Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Monday, April 30, 2012

Podcast Tease

I apologize for the lack of a real post today. I had lots of shit going on over the weekend, and thus didn't get a chance to get shit writ up. Nevertheless, I didn't wanna abandon you, my readers, so I thought I'd tease tomorrow's podcast (that is if I can get it edited in time).

This is the movie Roger and I discussed:


You can't wait to listen to this episode.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Even Longer Prometheus Trailer

dir. Ridley Scott


To be honest, I kinda prefer the shorter teaser: I felt it a little more artistic. Nevertheless, hey did you notice the title of this post? Even longer Prometheus trailer. Dear fuck I can't wait for this.

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Apr. 23)

Here is some of my favorite blog work from the past week.

From Man, I Love Films a piece on remakes, reboots, and nostalgia.

From Cinematic Corner a fun piece on 50 movie wishes.

From justAtad a piece on hateful internet commenters.

From Anomalous material a piece on the resurgence of the strong female character.

From Self-Styled Siren a piece on Farley Granger and Hitchcock.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Had No Idea David Copperfield Was Such an Interesting Read

[This was the first result of a Google image search of David Copperfield.]


OK, this is gonna be old news to anyone who follows me on twitter (why aren't you following me on twitter?), but I love the fuck out of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. And no one is more shocked by this than I. Me like Dickens? That's unpossible. But yes, it turns out it is possible, no matter how strange it may seem. You see, back in high school I didn't quite care for Dickens' writing style; in fact I quite detested it. I couldn't decipher, what struck me as, his labyrinthine prose. What was with all those words. Bet it was just cause the motherfucker got paid by the word. That had to be it—no other reason for so many words on the page.

Weened as I was on post-Hemingway snappy prose, I couldn't fathom why a writer, when constructing sentences, would choose to take a leisurely stroll in the vicinity of each action, before ultimately arriving at his destination; when it just seemed so much simpler to move directly from point A to point B. But alas, I had much to learn.

Flash forward to the present and the ridiculously long work commute that has now given me the ability to read more per week than I ever had previously. Seeing as I'm a writer, I figure I should read as much stuff from as diverse a group of writers possible. I had always known I'd have to get back to Dickens eventually: he's one of them thar classic writers, thus very important. I might not enjoy it but I'd just have to suck it up.

So, I grabbed a copy of his autobiographical novel David Copperfield and plunged in:

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show."

Holy shit. What a beautiful bit of phrasing. What an amazing first sentence. I was hooked. Although, before plunging into this heavy tome, I was worried that the vast scope would leave me confused—I knew I was bound to forget all the characters and the various ins and outs of the plot—never once did I have to thumb back to previous chapters to refresh my memory; never once was I dumbfounded; at every turn was I enthralled.

This was nothing like the dry slog I'd expected. In fact, not only was it eminently readable, not only was the style enchanting, but the book was a goddamn pleasure. Yes this was every bit the page-turner that all the snappy crime novels I read previously had been. Huh. I sure had this guy misjudged.

By the way, lest any of my twitter followers (why aren't you following me on twitter?) get confused as to why I wrote this post so long after finishing the novel, I should point out that the impetus came from a post in the AV Club on art that was not what the AV Clubbers expected. That's an interesting topic, I thought; I'll steal that.

I should also point out, though, a lot of art has been what I expected. As you'll know if you're following me on twitter (why aren't you following me on twitter?), I am now reading/loathing Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby Dick. The reason I started this book, aside from the desire to get all cultured and shit on classic literature, was that I thought I could've been wrong about Melville. When I was in high school, I suffered through the infinitely boring Billy Budd, and just assumed I'd never like any of this guy's writing. But now that I'm reading Moby Dick I can see how right I was.

Moral of the story: don't read anything ever.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Trailer Time: Burden of Dreams (1982)

dir. Les Blank


"Some critics feel that Herzog seeks out physical danger to test himself; Herzog insists he's a professional taking reasonable risks to create images no one has ever seen before. This time, however, the dangers were so extreme that he invited filmmaker Les Blank to shoot a documentary of Fitzcarraldo being made—as if he were afraid the documentary might be the only record of his epic adventure. Join with Herzog, Klaus Kinski, and 800 Peruvian Indians as they risk their lives and their sanity."
-Trailer Narrator

[Pictured: reasonable risk.]


Watching such early Herzog movies as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, made me respect Herzog; watching Burden of Dreams, made me think the man a genius/question his sanity.

[The trailer:]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

dir. Richard Press


"My dear, it’s not work; it’s pleasure."
-Bill Cunningham

I wanna write 'til I drop. I don't wanna write at my current pace; I wanna continually top myself. If my writing plateaus, it may as well be going backward. I don't ever wanna be inactive. Yeah, I'm a workaholic—if writing can be considered work, that is—but I think it's important to have a passion, and to remain active in the pursuit of that passion, no matter your age. I also think it's important to have inspirations, lest you lose your way and forget the joy of the pursuit.

As you know from the ode to Paul Erdos I included in my Sunset Blvd. review, this speed-adled mathematician is one of my biggest workaholism influences. Of course, I've got a thing for any oldster who continues creating well past retirement age. These people always inspire me. No matter what their fields, if smart people continue doing smart people things while other folks their age are hammocking it up, I know there's hope for me to do likewise.

Which is why I loved the hell out the documentary Bill Cunningham New York: a chronicling of 80-something fashion photagrapher Bill Cunningham. Now, I've never cared about fashion. I don't know from fashion. In fact, until I learned of this movie, I had never heard of Bill Cunningham. I still don't have an interest in fashion, but I love the hell out of Bill Cunningham. More importantly, I've got another active old folk to add to my inspiration list.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Because I Can't Wait for Prometheus

I'll post every damn Prometheus-related thing that gets thrown my way. Here is an extremely brief featurette that just dropped. But hey, it's something.

Trailer Time: Marathon Man (1976)

dir. John Schlesinger


"Is it safe?"
-Szell

Over the building sounds of an ominous drumbeat and high-pitched music/noise, an unsuspecting Dustin Hoffman casually walks through his apartment. Based on the obscured-by-door-in-the-foreground framing, we know that someone is surreptitiously watching Hoffman. When Hoffman notices, he opens his mouth: TIRE SCREECH—and what's this? a car chase. Holy shit, I got disoriented there. So jolting, yet seamless, is this cut that we are now instantly entranced. Holy shit, what's this movie about?

The music/noise sound continues to grow. A split-screen of three identical Hoffmans running down a highway. Against this, the title is inlaid: Marathon Man. Now, this is what I'm talking about.

From here, the trailer to John Schlessinger's Marathon Man takes a more or less rote approach to the form: characters recite seemingly important bits of dialogue, spiced up by random exciting shots. Nevertheless, as far as rote trailers go, this one is head and shoulders above the rest. It knows what it's doing and does so exceedingly well. Never revealing too much about the plot, this trailer, nevertheless, entrances throughout. It knows how to hold the audience's attention.

The only flaw comes at the very end, and it almost seems a joke. As I didn't yet mention, but which should have been obvious based on my love of the trailer, this thing stays narrator-free. Almost. Only at the very end, when the title is displayed again, does the narrator pointlessly, dickishly pipe in with a booming, "Marathon Man." Yes, it's basically the equivalent of a well-placed turd destroying an otherwise perfect ice cream sundae, but I kind of admire that about it. It almost seems purposeful; as if the trailer folks knew how mood-destroying a trailer narrator could be, and so decided to emphasize this by pointlessly throwing in a bit of it at the end of the trailer.

"Hey, studio, you wanted us to put a narrator in there; you thought the audience would be too stupid to understand this without the guiding hand of pointless talking? Well, we put it in there. And that's how stupid it sounds. Fuck you."

So, yeah, I think it's a joke, and for that I really dig it. Of course, had the pointless interjection of the narrator occurred near the beginning, I would likely have soured on the whole trailer.

By the way, unrelated to anything, but I forgot what terrific shape Hoffman was in for this movie. I'm not gonna lie; I'm kinda annoyed that, though Hoffman was seven years older than me when he made Marathon Man, he looked a decade younger.

[The trailer:]

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Endless Love (1981)

dir. Franco Zeffirelli


"Endless Love" - Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 41 - Solarbabies

dir. Alan Johnson


Roger Snead and I discuss the kid-friendly post-apocalyptic hell-scape movie Solarbabies. But mostly we talked about other stuff because this movie bored the hell out of us. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bed Sitting Room (1969)

dir. Richard Lester



Why didn’t I like The Bed Sitting Room? Everything was in favor of me liking this movie. I’ve always been a fan of British comedy. More so, I’ve always been a fan of Richard Lester. More so, I’ve always been a fan of Lester's frequent Python-esque stabs at surreal humor. More so—wait, Lester made a movie containing such Python forebears as Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and...and...oh, oh...

Goddamnit, I got jizz all over my keyboard. Now Lester's gonna have to come and clean this up. Why? Punishment for his movie failing to live up to my absurdly high expectations. The Bed Sitting Room has all the ingredients designed to tickle my funny bone—dark, end of the world humor: check; the already-mentioned participation of Lester et al.: check; Python-esque flights of fancy/absurdity/surrealism: super check—but everything about this movie just left me cold. I didn't laugh a once.

An end of the world comedy, The Bed Sitting Room is a mish-mash of various absurd characters dealing with life in a nuked England: a man is in the process of turning into a bed sitting room (by the way, British readers, is a bed sitting room an actual thing on your side of the pond, or is this just a random string of words); a woman, eighteen months into a pregnancy, ventures with her boyfriend and parents out of the London tube and into the wasteland above; two bureaucrats hover about in a blimp, making sure that the various folks they encounter keep a move on, lest the now-non-existent enemy gets the better of them; and Spike Milligan shows up intermittently to be silly.

Again, as I said before, I couldn't figure out why this movie left me cold. Maybe it's just too British, and thus over my yank head. But that can't be it. As mentioned already, plenty of super-Brit stuff has left me rolling with laughter. Maybe, it's a time thing: comedy is specific not only to cultures but to eras. What one generation finds funny may be dreadfully boring to the next. But that can't be it. There are plenty of comedies much older than this movie—any early Marx Brothers movie, for instance—that I still find rip-roaringly funny. Maybe the slipshod let's-string-a-bunch-of-sketches-together plotting left me cold. But that can't be it. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life is just a series of sketches, and I always laugh at that. What could it be?

One tangible fault that I could find with the movie, was the obtrusive score. Not a scene went by that wasn't accompanied by bombastic comedy music. That was certainly a bummer. But still, I can't say this alone would account for my tepid response to the movie. Maybe it's just one of those inexplicable things. Some things work; others don't.

I should note that I ain't the only to feel this way about The Bed Sitting Room. Indeed, this movie was such a box office bomb that Lester couldn't get work again for about four years. Speaking of which, from a marketing standpoint, I don't know that it's the best idea to announce on your poster (in bigger font than the title, no less), "We've got a bomb on our hands." Is it any wonder that this movie...um, you know, didn't do well. (You thought I was gonna say bomb, didn't you? Dangnabit, I just went ahead and said it.)

All in all, I appreciate the effort of this silly film. Audacious in almost every respect, The Bed Sitting Room is basically the absurd, silly, social-critique satire take on Peter Watkins' infinitely depressing The War Game. And for that I applaud it; I just wish I liked it.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

John Cleese on the Dick Cavett Show

Yes, I love me some Dick Cavett. And I also love me some John Cleese. Here's the two of them together for an interview during the time of Life of Brian's release. Enjoy.

[Note: The interview starts about three minutes in.]


I'm not gonna embed all six parts but you can watch part 2 here.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trailer Time: Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960)

dir. Bill Karn


"She became the most cold-blooded killer to lead a gang in modern times—buying her brood more murder time with blood money."
-Trailer Narrator

People often ask me (they don't; but for the sake of this post I'll say they do) what attracts me to exploitation pictures. Well, many things do, but complete disregard for three-dimensional characters is certainly a big draw. Exploitation characters can't be one-note enough as far as I'm concerned: which is why I love the shit out of Ma Barker's Killer Brood. In fact, to say the characters in this movie are one-dimensional is not only an insult to the one-dimensional characters we've come to know and love from sitcoms of old, but also to the number one—as well as the very idea of dimensions. These characters are negative dimensional.

And none more so than the titular Ma Barker herself. Never have I seen a character so single-minded, so dogged in her pursuit of malevolence. When Ma's husband suggests that training their children to steal money from the church collection plate might not be completely ethical, she dresses down her pointless-excuse-for-a-human husband for trying to raise sissies. And that's just in the first couple scenes. She gets oh so worse from there.

People looking for fully-developed characters with well-realized arcs, best look elsewhere. This movie ain't cotton to that sissy shit.

As is to be expected, with the Ma Barker trailer you get only but the slightest taste of this bad mama's cruel demon heart. But, oh, isn't it so enticing. You wanna watch the movie now; don't you? Don't you?

[The Trailer]

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Parking Lot Movie (2010)

dir. Meghan Eckman


$2 Late fees. I could never for the life of me understand why privileged Manhattan-ites went into coniption fits over $2 late fees. Haggling with these patrons over the fees was less about the money than it was about the, "are you fucking kidding me? Your condescending motherfucking ass makes more in a year than I'll make in my life and you're giving me fucking grief over two goddamn dollars?"

Whoa. Where did that come from? A little flashback there. Not that my timid self ever hurled such invective at customers; but these thoughts certainly ran through my head when dealing with entitled patrons during my two-year stint at the fabled, now closed, Manhattan video store Movie Place.

If anything, these encounters instilled in me a conviction that everyone should be required to work at least a year in a customer service position. How else, as a society, can we ensure the prevention of assholism? Just as a teenager must take Drivers Ed and sit through gruesome auto fatality docs before getting a license, so too should over-privileged folks wallow in the daily degradation that is a thankless service position, before entering society. Sure, I'm sure there are a few people out there who naturally empathize with others and wouldn't think of treating clerks like dog-shit, but most people know fuck-all about proper etiquette—or at the very least dealing with people like human goddamn beings. So yeah, service positions for rich kids.

Either that or they can just watch the documentary The Parking Lot Movie. The Parking Lot Movie is a movie about a parking lot. More specifically, it centers on the indignities suffered by the hyper-intellectual employees—past and present—of a kooky parking lot near the UVA campus. So it goes without saying that I certainly had my share of flashbacks while watching Eckman's film. Of course, I ain't nearly as smart as most of the folks in this film; but I could relate.

About the movie...actually, that's about all there is to it. Despite its strengths The Parking Lot Movie is nevertheless marred by the lack of an arc or narrative focus; which, though not necessarily necessary for a documentary, would nevertheless have livened up this other-wise monotonous series of "can you fucking believe this" stories. Anyone who's had to deal with the indignites of customer service will sure as hell relate. Anyone else—I don't give a shit; you should learn. Get a goddamn service job.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 40 - Eye of the Tiger

Richard C. Sarafian


Roger Snead and I discuss the Gary Busey-starring revenge flick Eye of the Tiger. And I dare say this is one of the most entertaining episodes we've recorded. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Railroaded (1947)

dir. Anthony Mann


I continued with trepidation at the site of the PRC logo. I've got much respect for this Poverty Row studio, particularly for giving a home to low-budget maestro Edgar G. Ulmer; but PRC was, nevertheless, also home to all manner of blandly produced filler pictures. Yes, Anthony Mann's directorial credit on Railroaded was promising, but this was an early effort from the future auteur: no knowing what to expect.

Of course, I was wrong to worry. Mann's adept cinematic hand and efficient storytelling chops belie the meager means with which he crafted Railroaded. A tale as old as time (at least so far as noirs are concerned), Railroaded concerns the efforts of Rosie Ryan (Sheila Ryan) to clear the name of her brother Steve (Ed Kelly), wrongfully convicted as a cop-killer. It seems that wounded stickup man Cowie Kowalski, unwilling to drop a dime on actual cop-killer accomplice Duke Martin (John Ireland), fingered (not like that) poor sap Steve. Now, Rosie must convince sympathetic (meaning, he wants to bang her) cop Mickey Ferguson (Hugh "Stop calling me Ward Cleaver" Beaumont).

Although containing a typical noir plot, this 72 minute picture does show the promise that would later flourish in the career of Mann. The man had an impeccable eye: his brilliant chiaroscuro lighting ensured that the flimsy sets were always out of sight—and, also, like, made the images totally more dramatic and stuff. And the camera frequently glides through the spaces, implying a sense of grandeur that would have otherwise been absent.

Railroaded is also notable in the depiction of its female characters. I need not state yet again the status of women in noirs; but I will. As you know, women were mostly relegated to either femme fatale roles or, their inverse, the virginal saints—the women you could take home to mother. Although, on the surface, Railroaded doesn't seem to diverge from this dichotomy—Rosie is contrasted with the crooked Clara Calhoun, a woman in cahoots with the cop killers—things get muddled (in an interesting way) as the movie proceeds.

We soon see that, despite her wicked ways, Clara is ultimately powerless. She helps put away Steve, but only because she fears her fate were she to cross Duke. When Clara is guilted into submission by Ferguson, she relents and agrees to tell the truth, the truth that will set free Steve. For this she is murdered. Good girl Rosie, meanwhile, takes an active hand in investigating the real killers, putting herself in danger every step of the way. When she does finally get the dirt to bring down Duke, Ferguson comes in to help, gets the credit, and takes Rosie as his wife. No more adventuring for this gal.

In this way, Railroaded subtly recognized the fragile position women maintained in postwar America: after entering the work-force in record numbers during World War II, women were expected to submit and return home with the war's end. They had to accept their shitty station in life. Interesting subtext for a second-bill potboiler.

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Apr. 9)

Just a reminder once again that tonight I will be showing Birdemic for my monthly movie night at The Way Station in Brooklyn.

Now that that's out of the way, here are some of my favorite blog posts from the past week.

CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind wrote a really nice piece about balancing a personal life with blogging.

From A Life in Equinox, Ryan explains his blogging absence.

Over at She Blogged By Night a review of The Seventh Sin.

From justAtad a great piece on TV vs. film.

And from flixchatter a review of The Omen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Trailer Time: Raging Bull (1980)

dir Martin Scorsese


Anyone who regularly follows my blog or podcast is no doubt aware by now that biopics and I are not friends. Though not necessarily my most hated genre, these films nevertheless rely far too heavily on some of my most hated cliches. Scrappy underdog overcomes huge obstacle (prejudice, disability, poverty, or inability to eat a lot) to become a renowned public figure (athlete, musician, artist, or competitive eater) only to be undone by a fatal flaw (drug addiction, sex addiction, alcoholism, or eating too much), which is then overcome with the help of (estranged friend, religion, renewed dedication to craft, or Col. Sanders) leaving our lovable hero a stronger person for it. No matter the public figure fictionalized in one of these pictures, the movie will always be the same. Seen one, seen 'em all.

With Raging Bull, Scorsese bucked most of these awful biopic trends. Most importantly, no attempt was made on the part of Robert De Niro's fictionalized Jake LaMotta to ingratiate himself to the audience. He is a piece of shit when we meet him and then things really get bad. During his boxing years the only sorts of penance that will sate LaMotta's (well earned) guilt are the ritualized beatings he allows himself to receive in the ring. When he loses this outlet, things really tailspin. Not only does this self-destructive, paranoid bundle of violence destroy his own life, he alienates all of those closest to him. LaMotta ain't appealing; he's goddamn despicable.

Is Raging Bull the easiest movie to sit through? Hell no. But that's why I like this movie: It's one of the few biopics that ain't easy. Here's one protagonist you don't want to root for.

Oh yeah, I probably should have talked about the trailer. What do you want me to say? It's really good. You should watch it.

[The trailer:]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

As If You Needed Another Reason to Love The Wire


Perhaps the only complaint ever lobbed at The Wire by serious critics was that the show lacked distinct visuals. It was derided for a lack of style, visual panache: utilitarian in nature the camerawork simply told the story in the simplest manner possible. Now, although I have always found these complaints unfounded, I waited until now to mention that the visual style of The Wire has always been underrated.

Why now, you ask? Because Norwegian academic Erlend Lavik did all the heavy lifting for me, crafting the below-embedded video detailing the distinct visual style employed by David Simon's production team when crafting my favorite TV show of all time. What many people saw as flat and boring in The Wire's visuals, was in fact an attempt to mimic the style of documentary filmmaking—in particular, the work of Frederick Wiseman (one of my favorite documentary filmmakers).

I've always had an idea that this is what Simon was going for, but so many of the techniques he employed, I'll admit, flew over my head until I watched Erlend's video. For instance, Simon never wanted the camera to know more than the viewers; it couldn't anticipate action. And so, in dialogue scenes for instance, the camera never moved to a character until after he or she started talking—as if, as in a documentary, the events were spontaneous, the cameraman just trying to catch whatever he could on film.

But why are you still reading this? Watch Erlend's thoroughly researched and beautifully constructed video to get a better idea.

Style in The Wire from Erlend Lavik on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trailer Time: The Big Lebowski (1998)

dir. Joel and Ethan Coen


I chuckled only once the first time I watched The Big Lebowski. Walter Sobchak, intent on intimidating (so as to glean information from) the son of a prolific TV-writer, smashes a sports car he assumes belongs to the spoiled, stonewallin' prick—cries of "Do you see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass?" interrupting his tire-iron thrusts. When the car's actual owner catches him in the act, he swipes the weapon from Walter and subjects what-he-assumes-to-be-Walter's-but-is-actually-Walter's-friend-The-Dude's car to a similar treatment. Well that was amusing, I thought; some funny physical comedy.

However, coming on the heels of Fargo—one of my favorite movies at that point—I felt mostly let down by The Big Lebowski. I knew it was supposed to be a comedy, but, the car-smashing scene excepted, it never really amused me. It certainly came nowhere near producing the laughing-so-hard-I-couldn't-breathe convulsions I had when watching Raising Arizona the first time. Man, they really dropped the ball on this one.

I mean, I knew it was supposed to be a comedy because the trailer was so strange, so absurd, so bizarre, in an intentionally comedic manner. A collage-montage of the various wacky imagery contained in the movie, this exquisitely crafted trailer really floored me. (Incidentally, this is the trailer that introduced to me the beautiful artistry that has become synonymous with the Coens' trailers.) It also, as I said already, led me to believe this would be a comedy. I mean, for fuck's sake, the trailer ends with two men polishing their balls (tee hee).

OK, I thought, maybe I should give this movie another chance. This is the Coens after all. All their previous movies were brilliant. I was probably wrong on this one.

So I watched it again, and, holy shit, was I wrong. Could it be, dare I thought, as funny as Raising Arizona? Maybe, I daresaid, yes. What happened between these two viewings? How did I flip-flop so quickly? That's where science comes in.

I'm sure you've heard about this by know, but there were studies in the last few years showing that knowledge of a book's plot and twists will not only not hinder our enjoyment of the book, these spoilers will actually increase our enjoyment of the work. Judging from my experience with The Big Lebowski (anecdotal evidence is scientific, right?), I'll have to agree. When I first saw this movie, most of the humor flew over my head because I was too busy making sense of the intricate Chandler-esque plot. When I watched it again, when my brain no longer had to work overtime deciphering the ins and outs of this rug-pissing story, I could enjoy things I took no notice of the first time. Different parts of my brain were now functioning. (OK, this probably isn't the proper scientific explanation. I didn't read the whole article, just glanced at the findings. Hey, I ain't a scientician.)

Moral of the story: I ain't as much of a hardon any more about having shit spoiled for me. I've realized that I don't really give a shit about whether such and such character is revealed as (gasp) the actual hero or villain of a story; or who is actually responsible for setting in motion an elaborate scheme, or who is ultimately rewarded for the completion of said scheme. Plot mechanics ain't what I take home from a story; it's the way characters deal with their situations that I care about. The journey's all that matters.

[The trailer:]

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: The Towering Inferno (1974)

dir. John Guillermin


"We May Never Love Like This Again" - Maureen McGovern

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 39 - The Raid: Redemption (and Roger Ebert)

dir. Gareth Evans



Roger Snead and I discuss the Indonesian martial arts film The Raid: Redemption. We then segue into a conversation on Roger Ebert's response to the movie. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blind Spot Series: Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

dir. Agnes Varda


I'll admit it: I can be a pretentious fucker at times. Well, pretentious may not be the right word for what I am—what I mean to say is, I want people to think me more knowledgeable than I really am. I'm an intellectual phony and am afraid folks will learn the truth. Granted, this proclivity of mine ain't as severe as it once was: I at least recognize it now. It probably stems from some sort of inferiority complex of sorts; who knows? But I do recognize it.

Which brings me to this blind spot series. How so, you ask. This so: When I decided to tackle this project, my decision was partly an attempt to redress my annoying habit of feigning knowledgability. I wanted to say, I'm a self-proclaimed movie geek and yet there are many obvious, well-known movies out there that I, shockingly, have not seen. (which should be a given, really. I'm 32; there are far more movies available than there have been hours in my life to watch them.)

And yet, I couldn't avoid the intellectual phoniness trap, even in this so-called attempt at humility. Yes, many of the movies I tackled, or will tackle, are shockingly obvious, well-known pictures most people would have seen or at least heard of. Still, I had to include some highly regarded art pictures that are unrecognizable to the general public—and perhaps none more so than Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7.

Cleo from 5 to 7, though well-known and regarded among cineastes, is foreign—in every sense—to the modern American movie-goer. There are probably plenty of more famous blind spot movies that I could've included but didn't because I didn't want this series to be too embarrassing for me. It is almost as if I wanted to say (subconsciously, yes), you see, folks, I've seen so many movies, I had to cruise early sixties French art pictures to find one I hadn't seen.

Now that that bit of self-flagellation is out of the way, I should say that I'm glad I chose this picture. It is one that's been on my list for some time, anyway; so I was glad to have finally watched it. Told mostly in real time, Varda's breakthrough Cleo from 5 to 7 details two hours in a pop star's life as she anxiously awaits medical test results. So, yeah, this movie is basically 24—just replace ode to torture with woman worrying about cancer.

I should note that Cleo from 5 to 7 isn't the first foray into real-time storytelling—Rope, The Set-Up and High Noon are notable forebears—but it certainly gets points for experimenting with the form. Whereas the previous experiments are plot-driven exercises in which the real-time gimmick is driven by a time-limit mechanism within the plot, Cleo from 5 to 7 examines the minutiae of two hours in a woman's life as she awaits medical news. Not much plot to speak of here. This is a docu-styled slice-of-life picture in the best sense.

Cleo from 5 to 7 stuns with its, for lack of a better word, realness. So many notes here ring true. I'm most certain that most of the docu-styled outdoor shots are stolen. When Cleo walks down a busy street, Varda treats us to POV shots, the camera gliding past and staring at passers-by. The reactions of these people, as they stare back at the camera, are so genuine that they could not have been faked. Of course, given Cleo's status as a pop-star, it is natural other folks would stare at her (when staring at the camera) so. Thus, through this subjective film-making, we are put into Cleo's head.

Clearly influenced by fellow New Wavers, Varda also experiments with style: funky, intuitive non-linear editing. Many cuts, such as quick flashbacks and subjective shots, stem not from any sort of narrative imperatives but rather are pyschologically motivated. This again furthers the subjective, point-of-view style, putting us in the head of our protagonist Cleo.

That being said, much of what happens in Cleo from 5 to 7 is on the periphery. We continually eavesdrop, along with Cleo, on the mundane conversations of those around her. When Cleo—lost in her thoughts, weighted by the knowledge that she might have cancer—does finally connect and open up about her feelings it is with a complete stranger, a man she meets in the park. He, a soldier about to leave for Algiers, is similarly weighted by heavy thoughts. I was particularly struck by Varda's understanding of human psychology in this section. Sometimes, when we feel that the world is crushing us, the only time we can express our true feelings is under the cover of anonymity, emptying our feelings on complete strangers we're sure never to see again.

All in all, so worth the watch. Cleo from 5 to 7 is also, incidentally, the first movie I've covered in my blind spot series I've been able to love, to endorse, without any caveats. For that, it (though I haven't necessarily been ranking the pictures up to now) wins my blind spot series. For now. Top Gun is coming up, after all.

[Holy shit, this trailer is fucking rad.]


Dave's Rating:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Apr. 2)

Hey, folks, it's time once again to share with you some of my favorite blog work from this past week. Also, not to bombard you with shameless plugs for myself, but I just wanted to remind you that on April 15 at The Way Station in Brooklyn, I will be showing one of my favorite bad movies, Birdemic. Please come if you like fun.

From Man, I Love Films, a great piece on book-to-movie adaptations.

From Ferdy on Films a piece on the movie collaborations of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

At tdylf, a piece about watching Titanic and Avatar despite having no desire to do so.

From Big Thoughts from a Small Mind a post about a great scene from Wall-E.

And from Cinematic Corner an appreciation of Michael Fassbender.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Defense of Noisy Audiences

As anyone who follows me on Twitter is aware, I saw the Indonesian action flick The Raid: Redemption yesterday. Seeing as Roger and I are going to record a podcast episode on the movie (hopefully dropping Tuesday, depending on when we can record), I'll forego an analysis of the film; but in case you're wondering, I really liked it.

One thing I didn't like, however, was the near-empty theater. Of course, seeing as I went to the earliest matinee available, I should have known there'd be next to no one there. But that's just something I didn't really think about beforehand. I had other shit to do during the day, so I went to the only screening I could fit into my schedule—because I'm a busy, important man. So, when the theater was nearly empty, I felt a little let down: if any movie warranted a crowded, raucous audience, it was this pulpy actioner.

Yes, yes, being a movie geek, I should fall in line with the conventional wisdom that when it comes to theater-goers noisy=bad. Well, I'm sorry, quiet audiences just ain't my thing...in certain cases, anyway. I'll grant that serious, quiet, somber, and/or artistic movies are usually marred by shouts of, "hey, bitch, show us your tits" but even in those instances, I can't agree completely.

Although I was annoyed that a loud, impatient audience took me out of Drive, I was strangely fascinated with tracking their vociferous reaction to the movie. What I'm saying is, in these loud-audiences-at-serious-pictures instances, where you lose in getting lost in the movie, you gain in getting a new experience, a story that you will no doubt repeat ad nauseam to your uninterested friends.

("And let me tell you—"

"Frank, you told me this story before."

"I don't think I—I didn't even say what story it was."

"It's about that time you saw Cache and the homeless man threw an Olde English at the screen."

"No that's not—"

"It's your only story."

"No I was gonna talk about...how...well...when I went to see...The White Ribbon and the...hobo threw a...Colt 45...at the...um...uh...usher."

"The usher?"

"Yeah."

"So you went back in time to 1937 to watch a movie from 2009?"

"Yes.")

My point being that, in this time of declining theater attendance, when folks have so many other options, why not push the communal aspect of movie-going. When I host my movie screenings at the Way Station in Brooklyn (next screening: Birdemic on April 15th), for instance, I encourage people to talk during the pictures. It's as much, if not more, about the communal experience as it is about the movie watching.

I'm here to say, embrace the loud, no matter what the movie. Connect with your fellow movie-goers. Create an experience. Make the theater visit worthwhile.

(Note: This rambling, tangential post may have been partially or completely in jest (to be honest, I don't even know). Hey, someone's gotta play devil's advocate. Seriously, though, all joking aside, if you act up while I'm trying to get lost in a serious movie, I will fucking end you.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 38 - The Apple

dir. Menahem Golan



Roger Snead and I discuss The Apple, the mind-bogglingly bizarre, so-bad-it's-transcendent musical from Menahem Golan of Cannon Pictures. (Note: In this episode I said that Menahem Golan didn't speak English. What I should've said was that the original songwriters weren't fluent in English—which is why George Clinton (no, not that George Clinton) was brought in to rewrite the songs. I suppose my error's to be expected when my podcast "research" consists of quickly glancing at Wikipedia entries before recording.) You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Trailer time: Blow Out (1981)

dir. Brian De Palma


De Palma again? Yes, you're no doubt saying, we get the point; you think his movies groovy. Enough with the De Palma. Aren't there other directors you like?

Well, yes there are, but right now I feel like giving you some more De Palma. Though my favorite De Palma picture changes all the time, Phantom of the Paradise and Blow Out usually spend the most time at the top of the list. Phantom of the Paradise...well, I've already devoted plenty of space here extolling the virtues of De Palma's rock musical. Blow Out, though, I can't remember ever discussing. It's a shame because this may very well be his most finely crafted piece. A remake of sorts of both Antonioni's Blow-up and Coppola's The Conversation, Blow Out just happens to feature John Travolta's finest performance. I would review the movie here but I haven't watched it in a while. Perhaps another time. Or maybe a future podcast episode.

Anyway, Blow Out's trailer falls into the same trap in which many another older trailer became ensnared: It is a genuinely thrilling, expertly edited piece marred by unnecessary narration. Too bad.

[The trailer:]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Best Worst Movie (2009)

dir. Michael Stephenson


"Mostly, I’ve wasted my life. I always felt I had kind of potential, but I never did use it. Don’t know. More or less I’ve frittered my life away, but then what else is there to do with a life but fritter it away."
-Robert Ormsby

It was rather happenstance, but quite opportune, that I decided to review Best Worst Movie so soon after announcing Birdemic—my favorite bad movie—as my next choice for movie night at The Way Station. Best Worst Movie, you see, is a documentary on the cult surrounding the awesomely bad Troll 2. Although I don't necessarily agree with Troll 2's moniker as the best worst movie, it is certainly a sincere failure; so I gotta give it points for that. As I've said before, above all else a bad movie must be heartfelt for me to take interest. So Troll 2 succeeds (fails?) with flying colors.

With Best Worst Movie, Michael Stephenson (child "star" of Troll 2) poses the question: How do you confront the infamy of association with one of the worst movies ever made? Well, there's really only two options: denial or embrace. George Hardy (the dad in Troll 2) opts for the latter. Initially embarrassed by his participation in Claudio Fragasso's hilariously insane Troll 2, Hardy eventually decides to stake his name to Troll 2's infamy.

And he has fun with it...initially. Screening after screening, convention after convention, Hardy's enthusiasm for the film begins to wane. He realizes that he has grown to love the spotlight and is now unsure how he should feel about that. Maybe he always wanted to be a star. He chose his current career, dentistry, as a means of stability; and though this ebullient man is happy fixing teeth, part of him wonders "what if." The ironic adulation he receives now for Troll 2 is a reminder of the dream he abandoned, the other career that could have been.

Though mostly a light-hearted documentary, Best Worst Movie is tinged with sadness. Of course (because I always gotta bring it back to me), I couldn't help but think of my own artistic struggles while watching this movie. Should I have opted to forego a stable job, instead devoting all of my time toward my true passion? Would I have had the courage to be a starving artist? Would it have paid off? Will my current path pay off? Time will tell if I've made the right decision.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

dir. Ronald Neame


"The Morning After" - Maureen McGovern

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rear Window Betterified

Alright, this is just really fucking cool. As most of y'all know, I've got me a thing for Hitchcock. And though my favorite Hitchcock picture is always changing, Rear Window usually ends up in at least the top five. So I was really excited when I found out that special effects guy Jeff Desom went and did an awesome thing with Rear Window. Using all kinds of technological gizmos, doodads, and what have yous (science talk here), Jeff went and made a time-lapse composite image of the adjacent apartment buildings, as seen from creepy peeper Jimmy Stewart's rear window (hey, that's the name of the movie). I have no idea how time consuming such a task must have been for Jeff, but I applaud the effort.

Ain't technology grand?

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 37 - Lethal Weapon (and Mad Men)

dir. Richard Donner


My brother John and I discussed the classic buddy cop movie Lethal Weapon. We also somehow ended up discussing Mad Men at length. Don't worry, though, if you don't want to listen to our Mad Men discussion I moved it to the end of the episode. If you would like to listen to our Mad Men discussion, wait until the outro music finishes. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Gun Runners (1958)

dir. Don Siegel


If ever anyone deserved the title Goddamn Badass American Hero®, it was WWII soldier and subsequent movie star Audie Murphy. You want an idea, the kind of heroism we're talking about? Here's an entry from Wikipedia on just one of Murphy's many moments in badassery:

The next day, January 26 (the temperature was 14 °F (−10 °C) with 24 inches (61 cm) of snow on the ground), his unit participated in the battle at Holtzwihr, France. 48°7′21.99″N 7°15.27′40″E After fighting for some time, Murphy's unit was reduced to an effective strength of 19 out of 128. Murphy sent all of the remaining men to the rear while he shot at the Germans with his M1 carbine until he ran out of ammunition. He then climbed aboard an abandoned, burning M10 tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to cut down the German infantry, including one full squad of German infantry who crawled in a ditch to within 100 feet (30 m) of his position. He was able to call in artillery fire using a land-line telephone and, under heavy fire, was wounded in the leg. He nonetheless continued his nearly single-handed battle for almost an hour. He only stopped fighting when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by enemy artillery. As his remaining men moved forward, he quickly organized them into a counter-attack which ultimately drove the enemy from Holtzwihr. For these actions, Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor.

When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, "They were killing my friends.

And this is what the guy looked like.

[Yep, Beaver Cleaver. By the way, couldn't they find a helmet that fit the guy?]

Moral of the story: All of that macho, he-man, roided superman nonsense we're so used to from the action stars of our youth—Stallone, Schwarzenneger, et al.—was naught but posturing bullshit. Turns out you didn't have to spend half your life at the gym, count calories, and sculpt perfect abs to win actual real life battles. Phony tough guy bullshit counted for shit in the field.

And of Audie's film persona, I've always felt the man exhibited an "aw shucks" Beaver Cleaver style (again with the Leave it to Beaver reference?) that belied his jerry-killing prowess. Sure, back in WWII, he was a one-man army capable of single-handedly destroying entire squads of advancing Germans; but in his acting roles, ironically, I never bought him as a tough guy. Again, back to my 80s action hero point: Posturing tough guy strutting ain't the way to get shit done; getting shit done is the way to get shit done.

As you can see, Murphy fascinates me. Though I ain't necessarily a fan of his acting, I'll always seek out his work. And so when I found out he starred in The Gun Runners, the third adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not (directed by Don Siegel, one of my pantheon directors, incidentally), I knew I had to see what this unassuming actor would bring to the adaptation of a novel by the epitome of tough guy posturing, Hemingway. (Unfortunately, I haven't seen Howard Hawks' superb version of To Have and Have Not in damn near a decade, so I'm a little fuzzy on the details of his picture. If you came to this piece hoping for a comparison between Siegel and Hawks' pictures, my apologies for disappointing you. Also, I don't care what you want; I'm giving you what I damn want.)

Verdict: More of the same from Murphy; and as of the story, pretty much more of the same. One crucial difference, however: Siegel moved the action from Hawks' Vichy France to the Key West and Cuba setting of Hemingway's novel. But The Gun Runners does have a few things going for it: namely, the depiction of a happy marriage between Murphy's Sam and Patricia Owen's Lucy. As you'll remember from Hawks' version, most of the movie's appeal stemmed from the steamy budding romance both of the stars Bogart and Bacall, and the characters they portrayed in the film.

As you'll know from watching damn near any action (or, really, any genre) flick, the stories always feature, at least tangentially, steamy budding romances between two hot young things. If the story does happen to feature a healthy marriage, the wife is usually nothing more than a plot device—someone to be taken hostage by the bad guy so our hero can get from point A to point B.

So I was pleasantly surprised that Siegel chose to portray his leads as a happy couple well into a strong marriage—and no chance of the wife becoming a mere plot device. Now I'm not saying that I'm a boring person (though I am one) who prefers filmic depictions of stable relationships to steamy, tempestuous rutting. What am I fan of is unconventional. And whereas long term relationships are (or at least used to be) the norm in everyday life, we rarely see them depicted in film. Movies always opt for the exciting beginning (or end) of these things. Never the middle.

So Sam and Lucy's relationship was a revelation. Indeed, much of the banter between the two felt quite genuine. When, after scoring some blood money, Sam takes Lucy to a seedy dive to celebrate, the two engage in a little light-hearted role-playing: Sam pretending he's cheating on his wife with his wife. I'd be a liar were I not to admit I was a little charmed. So, though the majority of The Gun Runners rarely deviates from typical espionage/action shenanigans, the Sam/Lucy relationship was enough to elevate the picture.

Oh, also, you get to see Eddie "Oliver Wendell Douglas" Albert shirtless a bunch in this movie. (Note: I would include a screenshot of the shirtless Green Acres star, but inclusion of an image of Albert's raw, unbridled masculinity would render this post pornographic.)

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Mar. 26)

Hey all, it's Sunday, so it's time once again to share with you some of my favorite work from other bloggers this week.

A piece from the always great Anomalous Material on book to screen adaptations.

A piece from Lauren at Man, I Love Films on becoming a cinephile.

An entertaining infographic from tdylf on how to make a baseball movie.

A great piece from Ferdy on Films on one of my favorite silent pictures, Sunrise.

At Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, a review of one of my favorite car chase movies, Vanishing Point.