Reviewing

  • Dec. 8th, 2010 at 7:57 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
I used to re-watch movies all the time. I'd come home from school, probably in the middle-school era, and watch one of the Star Wars saga. Or later, as a teen, my best friend and I would have to see Pride and Prejudice or Anne of Green Gables every six months or so. I think, at that time, it was about recapturing a feeling or wanting to live in that "world" a little longer or just the comfort of familiar narratives.

Now, I still re-watch movies all the time. But the experience has changed somewhat. Sometimes I revisit old favorites for comfort's sake, and sometimes to share with someone the joys of something they hadn't seen before. But most often, I'm re-watching because I am a different person from the one who saw that film last time.

This might mean that, yes, I saw Casablanca when I was twelve or something and obviously my reactions are going to be different now. But it might also mean that I saw it in college (I just saw Grand Illusion again which made NO IMPRESSION on me ten years ago but killed me this time) or even that I saw it last week but Mr. Daroga or [personal profile] lettered needs to see it and I don't mind watching again at all. Sometimes I'm a different person because I don't remember. Sometimes it's because I was in a different mood, or inattentive, at the time. Sometimes it's because I've read and seen a lot since then so my critical viewing is different. And sometimes I think it's as simple as viewing something again because I couldn't catch everything the first time, and I'm no longer looking for comforting familiarity but to see more.

I've been thinking about this because lately I've been revisiting a lot of classics I either missed before or haven't seen since I was very young, and more often than not if I like it I end up making someone else watch it with me the next day or next week. And I wonder, should I really need to see Stagecoach again already? But it is different, on second viewing, because the person who watched it yesterday has already changed enough to make it so, whether it's my mood, my opinions, or what I happen to pick up the second time. I still re-watch for pleasure, but when I do City Lights again it will also be because in the past two weeks I've read Chaplin's autobiography/seen Limelight/watched old Mutual two-reel comedies. My experience of the film will be different enough already that in a sense it will be like watching something new.

It's curious, because while I've become more selective in my opinions, I also feel that I can "get something" from nearly anything. It all tells me something, and it's part of that paradox of increased expertise: the better informed you are, the more you'll see the flaws and the less you might be able to recapture the simple pleasures. But you're also opening up another world through knowing more. I don't know if I'd be able to escape into repeating viewings of The Empire Strikes Back anymore. But I'd be getting something else out of it.

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Too many thoughts about Chaplin

  • Nov. 22nd, 2010 at 8:45 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
I just finished watching Limelight, and a few days ago did Monsieur Verdoux, which means in the past few months I've seen The Kid, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Unknown Chaplin as well as the last two. And I'm trying to get my thoughts on Chaplin in order, because I'm fascinated by him and by my reaction to him. What's especially interesting is how I was, for the past thirty years, singularly uninterested in him--he was too famous, and it is/was in vogue to prefer Keaton, as if there's some sort of rule about only liking one or that you have to claim some sort of allegience. There's a strange criticism I've internalized along the way, something about Chaplin being too sentimental, too concerned with pathos, as if that's a negative attribute.
Read more... )
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Just watched Josef von Sternberg's Morocco and I understand why I've only ever seen the bit at the beginning where Dietrich is in tails and a top hat. The scene is brilliant, and more on that in a bit, but the movie is sluggish, lacks the depth and point of Der Blaue Engel, and Gary Cooper is both the least interesting playboy and the most wooden actor in the history of ever. I don't know if it's a causal relationship, but I don't get it at all.

Photobucket


Marlena Dietrich is lovely and definitely has presence, though I still don't really understand her flatness during musical numbers--I don't mean her pitch, but her affect. It's sort of strange. But the gender politics are cracktastic, at least superficially. Dietrich comes out in top hat and tails, smoking. She sings a song in French, denies the touch of a few men, plucks a flower from a woman's hair and kisses her. She then throws the flower to Gary Cooper, a foreign legionnaire, who puts it behind his ear. It's all very daring and yet heteronormative (it denies heteronormativity only to re-establish it) and her image in this scene is justifiably an icon. (There's also a lovely bit later in her room where he gives her a casual salute upon leaving and she copies it at the closed door.

But the romance, and the love triangle, is entirely dull and I don't really see what she sees in him. I'm actually more interested in what's behind Adolphe Menjou's motives, knowing all along that she doesn't love him. It's a fairly conventional, if sexually charged, love story, but it would have been vastly improved by a leading man with S.A. even remotely approaching Dietrich's.

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A story of two humans

  • Oct. 19th, 2010 at 10:01 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
So in the past two days, I've watched F.W. Murnau's Sunrise twice. I've been hearing about it since school, but sort of half-avoiding it because I had heard so much about how "beautiful" it was with a sense of "don't really bother about the story." A lot of the time, that doesn't work for me. I'm not very visually-oriented, though it's more complicated than that because I'm not bad at certain aesthetic functions. For instance, I'm find with layout, and I could draw if I put my mind to it. But I tend to pay more attention to narrative and character, and when someone says "Oh, don't go for that, go for the images" they often mean it in a big-budget shiny overlay sense, and if it's not underpinned by the narrative I have trouble caring.

But I was wrong about Sunrise. It's gorgeous, yes--I'd say it's the most technically accomplished silent film I've ever seen, and probably better aesthetically than anything for about ten years after it--but the visuals absolutely tell the story. And I shouldn't have been that surprised, but everything about it delights me. From the "interactive" intertitles to the amazing cinematography to the way the whole thing has an archetypal, fairy-tale sensibility, I love it. It's a silent film that is absolutely perfect as a silent film, rather than it being a limit imposed by technology (and by 1927, those limits were about to disappear). And I know that silent film proponents will argue that silent film shouldn't be judged as technologically limited, but one has to admit that some filmmakers did a lot better than others at non-verbal storytelling.

The Masters of Cinema blu-ray disc is, too, a strong argument for having more silent/black and white film on HD formats. The picture is amazing, and I'm so used to seeing silent pictures on fuzzy washed-out prints that it was a relief. I wonder how many blu-ray producers are going back to original sources and really doing right by the film and the format.

I've also been watching some von Stroheim (Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives) and von Sternberg (only Der Blaue Engel so far, but I've got a Dietrich collection waiting for me) in an effort to fill some of the holes in my film education. Interesting stuff! Though I find Stroheim more interesting as a person than a filmmaker--though of course those things are intricately related. He's just so absurd and, ultimately, tragic. No opinion yet on Sternberg but I will observe that Dietrich was pretty hot before she became MARLENE DIETRICH with scary cheekbones. And I enjoyed the film, especially Emil Jannings, and to bring this back to Murnau I need to see The Last Laugh.

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The problem of Siddig el Fadil

  • Sep. 6th, 2010 at 2:04 PM
my_daroga: Tatsuya from "Touch" (cartoon)
This weekend, [personal profile] lettered and I went to see Cairo Time. It's a film about an American woman, played by Patricia Clarkson, who travels to Cairo to meet her husband, who is held up in Gaza doing UN work. She's befriended by his old friend and colleague, played by Siddig El Fadil (aka Alexander Siddig), who now owns a coffee shop.

This isn't really a review, because there isn't much to review. What follows is an update of the orientalist fantasy: white woman goes East, learns that Things Are Different Here and Exotic Men Are Hot, and in the bargain we don't really get a lot of action. Which is too bad, because most of what I took away from this film (other than that this was the same old thing, only a little more PC) was that El Fadil is STILL HOT.

According to IMDB, he said about this film: "It was a real treasure, a treat, to find a character, a role, that wasn't intent on trying to blow up the White House or hijack an airplane." Which, having seen no trailers, made me interested in seeing the film. But there's really nothing new here, and the fact he's not a bad guy is about all you can say about the role. This is ridiculous.

Walking out of the theater, it occurred to me that aside from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I have never seen el Fadil play a role in which he is not meant to stand in for an entire country. None of which, it must be said, are his own (the Sudan or, actually, England). Granted, the things I have seen him in portray him as intelligent/good/interesting/etc, and not a terrorist. But he's always meant to stand in for "Arabia"/"Syriana"/Egypt. He cannot simply play a man. (Perhaps the question about whether it's any coincidence that DS9 is the only place I've not seen this happen is mitigated by the fact I've not seen all of his movies.)

This is nothing new to you, of course, and in fact I'm using him now to stand in for any actor of quality who is relegated to parts like this, even when the portrayal is more or less positive. The only good part Art Malik ever got was as an English-educated Indian man who doesn't fit in in either world, and thereafter he was an Arab terrorist. But even that one good part was about his being Indian, though of course he's really Pakistani. Few non-white actors seem have made the leap, though I'd argue Ben Kingsley and Denzel Washington are the first who come to mind.

Given the Avatar: the Last Airbender and Earthsea debacles, among others, it should be obvious that if we can't even hire actors of the appropriate ethnicity to play explicitly non-white characters, we should not hope to get non-white actors, even good and/or hot ones, in the roles of everyday people and romantic leads and everything else. But it's a waste of resources, along with being morally reprehensible.

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We've got to risk implosion!

  • Aug. 18th, 2010 at 6:51 AM
my_daroga: Sirius from Diana Wynne Jones' Dogsbody. Based on my dog. (dog)
As you may have noticed, I've been absent lately. Between the show and a week-long family vacation on the Oregon coast, I haven't been able to check my f-list or update or anything--which is too bad, since I wish I'd recorded my thoughts about the show while they were still fresh. Anyway, here's a little round-up of things I've been thinking about.

If you want me to know/see anything, let me know! Sorry I've missed a bunch, and I won't be able to catch up.

"The Naked Time"
The crowds and the reaction, despite our low budget and some rain, leave every indication that this was a success! By our fourth show, we had standing room only, speaking to the power of word-of-mouth over any advertising we could do. We also had people complaining about how few shows we were doing (as in, their friends wanted to come but didn't know in time) and people very generously wanting to help out. Enough that unless something happens we'll definitely be back next year.

The show was very simple but, I think, effective. We went with colored t-shirts in blue/yellow/red, the set marked out by folding chairs, wooden blocks, and chalk. I think we could go even more minimal, which might offset some of the remarks we've heard about a lack of "professionalism" presumably because we didn't mimic the costumes. The shirts were convenient, sure, but also a valid choice and I thought they looked good and clean and simple. Our attempt was not to recreate the show, but to treat it as you would Shakespeare--it's an interpretation. Hence, also, the casting.

We learned a lot from the experience and one day we'd like to expand our repertoire to Shakespeare (in space?), original works, other television (possibly), and adaptations of books and fairy tales. How to go about it, I'm not entirely sure, but we did this by just deciding that we could. And we did. I was, and am, extremely proud of the results.

Plenty of photos here.

Inception
Cut because feelings tend to run high about this and I didn't like it. But I have a few things I want to say about why. )

Tl;dr: basically Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page need to make out.

Sherlock Holmes
I didn't talk about this at the time, because again, feelings were running pretty high, but I didn't like the recent film. Don't get me wrong, I love adaptation and playing with old works but they need to do one of two things, for me: show me a faithful adaptation of the material in another medium or give me exciting new insights. The Ritchie film, for me, only pushed Holmes closer to everything else, and was neither "my" Holmes nor one I was curious about.

The reason I mention it now is that the new BBC show is. I've only seen the first episode but oh my goodness, I loved it. Not unequivocally--I actually hate the "look" of it, the text all over the screen, the jerky chase sequence, that sort of thing. (I am not a fan of the idea that something needs to be moving ALL THE TIME to keep our interest.) But Holmes and Watson? I'm sorry, Sherlock and John? I love them. I thought the writing, the character work, and the acting were all great, and most importantly a lot of thought was put into updating these characters and making them people who weren't the originals, but were entirely valid interpretations of who those people would be. And that's exactly what I wanted. I am excited about watching the last to, and I suspect I'll be upset about there being no more.

YOU
Your turn! Write anything I should read? Have exciting news? Anything interesting going down either in life or on the internet? Something I haven't touched on you were curious about?

Ripley's Game

  • Jul. 21st, 2010 at 9:17 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
Last night on All Things Considered, I heard a story called Heroine Chic: When Star Power Trumps Gender. It was about how certain film roles, even iconic ones, were originally written for men but became vehicles for female stars: Weaver in Alien, Jodie Foster in Flight Plan, Jane Lynch in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, to name a few. It mentions that being tough or funny is necessary for a genderswitched role, and also that it almost NEVER goes the other way. Men never take roles written for women.

What they did not mention was the overwhelming reason why this is. Which, for me, is what's actually interesting about this story. The reason women sometimes get roles written for men is because all roles are written for men by default unless the theme is explicitly woman-centric. That is to say, the default position for "action hero" or "working person" or "courageous lawyer" or "stranger coming to town" or "person with dark secret" is male. Women's roles, as leads, are wives, mothers, teachers--if you're writing about a child or about a certain kind of relationship, chances are it'll be a woman you're writing about. Everyone else? Is a guy unless someone decides Weaver or Foster or Jolie are a big enough star to transcend that default. (Obviously there are exceptions. But I don't think this is a controversial opinion.)

This is fascinating to me, and very frustrating. I always loved Alien because Ripley is so great, so unexpectedly a woman (when dammit, I shouldn't be trained to find it unexpected at all), and her heroism is very natural. She's not a superwoman who has had powers conferred upon her by The Watchers' Council someone who can't figure out how else to make a woman powerful. But see... She is, after all. She is, because that part was specifically written for a man until a powerful white guy decided to confer it upon Sigourney Weaver.

It puts a different spin on things, to know for sure that these parts were written for men. To know that the only way to get a female hero or double-agent or even pot-smoking boss is to write a man, then concede that a woman might be able to pull it off. And the thing is, the roles mentioned up there aren't even necessarily masculine. There's nothing in them that requires them to be thought of that way. These aren't Rambo or Patton or anything where you have to stretch your imagination or even go against society's roles. It just seems to be the only way for the predominately male-driven Hollywood machine to get into a female zone: write as if everyone's a man, and then, when Tom Cruise is busy, see if you can find a woman with enough B.O. cred to overcome this apparent inability for people to see past that default.

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my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
I have a confession to make: Until about two weeks ago, I'd never seen a Charlie Chaplin film all the way through.

I'd seen clips, of course, on tv and in film classes, but frankly I'd always taken the “it's cooler to like Buster Keaton” thing to heart, which I think is actually the dominant conventional going-against-convention view—for anyone who still cares about silent films, anyway. Not that I don't still love Keaton, and actually, I like his movies better. (Though there really doesn't need to be a competition—I think they were friendly, anyway.) But two weeks ago I watched The Great Dictator and fell in love. Not necessarily with Chaplin's movies, however.

Great Dictator, Chaplin is cute, biopics, Unknown Chaplin )

my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Film/Music: Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see this concert documentary at the Northwest Film Forum at an 11 pm show. Sitting in the dark theater, the 16mm footage close up on a rumpled Leonard Cohen, I realized two things: Leonard Cohen was hot, and more importantly, sitting there was the closest I'd ever get to seeing him in concert. Looking at the sea of 600,000 cold, wet, hungry people at 4 in the morning, it was probably a preferable experience. Plus I wasn't born yet.

Read more... )
DJ Paco
Image unrelated. I have a conquistador lamp, and you don't.


Books/Film: The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune by Stuart Galbraith IV.

As you probably know, I've been watching a lot of Kurosawa and Mifune lately. Kurosawa is still probably the most recognized Japanese director in the Western world, and Mifune his most recognized muse. Mifune's samurai characters are iconic, and despite the fact that they parted ways artistically in the 60s, they were closely associated in the popular mind until their deaths and, in fact, beyond. It makes sense, then, that the only English-language biography I could find about either of them was an enormous joint biography that I finally finished the other day.

Read more... )

Hollywood RPF

  • May. 25th, 2010 at 8:39 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
Last year, while exploring a warren of a used bookstore in Kutztown, PA, I came across two volumes of Hollywood RPF. Two flaking, bound volumes from 1942-43:

Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak by Lela E. Rogers, and
Betty Grable and the House with the Iron Shutters by Kathryn Heisenfelt.

Title page and verso )

I was, understandably, fascinated, so I bought them both, put them on my shelf, and promptly forget about them. Until now. Looking at them, they're that very lightweight, cheap sort of thing that I doubt would have held up in a library setting for long. I do wonder where these copies came from. (Betty Grable shows 50 copies on www.abe.com, from $3.79 to $88; Ginger Rogers shows 114 copies from $3.64 to $47.81, if you're curious.) The back pages list charming titles from the same publisher, segregated for girls and boys, though the page of interest reads thus: )

This website has a complete listing of the actress titles, which also include Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, Gene Tierney, and Dorothy Lamour. It also reveals that Lela E. Rogers was Ginger's mother, and lots of other stuff I don't have access to, like general information about the writing and the way in which the "real person" angle is handled. According to the site, Heisenfelt wrote half the books, all of which "read like parodies of series books":

Heisenfelt's characters nearly always encounter one or more people who are stricken by fear that is superstitious. The heroine is usually fearful as well, with the difference being that the heroine is able to control her fear enough not to make a complete fool out of herself. Every event in the story has a mysterious importance, and normal, everyday sounds, such as a shutting door or a cat's meow, are often taken to be extremely scary. The mystery usually turns out to be a fairly insignificant mystery, and in some cases would not have been a mystery had everyone communicated with each other. In short, Heisenfelt's books tend to be overly-dramatic. The entire plot of each Heisenfelt book usually occurs in a very short period of time, often in fewer than 24 hours.

It also explains that there are two groups of stories in this loosely-defined "series": books in which the main character is in fact the actress named, and "while the heroine is identified as a famous actress, the stories are entirely fictitious and center around a mystery that convenient appears while the heroine is briefly visiting a dear friend. In some of these stories, many of the other characters fail to recognize the actress in spite of her openness about her identity!" The others are AU adventures where the character has the same name and looks as the actress but is, in fact, just a regular girl. Since I have one of each here, I'll see what I can see without actually reading them cover to cover.

Betty Grable and the House With the Iron Shutters )

Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak )

In short: these books are not very good. Nor did they really need to be, if you think about it. And the fascination lies not in their quality, but their existence. How did people respond to the idea of RPF back then? Was this a common practice in movie mags of the time? Who authorized the use of these personae? I haven't found a link by studio or anything like that. And what else are we missing from the history of RPF, before it got a clever name? Does it even count as such, when no effort is made to make it "real" beyond the names and likenesses?
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
I just saw Iron Man 2. I know that LJ is full of squee for it and Robert Downey Jr. right now, so if you’re one of those people and don’t want to hear anything negative, you should probably not click on the cut. The short version is I didn’t like it and it’s raised many questions for me about superhero films, but while I’m unwilling or unable to not see certain issues in films like this, I think it’s entirely valid to be entertained by it. By no means would I ever want to suggest that because I had problems with it, you should too, or that it’s not acceptable to just like something because it’s fun/pretty/important to you. (If I sound defensive, I am, a little: I’ve been having some trouble lately expressing myself without sounding like I’m condemning people who like the things I don’t, so yes, this is a disclaimer. I like a lot of total crap, and I’m not consistent. But I have a lot of opinions. They’re not personal, and the following are just my own thoughts on the matter.)

I think I might be done with superheroes. )

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my_daroga: James T. Kirk (shatner)
I knew next to nothing going in to the University of Washington's production of Bat Boy: The Musical on Friday save that it was based on the Weekly World News story and the Oberon to my Puck (that's not figurative) had shaved his head to play the title role. I now wish I'd caught it earlier, so I could have gone back and seen it again. It had everything: "freaks," ironic musical theater tropes, real message couched in irony to salve its utter obviousness, blood, near nudity, a love story, spoilers ) and bats. [personal profile] lettered and I were aware the entire time of our own and each other's buttons being continually pressed, and it was delicious. (We are entertainment-psychic, by which I mean we can sit silently together in a theater and communicate via body language some fairly sophisticated commentary. Mr. Daroga and I have this as well, but it is a different language.)

In brief, the story follows a young man, half-human, half-bat, discovered in a cave in West Virginia by three siblings, one of whom is attacked when she offers him Fritos. Naturally he is captured and turned over to the local vet and caged, clad in a loincloth and unable to speak. He is gradually "civilized," falls in love with his protector's daughter, and longs to join the real world. Of course, the real world (or small-town W.V. anyway) is suspicious and uses "Edgar" as a scapegoat for their problems. There are whiffs of every wild boy/freak story ever, strong echoes of Joseph Merrick, slapstick humor, soap opera plot twists, and various other assaults on taste. In short, I love it.

The treatment of rural white folk is lamentable, as it entirely follows the bigoted, small-minded, ignorant stereotype. On the other hand, the preacher is one of the few who does not reject Edgar on sight, so religion is treated as something corrupted in specific practice, not absolutely. And the setting is, after all, a direct reference to the original story.

I'm not sure what else to say, other than my former castmate was AMAZING and I predict great things for him. I never really paid Bat Boy much heed, though, and I was so delighted by it I had to pass it on.

This weekend also brought me Bleacher Bums at my old theater, mostly notable because I got to see a bunch of my theater friends, and more interestingly Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Banksy film that's sort of about street art.

I don't want to give too much away, as I went in cold, but I also am not sure how to review it. I'm not sure yet how I feel about it or what I want to say. But it was interesting and a bit of a puzzle and well worth it, even if I would love to see a film about street art that went in a bit of a different direction.

In Outdoor Star Trek news... )

Better Than it Sounds meme

  • May. 4th, 2010 at 11:22 AM
my_daroga: James T. Kirk (shatner)
Pick 20 movies and put their summaries from TV Tropes' Better Than It Sounds and have your friends guess WITHOUT CHEATING.

Note: Okay, I cheated: they didn't list 20 of my favorite films so you're getting a little mix.

just something to do )

Film Review: 200 Motels (1971)

  • Aug. 23rd, 2009 at 3:40 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
As we were entering the tiny nonprofit Grand Illusion theater, the last audience was leaving. As she passed, one woman said to her companions, “that is, by far, the worst movie I have ever seen.”

She might have a point, but for my part there's no way to judge 200 Motels by conventional standards. I don't even have unconventional standards for it. Ostensibly Frank Zappa's... meditation on life on the road, it plays a bit like Spinal Tap on the set of “Pee-Wee's Playhouse” as directed by David Lynch and edited by F For Fake-era Orson Welles. Only bad. There's no plot, no acting to speak of, no logic to the editing, and it's ugly as sin. The movie never even tries to pretend it's not a movie, which is, perversely, what makes it so difficult for me to judge it as a movie. There are scenes entirely about how Zappa is going to spy on the band, take everything they say and make it dirty, and then make them say it on camera for the film. The sets are referred to as “the fake night club,” people get doubled by dolls, and everything's intercut with footage of the band performing and the orchestra Zappa's hired to accompany a choir of people singing “penis” in the same room as everything else going on. Ringo Starr appears dressed as Zappa and introduces himself as Larry the Dwarf. Zappa himself appears very little in the film (though the tight turtleneck flatters him a lot more than it does Ringo, who otherwise is brilliant).

Perhaps the most interesting thing to be observed about the film is that while watching it one can virtually add up the amount of money and time spent getting high enough to understand something created by a mind that wasn't. Thematically, it has a lot in common with the live record Fillmore East, which came out soon afterwards and, in my opinion, covers those themes (the road, groupies, the sexual economics of rock star life) a lot better (and filthier) than this film does. Visually, it's obviously shot on video and had some vomit-inducing effects. But while I cannot actually recommend it unless this sounds attractive to you, I am glad I saw it; it's a document of something, even if I'm not sure exactly what, and it's interesting in a way that makes “good” and “bad” pretty much irrelevant to me.

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"You haven't seen X?!?!"

  • Aug. 10th, 2009 at 10:22 AM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
You know those movies you haven't seen, that everyone's seen, and everyone looks at you funny when you reveal the horrible truth? Or the ones you eye others with horror and suspicion when they reveal the horrible truth to you? It happens for numerous reasons, from lack of opportunity to lack of interest to outright hostility. Pulp Fiction was one that, for many years, I hadn't seen because everyone I knew had already seen it in some other context and I just hadn't picked it up on my own.

Anyway, I knocked out two this weekend, Highlander and National Lampoon's Vacation. And pretty much all I can say about them is... I've seen them.

ETA: I keep forgetting to update here when I update LJ; I'm still muddled about the use of each, about who's where, etc. So I've updated and backdated several entries, if you're curious. Not that there's much there besides Shatner and some news about my audition.

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my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
This is not a review, because I didn't finish the film. Not because of what I'm about to tell you (I don't necessarily think turning off stupid movies is a political action) but because it was boring-bad and not entertaining-bad.

Lifeforce.

Where women are either:
-Naked models in glass cases found by astronauts, one of whom feels closer to her than anyone else EVER (she is also so irresistible--without talking, I guess it's just her lack of clothes--that she can suck the lifeforce out of people with no resistance: "She... was the most overwhelmingly feminine presence I have ever encountered.")
-Masochists who, when questioned by authorities, want the information beaten out of them (because that's totally how masochism works)
-Not there at all

The movie's about "space vampires" who get taken back to Earth and give rise to lots of gross special effects. I was just bemused by the unapologetic misogyny, which is so very blatant that it's hard to understand how it happened unintentionally, unless the makers were incredibly stupid. Either that, or it's a very telling testament to someone's vision of audience desires in 1985. (Not that this sort of thing is isolated to this time period, but I'm talking about whatever decisions went into making this one film.)

Most movies like this--bad scifi/horror movies with sexy female villains--are set up for male pleasure in a forumla that includes unattainable/dangerous sex objects, ciphers to pin desire on, sexual obviousness, explosions, gross-outs, male supremacy. I've just seldom seen it so obvious. Too bad it wasn't worse. Then it might at least have been fun.

Though this exchange comes close:

Colonel Tom Carlsen: She's resisting. I'm going to have to force her to tell me. Despite appearances, this women is a masochist. An extreme masochist. She wants me to force the name out of her. She wants me to hurt her. I can see the images in her mind. You want to stay? Otherwise wait outside!
Colonel Colin Caine: Not at all. I'm a natural voyeur.

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my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ORSON WELLES!

As most of you know, I've been obsessed with Orson Welles for some months, now. Today, he would have been 94 years old. And while I doubt he'd have lived this long under most circumstances, it's unfortunate that he died at 70, still working fruitlessly in post-golden boy "decline," ignored by the industry who came out in droves to shower his memory as soon as they could not longer materially help. At least he died at his typewriter. But he also died before the critical tide turned fully in his favor--though maybe that's how these things work.

Even now, Welles maintains a strange position in film studies and biography. The sensationalists in us like to hold him up as a self-destructive contradiction, a selfish genius who never fulfilled his promise and "ate himself to death," a man who caused all his own difficulties--or, on the other side, was eternally the victim. Of course neither, I think, is true: Welles had his share of faults, but he wasn't treated very well by those he relied upon when he chose a field so dependent on money and cooperation as filmmaking. He made compromises, and they weren't Hollywood's, and maybe that was a mistake. We'll never know. What I do know is that I can't read most of the biographies about him when so many of them seem to have nothing nice to say--Simon Callow has a very thorough several-volume set, but I've never heard him be anything but coyly dismissive of Welles in interviews. I also know, through my google alert (set so as not to miss any new films uncovered, etc), that fully 1/3 of references to Welles on a daily basis are reposts of that Paul Masson commercial outtake where he's blotto and ridiculous. Which, yes, is funny. But it pains me to see it as his "legacy" for the internet crowd.

Welles is one of those artists whose work I enjoy more for knowing more about him. As an ouvre. Which is not to say that I sit around making explicit connections between them, because I don't think he worked that way. But I enjoy enjoying him as a person, as an actor/writer/director in total, and it makes even the minor stuff entertaining because I'm bringing his body of work to it. As one does with any figure in whom one's interest transcends the single work. Their imperfections become interesting, or meaningful, or perhaps just proof of their humanity.

This is one reason it's hard for me to post, in tribute, a clip, or mention my favorite Welles film. I don't know that I have one. I think I'm more interested in the canon, the combination, and the artistic flexibility/tenacity of the man than any one film.

I started out hoping I'd end up saying something, when really, I don't know that I have anything to say that's not been said better, elsewhere. Perhaps by me. But Happy Birthday, Mr. Welles. I'd have liked to have known you. But not dated you.

some quotes )

Lawrence, Interrupted

  • Apr. 15th, 2009 at 8:15 AM
my_daroga: Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (lawrence)
Photobucket


Every year, the Seattle Cinerama plays Lawrence of Arabia around Easter. I don't know why this is a tradition--I mean Easter, specifically--but it's nearly enough to ensure I never leave Seattle. But there is a crying need to cut some new prints; on Sunday, the audio cut out every few minutes for a few seconds, which was really annoying but cleared up after about half an hour.

Last night, however--yes, I was there again--it was much, much worse. Eventually they had to stop the film, as it had become unwatchable, and refund everyone. Whole lines were being lost, conversations chopped up, and the announcement was that their DTS reader wasn't working, which is odd considering that on Sunday I just thought it was a worn audio track on the film itself. Anyway, being pulled out of the film violently like that was pretty upsetting. Not upsetting in the sense that I was angry, but like getting to your favorite part of your favorite book and having the phone ring. And the book taken away from you.

I probably won't be able to make it back with [livejournal.com profile] tkp, because she'll work on Sunday and I'll be practicing on Tuesday, but anyway I thought I'd talk a little bit about Lawrence, as if I haven't done enough of that over the years.

My love for this movie, and this man, confuses me a little. Or rather, I feel like it should. It's not so much that I directly relate to him, though my online moniker was his name among the Arabs until I changed it to the current one. And though I love the daroga, and actually relate to him more, I'd probably still have the other if I hadn't hastily abandoned it when my family discovered this journal.

What's odd to me about this is that T.E. Lawrence, and the film itself, are hardly politically consistent with my views. I mean, it's such an imperialist story; he and the film both are criticized for their statements about the Middle East and its people. He's a megalomaniac, a would-be "savior" for a group who "obviously" can't help themselves without the White Man, playing opposite blue-eyed Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal and Anthony Quinn's awful fake nose.

Shouldn't I reject this?
Read more... )

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