Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hey!

If you somehow found your way here and want to read more movie stuff from me–click this link!

I’m currently going through King Vidor’s entire oeuvre, in search of the meaning of America. Or, at the very least, of melodrama.

Hope you’ll join me at Anagramsci!

thanks

Dave

Read Full Post »

All Apologies

indianheadtestpattern16x9

Greetings!

I am a notoriously inconsistent blogger–and now I’ve got dead air at a new site to prove it!

All I can say is–the muse of fiction has recalled me to the sacred task of writing a time travel novel. and I must heed its call!

I’ll be back sometime soon, I’m sure! There are some tough chapters ahead!

good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

So (like many of you, I’m sure) I saw Watchmen over the weekend.

I was, on the whole, pleasantly surprised by the adaptation!

The film was decidedly less sophisticated in its psychological engagement with the characters who actually aren’t purely allegorical (i.e. Dan and Laurie). For me, those two characters are the heart of Moore’s book–and Snyder doesn’t handle their story very well. By omitting the coffee serving scene (praised at length in this piece), the film sacrifices the wonderful multivalence of the pair’s sexual reawakening on the owl ship, leaving only the costume-fetish aspect of the supersexual critique intact (whereas the book makes it impossible to disentangle the creepiness of the “power fantasy” from the wide-eyed wonder of altruism as aphrodisiac).

On the other hand–the film’s politics are SO MUCH SMARTER THAN THE BOOK’S! I can’t overstate how pleased I am with Hayter/Tse’s (and Snyder’s?) new ending. Yes, the exploding squid was fun–but it’s a catastrophic failure as a plot device. By converting the now-absent Dr. Manhattan from superhero to Super Ego, Veidt’s plan actually stands a chance of imposing perpetual peace upon the world–and kills America’s sense of a special relationship with “God” with the same stone (whereas the GN’s alien is, at best, a shock treatment that will inevitably wear off). Moreover, the film’s Veidt is leagues beyond Moore and Gibbons’ ranting madman, who, by the end of the book, is absolutely indistinguishable from any other melodrama villain. As played by Goode, Veidt actually seems to feel the cost of his actions, allowing the film to lay bare the calculus of political foundation with a candor that the book (unlike its much-maligned contemporary text, Squadron Supreme) never approaches.

Other good stuff in the film–very quickly: the Dr. Manhattan origin story, the opening montage and Matt Frewer’s Moloch.

It’s definitely worth your time–whether you’ve read the book or not!

good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

The blogging opportunities haven’t really been presenting themselves this week, sadly.

On the bright side–I do have a line on one of the pre-“Jennifer Jones” Isley performances, so perhaps the delay in launching my star persona analysis project can be construed as fortuitous.

But I thought I would take this opportunity to direct your attention to this stuff that I wrote on Watchmen (the comic), a while back. I’d say that I stand by about 70% of it (especially the idea of altruism-as-aphrodisiac in the coffee-serving scene–my personal favourite–will it make it onto the screen?)

I have pretty low expectations for the movie , but will, of course, be going to see it as soon as it hits Montreal. Luckily, Frank Miler’s The Spirit has already secured a lock on “worst comic book adaptation ever filmed,” so Snyder has averted that danger by default.

good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

very busy lately, unfortunately–but will check in soon with a post on Warner Brothers’ amazing companion piece to They Won’t Forget in the 1937 anti-lynching sweepstakes– Michael Curtiz’s Mountain Justice (starring the very very unjustly neglected Josephine Hutchinson), which I saw over the weekend.

For now–just wanted to mention that I actually watched the entire Oscar ceremony last night, for the first time in my life (I attended a party devoted to the event). I had absolutely no rooting interest, but was glad to see Kate Winslet win (even though I haven’t seen The Reader; she should have won a long time ago–for Jude) and liked Penn’s speech (although I haven’t seen Milk yet)… but oh that Sophia Loren appearance was painful… I don’t usually make snarky comments about plastic surgery, but that job pushed me to brink of apoplexy. At the very least–I’ll be Oscarred for life… Why the hell did she do that to us?

good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

dark-picaresque

They can’t all be winners.

Michael Powell’s (screenwriter Emeric Pressburger is not co-billed in triplicate on this one) 49th Parallel certainly has its moments–unfortunately, some of them aren’t GOOD moments.

In conception, this thing is truly ingenious: a dark picaresque tale that moves the (Nazi) highwaymen to center stage, beset by all manner of complacent Canadians (most of whom come to Rick Blaine-style epiphanies through their encounters with Fascism in the flesh–a development that the filmmakers hoped to inspire in the minds of American audiences… the film was made and released prior to the events at Pearl Harbor in December 1941).

It’s beautifully shot–and definitely treats the Canadian landscape well (although, as many have complained, it doesn’t exactly convey the most nuanced portrait of the country).

fields1

Don’t get me wrong–sure I’ve lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada almost my entire life, but I have absolutely no investment in Canadian (or any other) national identity, and I don’t judge films set in my country on their mimetic fidelity (if I did, I’d be no better than Leslie Halliwell–whose whining about Hollywood’s Britain never ceases to annoy me)

Besides, how can you stay mad at a film that begins with this earnest message?

dominionYou just can’t.

But you can’t ignore its follies either!

To me, one of the most interesting things about the film, in general, is the way it thwarts expectations by stocking its renegade U-Boat crew with recognizably British actors, none of whom affect an accent. This is a stroke of genius that reveals the German nationalist project (and ALL ethnic nationalism) for the vicious delusion that it is. You really don’t understand how insane the Nazi dream was until you hear Eric Portman haranguing an audience of Hutterites with the same voice (albeit in a higher decibel) that he will later use to describe the wonders of the Kentish countryside in A Canterbury Tale.

That’s the kind of propaganda (which makes war on the very idea of ethnic distinctions) that I can get behind.

Unfortunately, the whole enterprise (as I’ve described it) is jeopardized by ONE wacko performance:

Do I look French (Canadian) in this outfit?

Do I look French (Canadian) in this outfit?

Pourquoi, Larry?

Pourquoi?

Again–this performance (spectacle) might have been fine (well no, let’s face it, it could never have been fine–but at least it might have been a little less out of place), in a movie in which the Germans are all played by Sig Rumann (or even by Joseph Tura in his Teutonic mode). But Olivier’s courreur-de-bois just doesn’t make sense in the grand unaccented scheme that I’ve attributed to the director.

This might be your cue to remind me that Powell probably didn’t even think about this stuff in 1941 (or maybe he did–I think I’m gonna have to read his autobiography soon!)

Anyway, I suppose you can’t really blame Olivier (and you know–I actually love his equally wacko take on a Russian engineer in The Demi-Paradise, because it actually suits that film’s fish-out-of-water narrative)–someone obviously gave him a thumbs up on this “acting choice”–but I do wish they had considered this feeble masquerade’s effect upon the delicate cultural critique proffered by the rest of 49th Parallel. (in some ways, Raymond Massey’s ultra-colloquial–and actually Canadian sounding–turn at the end of the film also dilutes the critique, but not nearly to the same extent)

Still, there’s a lot to like here. The city scenes, in which the German trio (fresh from executing their wayward comrade Vogel) sell their field glasses for diner fare, are very fresh and involving. And all of the Hutterite stuff plays beautifully, I think.

Anton Walbrook contributes a dry run for his extraordinary monologue from The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp:

anti-fascismus

Glynis Johns is lovable (as always) in a very early part:

glynis

And Niall MacGinnis walks off with the film’s top acting honours by somehow putting flesh on the liberal democrat’s wet dream–the fascist who listens to reason. (And who–in the most jarring moment of the drama–is later executed for baking bread)

i-say-bread-you-say-dead

On the other hand, while I’m a big fan of both Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey, and can appreciate the gusto with which they munch their scenes, I can’t exactly claim that I was moved by anything in their respective sectors of the journey.

are-you-a-mann-or-a-mousemassey-for-the-masses

Does anyone else see Howard’s transformation as a dry-run for Vincent Price’s extraordinary antics in His Kind of Woman? As he marched boldly into danger, I kept saying to myself–“Mark Cardigan.”

good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

traffic

I’ve really been Powell and Pressburging my luck lately–revisiting some old favourites and filling in the gaps. Absolutely no disappointments so far. Quite the reverse, actually. I’m more fascinated by these guys than ever before!

Case in point–The Small Back Room (1949).

How’d I ever miss this one?

(I know how–it just wasn’t available in North America until Criterion released a beautiful DVD last year)

I just watched the film yesterday, and I already can’t imagine life without it–which is not to say that I’ve figured out where it fits in the P & P canon.

Just some impressionistic rambling then…

Byron and Farrar–astonishingly good (and about as far from their Black Narcissus characterizations as you can get):

a-woman-maybe

Apparently, the film repulsed British cinemagoers in 1949, prompting director Powell to suspect that he had done TOO GOOD a job of exposing (in extreme close up) the guts of a less-than-perfect-but-intense relationship between a man and a woman… Speaking as a once(and probably future) co-dependent individual, I have to admit that the couple’s scenes were hard to watch, but also magnificently compelling and true. And the fact that the narrative’s “happy ending” presents the triumph of the antithesis of what the self-help books would call “healthy love” can’t have helped!

have-a-drink-sammy

Oh yes–love is neurosis and shared delusions.

And when one person pulls out of the tale-spin (say, by removing her picture from the frame), the other one is often doomed to self-scrutiny…

man-in-the-mirror1

Which usually isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Thank goodness the bombs are still ticking! (they help to drown out the clocks…)

One of the most amazing things about the movie (which I certainly consider a film noir, even if many wouldn’t) is the way it brings the essentially pre-adult aspects of Hawksian “professionalism” into sharp focus (yes, we’re venturing into Leslie Fiedler territory here).

The contrast between the beautifully noir compositions of the scenes from Sammy and Susan’s private life (in their flat, at the local pub, at the Hickory Club, inside Sammy’s brain), and the brilliantly even lighting of the (physically) dangerous scenes on location is hard to miss. Only the thrill of doing his job keeps Sammy off the sulk (and the ever-present threat of the bottle). People (especially Susan) are forever speculating about this guy’s psychological age (with the numbers ranging from six to ten)–but is it really “grown up” to run off and play in the sunshine (even if the game involves the possibility of dying)? I’m not saying that it isn’t important to do a thing well–especially when what you do can help to save lives–but I don’t think it’s MORE important (as in Hawks) than figuring out where you stand with the people who are closest to you (as Byron/Susan asks: “Why am I the only person you can get tough [I think she means petulant] with?” … that’s not a question that would come up in a Hawks film–Susan’s job in the HH universe would be to learn to appreciate the superior importance of his calling)

From the little I’ve read about the film, people seem to be quite annoyed with the expressionistic presentation of Sammy’s struggle with the bottle and the clocks.

teutonic

It seems “heavy-handed”? Of course it does–it’s the phantasmagoria of a self-pitying brat. I find it extraordinarily appropriate. The next time I watch Only Angels Have Wings, I’ll keep this waking nightmare sequence in mind. It might help me to understand the behaviour of the characters in that movie–although not, of course, in the way the director would like us to.

And then again–some of Sammy’s “childishness” really bears interesting fruit. Most notably his comment, when refusing to get up and participate in the main social activity promoted by the Hickory Club, that: “Men and women are all the same when they dance.” On the one hand, it’s a Ramones-style “I don’t want to grow up” moment–but it’s also a remarkably pithy summary of the fear that neuro-biology is painting us into a corner (of life’s dance-floor)… Perhaps there’s no difference between the sides of the coin that I’m attempting to mint here–but my own (almost certainly neurotic) sense of Sammy’s meaning here is that he’s grasping for a romantic relationship that is absolutely shorn of all cultural prescriptions.

Of course–in that end–they fail miserably.

However, at least they get to live with this awesome cat.

snowball1

Oh–before I hit “publish”–I feel compelled to mention one of the greatest soliloquy set-pieces in P & P’s oeuvre… In the tradition of Anton Walbrook’s narrative of his journey from Nazi Germany to his beloved (and now deceased) wife’s homeland, Renee Asherson tore my heart out with her short-hand notes from an experiment gone awry.

renee-didnt-walk-away

I love that woman (although I must admit, when she first appeared on the screen, I thought she was Glynis Johns–whom I also love…)

Good afternoon friends!

Dave

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »