Friday, August 31, 2012

Month 32 Status Report

The goal for this month was to hit 25 films off the list, and by my count, I got 26, which is great. Even better, I got two of the longest remaining films for me, meaning that watching those long epics is getting shorter and shorter every month. I also did a few tough to find ones, again making this entire process easier.

This is important because the first couple of weeks of September are going to be difficult with work, which means my output will be far more limited than normal. This is also the month traditionally that sees a new edition of The Book, this time with probably a dozen new films and allegedly sporting Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on the cover, which feels very much like an odd choice. So, not only will I probably fall short of the consistent goal of 25 films, it's likely that the list will crack 1,100 by month's end.

September will be as productive as I can make it. I need to focus more on foreign films when I have the chance, and I will likely continue to try to knock out a handful of earlier films every month. Beyond that, expect business as usual.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

South American Way, Part II

Film: Cidade de Deus (City of God)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.

My podcasting partner Nick Jobe is running/ran a review tournament at the Large Association of Movie Blogs. Under duress, I participated (I was Nick's third back-up for people who dropped). I made it to the third round. I'm posting two of those reviews yesterday and today, since they are a part of The List.

American crime movies tend to glorify crime. Films like Oceans 11 portray criminals as people we’d like to hang out with. They’re sort of like Harlequin Romance heroes—they’re attractive, talented, potentially wealthy, and have a whiff of danger about them without really being dangerous. This is true all the way back to the 1930s. While characters like Tom Powers in The Public Enemy are harsh, they’re also charismatic. There’s something attractive about them. People even like psychotic killers. Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Krueger…these guys have fan clubs. Even though we know these are bad guys, there’s a part of us that roots for them at least a little.

Cidade de Deus (City of God) does not present us with this exotic and mildly entertaining life of crime. The people in this film don’t pull off capers or say something droll when polishing off a victim. This is real crime, the sort that we like to pretend doesn’t happen. It’s dirty, ugly and brutal. Violence happens suddenly and without warning, and the cheapest commodity is human life, particularly the lives of children.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

South American Way, Part I

Film: Brazil
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I'm spilling the beans a few hours early. My podcasting partner Nick Jobe is running/ran a review tournament at the Large Association of Movie Blogs. Under duress, I participated (I was Nick's third back-up for people who dropped). I made it to the third round. I'm posting two of those reviews today and tomorrow, since they are a part of The List.

I’ve always been fascinated by the work of Terry Gilliam. Like David Lynch, Jean Renoir, and a few other directors, Gilliam is a director who makes auteur theory look like a real thing. Everything goes into the vision of the film, and Gilliam—regardless of any legendary battles with the studio—always shines through in the end product. Brazil is one of his first non-Monty Python efforts, and is legendary in terms of struggles for creative control and vision. Like Blade Runner, there are multiple versions of this film. For this, I watched Gilliam’s Final Cut.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All in the Family

Film: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

If you don’t pay attention to things, movies slip through the cracks. For one reason or another, I’d never seen the classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? until today. I’ve heard of it, of course, and heard about the legendary feud between stars Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. But I’d never gotten around to watching it. For my fellow bloggers pursuing Ryan McNeil’s Blind Spot series, this was one of my picks, and for obvious reasons. There’s no genuinely good reason I’ve waited until now to see it.

We start with Baby Jane Hudson (Julie Allred), a child star who is more demanding than she has a right to be. Her father (Dave Willock) gives in to all of her whims, which upsets the other daughter, Blanche (Gina Gillespie) and her mother (Anne Barton). She tells Blanche that someday, their roles will be reversed, and that when that happens, she should be kinder to them than they have been to her. It’s prophetic, because a few years later, Blanche (Joan Crawford) is a successful star (we see clips from her early films) while Jane (Bette Davis, again in clips) is a train wreck of an actress. Then there’s an accident as one sister evidently tries to kill the other, and we flash forward to the present.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rebel Without a Clue

Film: Five Easy Pieces
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

If you swing a dead cat, you’ll hit a film about someone rebelling. Often, this rebellion comes in the form of someone trying for something more than bad luck has given them, youth in revolt against the lower-middle class. So what does it look like when someone revolts against an upper class, classical background? The result is Five Easy Pieces.

Robert Eroica “Bobby” Dupea (Jack Nicholson) works on an oil rig in Texas with his trailer park buddy Elton (Billy Green Bush). He drinks beer, goes bowling, and sometimes cheats on his girlfriend Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black), a waitress. For Bobby, this is life. He moves from job to job and woman to woman, looking for something that is never really there. In fact, there’s no evidence that Bobby even knows what he’s looking for or that he’ll be able to realize it when and if he finds it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I Hate Musicals

Film: Babes in Arms
Format: DVD NetFlix on big ol’ television.

The more I go through all of these movies, the more I find ones that don’t fit my expectations, or that I like despite the genre. That’s one of the joys of doing this; I find a lot of movies I’d have never watched on my own that I end up being happy I watched. Sadly, this is not the case with Babes in Arms, a film that manages not only to strike every bad musical cliché in the book, but proceeds to jump up and down on said clichés until there is nothing left of them but a damp patch on the ground.

So think of your typical musical. Take a minute or two and think of every possible cliché you can, from the plucky youngsters, to the star too wrapped up in his or her stardom to realize their own ridiculousness to the person who sees no value in the plucky entertainers treading the boards. Think of the songs arising spontaneously out of nowhere. Think of the fact that everyone involved is always talented to a degree of insanity, and that all they need is a chance, just one chance, to knock ‘em dead. Everything I just said appears in this film and at such an intensity that it’s almost parody of itself.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Princess Moanna

Film: El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Format: DVD from personal collection on big ol’ television.

Within the first 20-25 minutes of El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), we have seen a fairy, met the faun of the title, and have seen two men murdered in cold blood, one by being brutally smashed in the face with a wine bottle by the commandant of a military camp. In each case, we are shown the main themes of Guillermo del Toro’s film. The fairy is not a cute critter from a Disney film. The faun is no benign beast of the forest. The commandant (Sergi Lopez) is a true monster in human form.

Few directors are able to blend the idea of the fantastic with the terrible world of the real as well as del Toro. It’s familiar ground for him--Hellboy and particularly The Devil’s Backbone walk these same avenues, but both of those films have a very different vision than this one. The release of this film put del Toro on the map in many ways, particularly for the art house crowd. There’s a reason for that—this film is in many ways the highest realization of del Toro’s personal vision.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Four Legs Good

Film: Animal Farm
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

When it comes to a story like Animal Farm, you fit into one of three categories. First, you’ve read it. Second, you’re not yet 20 and haven’t read it yet. Third, you’re older than 20, haven’t read it, and should be truly ashamed of yourself. Thus, the following will not much discuss the actual story of this film (except as it differs from the short novel), because this is a story you should already know. Yes, you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Freudian Slip

Film: La Maman et la Putain (The Mother and the Whore)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Once upon a time, there was a womanizing chauvinist named Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Leaud). He wakes up next to his partner Marie (Bernadette Lafont), sees the time, and quickly gets dressed and leaves. As it turns out, Marie is little more than a sex partner; his heart truly belongs to Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten). It’s Gilberte who he wants to marry despite his live-in sex partner, but Gilberte has her own boyfriend who has asked her to marry him. She leaves him hanging and goes off, not committing to her new beau or to Alexandre. Almost in retaliation, he picks up a girl named Veronika (Francoise Lebrun), and bluntly admits this to Marie.

Welcome to Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain (The Mother and the Whore), a film that, were it better known, would be the template for hipsters the world over. There is something almost indescribably hipster about this film. Alexandre and his friend (Jacques Renard) are unemployed but still manage to find money to survive. They listen to unknown, vaguely disturbing music (the friend, for instance, is an aficionado of a German singer promoted by the Third Reich and evidently has a library of Nazi literature), steal a wheelchair because it’s a wheelchair, and otherwise do their best not to conform. Alexandre claims that his job is sitting in a café and reading. He also consistently wears two neckties at the same time, the ties bound together in a cross between a half-Windsor and an ascot. Christ, if he could somehow have an iPad and ride a fixie, he’d only need the handlebar moustache.

When Steve Met Ryan

Head over to The Matinee to check out the discussion on When Harry Met Sally between Ryan McNeil and yours truly. Thankfully, Ryan is a kind editor and made a few of my more rambling and poorly-worded responses into something resembling presentability. It's a fun discussion with some good questions and a few coherent answers.

(And yes, I realize that comparing the titles means I'm equating Ryan with Meg Ryan. First, there's the name similarity. Second, it's hardly an insult. Third, it's my blog and if I want to be Billy Crystal, you can't stop me.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Off Script: The Old Dark House

Film: The Old Dark House
Format: VHS from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on big ol’ television.

Old horror films show up in the modern age with a serious problem: they aren’t that scary. Take The Old Dark House as a case in point. There are plenty of horror elements here, and there’s a set up for a horror film, but it’s just not that scary. It’s weird and even disturbing in places, or was for 1932, but now comes off as just goofy.

A trio of people are driving through a pounding rainstorm. These are Philip Waverton (Raymond Massey), his wife Margaret (Gloria Stuart) and their friend Penderel (Melvyn Douglas). The road becomes impassable thanks to a rockslide, and they’re forced to take shelter in a creepy old house near where the car is trapped.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top of the World, Ma!

Film: White Heat
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I went into White Heat with high expectations. For starters, I love film noir, and this is a film from the heart of the genre and the heart of the period. Second, and even more critical, I like James Cagney. He had the potential to overact at times, but it often fit in with his persona. Cagney often played larger-than-life characters, and a little histrionics never hurt anyone too much. Knowing it was Cagney in the same mode as a film like The Public Enemy, the sort of film that made him a gangster in the minds of movie fans, I was ready for anything.

This is an odd film in a number of ways, though. It’s an atypical noir in that the characters are flawed in different ways than is expected. Oh, there’s plenty of violence and more callousness than I was expecting, but there’s more to it than that. Our characters here are odd ducks, and none is odder than Cagney’s Cody Jarrett.

Monday, August 20, 2012

...And He Lives in Queens

Film: King of New York
Format: DVD from personal collection on kick-ass portable DVD player.

Consider Christopher Walken for just a moment. When did he become extreme version of himself, the sort of Christopher Walken parody that he frequently is these days? At what point in his career did he go from being a well-respected, excellent actor into a guy who can still pull off a great performance but is just as apt to turn into caricature? I don’t know. What I do know is that it happened at some point following King of New York, which is much more in line with traditional Walken.

King of New York is a deceptively simple film, one that draws immediate comparisons to stories like that of Robin Hood. Frank White (Walken) is a career criminal just released from prison. As he is getting out, his second in command, Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne) is both killing off the competition and stealing their cocaine as a sort of welcome back present for Frank. Frank continues in the same line, offering deals to other criminals to join his new enterprise, and when they refuse, he wipes them out. Frank also picks up with his girlfriend/lawyer Jennifer (Janet Julian), creating a new criminal empire comprising the entire drug trade in New York.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Prison Break

Film: Down by Law
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

A month or so ago I came out of the closet as a David Lynch appreciator. I’m not sure I’d call myself a fan, but I don’t mind watching his films. I’m going to do something similar right now—I like the films of Jim Jarmusch. Again, I’m not sure I’d call myself a dedicated fan, but I like what I’ve seen and I’d like to see more. There’s a cool aesthetic going on here, and I like what Jarmusch does with his limited budgets, his camera, and how he can make a mainly plotless film like Down by Law so worth watching.

Jarmusch’s work is probably less controversial than Lynch. People who don’t like Jarmusch can often see the artistic value in his work. In fact, I could well understand someone disliking Down by Law. For me, though, there was a certain expectation with this film. I remember seeing a promotional ad for it years ago and thinking I’d like to see it if only for the presence of Tom Waits. That was well over a decade ago, but I never saw the film until tonight.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Her Name is Rio

Film: Notorious
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

A couple of weeks ago when I reviewed Rope, I was trolled because I said that Hitchcock was a one-trick pony. That certainly overstated my case, but there’s still some truth behind what I said. Hitchcock did like to reuse the same plot. A case in point is Notorious. In that strange way that happens, I find this film reminds me of one that came after simply because I saw the older film first. To put it in historical order, my favorite Hitchcock film, North by Northwest is Notorious with the added twist of mistaken identity.

Notorious, as befits the earlier stage of Hitchcock’s career, is simpler than his later (and greater) film. We begin at the end of one story, a trial in which a man is convicted of treason. We focus then on his daughter Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman). She is naturally the target of the press and longs to escape. At a small party, she is introduced to a man who turns out to be a federal agent named Devlin (Cary Grant). Devlin, we get initials but never a first name, is interested in recruiting Alicia to help round up a gang of Nazi collaborators working in Brazil—a gang that her father was once a part of. She demurs, but eventually agrees.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The End of Everything

Film: Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle)
Format: DVD from Arlington Heights Memorial Library through interlibrary loan on kick-ass portable DVD player.

One of the more entertaining things about this journey is the weird little pieces of juxtaposition that happen purely by chance. Yesterday’s film was all about weird sex, and today’s film, Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle), starts with a man having sex with a blow-up doll that slowly starts deflating. This quickly expands into a bizarre post-apocalyptic vision that is shown us without explanation but that is visually fascinating nonetheless. For fans of Besson, this is where he started, and there’s plenty of evidence for how he got to where he is now.

It’s not evident immediately that we are in a post-apocalyptic world, although it becomes evident after a few minutes. As our unnamed main character (Pierre Jolivet) leaves his residence, we see not a city but a wasteland. We also notice his clothing, which looks like it’s straight out of The Road Warrior, as is the improvised weapon of our main character. A few things also become evident right away. First, everyone we see is male, which explains the blow-up doll at the start of the film. Second, no one talks. In fact, there are only two lines of dialogue in the entire film. It’s not a silent film by any stretch of the imagination, but there is no speech except for that one instance. Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. If we needed further evidence, the rain of fish that happens in the middle section is evidence enough.

I Just Don't Know

Film: Flaming Creatures
Format: Streaming video from on laptop.

Oh…shit. Another one of these films. Just when I thought it was safe to go into uncharted territories again, I opted for Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures, a short experimental art film that, like many films in the genre, doesn’t make much sense. This is an interesting one, though, because Flaming Creatures was banned upon release in New York for being obscene. It’s not hard to see why this was declared obscene for its time—in the opening 10 minutes of people putting on lipstick, there are multiple mentions of oral sex and shots of flaccid penii, frequently in the immediate proximity of the lipstick-adorned mouths of men. There are also a lot of disturbing kissy noises, more flopping penii…really, the things I do for this blog.

This is a plotless film running something under an hour but feels like a lot more. For long stretches of the film nothing really happens. Then there are moments of bizarre imagery (flopping penii overlaying naked breast), a horde of transvestitism and (I think) hermaphrodism and something that looks and sounds quite a bit like a rape, close-ups of bouncing nipples. I’m baffled, and that’s just the first 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Life is Stranger than Fiction

Film: Hitlerjunge Salomon (Europa Europa)
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I’ve commented before on the glut of films on The List that concern World War II in general and The Holocaust in specific. I’d be hard pressed to claim that I’m tired of these films or this topic, but there does come a time when I wonder how often I’m going to essentially see the same story over and over. I’ve come to appreciate films like Idi i Smotri that offer up a story tangential to The Holocaust without being the exact same story of murder, oppression, and palpable evil. We can get used to anything, I suppose, and so after so many films about the suffering of European Jews in the 1930s and ‘40s, there’s a part of me that nods and thinks I’ve seen enough.

So imagine my surprise when Hitlerjunge Salomon (Europa Europa) arrived with an actual new story about the Jewish experience before and during World War II. Based on the real life and experience of Salomon Perel, this is perhaps the most astonishing tale of this time ever told. Salomon (Marco Hofschneider) survives in any way he can through the war as a Jew, and does so in the most astonishing way possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


And there it is, folks. We've reached 100,000 hits on the blog. I'm taking the last 17 minutes of tonight off and basking in the sweet, sweet glow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The King of All Rom-Coms

Film: When Harry Met Sally
Format: VHS from personal collection on big ol’ television.

There was a moment in American film when Meg Ryan became America’s sweetheart and the go-to girl for romantic comedies. It happened at some point in the middle of When Harry Met Sally, which was a star-making turn for a whole bunch of people. It was certainly Meg Ryan’s coming out party, reinforced Billy Crystal’s stature in general, cemented Rob Reiner as one of the better directors of the age, and gave us great supporting roles for Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher.

Harry Burns (Crystal) and Sally Albright (Ryan) meet when they drive from Chicago to New York together after college. There’s no attraction between them and they’re both fine with this. Harry is of the opinion that men and women can’t be friends because there’s always the question of sex cropping up between them. When they get to New York, they part, thinking that this part of their life is over.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

With a Mother Like That...

Film: Stella Dallas
Format: VHS from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on big ol’ television.

It’s no secret that when it comes to the women of the golden age of Hollywood that I have a little crush on Barbara Stanwyck. For me, there’s nobody from the 1930s or 1940s who had the mix of everything that she did. She could play an ingénue, she was certainly capable of showing an evil side, and she could also play down. That’s what Stella Dallas is all about, at least in my world. It’s all about Barbara Stanwyck being awesome.

Stella (Stanwyck) is the daughter of blue collar worker and the sister of a blue collar worker, but she has aspirations. While working in the mill might be enough for dad and brother, Stella wants a life in society, mixing with the right people and living the high life. She sets her sights on Stephen Dallas (John Boles), who works at the mill, but not as one of the workers. As it turns out, Dallas came from money and was prepared to marry into more money when his father killed himself because he’d gone broke. Dallas’s aim was to earn his way back into society, and just when he was getting there, his former finacee Helen (Barbara O’Neil) marries someone else.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Film: Xia Nu (A Touch of Zen); Wo Hu Cang Long (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player (Xia Nu); DVD from personal collection on big ol’ television (Wo Hu Cang Long).

A few months ago, I started compiling reviews for the Large Association of Movie Blogs, also known as the LAMB. Every month, I put up a compiled list of film reviews from fellow members on a specific national cinema, genre, or style. This is called “Foreign Chops.” The first edition of this was on wuxia films, a Chinese genre of film that follows the exploits of martial heroes. While this may include martial arts films, often the hero is armed with a specific weapon. Typical xia (warrior) heroes are not in service to a lord or master, and use their abilities to help the oppressed or to redress wrongs done to others.

When I compiled that first list of films, Xia Nu (A Touch of Zen) appeared from several people. I knew it was on my list, but I didn’t really know anything about it. I’ve seen a couple of more modern wuxia films, but remained interested in this one, put off only by its three-plus hour length. Well, after a crazy week, I finally had time to watch it. Since watching, I’ve done a little research on it and have discovered that this film is formative for the genre, and now that I’ve seen it, I can also see this influence—a power it continues to have in Chinese films to this day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saddle Up

Film: Brokeback Mountain
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are films that everyone knows even if they haven’t seen them. Some of these films fade out of mass public consciousness while others stick around, forever a part of the culture. There are a few of these every decade, maybe one every year or two. In 2005, that movie was Brokeback Mountain. Everyone knew at least the basic story of this film, and I’d guess that that’s still true today. Someone says “Brokeback,” and everyone thinks of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in a clinch and the line “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

What’s interesting from the point of view of someone who hadn’t seen the film until tonight is that this love story between two cowboys in the 1960s and beyond is about far more than that clinch that everyone (including me) thinks of when this film is mentioned. Oh, it’s there alright, but there’s quite a bit more here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Flower Petals

Film: Zangiku Monogatari (The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums/The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on rockin’ flatscreen.

I feel out of place when a film is deep in a tradition with which I am not particularly familiar. Such is the case with Zangiku Monogatari (The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, sometimes called The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum). This is a film that is at least part rooted in Kabuki, and I don’t have a great deal of familiarity with Kabuki. I mean, I sort of know what it is, but I’m hardly an expert. It’s sort of like watching a game of cricket. I think I can appreciate parts of it, but I don’t really know what’s going on a lot of the time, and I’m not sure I can fully understand what makes something good or bad.

Regardless, Kabuki is more the backdrop of this film than it is the focus, and it’s the backdrop because our characters are stage actors. It’s a simple story of family, love, and redemption. A young man named Kikunosuke Onoue (Shotaro Hanayagi) acts in his adoptive father’s troupe. Because his father is a widely respected actor, Kikunosuke is praised to his face, but is constantly derided behind his back because he isn’t very good. The only person who really encourages him to improve at his craft is Otoku (Kakuko Mori), the wet nurse of his father’s infant son.

Off Script: Village of the Damned

Film: Village of the Damned
Format: DVD from Peru Public Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I like a good horror movie, and the ones I tend to appreciate more than others are the ones that don’t go the full monty and show everything. Cerebral horror is hard to do well, so when it is, I tend to be very happy. Films like The Haunting are the type that (my opinion) scare smart people. Someone has to be willing to buy into the premise enough to actually think through implications and things that have only been hinted at. As I said, it’s difficult to do well.

The original Village of the Damned is a film that manages to keep things in the realm of the creepy without getting too terribly scary. The film is unnerving in many places, working on ideas of late 1950s and early 1960s paranoia, fears of science and invasion, and a host of disturbing children, and you’ve got something that, while not scary, is certainly thought-provoking and disquieting.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Film: The Last Wave
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on rockin’ flatscreen.

I frequently comment on this blog about my own lack of spirituality. That perhaps is not a true or fair assessment. I consider myself a skeptic and I don’t have any firm religious beliefs (or, really, any beliefs in that line). If it’s something that I have to believe in rather than know factually, I figure it’s bunk. Belief often seems to me to be little more than wishful thinking. So when I encounter something that is explainable only through this sort of mystical sense, well, my reaction tends to be…interesting.

This is where I end up with a film like Peter Weir’s The Last Wave. This is a film firmly rooted in a sort of spiritual other world, but even that is selling it short. This film isn’t immersed in spirituality the way a film about religion tends to be—this is not about religion. It’s far deeper than that, posing a sort of metaphysical position obtainable only in glimpses, and then only really visualized out of the corner of one’s eye. This is a film about cycles occurring on the grandest of scales, a true sort of cosmology that incorporates life, time, and the universe.

Liebstering Again

A little while ago I posted another Liebster Award. I like these things. They're fun and give me a chance to do something different from my normal posting. Andy Buckle at The Film Emporium put my name at the end of his post, giving me another 11 questions to answer. I'm not going to do the whole post here since I've done it once already, but it would be rude not to answer his questions.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Film: Meshes of the Afternoon
Format: Internet video on laptop.

I don’t typically watch films on YouTube if I can help it. If that’s the only way to see something, I’ll do it, but it’s generally a last choice. However, wanting to keep moving forward on the list and having a day filled with painting my daughter’s room a hot, Hello Kitty pink meant that my time for such niceties as movie viewing was severely limited. And, well, I don’t happen to have a vast number of film shorts on hand. So, in lieu of something longer I sat down with Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, one of the few films I have left that runs under an hour.

It’s fair to call this film a collaboration since Alexander Hammid is listed on the credits as a director as well, but most people consider this to be Deren’s vision. So what is Deren’s vision, you ask? I have to be straight with you here—I’m not 100% sure I know.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The German Title Starts with "Blech"

Film: Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum)
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I want you to think of all of the films you have seen in your life. Think of all of the children that appear in those films. Of all of those children, I want you to think of the most hateful and awful children you can. If you are not thinking of Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) in Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), the reason is that you’ve never seen Die Blechtrommel. Seriously, this kid makes the white-haired evil space children from Village of the Damned look like a kindergarten. Oskar makes Damien look like a kid you’d have over to tea.

Sadly, this film centers on Oskar as the main character, and we’re tied to this hateful little bastard for more than 140 minutes. We learn initially of Oskar’s lineage, which starts when his grandmother (Tina Engel at this point, Berta Drews later on) hides a man escaping from the police under her voluminous skirts. Naturally in this situation, the man’s reaction is to have sex with her while the cops are walking past. This results in Agnes (Angela Winkler), who becomes Oskar’s mother. Oskar’s father is either Jan Bronski (Daniel Olbrychski), who happens to be Agnes’s cousin, or Alfred Matzerath (Mario Adorf), her husband. She’s sleeping with both men, though, so it doesn’t really matter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Attica! Attica!

Film: Dog Day Afternoon
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

If you’re a movie geek, you know all about John Cazale. Cazale, who did at 42, was in a grand total of five films in his short career. As it happens, each of those five films was nominated for Best Picture. This is a unique record in film history—someone who was an actor in this number of films being connected exclusively with great films. One of those films is Dog Day Afternoon, a film I had heard of and knew something about, but had never actually seen until tonight.

This is the story of a bank robbery that goes very wrong very quickly. Three men walk into a bank, inexpertly draw guns, and raid the vault. One, Stevie (Gary Springer) immediately gets cold feet and runs off leaving the other two to complete the job. The one nominally in charge is Sonny (Al Pacino), who is an interesting case. He seems to only marginally know what he is doing. His accomplice, Sal (the aforementioned John Cazale), is the real gunman. Sonny and Sal manage to keep the bank from triggering an alarm, but have also entered the bank on the worst day possible for a robbery—the vault has just been emptied and there is only $1,100.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Film: Giulieta Degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.

Okay, I’m just about done with Federico Fellini, and I’ve decided that this is a good thing. So far, Fellini has been hit or miss with me, and the emphasis has been much more on the miss side. I’ve liked a few, but those I haven’t liked, I really haven’t. This is relevant because I’m going to say things that will likely seem untoward to a film that is regarded as one of his great films--Giulietta Degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits)

Like a lot of Fellini, this one stars his wife, Giulietta Masina. She is Giulietta Boldrini, a simple woman who believes her husband is getting a little something-something on the side. This causes her to start a spiritual quest to find herself and discover what it is she really wants. It starts with the desire to emulate her open and plainly sexual neighbor, Suzy (Sandra Milo). Eventually, this leads to enlightenment. In short, it’s a decadent, hedonistic version of Eat, Pray, Love with a lot more sexual overtones.