Cowboy Bebop, The Movie (part 2)

(Please read previous post)

Vincent as a villain isn't so much a variation on Vicious (Spike's arch-enemy) as he is a variation on Spike himself. Like Spike, he's died once before; like Spike, he's not sure if his previous life is the reality, or this one (it's a restatement of a theme that runs through the entire series).  Vicious is Spike's personal demon; Vincent is more like a mirror image--Spike, but grown malevolent in his nihilism and with deadlier toys to play with. When Spike tells him he should have realized this life is all he has, it's ironic, because Spike needs this advice as much as if not more than Vincent. He's telling his mirror image, but not listening himself.


Or maybe he's gradually arriving at this conclusion with himself? The movie, if I recall, comes pretty late in the series, chronologically speaking. That may be why he's able to realize it. 


I like an animated feature that can do something this subtle and sophisticated. I like an animated feature that, despite the sophistication, has the sense of fun to have a mysterious Muslim contact lean against a handrail to speak ominous words to Spike, then slide down said handrail like a schoolboy. I like an animated feature with the audacity to set the climactic battle (wonderfully shot and edited, better than any of the close-combat sequences in LOTR) inside the Eiffel tower--in my opinion one of the most beautiful modern structures in the world--with fireworks blowing up around, and make it work. I like an animated feature with the perversity to have a deadly substance, capable of killing millions, encapsulated in something as innocuous as a glass marble, and to have the loveliest image in the film--a flock of glowing gold butterfulies--mean your brain's been breached and you are about to die (while their disappearance means you're going to live).  Coolest movie of the year, no question about it.

Cowboy Bebop, The Movie (part 1)

Shinichiro Watanabe's "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" doesn't give us anything new.  We don't learn anything more about the four characters and dog that are the crew of Bebop (well, we do learn that Ein can play chess), or have anything really earth-shaking happen to them, like, say, actually winning the bounty (a hefty 300 million "woolongs"--which, if someone who wrote about this is right, should be equal to the Japanese yen, or roughly two million dollars).


Nope, nothing really new, and I don't think that's what the filmmakers were after, either. They merely thought, in the same wayward spirit of the Bebop crew, that fans would like to spend another hundred and fourteen minutes in the ever digressive, never straightforward world of Bebop. And they would be right, too.


So we get various scenes of Faye, Spike, Jet, and Edward (with Ein in tow) working their various beats, trying to trace this clue or that to their quarry. It doesn't occur to them to team up and work together, which would be the most sensible way--it's the way they actually do things in the end, but they never make a big deal out of it, never have a "yay, team!" moment--Faye grouches as usual and Jet complains about playing hen mother to everyone and Spike just jumps ahead of the rest. The movie isn't at all about being efficient or effective or even about teamwork.  It's about dealing with your personal demons, either in the past or in your head, rubbing your more abrasive character traits against the sandpaper of this particularly gritty future, and hoping the result would be more presentable, if not socially acceptable. As for us, the audience, we're here to enjoy the screech, the sparks, the friction that results.




Epics, Part 2

(Please read previous post first)

Not Edward fucking Zwick or Anthony fucking Minghella. Not Peter Jackson, who reveres Tolkien so much he's embalmed him on the big screen to the tune of three hundred million dollars (we're paying something like a billion dollars to see the nine-hour corpse). Those are mere costumed melodramas.


Take O'Hara's script, Hocloban. About a period in Philippine history, Governor-General Bustamante, who defied the Catholic Church, and was killed for it. What if a hocloban, a shapeshifting witch from a pagan sect so powerful that by the mere raising of her hand she can kill someone, on a mission of vengeance for her murdered husband, applied for employment at the Bustamante household, with the intent of killing the governor-general? And what if she instead fell in love with him?


A period epic with a supernatural twist, and all kinds of crisscrossing tensions: horror vs. history, Religion vs. State, native vs. Spanish, pagan vs. Christian, man vs. woman. That's the kind of epic that can get me excited.

Epics, Part 1

Seems to me all the wrong people are going for it. Where are the Griffiths or Eisensteins or Welles who could do the genre real justice?


Of those still living, Theo Angelopolous and Bela Tarr and maybe Im Kwon Taek might be capable of doing it (actually their recent output--Eternity and a Day, Satantango, Chunyang--are good examples). Miyazaki--and the Gainax people too, come to think of it. Coppola, if he'd get his head out of his ass, might do so again. Michael Winterbottom I hope can do at least one. Terry Gilliam again, maybe.


Ang Lee is too much of a plodder, I think. I'd like to see the crazies, the ones capable of really wild BIG projects. Scorsese proved he could do one--mixed results, but he did. Bertolucci, with a better script than he had for 1900. Spielberg, only I wish he'd...ah, screw it, I wish he'd stick to funhouse films.


Terence Malick. Alex Cox. John Woo and Tsui Hark, given decent scripts. And I wonder how Charles Burnett or Larry Cohen would react, given fifty million dollars? Godard would probably fling it back at the giver's face (so would Burnett, I think)--but then again, maybe not. Can you imagine a fifty million dollar Godard movie? It won't just be 'historically accurate,' that's for sure. Emir Kustarica, I'd like to see him try something. Fruit Chan, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Tikoy Aguiluz, Mario O'Hara...the list can be endless, if you look around a little.


(con't next post)


Film critic (part 2)

(please read previous post first)

This is a personal opinion, but the UP house style of writing that these "critics" like to use tends to be too jargon-heavy.  Clarity and simplicity are more effective means of delivering an idea.

(Joel David I respect tho--he was once asked by Sight and Sound to do a list of the ten best films ever made, and he included a porn film. I liked that; I especially liked the fact that he recognized that porn can be political, which it can)

And being rabidly politically oriented can blind one; I know of the high reputation of Sister Stella L.; I also think Sister Stella L. , while decently and intelligently made, is rather dull in its earnestness, and is more a political debate than a work of cinematic art (Pete Lacaba has heard this complaint, and god bless his gentle soul, still talks to me. But he's better off doing agitprop--which the films really are--with a real agitator, like Brocka. Or doing excellent noir with subtler social commentary with Tikoy Aguiluz).

What's more, Mike de Leon agrees with me--he dislikes the film, thinks it's his least personal project, and wonders what he was thinking of doing that sort of thing in the first place.

There's a lot of films like that--elevated because their maker's heart and passion but not skill and imagination were in the right place.  That's one kind of crap I speak out against, with every opportunity.

Well; I've pontificated--sounded more like a "critic" than I have in years. Feh.

Film critic

This in reply to some post:

"[b]FILM CRITIC[/b] - deploys a theory appropriate to the evaluation of a film release and configures a methodological approach that acknowledges both the contextual integrity of any given theory as well as the national and/or global significance of a film product under scrutiny"

My response:

See, you can do this, but never let the wires show.  And you can do it clearly and entertainingly, unlike, uh some "film critics" under this definition.

You should also keep updated,  be open to new experiences--not just of new films, but of old films you aren't familiar with.  Not just Hollywood, but foreign films, of different countries, documentaries, video movies, all kinds of genres, cultures, formats, whatever.  The list is endless.

One unforgivable remark one "film critic" made was "Bollywood films--what do they have to teach us?" This when said "critic" was attending the Hong Kong Film Festival, and a retrospective of some excellent films was showing. 

Oh, the sheer ignorance of that statement!

Not to mention the bevy of "critics" who at the MIFF once watched some clips from King Hu's body of work (he was one of the guests, believe it or not).  The remark from most "critics" was "ano ba yan, pa-talon, talon, pa-kung-fu kung-fu. wala namang significance."

Again, the sheer ignorance.  They shouldn't be staring at their own politically-oriented navel; they should be looking around them, seeing what's going on.

As for trying to put films in "context" or tracing the relationship to the larger social milieu or what have you, anyone familiar with my writings would know I do do that, with the overarching theme that Philippine cinema is as good as any in the world, and should be championed as such; I just don't do it obviously, or stridently, as some do, and I dislike jargon--that's used to make one sound more intelligent.

(con't in next post)



I like this:

"In The Return of the King, a passionate, deeply committed, borderline-erotic male bond reaches apotheosis through the annihilation of an oppressive ring." NATHAN LEE

I say, give it to 'im good!

This one's funny too:

"No man-on-man love this year could top that of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck—I mean, Greg Kinnear—in Stuck on You, but with its final installment, The Lord of the Rings proves itself the gayest film in history, capped by the Frodo-Sam (forehead) kiss and the boat ride into the sunset—wait, that's the ending of Querelle!" MARK PERANSON

Querelle had an 'annihilation of the ring' scene too. Brad Davis'. 


Best of the Year 2003 (Edited 1/18/04--might reach 10 films yet)


My top of the year, in ascending order:

8. Looney Tunes (Joe Dante)

Best recent evocation of the spirit of Chuck Jones and his fellow Warner animators.

7. Cowboy Bebop: the Movie (Shinichiro Watanabe--2002 release, but shown all around the USA in 2003)

Coolest movie of the year.

6. Hero (Zhang Yimou)

Most beautifully shot movie of the year.

5. Spider (David Cronenberg--2002 in Manila, 2003 in the USA)

Far better portrait of a schizophrenic than Ron Howard's tepid A Beautiful Mind; wonderful performances by Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson.

4. Big Fish (Tim Burton)

Burton's most emotionally hefty film yet, about a son who hates his father's fantastic lies.

3. American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)

Lovely tale of a loser who struggles--not to win, but to not lose more than usual.

2. Raising Victor Vargas (Peter Solett)

Another lovely tale, wonderfully told, of teens growing up in New York.

1. Babae sa Breakwater (Mario O'Hara)

The story of people who live and struggle along the Manila Bay breakwater, an inspired mix of grim reality, mysticism, and old Visayan songs.

I guess I haven't seen enough especially good films to make a ten best list.

Also-rans would include Femme Fatale (Brian de Palma) which should have been my fifth favorite, but it's a 2002 release (it was shown in Manila in 2003); Shattered Glass (Billy Ray) which was hair-raising, in a journalistic way; Master and Commander (Peter Weir) which was muscular but intelligent; Magnifico (Maryo J. delos Reyes) which was wholesome but honestly and skilfully made; Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) which was lovely if slight; Holes (Andrew Davis) which had charm; Angels in America, a great play adapted, somewhat imperfectly, by Mike Nichols to the TV screen; Winged Migration (Jacques Perrin) which was beautiful if a bit dull; and yeah, why not, The Two Towers (Peter Jackson--2002 release, but shown in Manila 2003) which had some nifty battle scenes and a compelling performance by a CGI construct but is still an embalmed adaptation of a mediocre boy's fantasy novel.

Return of the King

"Return of the King" is okay.  What I don't get are all the hosannas critics heap upon it--Kurosawa has been mentioned; so has "Chimes of Midnight."  This isn't the reinvention of the wheel folks, it's an above-average adaptation of some mediocre boys' fantasy novel. I don't even think it's Jackson's best work; that would be "Heavenly Creatures."

Return of the King

Watching Return of the King tonight (once more into the breach, my friends).  Am bringing an apple--no, two--to keep me awake.

Babae sa Breakwater

(posted on another forum)

Finally saw "Babae sa Breakwater," about the people living in hovels along the Manila Bay breakwater.

I think it's the best Filipino film in the past two--maybe three years.

I don't understand what's being said about "bad editing."  O'Hara's editing here is imaginative, coherent, precise.  Editing is the Achilles' Heel of Filipino filmmakers, only a handful show any kind of skill at it (I don't mean them per se, but the editing style is consistent from film to film): Gerry de Leon, Celso Ad. Castillo, Tikoy Aguiluz, Mike de Leon, and Mario O'Hara.

I agree it's very rich.  If it lacks, uh, what's that, something, it probably lacks production value--the very thing Star Cinema and Viva Film productions have, and the very thing that matters least in a work of art.  Production value is nothing--not when you have ideas, imagination, and genuine filmmaking skill at work.

As for production design--well, there isn't much.  It's mainly locations, well chosen, I think. that show the huge difference between the kind of seamless, hygenic, rather lifeless postmodern architecture favored for upper-class, tourist-infested areas (like along Manila Bay) and the dirty, lively creatures that infest their foundations.

Wonderful, lyrical film, goes beyond what Lino Brocka started with his social realism. I'll say more when I can later.



Mononoke vs. LOTR

In response to something written on the Nausicaa Mailing List:


I'm not a big fan of "Princess Mononoke," but Tolkien's so-called complexity is mainly surface dressing: a lot of made-up history, some invented languages, so on and so forth. On an emotional level though, he's pretty much straightforward--the good guys are good, the bad guys bad (painfully bad--only Saruman is sketched with any detail, while Sauron is a big ball of gas), save for Gollum, his one successfully complex character. More like the exception that proves the rule.


Miyazaki's features may not have the sweep of Tolkien (except for his "Nausicaa" manga), but I think he achieves a level of emotional complexity in both films and manga that goes beyond Tolkien.  The question is not even worth considering seriously.

Selma, Lord Selma (part 3)

(Please read previous two posts)


In the end, it's Burnett's gift for characterization that brings the film to life: moments of despair, of sudden violence, of glorious, unexpected hope are sharpened by the fact that we have come to know these characters, and cared for them deeply. 


That 'calculus of value' Burnett knows so well, it's equally instructive when applied to films. "Mississippi Burning" is a film on roughly the same milieu, directed by a white director with two white Hollywood stars, and it won several Oscar nominations and is available for rent everywhere. "Selma, Lord Selma" I had to find from Facets' DVD and video rental arm all the way in Chicago, and only on VHS (though it's available for sale in both DVD and VHS). "Burning" is chock full of grotesque distortions, everything from having blacks stand about in picturesque poses as helpless victims to making the FBI the hero (?!); "Selma" is full of rich, true detail, emotionally and historically, and the kind of poetically understated humanity that makes you feel better about the human race as a whole (that we're capable of this kind of visual, narrative grace). Wonderful film, absolutely.

Selma, Lord Selma (part 2)

(please read previous post)


And then there's Burnett's attention to detail. The first march fails, of course, because King is urgently needed elsewhere, so the police are free to beat the horde of uppity blacks that have crossed the bridge on their way to Montgomery (didn't matter if the crowd included women and children). A black man is killed in the middle of a riot, but even that's all right--he's only doing his duty.  Killing a white man, however, is a different proposition--it has to be done on a deserted street, with no witnesses (This is different from the actual recorded death, a change for which I can think of only two reasons: Burnett may have felt the historical death too melodramatic to "play" in his film--the man saves a black woman from a shotgun blast--or he simply didn't have the budget to film it. Whatever the motive, Burnett seems well acquainted with the calculus used by '60s America to determine the difference in value between the life of a white man life and the life of a black man). I noticed that whites other than Daniels are barely characterized, but this works too--we are seeing them through black eyes, who would hardly have been given the privilege of seeing into any white soul, at least not in this town.



Selma, Lord Selma (part 1)

Charles Burnett's "Selma, Lord Selma" isn't on the level of his masterpieces, "Killer of Sheep" or "To Sleep With Anger"--he's out to depict one struggle out of many in the war for black equality in the '60s, a crucial one, but he's not trying to transform it, to show it through the same mysterious, prismatic lens he used in "Killer" and "Sleep." The demarcation lines are clearly drawn; there is little ambiguity here: it's blacks and the few sympathetic whites helping them vs. the predominantly racist white community of Selma, Alabama.

That said, and considering that this is of all things a Disney TV production, it's still a remarkable piece of work.  We get to know the main protagonists quite well--Jonathan Daniels (Mackenzie Astin), the seminarian who comes to Selma wanting to help; Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett) the lovely 11 year old girl through which the story is told; and even Martin Luther King Jr., who, as played by Clifton Powell, is a modest, warmly humorous man who frets over the people he leads into danger.

The story may not be altogether fresh--we have the usual drama about peoples' uprisings and children trying to convince their parents to allow them to pursue their beliefs come what may, and there's some preciousness in having a precocious child tell the story (it's based on a book written by the actual Webb), but Burnett brings to the material his inimitable restraint, not so much good taste (something I'd sooner accuse Clint Eastwood of having) as a sort of simplicity of approach, a grace that he brings to any subject, however idealistic or even potentially mawkish.


To Sleep With Anger

Charles Burnett's "To Sleep With Anger" is a fucking masterpiece.


Lipstick on Your Collar, Part 2

Finished "Lipstick on Your Collar." 
I looked carefully at the credit sequence; I think this is early CGI, of the type REO Speedwagon and The Cars (if I remember what little MTV I saw) used to use in their music videos...
Upbeat ending for the younger generation, who are perfectly happy with the way things turn out (World War 3 is averted, Britain fades into the background of world politics).
Funny, but the Potter figure Pvt. Francis Francis (Potter doing a little Joseph Heller here) gets the biggest reward, a beauty (Kim Huffman) who's an intellectual equal and indescribably (in other words, American) rich. Ewan McGregor gets the working-class girl Sylvia (Louise Germaine, also gorgeous--Potter, who produces, knows how to cast his heroines), and they're perfectly content to listen to all the rock 'n roll that Potter skillfully (if with less depth and feeling than with his '30s songs) sprinkles all over the place.
The only note of nostalgia and regret is struck by Thomas and McGregor's boss, Col. Bernwood (Peter Jeffrey). He remembers when England was once great and he's the one champing at the bit to invade Egypt, perhaps face off with the ultimate enemy, Soviet Russia.  It's with the less ambitious and at the same time more practical and adaptable younger uns that hope for world peace lies (Thomas and Huffman love Pushkin and Chekov, while McGregor and Germaine would rather gyrate to rock).
No it's not one of Potter's best--which means it's only one of the more complex and witty and sophisticated recent musical comedies around, instead of an indescribable masterpiece (which "Singing Detective" was).


Lipstick on Your Collar

Am more than halfway through Dennis Potter's "Lipstick on Your Collar." Interesting effort, one of his late series (the last made before he died in 1994), and the debut performance of one Ewan McGregor.
You can tell, Potter's not as much into '50s rock and roll--his use of songs are clever, even funny, but only once does the song have the same intensity as in anything in "Singing Detective," or "Pennies from Heaven." Significant choice of setting: the nationalization of the Suez, which marked the end of England's reputation as a superpower, and is at one point thought to be the start of World War 3, or the end of the world (This series was made in 1993, seven years before the millenium's end).
Even more significant is Potter's view of women. He has at least one woman in his works that is well-sketched--I'm thinking Bernadette Peters' role in Pennies from Heaven, and Janet Suzman in Detective--but only in "Detective" is there a woman (Suzman) who is on equal footing with the protagonist. Most of the time they're whores or opportunists, usually both. Well-sketched, Potter's too good not to do otherwise...but Suzman makes you realize what he can do with women characters when he puts his mind to it.
It's much better produced than "Detective"--Potter wrote and produced this, and it's said that when he surrounded himself with yes men instead of collaborators his work suffered. You can see the sets are more elaborate, and they have a few optically printed (CGI?) special effects, but it works on only two levels--fantasy and reality--where "Detective" works on four: detective story, real life, childhood, and some meta-level where all three mix and play, with concurrently far more power.
Still, wonderful comedy, funnier and more complex than any recent musical I can think of ("Moulin Rouge," "Chicago," etc.).


Boiled beef

The wife did boiled beef with potatoes, parsley, whole peppercorns.  I took the bones, scooped out the marrow onto slices of toast, sprinkled a little fish sauce on em, and it was delish.

Angels in America, Part 2

Saw the second half of Angels in America.

Well, I liked this incarnation of the angel--no distracting fires, and Nichols actually seemed to have built a set and resorted to wirework to float Thompson. I'd have liked a fiercer angel--someone who looks as if she'd tear you to shreds as bless you. And the sex was annoying--onstage they just writhed in orgasm, no floating around or CGI nonsense, thank you (do I have to add that I found the flames on the aldder annoying?).

Nichol's directing I liked better, maybe because this part has more comedy setpieces; I especially liked the confrontation between Prior and Pitt and between Prior and Pitt's mother. I guess I've forgotten that Nichols is good at comedy...just don't ask him to do magnificence, or SFX, or subtlety, or large cast ensembles all talking in one shot.

Most critics find part 1 better, but I liked how part 2 developed...this is the payoff for a lot of what seemed pointless, and you know and like the characters that much more, even Cohn. Pacino was moving, annoying, funny, moving again--it doesn't have the intensity of a stage performance, but Pacino does it justice, I think.

Wilson's Joe Pitt is an interesting case. Kushner found it in himself to sympathize with all his characters, even a demon like Cohn, but Wilson is left practically in the dark--I guess you can be on the good side, or even on the wrong side, but magnificently, and he'd give you a measure of respect; it's the shirkers and the ones who fall short in their goodness or evil that are totally shut out.

Angels raises interesting thoughts about the differences and similarities between something like this and something like The Singing Detective, which is an obvious influence, and between someone like Kushner and someone like Potter, who use similar techniques to almost diametrically opposite ends--but I'd stop and leave it for further thought,,,maybe an article or two...

What film has the best special effects?

In reply to a thread with the above question:

That's an interesting question.  Effects make the impossible possible, of course, but sometimes it's not good enough that they do this realistically; they have to show beauty and imagination as well.

By that criteria, the all time greats for me would be the 1933 King Kong, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Murnau's Faust, Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (the shots are mostly not photography, but SFX), of course 2001, and maybe as recent as Blade Runner.  I may be forgetting a few here.

Of recent examples I did like the effects in Coppola's Dracula, Spielberg's 1941, and the Coen's The Hudsucker Proxy. 

Of CGI films my list would be very very short: Master and Commander shows the state of the art in realistic CGI effects, I think, while Jackson's Heavenly Creatures show how they can be used to poetic effect.  Pretty much all else tends to make me shudder.


Marinara redux

How to do decent marinara sauce without any fresh herbs or other ingredients?

So I chopped up an onion and four or five garlic cloves, fried them in olive oil, immediately threw in four mildly spiced Italian sausages, sprinkled in some kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper, then sauted until toasty brown.  I didn't have ground beef or pork, so I tossed in a large eggplant, peeled and diced.  An Indian college roommate back in Michigan taught me how to cook eggplant--if you cook it the right way, it looks and tastes like sweet pork fat. Emptied two cans of tomato paste, three cans of water (or the paste cans filled with water three times), all of the remaining Chianti (about half a can, not much), two tablespoons of brown sugar for that "I don't know what, but it's good" quality, some dried basil and a lot of dried oregano.  Tore several Kraft cheddar slices into the mix (learned to tear them lengthwise, so they'd melt easier when you mix), then, in lieu of a fresh basil hit, spooned the last of the remaining bottled pesto we bought from the supermarket into the sauce. Now THAT smelled and tasted like fresh leaves, just chopped and dropped into the sauce, with the added bonus of crushed pine nuts and a bit of parmesan into the bargain.  Not bad at all.

Shattered Glass

Billy Ryan's Shattered Glass is pretty damned good.  Hayden Christensen, recent Anakin Skywalker, shows he can act well as Stephen Glass, the New Republic star writer who fabricated 27 of his 42 articles (not that I'm surprised--Lucas has misused whole lists of great actors, from Terence Stamp to Brian Blessed to Rena Owen to Peter Cushing). But the actor that held my attention and for my money owns the film is Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane, the dour TNR editor who takes over the beloved Michael Kelly (played by Hank Azaria) then go on to pick apart the career of one of his most celebrated reporters.

We don't get earth-shattering journalism on the level of All The President's Men--Glass' articles are mainly entertainment pieces, not some deep political scandal--nor is this some psychological study probing why Glass did what he did. But we do get some sense of just how important a journalist's regard for truth can be, and how much the prestigious magazine had to lose when Glass' fabrications come to light, and this is mostly thanks to Sarsgaard's low-key performance. He's captain at the helm of a famed but leaking ship, and the drama of the film is in his realizing the ship has leaks, finding them out, and plugging them.  I like it that it took a dull, unconfident drudge to dig out what his popular predecessor could not--that sometimes it isn't one's skill at public relations, but dogged will and the inability to let go that gets the job done.

I do have one question though: where was Stanley Kauffman and what was he doing when all this was going down?

Singing Detective commentary, disc 1

Tremendous stuff, the commentary and supplementary material to "Singing Detective;" I usually don't listen to commentaries (life's too short) but couldn't resist here; as I suspected, a lot of Potter's life went into his work. 
Like the fact that he was sexually abused as a child.  His mother had brought him to London (much like Marlow in "Detective") to live with some relatives; and he was bunkmate to a gay uncle who fellated him at night.  Now we know where some of his horror of sex comes from. 
Also, the fact that Potter had essentially dropped the detective story thread in the first episode, but that Amiel asked him to rewrite it, and he did in seven weeks in what Amiel describes as "the most extraordinary act of creation I've ever seen."  The thread now has a more complex relationship with Marlow's real life now, and I suspect (haven't heard the commentary on disc 2) provides the basis for the show's surreal climax. 
Producer Kenith Trodd I think (or was it Jon Amiel, the director?) also notes that you can be indifferent or combative towards Potter, but the one thing he can't stand is sympathy; that really infuriates him.  We're talking one spiky son of a bitch here.
Interesting, but Amiel and Trodd point out the godlike qualities of Bill Paterson's psychiatrist.  Maybe the character does stretch credulity (Potter's actual experience with psychiatrists was far less successful), but how many government-paid therapists out there have the intelligence and will to handle a Marlow, much less Potter? Think of him as Marlow's sounding board, the way writing "Detective" was Potter's, and think of Marlow as, in effect, performing therapy on himself.  I think it works that way.
Trodd and Amiel confirm something I also suspected--that Potter came to rock music late in his career, and that this never had the emotional resonance that the songs of the '30s and '40s he grew up with had for him.  Not that those songs are better than rock 'n roll per se; it's his obsession with them that gives them much of their power (and which is why the screen version of "Detective," which uses rock, marks it as late Potter, and not on the same level as his earlier work).


Carole Lombard

In terms of beauty or attraction I'll admit I'm a pushover for Barbara Stanwyck and Ida Lupino and Ingrid Bergman but Lombard's statuesque beauty, while I appreciate it, leaves me cold (nothing wrong with her, it's prolly me). I do like her dreamy, half-stoned style of delivery in Godfrey and To Be or Not To Be, the way the words tumble, half-intended almost, lightly out of the mouth, and kind of trail away like wisps of fog...


My Man Goldfrey

My Man Godfrey is giddy fun.  Visually unremarkable, but cleanly made to showcase the verbal exchanges.  A serious social agenda, about helping the poor, but it's given the same treatment as every other element in the film--which means, no special emphasis, no undue dwelling on the subject, no mawkish appeals beyond the flat declaration.

Totally refreshing; William Powell is a mustachioed wonder and Carole Lombard, if anything, is even sexier here (that first kiss she gives Powell is one startling toe-curler) than in Lubitsch's "To Be Or Not To Be" (tho I prefer that film, overall). No they don't make em this brisk and bubbly any more and more's the pity.


Angels in America

Saw the first half of "Angels in America."

Best thing I can say about Mike Nichols is, he doesn't ruin it. The CGI entrances and exits of the apparitions are annoying, and the angel (who turns out to be Emma Thompson) isn't half as impressive as, say, Terry Gilliam's in "Brazil" (maybe they should have let him co-direct). This was all done onstage, presumably (I saw it in Manila, not Broadway), so Nichols could have at least asked the people who staged it how they did it...and done better by just following their lead.

Some of the staging seems so uninspired--the intercutting between the Mormon telling his wife he's gay and the gay man telling his dying lover he's leaving him, I remember that onstage as being gripping theater. It's good drama, still, but cutting between two scenes in a film/tv show, that's not realizing the potentials of either stage or film, it's just plain old crosscutting.

Can't help wondering how Altman might have handled this...his style onscreen seems already theatrical, all those wide shots of the cast onscreen, talking at the same time, all those sinuous long takes that seem to imitate the audience's eyes panning from one end of the stage to the other...Nichols directs like a TV movie director with a big budget, but not much more.

That said, it's still recognizably Kurshner's "Angels"--a recklessly ambitious, wonderfully imaginative, even poetic panorama of life in the Reaganist '80s, and if I wanted to be fair, I'd suppose it's thanks to Nichols that most of the cast is terrific--Pacino as Cohn, Justin Kirk, Mary Louise Parker, Ben Shenkman, Jeffrey Wright...even Meryl Streep, who I'm not especially fond of, does funny work in various roles, but especially as the prim-mouthed Ethel Rosenberg.

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves specializes in one role, and that is The Surfer. No matter how high the wave, or how violent the waters, The Surfer always manages to ride it out.  He doesn't choose the wave, or the moment, or cause anything to happen; it all happens to him, and he simply rides it out with this serene look on his beautiful face.

That's what Reeve's career's built on--The Surfer's look.  From Bill and Ted to Point Break to Speed to Little Buddha to the Matrix movies, when climax time comes he flashes that look, and all is well.  That look has been interpreted as everything from the beginning of a retard's comprehension to a disicple's disillusionment to a police officer's realization (of a bomber's REAL trick) to Enlightenment to a man's epiphany that he is The One. The only thing that varies is the nature and intensity of the wave The Surfer rides, from film to film--from Death to villainous guru to mad bomber to the world as we know it to a worldwide computer.  It's his one trick, and his one genius is to build a career out of that trick.


Baby Doll

Oh, caught "Baby Doll" on TCM, and...

Well, I'm tempted to say that THIS is the best collaboration between Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams I've ever seen.  I'm sure I'll be proven wrong, and another viewing of "A Streetcar Named Desire"'ll tell me that Marlon Brando's performance makes that film one for the ages, but "Streetcar" is so damned serious--"Baby Doll" doesn't have to prove anything, it doesn't drag along any of Williams' heavy themes the way "Streetcar" does; it's just a comedy, and as such is free to be as wildly grotesque as it likes. Caroll Baker puts on screen what Kubrick and Sue Lyon tried to do in "Lolita" only Baker radiates a whole other level of heat (Kubrick had to fall back on Peter Sellers, James Mason and Shelley Winters for comedy instead of sex), Wallach looks damned cool and confident as her Italian lover and Karl Malden I never liked better as the hapless bulldog husband.