romero. My fave film of Romero's was 1951's Lost Continent.

Here's a clip of the special effects scenes:



Oh, hell, here's the whole damned movie:



Thank me later.

Pan's Labyrinth

Wassim sent me a clip from this film yesterday, in response to some discussion over my The Question post.

Here it is:



Note the palmed eyes, and the herky jerky motions. The pale man almost looks silly, rather than scary- but that's exactly why it is more scary than CGI crap effects. It's also why the Bogeymen of Babes In Toyland are especially terrifying to a child; because that's the way real nightmares are.

Gotta see this film. Here's the trailer:

8/4/09

Dawn of the Dead(s) & Shaun of the Dead.

In light of all the zombie talk after having watched the boring I Am Legend, Anthony told me he has a love of zombie films and that the original Dawn of the Dead is one of his faves. They later made some zombie films where the zombies had Mohawks and cans of spray paint but I don't know much about those.

I've not seen any of these films below, but I am planning to watch the 1978 film soon. I don't really have any interest in seeing the remake, and the parody looks kind of silly. I much enjoyed Night of the Living Dead, but probably my favorite "dead" movie would have to be Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls. It's a film that gets labeled a "B" movie, but I think it is much more deserving than that label. I was not surprised to later learn that he was influenced by Bergman.

I always thought the creepiest film would have to involve the directing of Romero and Antonioni together. Bring in the walking dead with that imagery from L'Eclisse and you have a pretty scary film.







The World, The Flesh, And The Devil

Think Will Smith was the first black guy ever alone in New York City?

Nah, Harry Belafonte did it half a century earlier:



Here is a clip from the film. Been too long since I've seen this- gotta get it on DVD.

8/3/09

The Question

Below I gave my opinion of a film that is based upon a classic zombie novel. But, zombies are not the only post-apocalyptic creatures in film lore. Other than the walking dead there are the talking apes of the The Planet Of The Apes franchise.

And I find the zombies of the 28 Days Later mode silly. The dumb, slow zombies of The Last Man On Earth and Night Of The Living Dead to be more scary, simply because they at least obey semi-plausible scientific realities.

So, forgetting whether you like zombie or ape flicks more, you have a choice. The world has ended. You are alone in the world, until you discover you are not. Which would be a scarier menace to face? The walking dead who will try to eat and/or infect you to become one of them? Or the apes, who are scared fascistic, enslaving, religious lunatics? Bear in mind, as long as you were healthy, you could likely avoid the zombie hordes, and dispatch them with ease. You would be the smartest creature on the planet, possibly a 'legend.' On the other hand, in the ape world, if they knew you could speak, they would hunt you down, lobotomize or kill you, and, even if mute, they would enslave you? You would be the low man on the totem pole, rather than at the top in the zombie world.

Here are snippets of the sorts of zombie hordes you would face:




And here is what you would face in the ape world:



Gotta love the fascistic gorilla played by James Gregory, who also boasts, 'The only good human is a dead human!'
..........

Ok, times up....which scenario would you choose, and why? Personally, give me the zombies, because I would have a more realistic shot at survival. After all, on ape world the humans are all deaf mutes or psychotic mutants, whereas there would have to be survivors on zombie world, and connecting up with them would allow a new world to begin after the cleanup of the dead, which might take a lifetime. But, how would one insurrect ape world with a bunch of mutes and mutants?

8/2/09

I Am Legend

Just watched Will Smith's film version of Richard Matheson's classic sci fi novel, and its alternate ending.

Bad film. Some good moments, but the film had nothing of the deeper elements of the novel, much less the two earlier film versions. The alternate ending was better than the Hollywood ending of the canonical version, but still a stinker.

The trailer:

Sunset Boulevard

I only saw it once, 30+ years ago, as a child, but I've never forgotten the ending. I must rewatch this film, along with Mildred Pierce and Whatever Happened To baby Jane? Grand Guignol Diva Heaven!

The ending:

Jean Cocteau- don't choke laughing!

Here's a snippet from a film on the bad poet and pretentiously bad filmmaker. Note the ridiculous clips from the 'films.'

8/1/09

Jean-Pierre Melville

A 1966 clip from an interview:

The King of Comedy.

The King of Comedy is probably the best film I’ve ever seen based upon a psychotic individual. Yes there is Scorsese’s earlier masterpiece, Taxi Driver, which also stars Robert De Niro as the obsessive and lonely Travis Bickle, but in The King of Comedy, De Niro’s character (Rupert Pupkin) is even more scary and delusional than Travis Bickle. For one thing, we’re not sure when he’s ever going to “snap,” and while Bickle seemingly goes after those he views as “corrupt,” Pupkin goes after anyone who gets in his way.

The King of Comedy is an excellent portrayal of the shallow culture’s value on fame and what defines one’s “success.” Scorsese also makes it a double-whammy when Pupkin is ultimately able to personally profit off his crimes, where he is then lauded with fame and a million dollar book deal. So in the end, if we’re approaching this from a point of view of a corrupt individual who views success as the mere achievement of wealth and fame, then Rupert Pupkin wins it all.

The film begins when Pupkin is able to sneak his way into the famous comedian Jerry Langford’s car, (played by Jerry Lewis) and Pupkin then pitches his idea of a show to him. Basically, we learn early on that Pupkin is not so much concerned with being a great comedian as he is about being a famous one. Langford listens to Pupkin reluctantly, and then tells him to call his office and speak with his secretary. We then get glimpses into Pupkin’s fantasies, where he is imagining Langford asking him to host his show for six weeks, as a favor to him.


These fantasies are normal, and seemingly harmless, only Pupkin does not know when to stop. The next day he spends several times calling Langford’s office, but he is unable to get through. He eventually goes down in person to ask and see him, making it seem as though he is some kind of friend of Langford and that Langford has been expecting him. The film does a great job of showing the snobbery of the “industry,” for while Pupkin himself is pushy and ruins his chances of any possible future with these specific individuals by way of his aggressive attitude, the film shows how difficult it really is for the “common person” to literally get through the door.

When Langford’s secretary agrees to listen to Pupkin’s tape, we get more fantasies where Langdon is telling Pupkin “I don’t know how you do it.” Ultimately, however, his secretary rejects his work, telling him he needs to polish his act. Pupkin is unwilling to accept her no for an answer and insists on seeing Langford. Eventually, he is removed from the building by force.

The next day Pupkin makes a surprise “visit” at Langdon’s house, bringing along his love interest, Rita (albeit unrequited), telling her that Langdon has invited them both to his house. Pupkin pushes his way through the house staff, and is unable to accept that Langdon wants him to leave his property, or else he will have him arrested. It is this act, coupled with Langdon’s unwillingness to listen to Pupkin’s act, that forces Pupkin and Masha (another obsessed Langdon fan, played by Sandra Bernhard) to abduct Langdon. In exchange for Langdon’s return, Pupkin requests that he be allowed to perform as the opening act on Langdon’s show as The King of Comedy. His jokes are bad, but not bad enough to be parody, as De Niro delivers them with sincerity, and we then know that Pupkin is just a wannabe who wants the easy way in, rather than having to work for it.


The film ends brilliantly, with Pupkin’s arrest, but he is able to get out after two years. Following his release, he is offered a million dollar book deal, he is labeled a “household name,” he is on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the country, and in the end, it appears he’s earned his own special slot in the comedy world.

Critics love to pontificate about the “truth” in art, and I can’t think of a more “truthful” and honest representation of the shallow culture than what happens to Pupkin in this film. After all, it’s never been about quality, and Pupkin knows this. It’s always been about fame and money and ephemeral things as those, because that is what the culture values. It doesn’t matter how great you are or how terrible you are. What Pupkin wants is what any wannabe wants: merely the shallow approbation that reaffirms his life’s meaning. And this is why Pupkin is not a real artist.

Why do so many feel the need to search for the blind approbation from others? In the scene when Langdon throws Pupkin out of his house, Pupkin replies with, “I’m going to be fifty times more famous than you.” He was right. And what does it say for a culture that rewards the talentless? Just look at the history of the publishing industry for that one.