Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

John Cleese on Letterman

Yes, I love watching old interviews on youtube. And you should too. Check out this 1983 Letterman initerview of John Cleese in which the Python discusses the upcoming Meaning of Life.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Louie - "New Year's Eve"

And so Louie continues its reign as the preeminent scholar of all things loneliness. Actually, with last night's episode, Louie has shown that any other attempts to document this subject would prove pointless. It was so thorough an exploration of the subject that it, honestly, put to shame even previous episodes' efforts to explore loneliness. It's one thing to show our hero eat himself into a shame/sadness coma; it's quite another entirely to watch a flash-forward dream of his daughters lamenting the fact that they were cursed to be raised by such a lonely sad-sack. Everything about this episode was a punch in the gut.

With last night's episode Louie also proved one of the best jugglers of tone on the television landscape. After so many scenes of loneliness, it was a relief to see Louie dust himself off and make an effort to make an effort. He was gonna visit Mexico with his sister's family. And wouldn't you know it, Liz just happened to be at JFK as well. Oh what happenstance. I honestly got excited to see them embrace.

Well, almost embrace. When Liz's nose started gushing blood, I was so startled by the horrifying image that I thought this another dream sequence. No, this shit was real. And so we had an emotional send-off to Parker Posey's character. Not that any of the other doctor's in the hospital are aware. They are all just happy to run off and watch the New Year's ball drop. But such is life: we are all just side characters in other folks' life stories.

But then we get to China. Now I just wanna point out that I've heard some complaints throughout the run of this series that Louie has an unfortunate tendency to venture into sappy schmaltz territory. I've never been one of those complainers because I've always felt that most of the emotional moments on this show have been well-earned, but I can understand if people aren't in to that sort of thing. If the China finale didn't move you, however, fuck you.

After a harrowing series of events, Louie decides to go to China. After arriving, he tries to find directions to the Yangtze River: it seemed such a magical, happy place in the story he read to his daughter. But then he gets there (maybe) and sees that it's naught but a small stream. Even this proves a disappointment—that is, until he finds the happy family that is only too happy to invite him to dinner.I'm not gonna lie, the sight of Louie connecting with this family—especially after such a long series of depressing moments—left me bawling like a child. Louie is rarely afforded moments of victory on this show, but when they occur they really strike a chord.

Jesus Christ, how can a comedy make me cry this much?

Random Notes:

OK, this episode settles it, this has been the best season of Louie to date. Period.

When I was a wee tyke, my parents bought me a Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel for Christmas. The night before they stayed up late carefully placing all of the numerous stickers on the trike. When I got it, the first thing I did was peel off all the stickers. I was an asshole.

A lot of things get thrown out of windows on this show: water bottles, rugs, Christmas trees.

That was some great REM acting from Louis.

Now this next thing I'm kinda reluctant to bring up because I already reveal way too much of myself on this blog, and it's so relevant to this episode that you'll think I'm making it up. But here goes, anyway. Last night I had a dream that took place a couple decades in the future. In it, my siblings, their spouses and fully grown children were gathered for a family reunion. I arrived alone and was then asked why I never amounted to anything in my life, why I was still stuck in a dead-end job. I immediately woke myself up. I miss the kinds of nightmares I had when I was a kid; monsters chasing me through haunted houses was so much more fun. (By the way, just so people don't worry, I'm really not as much of a lonely depressive person as this story would make it seem. I'm honestly a generally happy person. I brought it up only because it was shocking that I had this dream the night before seeing this episode.)

I can't remember if any of the previous sisters who've appeared on this show were named Debbie. Meaning, was Amy Poehler (Yay, Amy Poehler, by the way) playing a new sister, or was this another case of using a different actress to play the same role?

Random Quotes:

"Shit on my father’s balls."

"Are you all by yourself?"
"Do you have to say, ‘all?’ Can’t I just be by myself?"

"Yo, is this the funny man?...Funny man, listen up, we’re taking the kids down to Mexico."
"Now I got you a first class ticket out of that left wing Kennedy airport."

"Hi, Jane, it’s so great to see you."
"We’re grownups."

"Why didn’t he try harder to be less alone? How are we gonna know when we get to be this age, not to be alone?"
"We’re probably kinda fucked up from having that kind of a dad."

"Go ahead and put that gun in your mouth."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 72 - John Woo American Style, Louie, and Breaking Bad

On today's bonus episode my brother John and I discuss some American John Woo films, our differing tastes in comedy, and the shows Louie and Breaking Bad. You can listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hard Target (1993)

dir. John Woo

I had quite the crisis while watching John Woo's American debut Hard Target. Before I get into any of that, however, I wanna point out that this is the first of Woo's American pictures I've seen. I've long been a fan of the man's Hong Kong output (The Killer, Hard Boiled), so, given the reputation of his American films, I've always been reluctant to give these films a shot.

Fortunately, Netflix made the decision for me, releasing Hard Target, Broken Arrow, and Face/Off on their streaming service. I had no choice. And now that I've made it through my first, what do I think?

Well, yes, Van Damme has a killer mullet, but—What? Not a good enough vantage? Here's another look (note the relative levels of  party/business mobility):

Still confused about Van Damme's top-to-back hair-mobility ratio?

But where was I? Yes, Woo. Well...I enjoyed Hard Target. In fact, it left me downright giddy. But the thing is, I laughed through most of it. And I don't think humor was Woo's intention. I mean, aside from the ludicrous The Most Dangerous Game-inspired plot (Lance Henriksen hunts man; Van Damme objects), the hilarious datedness (if Van Damme's hairstyle didn't clue you into the movie's era, the screaming guitars will), I also found Woo's techniques downright silly. And the film-making tools Woo employed here are no different than those he perfected in his Hong Kong films—Slo-mo: check; sideways-falling double-gun shoot-outs: check.

So, why was I awed by his Hong Kong pictures but left in a severe case of the giggle fits while watching this?

Well, OK, Van Damme the snake puncher was a bit silly and beneath Woo, but I'm not gonna dwell on that.

Fine, yes, Van Damme also bites the rattle off a rattler. But, like I said, I'm not gonna dwell on the snake shenanigans.

Seriously, no more. Anyway, why the different reactions to these otherwise similar films? I haven't seen the Hong Kong pictures in at least ten years. Could they, dare I say, not be as good as I remember? Have Woo's techniques just been so co-opted by the mainstream as to become not only run-of-the-mill, but also hilariously cliched? Or did I, at my younger age, simply over-value the earlier Woo pictures just because they were in a foreign language? Simply, was I too quick to give those pictures undue praise simply for their non-American-ness? Isn't Hard Target, after all, simply an exact replica of Woo's earlier films—but in English?


Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Gold (1974)

dir. Peter R. Hunt

"Wherever Love Takes Me" - Maureen McGovern

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 71 - Dinosaurs

On today's episode, my brother John and I reminisce on the early 90s TV show Dinosaurs. To find out if we still like it, listen to the episode. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sex Madness (1938)

dir. Dwain Esper

On a recent podcast episode I mentioned that I watched the gloriously trashy Crack House immediately after returning home from Paul Thomas Anderson's rich, dense masterpiece The Master. Roger and I then discussed this attraction of ours toward the extremes of cinema: trash and art. For me, seeing these movies back-to-back wasn't the jarring experience most would assume it to be. Yes, the intentions of these films are miles apart, but the result was the same: both movies reinforced my love of filmThe Master for expanding the limits of the cinematic vocabulary, and Crack House...for being Crack House. And for Jammer ("G for life").

[Why don't more crack dealers wear shirts emblazoned with their names? It's so helpfullike having little white name-tags at insurance conventions. But for crack.]

In retrospect, though, it's a shame I didn't watched Dwain Esper's exploitation masterpiece Sex Madness on the same day I watched Anderson's picture, because I think it would've proved a more apt second feature for an art/trash double bill. Just as many people were confounded by Anderson's seemingly inscrutable intentions, they would similarly scratch their heads over Esper's sexually-themed foray into the avant-garde. The difference being, of course, that with The Master, ambiguity and experimentation were intentional.

Actually, now that I think about it, Crack House and Sex Madness would make an interesting double feature as well. They both, after all, hail from the same school of finger-wagging exploitation. Of course, in the early days of exploitation (the thirties), the era that most would now refer to as exploitation proper, the majority of these films were marketed under the guise of education. Sure they reveled in the seamier side of life, exploring topics the respectable Hollywood establishment was forbidden by the Production Code to touch; but it was only because the noble exploitation film-makers were attempting to elucidate the public on the dangers their kids faced. No, you don't have to see Dwain Esper's previous masterpiece Marihuana (it's about marihuana), and learn its lessons on the dangers of marihuana, but is that a risk your kids can afford? What kind of parent are you? Asshole.

And so with Sex Madness....I honestly have no idea what the fuck this movie is about. Yes, it frowns on premarital sex, and yes it taught me that syphilis is bad; but aside from that I really have no idea what was going on here. To wit:

A couple laments the depraved nature of today's youth. Enter one of said youth, who laments the stodgy ways of his elders. Now, a tame non-nude burlesque show. Backstage at the burlesque show: a dancer invites other dancers to party with members of the hygiene department. New scene: A different dancer talks to her doctor about her status as a human petri-dish. Cut to: flashback scene of said girl attempting some oral hygiene. Except instead of a toothbrush it's five dicks. And instead toothpaste, cum. Also, five men ejaculate in her mouth.

[Scene Missing]

Which means, harlot. Also, syphilis. But she wants to get married. Now, she and husband have syphilis-ridden baby. Different town: another guy talking to his doc about the like tons of syphilis he now has. He's just got so much syphilis. His dad takes him on a syphilis tour. Director Esper then says, "This is as good a place as any to end it." [ed. note: Dave was nodding off during this picture, which he watched immediately after watching the "Roast of Roseanne." Also, don't trust anything Dave writes about movies. Ever.]

So, yeah, syphilis bad; Sex Madness good.

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Travolta's Incredible Shrinking Head

OK, I've never seen any of John Woo's American movies, so today I'm working my way through what's available on Netflix. I watched Hard Target earlier (verdict: hilariously awesome) and I'm now a third of the way through Broken Arrow (Verdict so far: hilariously awful). And though I am able to look past most of Broken Arrow's more ludicrous elements, one scene had me so dumbfounded that I had to rewatch it a few times just to make sure I actually saw what I thought I just saw. And yep, my eyes were correct; I did just see this:

Does it look off to you? Hint: look at Travolta's head. In the first shot, co-star Bob Gunton is closer to the camera, therefore his head appears larger on screen. In the second shot Travolta is closer to the camera, therefore his smaller? Wait, what the fuck? How did this happen?

My thoery: someone mistakenly let Travolta watch the dailies and the actor was so horrified by the sight of his ever embiggening, child-scaring, booze-monster head that he asked Woo if it could be fixed it in post. Woo complained that doing so would be quite jarring, as people would find a small Travolta head beyond the realm of possibilities; Travolta said, "I'm John Travolta." Hence, the freaky images posted above.

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Sep 17)

Here's some good blog work from the week.

At tdylf a compilation of some of the most inane Netflix user reviews.

At Man, I Love Films a piece on when good movie ideas go bad.

At Thrilling Days of Yesteryear a review of Seconds.

At tdylf the nine best uses of water supplies in movies.

At French Toast Sunday cool swag.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"It's About Getting in Tune"

[OK, the three video embeds were slowing down my page so I just put links to youtube at the bottom.]

A week out from watching Paul Thomas Anderson's latest masterpiece, The Master, I still can't get it out of my head. But rather than spill more ink on that picture I thought I'd share an old Charlie Rose interview with Anderson and Adam Sandler on Punch Drunk Love, possibly my favorite Anderson picture.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Louie - "Late Show Part 3"

Watching Louie's profanity laden camcorder rehearsal for "Late Night," I—because everything I write about always comes back to me—couldn't help but think back on the little podcast rehearsals I held for myself back when I bought my microphones almost a year ago. (Holy crap, come mid-October, it'll be a year since I started podcasting. Listen to my podcast.) Hearing my my thin, quavering voice, I instantly regretted my decision to start podcasting. There was no way I could make this work, I thought. What the fuck was I thinking?

But I backed myself into a corner. I bought microphones without ever having done a test run. If I didn't want to feel like a chump for wasting money, I'd have to force myself to make this shit work. So I practiced, I kept learning; eventually I got into enough of a groove that I felt confident enough to pull it off. Similarly, Louie has put himself in a situation where he has no other option. If he quits, not only will he disappoint his family and friends, but his career will likely be poisoned.

Of course, the difference is, had Louie actually gotten "Late Night," had his audition not actually been a ploy by CBS to bring down Letterman's renewal price (more on that later), he would have had a show potentially watched by millions, not a homemade podcast listened to by a few friends. The stakes would have been higher is what I'm saying.

Regardless, this shit spoke to me. And it also touched on a theme I've heard Louis discuss in many an interview: the guy loves to learn. If there's a skill he hasn't yet mastered, by God he's gonna learn how to do it. So, though Louie may feel like a fool, like a phony for doing the whole "Late Night" schtick, it is a skill he doesn't have, thus one he really wants to figure out. Not only that, he wants to learn how to do it in his own voice; but getting over that initial hump is the hardest part. Basically, learning curves are a bitch—but envigorating all the same.

Though Louie may feel degraded when asked to be funny on command ("That's not the kind of comedian I am"), he knows that if he wants the show, if he wants to be good at hosting, he'll have to figure that shit out. And this can lead to a wide range of simultaneous emotions—anger, resentment, embarrassment, defeat—we can all relate to. How many times, after all, have you trained for something new and instantly felt that you were above it after the first hurdle ("Well, of course, I'm not good at it. Only tools are good at that sort of thing. I would hate myself if I was good at that")?

But Louie gets over that hurdle; not only does he learn the new trade, he becomes a "Late Night" champ. And...oh, it was just a contract negotiation ploy by CBS? And now Louie's burned a professional bridge? Shit. In his own way, though, Louie still succeeded. Letterman, CBS, and Seinfeld can never take that away from him. A wonderful finale to a masterful three-parter.

Random Notes:

Holy shit, how embarrassed were you for Louie watching him dance like a monkey for David Lynch.

Though she wasn't my first, I've definitely jerked off to Susan Sarandon quite a few times. Well, that's one thing I kind of have in common with Louis CK. I'll take it.

I know we've still got one more episode, but I think this might be my favorite season. Sure there were a couple clunker episodes in the middle, but the great episodes were possibly the best to date.

Random Quotes:

"You’re not a big guy. You’re fat."

"Why can’t they just get someone skinny? Why do you have to change?"

"Here’s the thing with that champ—that’s short for champion—you wanna be a talk show host, it’s better if your funny."

"You’re a comedian? I’ve known you for a week and you haven’t made me laugh once. I thought you were a newsman."

"You know what you’re problem is? You’re just a pencil penis parade."

"You just bought yourself another week."

"Conduct an interview."
"There’s nobody here."
"Well, go get someone."

"Tune in every night folks, it’s the crying cleaning lady show."
"You know it’s a really unique thing to read jokes off cards because you just see your death in front of you."

"Here’s to the new king of Late Night."
"Former king of his own mother’s cunt."

"It’s official. You suck."

"Hey, Letterman, I did it. Hey, Letterman, fuck you."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Master (2012)

dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

“You seem familiar to me.” So begins Lancaster Dodd’s (sober) introduction to future protégé Freddie Quell. Yes, we will soon realize that this ice breaker is Lancaster's attempt to lay the groundwork for future manipulation of the troubled young man, but the phrase also seemed to me a sly acknowledgement by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson of his own affinity for the same theme: the troubled relationships between domineering father figures and lumps-of-clay son figures.

I have heard it said that most great, devoted novelists continually rewrite the same story. The meaning being that these folks tend to be driven, obsessed with certain ideas, that they’re wrestling with some sort of inner turmoil. Revisiting the same theme again and again acts as a sort of therapy, allowing them to exorcise demons. And since therapy never ends, neither do these artists’ career long narratives.

Now I would never accuse Paul Thomas Anderson of repetition (his films cover such a wide range of topics, characters, narratives, storytelling techniques, and visual styles that he remains one of the few artists whose work continues to surprise me), but he clearly has a thing for father-son relationships. So, though much has been made of The Master's pointed criticisms of ___________, the film is less an expose of ___________ than an exploration of the fraught relationship between a charismatic religious leader and an emotionally troubled, unstable young man. (Though, it should be noted, ___________ is sure to be none too pleased by its fictionalization as The Cause in Anderson’s film).

Of course, it would be too simplistic to label the relationship between Lancaster and Freddie as a simple case of parasitic manipulation. Indeed, as the film progresses, we realize that these two men are actually quite co-dependent. The directionless, demon/booze-filled Freddie needs guidance, he needs help. Back from World War II, he is a victim of what, back then, was so callously referred to as battle fatigue. He, like so many other veterans, needs to find a way to not only readjust to civilian life, but to also ease his emotional pain. (Incidentally, The Master would make an interesting double feature with William Wyler's heartbreaking The Best Years of Our Lives.) What the man needs is therapy and substance abuse-counseling; what he gets is indoctrination into a cult.

Lancaster, meanwhile, needs to better hone his cult-leader skills. He needs a protege to test out new theories. This is a religion, after all, that even Lancaster's actual son admits, "he makes up as he goes along." Through his use of the impressionable young man, Lancaster is able to understand what makes this cult-coveted mindset tick. He is better able to hone his religion toward the end of preying on such minds.

Now, I'm hesitant to make this next point because I'm afraid it might be too simplistic and that I might be way off base, but I couldn't help but get the feeling that much of The Master was also a comment on the way that fanatic religious organizations prey on sexually frustrated (and, yes, emotionally unstable) young men, getting them to divert their energy toward nefarious ends. Meaning, basically, Freddie just had to nut before he could get all that Cause shit out of his system. Of course, I could be completely wrong about this. So just ignore this paragraph.

One final note: as we all know, digital is here to stay. Whether we like it or not (me, not), the economics of the film industry have dictated that it is no longer viable to shoot films on celluloid. So, if film is on the way out, I'm glad that Paul Thomas Anderson is making it go out with a bang. Shooting on super expensive 70mm film stock, Anderson has shown all that celluloid is capable of. If you're going to see this movie (and you should) make sure you see it in a theater with 70mm projection. Yes, shrunk down to 35mm stock The Master, like all Anderson productions, is still a visual feast, but you really haven't experienced this movie if you haven't witnessed the rich, inviting texture of the 70mm image. With The Master, Anderson has composed the best counter-argument to the defeatist assertion that digital film-making and home viewing are the way things ought to be.

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: An American Dream (1966)

dir. Robert Gist

"A Time for Love" - Janet Leigh (dubbed by Jackie Ward)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 69 - Crack House

dir. Michael Fischa

On today's episode Roger and I discuss Crack House, a movie about a crack house. It's everything you could expect or want from a movie called Crack House. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Louie - "Late Show Part 2"

In show business there are no friends. Or, that is to say, everyone has an ulterior motive. With so few openings for quality or lucrative projects, and an embarrassment of talent, it's inevitable toes will get stepped on. Confide in a friend on a potentially life-altering opportunity and damned if that friend don't contact his agent to try to get an in for himself.

But I'm jumping the gun. This opportunism-over-friendship theme was but one element—certain to play out in greater detail in the final installment of this trilogy—in a rich episode. More than anything, the middle section of Louie's "Late Show" trilogy was about uncertainty, about being unmoored. There's a lot at risk here. Seinfeld being a front-runner, Louie being offered the position only as a bargaining chip to bring down Jerry's price-tag, the chance that our hapless hero gets the gig is slim to nil.

And Louie's even agreeing to take a shot at the gig has damned him. If he bombs as the "Late Show" host—which is the likeliest scenario—he'll have a stink on him. If he's even remembered afterward, it'll be trivially as the out-of-his-element comic who fucked up the "Late Show". If he succeeds, if he gets the gig, he'll lose his cred. As Jay Leno so poignantly tells him, he'll no longer be hip, he'll no longer be cool. He'll have to engage in the sort of blandly inoffensive topical humor that middle America falls asleep to. He'll have success at the expense of credibility.

So afraid is Louie of fucking this up that he arranges a meeting with his ex-wife hoping that she'll tell him not to do it. He's afraid to take the chance, but he's too much of an emotional child to actually take responsibility for the decision at hand. For his own sake, she doesn't give him a life raft; she doesn't give him an out. He has to take the opportunity.

And so, untethered to both the career-making emotional high of the inciting incident of Part 1 and the conclusion to come in part 3, this middle episode leaves us adrift in terrifying uncertainty. It is a middle episode in the best possible way. And who better to represent the confusion, the uncertainty of Louie's situation than the master of strange: David Lynch. Oh how happy I was to see Lynch guest star in this episode. Louie has been lousy with respectable, talented guest performers but this performance probably left me the giddiest.

Yeah, I've kind of got a hard on for the work of Lynch; so it was great to see that Louis employed not only lynch the performer, but also some of the man's techniques. Just as Lynch the director rarely gives his audiences a life-raft, purposefully obfuscating the seemingly mundane, so does Lynch's character keep Louie on his toes. When engaging in the seemingly simple task of testing Louie's chops as a talk show host, Lynch (yeah, his character has a name, but I'll keep referring to him as Lynch) never bothers to explain to Louie what it is he's meant to do. And so, though reading a cue-card would seem a no-brainer, here it is a confusing ordeal.

I've gotta say yet again, that though many of the issues Louie as a series, and this episode in particular, deal with are endemic to show business generally and stand-up specifically, the Lynch material felt weirdly universal. How many times have you, after all, gone into training for a new job only to be left flummoxed by the impatient superior training you in the ways of, say, proper TPS Report procedure. This job is so second nature to him by this point that he glides past all the important details he takes for granted, but which you are foreign to. And it was this feeling more than anything that "Late Show Part 2" left us with. Will Louie succeed? Who the fuck knows.

Random Notes:

I love the Lynchian sound design during the close-up of Lynch rubbing his ear.

The non sequiturs in these story-heavy episodes can be hit or miss, but I loved the scene of Louie shopping with his daughters. This was yet another instance of Louie stuck in a bad situation where, though he would like to teach his daughters an important lesson (stealing is bad), doing so would actually harm someone (and old poor woman who needs to steal to eat). So what does he do? Try to ignore the situation. Despite his best efforts to pull his daughters away, though, Jane turns snitch, dropping a dime on the poor woman. I love Louie's reaction when Jane beams, "I did good, didn’t I?" What's he to say in a situation like that?

Awesome, Senator Clay Davis.

Random Quotes:

"They’re looking at me as like an option."
"Because you’d be cheaper."

"His show was great but that was a long time ago."

"You’ll see them a lot less, but that’s because you’ll have a job."
"I have a job."

"Listen, you’ve been a fine father, but nobody needs a father that much. Listen, the girls need a role model. They need to see you live and succeed."

"Sent here? What are you, a letter? Nobody sent you."

"Forgot to say we’ll be right back."

"Comedy is about timing."

"Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to tell but I know everything."

"Yeah, you know, you’re the hip guy; you’re the cool guy—that used to be me. Then you gotta do fourteen minutes every night. Nobody is hip. Every single night. I wish someone had told me that."

"I hope you get it, and if you get it, it’s the last time we’ll talk as friends."

"Can I have some today jokes?"
"You’re not ready."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Louis CK to Do Gay Porn this video he made right before he started Louie. Yeah, this week's episode still wasn't available on itunes, so I can't post a review yet. Super annoying.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Because

OK, folks, itunes is late on uploading the latest Louie episode so I won't be able to post my review until tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this head explosion scene from Scanners.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 68 - The Terror Within

dir. Thierry Notz

Roger and I manage to make an entertaining episode out of the boring as fuck Alien-knockoff The Terror Within. Do not watch The Terror Within. But listen to our episode. You can listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Black Dog (1998)

dir. Kevin Hooks

As any faithful follower of my podcast is aware (you follow my podcast, right?), Roger and I are none too impressed with the tropes of 90s cinema: ironically self-referential, these films attempt not so much to tell compellingly sincere stories as revel in the artifice of their task, in a detached, hip way. Oh yeah, we'll use the tropes of this traditional genre, but we don't mean it. We're better than this material.

These movies wanted to have it both ways. They wanted to use the genre cliches, but they also wanted to show that they were too cool for such cliches by pointing them out. In a word, this kind of filmmaking was douchey. Of course, it would be a lie to state that this was the case for the entirety of 90s cinema. Case in point: Black Dog. Released in 1998, this trash gem very easily could have been released in 1987.

The story: Patrick Swayze is an ex-con ex-trucker with a vehicular manslaughter count on his record. He's got an eviction notice on account of so many past due mortgage payments. But now he's given the opportunity to pull in some serious scratch from a shady businessman. The task: transport illegal guns from Georgia to Jersey. Sure, Swayze's got a revoked license, but as long as he plays it clean, doesn't get into any traffic shenanigans, he can evade authorities, and make a cool $10,000—the exact amount needed for his mortgage. He agrees. An undercover FBI agent, a wisecracking kid, and a non-drunken/naked Randy Travis accompany Swayze on the trip. At FBI headquarters, bickering Charles S. Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky monitor Swayze's every move. And criminal Meatloaf makes Swyaze's life a living hell. Trucks get blowed up real good.

I was giddy all through this movie. And after it finished I couldn't wait to write about it. Unfortunately, as soon as I sat down to write, nothing would come out. Yeah, it was fun, but this is a movie almost impossible to disect. I appreciate the fact that it's unapologetic, unironic trash, but there's not much else to it. Disposable trash sure makes for a fun watch, but what can you say about it?

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)

dir. John Huston

"Marmalade, Molasses & Honey" - Andy Williams

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 67 - Return to Oz

dir. Walter Murch

Today my friend Audrey and I discuss the not-for-kids kids film Return to Oz, a movie that traumatized a portion of a generation of children. And then we discuss our other experiences with traumatic children entertainment. You can listen to the episode here. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 66 - Good Will Hunting, Smart Remakes, and Bro Cinema

dir. Gus Van Sant

On today's episode I discuss watching Good Will Hunting for the first time since it's release, Roger and I discuss the right way to make a remake, and then we deride bro cinema. You can listen to the episode here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Young Jon Stewart

Yeah, Tarantino's in this too; but really I'm posting it for the young Jon Stewart. Man, that guy has always been a cool interviewer.

Friday, September 7, 2012

After the Cameras Stopped: Gladiator (2000)

dir. Ridley Scott

The Story: Gladiator type stuff...I think. I really can't remember because it's been ages since I've seen this sword and sandal flick, and it left zero impression on me at the time.

What Happened After the Cameras Stopped: A few millenia (give or take a few centuries) of human history: the Printing Revolution, the Renaissance, Electricity, Duece Bigalow, and the ShamWow all happen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Breaking Bad Porn

Not really, but kinda. Oh yeah, this has spoilers for every episode that's aired. By the way, I also wanna point out that I didn't make this video. I just found it.

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 65 - Exhibitionist Chimps, Douchey Dylan, and Australian Cinema

On today's entertaining episode Roger and I discuss a whole range of topics. Look at the title. You can listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blind Spot Series: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder

[This post is part of my Blind Spot Series, in which I watch, for the first time, famous movies I should have seen long ago. And seeing as the movies in this series are generally well known and regarded, I don't necessarily discuss their plots or thoroughly critique them. These movies have already been analyzed to death; so anything I could bring to the table would be superfluous at best. What follows is merely my reaction to watching Ali: Fear Eats the Soul for the first time.]

The decision to include Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul in my Blind Spot Series was arrived at rather circuitously. Yes, Fassbinder’s film is generally well regarded (among cineastes, at least), so it would seem rather well-suited to the theme of this series, but still, I can’t say ever felt terribly ashamed at having never seen this specific film. No, my shame was more general—that is to say, I really could have included any Fassbinder film in this series, because, The Marriage of Maria Braun excepted, I’m a newb when it comes to this giant of the New German Cinema.

So, with Ali, it was more that I was trying to plug a gaping director hole, a hole that needed some desperate filling. And seeing as this is the picture that broke Fassbinder, brought him international acclaim, I figured, fuck why not start here.

I should say that despite my previous ignorance of the man’s work, I’ve always found Fassbinder rather fascinating. For a director whose career was cut short by an early death, this artist nevertheless managed to pump out a staggering number of films: in fifteen years he helmed forty films, two TV series, twenty-four plays, and various other minor works.

[And that’s not to mention he was also able to rock this awesome look.]

Given his reputation among those in the film community, I knew his appeal had to stem from more than just the pace of his work. Plenty of hacks in Hollywood’s golden age, after all, churned out three or four films a year, and none of their names are remembered. No, without the quality no one’s gonna give a shit about the quantity.

So, Ali... I truly don’t know what to make of Ali. I’m pretty sure I liked it. What can I say, though? Well, first of all, superficially this film is a reimagining of the melodramas made famous by Douglas Sirk. But that doesn’t even begin to convey the unique filmmaking on display here. With the rise of fanboy culture in recent years, modern movie-goers have become accustomed to the sort of homage works typified by The Man Who Wasn’t There, Black Dynamite, and Far From Heaven—faithfully, lovingly crafted pieces of imitation art: movies that are so slavishly faithful to their inspirations as to all but choke out any elements of originality.

And it should be said that both Ali and Todd Haynes' aforementioned Far From Heaven pay tribute to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk—specifically All That Heaven Allows. But there is where the similarities end. For, though Haynes’ film could be placed seamlessly into the oeuvre of Sirk, Fassbinder uses the form as a springboard for his own idiosyncrasies, creating something genuinely original. Seriously, Ali is almost a melodrama by way of David Lynch...except Fassbinder came before Lynch...and, of course, Lynch also toyed with the conventions of melodrama...and noir...and...[ed. Note: stop it with the fucking ellipsis.]

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Ali. To give you a better understanding of the peculiarities on display, a plot summary is in order. Sixty-something cleaning woman Emmi meets muscle-bound Moroccan immigrant Ali. They get married. Neighbors, friends, and family display their true racist feelings. The two grow closer as everyone in their lives becomes more hostile. Then, everyone is suddenly nice for some reason. Ali gets bored and fucks a bartender. He non-chalantly ridicules Emmi. There is a poker game at the bar where the bartender works. Emmi shows up; she and Ali are all hugs and kisses. He collapses. Hospital: he has a stress ulcer. Ending.

One could argue that the ambiguity here was a result of Fassbinder’s frenetic work pace: continually pumping out material, he couldn’t help but let such trivialities as logic and coherency fall by the wayside. But such an argument is belied by Fassbinder’s beautifully composed shots, elegant camera moves, technical proficiency, and all-around artistry. The man knew what the fuck he was doing. Nay, Ali is purposefully obtuse. This film is an attempt to offer snapshots into the harried emotionally charged lives of folks dealing with harassment because of their unconventional affair. Fassbinder is giving us a voyeuristic view into their lives. Thus, we only get part of the story.

And Fassbinder emphasizes this with the photography. With damn near every scene, he opts for the voyeuristic approach—long shots, shots through door-frames, shots obstructed by looming foreground objects. For a better understanding, check out this sequence of images from the opening scene:

In the first shot, Emmi walks into a strange bar, a place where she is clearly not welcome. In this long shot Emmi is relegated to a tiny boxed-off portion of the frame. The doorway looms over her.

Cut to: the spectators. Perturbed bar folk watch suspiciously as the unwelcome woman enters. Because of its proximity to the previous image, the audience is placed with these bar people in the position of voyeur, watching from afar. And yet, we also feel as if Emmi has imposed upon a sacred place. All eyes are on her.

[Judging by their expressions, I’d say Emmi interrupted some sort of tweaking toddler knife fight.]

Cut to: A new angle on Emmi, closer this time; we have gained a more intimate view of our heroine. And yet she’s still boxed in, not only by the doorframe, but the prominent foreground object of the table.

Cut: the spectators again. And it’s the same exact shot, emphasizing the show aspect of it all.

But this time, the bartender moves from behind the bar and walks toward Emmi, momentarily obscuring Ali.

And then she leaves the frame entirely as the camera pulls into Ali. And now we are given a new source of identification. We are watching as Ali watches.

Bringing us back to a new angle on Emmi, who is being loomed over by the bartender and apologizing for entering the place.

Note the various shots of Emmi. As she is the person being watched, the spectators in the bar all get their angles on her. The reverse shots, on the other hand, are mostly uniform. She is just one person watching her watchers. But that’s just a small taste of some of the cinema goodness on display in this film.

Ordinarily, I like to make these Blind Spot Series reviews about me—explore the ways that I connected with the movie personally. But I can’t say I could do that with this movie. Such a strange and singular film, Ali had damn near naught that I connected with on a personal level, but I was intrigued as hell. I guess, the closest I can come to getting personal on this post is to profess my love once again for weird cinema—a love that was reciprocated by Fassbinder’s picture. All I know is I want more Fassbinder.

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Unchained (1955)

dir. Hall Bartlett

"Unchained Melody" - Todd Duncan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 64 - Golden Needles

dir. Robert Clouse

Roger and I discuss Golden Needles, the only acupuncture-themed Kung Fu movie worth seeing. Also, we talk about our love of Joe Don Baker. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Breaking Bad: "Gliding Over All"

So frequently does Breaking Bad drop a bombshell on us within the final frame of each episode that it’s damn hard not to just start the reviews blurting out, “oh shit, can you believe what just happened” comments. So, hard though it may be, I’ll try to edge as long as possible before ejaculating, “Oh shit, Hank is finally on to Walt. Did you just see that shit?” Damnit, I couldn’t hold off. I guess I’m just a two pump chump.

Well, I guess I’ll backtrack and talk about the rest of the episode. It never ceases to amaze me the extent that Vince Gilligan’s show toys with expectations, with the conventions of dramatic, serialized storytelling. And last night we were witness to that with the tour de force jailhouse murder sequence. I can’t be the only one who saw just a slight homage to Michael’s orchestrated string of murders during the baptism finale of The Godfather. At arm’s length, Walt set in motion an elaborate scheme to off, within a two minute interval, all nine of Fring’s former employees (well, ten including Mike’s lawyer), and thus sever any ties between himself and Gus’ organization, as well as assert power. Walt will be the new king in town.

So, it was rather a shock when this sequence occurred halfway through the episode. Generally, this is the sort of sequence that would mark the end of a TV season: portraying Walt’s new dominance, it would set the stage for a bloody season to follow. But no, that’s not the Breaking Bad way. As is always the case with Breaking Bad, we witness the aftermath of violence. Unlike previous instances, however, this aftermath is good—seemingly.

You see, Walt’s on top finally; he’s where he always wanted to be; this is what he has been working for the whole time: dominance. So, now what does he do? When it comes down to it, this is just another job, another routine. Once he reaches stasis, inertia, he has an existential crisis. As Peggy Lee said, “Is that all there is?”

And that was one of the themes of last night’s episode: inertia. Which is funny, because Breaking Bad is one of the few shows on TV for which inertia is anathema. This show is all about change, the process of transforming a good character into an evil character. So what happens when that character reaches the endpoint, when there's no more change possible?

Walt, it seems, much like the show, craves change. Maybe it's just that he’s addicted to stress, but when things reach a stasis, the man becomes numb; he needs something else. So, he becomes nostalgic for the early days: when he and Jesse cooked in their crappy RV. (By the way, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a tinge of sadness/nostalgia when the two reminisced over their RV past. Goddamn, how many other shows are able to dredge up those kinds of emotions?)

And so he meets Jesse, to make amends of a sort. This is one of the few times, incidentally, when it seemed as if Walt was being genuine with Jesse. I couldn’t detect any subterfuge, any attempt to manipulate the poor kid. In fact, Walt seemed genuinely concerned and guilty when he saw Jesse hiding the bong. Is the kid gonna start tweaking again? Would it be Walt’s fault? Unfortunately, Walt’s attempt at making peace—giving Jesse his share of the loot—has an unintended consequence. Jesse has associated that money with all of his past misdeeds, and now it has come home to mock him. Note the loud sound of the heavy bags falling to the floor as Jesse collapses. It is a moral weight that is almost too much for him to bear.

And, of course, I can’t leave without bringing up Walt’s doctor visit. Although no reveal is made during the episode, I can’t help but think that Mr. White got some bad news during his recent tests. This must be the final straw that led him to the decision to give up the life. When the show began, Walt chose meth cooking because he wanted to leave something for his family. He didn't want his loved ones to remember him as the person who brought them debt. But now, now that Walt has more money than can be spent in ten lifetimes, he reaches a new epiphany: he doesn't want his family to remember him as the drug dealer who got rubbed out or incarcerated; he doesn't want to be the man who brought his family shame. So he's out.

And things are gee gosh golly good now. The loving family has gathered in the backyard. Things will surely stay this good forever. Nothing could possibly come along and gum up the works...

See y’all next year in New Hampshire.

Random Notes:

There’s a fly again. Walt is one obsessing motherfucker.

We all end up in barrels sooner or later—metaphorically speaking.

Note Walt’s proud grin when Lydia realizes he offed Mike.

Am I the only one who noticed that weird bit of ADR during the long shot in the coffee shop when Lydia explains that her people on the other end in the Czech Republic are trustworthy? It seems as if maybe this was a plot hole they didn’t realize they had until they finished filming, so they had to dub it in later.

There’s that ricin vial again.

Note to self: never do anything remotely bad. Prison is not a nice place.

Great cut of Walt bending down at Hank’s and then coming back up with the hazmat suit on.

How long do you think Gilligan has been waiting to use “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?

Note that during Marie’s speech to Skyler she kept careful to keep saying “we” rather than “I”.

I forgot; did Walt smash that paper towel dispenser in season 1?

I need to watch the next season immediately. I need my fix now. I can’t wait a whole damn year.

Random Quotes:

“It’s pretty cool the way they do that, just turn the car into a cube.”

“I don’t wanna talk about this. It had to be done.”

“We? Who’s we? There is no we, Jesse. I’m the only one left. And I’ll handle it.”

“You seem a little confused. This here’s a buyer’s market. I got eight other assholes like you, four of ‘em within a hundred feet of here. I also got Dan the douchebag lawyer who’s gonna give me the money and Ehrmantraut. So settle in, Dennis. Enjoy your new home. I’m gonna go rattle some cages.”

“I think this’ll play just fine, and I’m not thirsty.”

“Lydia, learn to take yes for an answer.”

“Surgical—that’s the way it’s gotta be.”

“Wacking Bin Laden wasn’t this complicated.”

“It can be done exactly how I want it. The only question is, are you the man to do it?”

“Every day I’d go back, hike in, pick up where I left off.”

“Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters.”

“How much is this?”
“I have no earthly idea.”

“There is more money here than we could spend in ten lifetimes.”

“Tell me, how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?”

“We had money. Why’d we keep it? Why’d we have to have the world’s shittiest RV?”
“Yeah, yeah, inertia.”

“I left something for you.”

“I’m out.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

After the Cameras Stopped: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

dir. Milos Forman

[In case anyone decides bring it up in the comments, I've never read the book, so don't know how it compares story-wise to the movie. This post is specifically about the movie.]

The Story: An allegory for the ways the man tries to keep you down, man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest details the attempts of R. P. McMurphy to maintain his individuality in the stifling, mind-control atmosphere of a mental institution. I forgot, what was it McMurphy was sent to prison for, initially? Well, as he says:

"She was 15 years old, going on 35, Doc, and she told me she was 18. She was very willing, if ya know what I mean. I practically had to take to sewing my pants shut. Between you and me, uh, she might have been 15, but when you get that little red beaver right up there in front of you, I don't think it's crazy at all and I don't think you do either. No man alive could resist that, and that's why I got into jail to begin with. And now they're telling me I'm crazy over here because I don't sit there like a goddamn vegetable. Don't make a bit of sense to me. If that's what's being crazy is, then I'm senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that's it."

So, you see, McMurphy is just a free-spirited individualist not willing to conform to society’s—wait, what the fuck? Why is he our hero again? So, let’s see, a child rapist goes to prison, is proven to be too fucked up even for that institution, and so is shipped to a looney bin in an attempt to fix his child-rapist brain.

[Just a lovable scamp.]

And at the institution, because he has nothing but contempt for women, McMurphy comes to battle with Nurse Ratched, a woman just trying to make it through the day, just trying to make the best of her shitty position. When your job involves maintaining order among individuals who think that the C.I.A. is sending coded messages in their poop, you’re bound to get a bit testy.

McMurphy, rugged individualist that he is, is incapable of empathizing with her position. He makes it his duty to fuck with Nurse Ratched at every turn. And he soon finds a kindred spirit in Chief, a mute-faking Native American. (Native Americans, as you know, are used in movies less as characters than as symbols, forces that either hinder—see: older Westerns—or help our main character, either in achieving enlightenment—see: any boomer-produced flick featuring Native Americans—or learning to be free.) They soon bond. McMurphy attempts to escape, is lobotomized. Chief kills him and escapes to freedom.

What Happened After the Cameras Stopped: Chief gets arrested for killing a family of four. Turns out there was a reason he was stuck in a mental institution.