An old post from peoplesforum back in September, 2002:

I'm guessing Andrew Niccol is the best practicing science-fiction filmmaker at the moment. He has a unique storytelling style, fleshed out by his visuals when he directs--sort of cool and distanced and impeccably lit, like, as some critics pointed out, Michelangelo Antonioni doing SF. It's a refreshing alternative to the Blade Runner look, with its huge buildings and flying cars and flashing light-n-sound show.

And he's thoughtful, which I like. He takes an SF theme--a society obsessed with genetics (Gattaca), a man raised entirely in a TV studio set (Truman Show), and here, a totally virtual actress--and sort of runs his fingers through them, pondering the various meanings. The ideas aren't totally original--The Truman Show is basically Dick's Time Out of Joint--but he does take SF cinema out of the kindergarten level, with its laser blasters and screaming spaceships, into the intermediate level, where the kids can actually sit down, take up their pencils, and do a few sums in their heads.

I like his quiet ways, I like the apparently always-obtuse angle by which he approaches his subjects, and I love the little jokes he slips into the margins. Maybe the best part of the movie are the jokes in the margins, the way the best part of MAD magazine is sometimes the doodles sketched into the borders of the feature stories--like when Elias Koteas as the computer genius who created Simone, one eye eaten away by cancer, looks at the fleeing figure of the filmmaker played by Pacino (who has taken Koteas for an obsessed lunatic, which he just might be), and the giant portrait of an eye on wheels casually rolls by behind him, pushed by some janitors. Or when Pacino the filmmaker is fired by his producer ex-wife (Catherine Keener), on the set of a New York street so detailed and expansive I wouldn't put it past Niccol to actually have shot it in New York, just to add an unnoticed layer of irony. Or when the virtual Simone is rumored to count among her lovers "Mick Jagger, Stephen Hawkings, and Fidel Castro" (Niccol's joke here seems to be that even Simone's lovers are too cool for words). And I can't help laughing when Pacino later visits Koteas' grave, and presents him with a plastic flower, muttering "I know you'd appreciate this..." Niccol's sense of humor is finely tuned, the jokes floating in from all kinds of unexpected angles.

Which makes you wish it's a better movie than it is. What Niccol lacks, apparently, is what The Truman Show (probably Peter Weir's best work, or at least the one of his I liked the most, for what it's worth) lacked compared to the Dickian original: a sense of urgency, an intensity that would make the proceedings more then the sum of its marginal jokes (Truman Show had a wonderful throaway line too, when Ed Harris as the megalomanic TV director says "cue the sun"). You FEEL Dick's worlds in your guts; you feel the parade of losers and freaks and struggling underpeople, and you feel the increasing sense of paranoia and fear. Niccol, as noted, likes to cultivate a distant tone, which is his virtue and ultimate flaw. Even his presumed model, Antonioni, had intense moments; Dick has many.

There are so many details that feel wrong about Simone, almost as many as the details Niccol gets right: the jellybeans are a direct steal from horror stories about rock concert contract riders (had a sudden vision of Groucho and Chico doing their classic showbiz contract routine over jellybeans--A Night at the Rock Opera, anyone?); on the other hand, actors whose egos have grown large enough to get in everyone's way usually end up directing and producing their own films, not walking out of someone else's. And a satire about how unnecessary actors are doesn't seem as pointed as a satire about directors--some of the greatest egotists in the world, there--treating actors as unnecessary (George Lucas, anyone?). And ultimately, it should be pointed out, but isn't here, it's all just fodder for the insatiable appetite for entertainment of the general public. The Truman Show at least got that much right: after all that sturm and drang, after Truman's fateful decision with regards to the show, the last shot is of a pair of security guards, wondering what else is on television...

Simone herself is a blank--an intriguing choice. Apparently Niccol wanted her to be a kind of tabula rasa for people to project their fantasies into, but we don't see that happening, the way, say, Dorothy Michaels (another construct from another comedy) turned into something women all over America could project their fantasies into. The most obvious person to fill Simone with a personality is Pacino himself, as Viktor Taransky (sort of a cross between Andrei Tarkovsky and Victor Frankenstein): but again, we don't see it happening. We see Pacino talking and the words coming out from Simone's mouth and in her voice, but that's about it: she remains as blank as when she's spinning in cyberspace.

Some of the plot developments (SPOILERS) are lovely--I like it that when Pacino disposes of Simone he's arrested for murder, and he has a harder time proving she doesn't exist as he had proving that she does. I didn't like it that Simone is accepted so easily--you shoot a movie where the star is nowhere to be seen, and suddenly there she is up onscreen, and what are you supposed to thinK? "Digital fixing" feels uncomfortably close to "digital construct," especially nowadys, when talk of "digital actors" is common. (END SPOILERS)

So many things right, so wrongheaded an end result...it's really sad. Niccol is like William Gibson without the attitude, or Dick without teeth--he has the brains, but not the guts or passion to do great SF. Ultimately I stick to my orignal statement, but with a caveat: Niccol is the best SF filmmaker at the moment--which is saying something, but not much.

Welles vs. Hitchcock

From pinoydvd:

rse: I like Hitchcock movies a lot.  My only problem is that most of his movies look “stagy”.  He rarely shoots on location.  That makes his movies look more like stage plays.  I prefer Orson Welles’ more free-style kind of film making.  I also think that Welles edits more fluidly than Hitchcock.

Welles does great editing--even more so in later films than in earlier ones. But Hitchcock, control freak that he is, preferred the kind of perfection he can find in studio sets. Sometimes that hermetic, antiseptic look helps him--in Psycho, for example, the impossibly clean bathroom seems all the more defiled when blood splatters on its walls. In most of his films, actually, the stylized artificial look, so comforting, so placid and featureless, is really a prelude to the mayhem to come.

Welles rarely had that kind of luxury after The Magnificent Ambersons--he had to find his atmsphere wherever he can, and shoot it quickly before the crowds came, or the fog lifts, or whatever. There's great atmsophere in his films, but it's a different kind.

Welles and Hitchcock, they're very different flavors, great in their own unique ways.


Fernando Poe, Jr. is dead

Da King is dead

Fernando Poe Jr. had an amazing career--200 films in 53 years (he made a film only last year), about three years longer than John Wayne's.

Some of his films--Celso Ad. Castillo's "Asedillo," Eddie Romero's "Aguila," Romero and Gerardo De Leon's "Intramuros: the Walls of Hell"--are worth watching.

He was so popular he ran against the incumbent president only this year--and nearly won.


George Stevens

The early Stevens are quite good; Gunga Din is a gas. I don't like the later films, when he got gigantic.

Parts of The Greatest Story Ever Told were directed by David Lean. And Max Von Sydow is impressive when he prophesies--he brings a Bergmanesque gloom to the moment.

ted fontenot: Stevens can get heavy-handed, even ponderous, but I think he has quite an oeuvre--varied, high quality. Gunga Din is a fine movie--everyone is good, even the stereotypes. It's fun to see Grant just cut loose--he essentially pretends he's doing an extended Vaudeville routine. Hawks, I believe, was set to direct the movie--he had it storyboarded and all fixed up to do, then he pissed off the head of the studio or some big producer.

Comedies I like: Vivacious Lady, with Ginger Rogers and James Stewart right before his breakthrough. I find Rogers unappetizing when she gets coarse (probably something like the way Jack Lemmon affects some people when he becomes morally outraged), but Stewart is pitch perfect--a great drunk scene to compare to the one he has in The Philadelphia Story.

I've already lauded at length The More the Merrier. If it ain't quite as good as Bringing up Baby and His Girl Friday, or the best of Sturges or Lubitsch, I'd hate to live on the difference. Woman of the Year is really good, too. I'm not a big Tracy fan (and I like Hepburn a lot in some things and not at all in others--this is up her alley, though), but he's flawless here. Still, Stewart, Grant, Fonda, or McCrea would have been much better--more depth and magnetism with these guys.

The Talk of the Town is interesting. Kind of an intellectual, Shavian comedy. Unfortunately, it's Irwin Shaw, not GBS. But the best Irwin Shaw. Grant's character is really a plot device, pretty much like it was in The Philadelphia Story. The movie really belongs to Colman. But it's still good.

I even like some of his later more heavy stuff. Not A Place in the Sun, but definitely Shane and The Diary of Anne Frank. Both are powerful and well-crafted. Hell, I'm even a sucker for I Remember Mama.

Gunga Din might be the only way I'd like my stereotypes--not taken seriously, and played up for what they're comically worth. It's The Front Page set in India and it proves the plot is foolproof, even when transposed in another country.

Shane I tend to like, in a heavy-handed sort of way--can't not like whatsisname, Jack Palance grinning his way into his gloves like that. But Stevens used to have a lighter touch, like Lean (may be why they collaborated at one point, with Greatest Story).


The '70s

It's not just Coppola (The Godfather movies) or Scorsese (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver) or Robert Altman (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us) or Francois Truffaut (The Story of Adele H.), or Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God), but also of Brocka (Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Insiang, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang), Bernal (Pagdating sa Dulo, Aliw), Celso Ad. Castillo (Pagputi ng Uwak, Pagitim ng Tagak, Burlesk Queen), Mike de Leon (Itim, plus the cinematography of Maynila sa Mga Kuko) and Mario O'Hara (Mortal, Mga Bilanggong Birhen, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos).

Here's where separating Filipino and foreign film threads is a disadvantage, because the story of the '70s is of a smattering of international talent (Herzog, Truffaut among others) and a flowering of American filmmakers (one of their best and most productive periods, in my opine). And in one corner of the world, starting to get some attention, a modest Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.





Looked at Visconte' Ossessione (1943) and it's gorgeous, maybe my favorite Visconte until The Leopard. Lovely little touches here, and there--like when Calamai sits down and first pours her heart out to Girotti, Visconte inserts a shot of him listening to something (a seashell, I think), and in his innocence, hands it to her to listen (she does with a touch of maternal indulgence). It's a lovely touch, the implication that Girotti's a boy in a man's body, an innocent to possibly be duped, or fallen in love with. You can't help but fear for this big boy.

And the neorealist trappings work so well with noir--the grit, the sweat (you can smell the exhalations off the fat husband's armpits), the harsh sunlight on paving-stone streets capture the spirit of small-town noir so much more beautifully than, say the Hollywood version does (John Garfield is perfectly cast, but Lana Turner looks every bit the star she is to be a credibly slatternly housewife). And the two lovers here (Calamai and Girotti, who look anything but celebrities) feel more genuinely conflicted--their hearts wanting more than anything to trust each other while their brains tell them that's the last thing they should do (their brains are right by a mile).

If I remember correctly, the Cain novel has the lovers go scot-free, and then meet their fate; Visconte goes less for irony and more for that sense of implacable Fate, turning her wheels--which feels more in keeping with neorealism's sensibilities. Beautifully bleak.


Argento's Inferno

Checking Argento's Inferno again--what can one say except that at his best he's directing opera more than anything else (that's why he keeps coming back to the theater in his films). Colors, music, gorgeous sets and costumes, all orchestrated and tautly designed to evoke terror and a ravishing of the senses, simultaneously (maybe--at his very best--a ravishing of the senses through terror).

Everything else falls by the wayside--plot, characterization, social commentary (I can almost hear him snorting at the very notion). Above all is the image, and its power to evoke powerfully primal emotions. This isn't a cinema for the brains, but for the gut, even gonads.


Lucio Fulci's Zombie

Watching Lucio Fulci's Zombie again and trying to compare it with Romero's Dead movies.

Well, you miss the realism of Tom Savini's makeup (which is so crucial to the Dead films he should be credited as co-director--and Romero as much as admits Savini directs the scenes in question). Despite Ian McCulloch's disparaging remark that the undead in Zombie look 'dead' where those in Romero's Dawn of the Dead look like 'actors in rubber suits,' Savini really gets the details and textures and even internal anatomy right (McCulloch probably hasn't seen what Savini could do in Day of the Dead), not to mention there's actually a rationale for the successively more gruesome makeup--as each movie (Dawn and Day) is set some years after the previous one, the zombies rot accordingly.

Then there's the fact that while Romero has always worked with small budgets, Fulci's film has that 'no-money' look (they get kicked out of a newspaper office by Rupert Murdoch when their unauthorized shoot--they had asked a janitor for permission--interrupts a meeting).

Despite which, there's something to Fulci's film. Where Romero does (usually sharp) social commentary, Fulci does frank eroticism--at one point, Auretta Gay goes on a scuba dive in her glorious altogether (with a closeup of her tightening a crotch strap that makes your eyes want to cross), and later has an encounter with a zombie with a rather sensual slant (she struggles with him wedged between her legs, in a slow-motion parody of rape). (SPOILERS) The shark topping off the scene looks uncomfortably real--you wonder if the stuntman they used actually survived the shoot (END SPOILERS).

Then there's that one notorious scene--y'know what I'm talking about--that illustrates all the differences between Romero and an Italian filmmaker like Fulci. Romero's got an unflinching eye--he shoots the most graphic horrors straight on, no frills, with bright lights to catch all the splashing gore. Fulci savors his horrors--when (SPOILERS) arms grab the woman head, Fulci gives you an extended, breathless moment where her eye is suspended before the wooden spike. And he doesn't just film it going in (with accompanying exploitation-flick shriek sound effect--just to make sure you jump, if someone isn't already screaming), he has to show you the eyeball tearing sideways, to emphasize the fact that it's in there and not going out except in the most agonizing manner (SPOILER END).

There's a cruelty to Italian horror filmmakers that outstrips any other nationality I can think of (Hong Kong filmmakers may do lengthy closeups, but you don't get the sense that they're enjoying the blood and pain, at least not to the same degree). Wonderful filmmakers, but with radically different flavors.

When will Filipino films win an Oscar (or: answering a moron)

From pinoydvd:   xage: When they get an Oscar nod.. which I doubt.. even if there is a BLUE MOON.. no chance in hell a pinoy film will get an Oscar nod..     

What qualifies for a mere fifteen minutes of fame are the Oscar winners. Anyone care who won Best Picture in 1980? Anyone care who lost ?

Apparently the latter. The winner was Ordinary People, which hardly anyone remembers anymore. The loser was Raging Bull, which nowadays is almost unanimously listed as one of the best films of the 1980's.

And the list of great films that never won or aren't even nominated are endless...not to mention the filmmakers. Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse, Isao Takahata, Ritwik Ghatak,  Raj Kapoor, Mrinal Sen, Robert Bresson, Jacques Rivette, Jean Luc Godard, Tian Zhuangzhuang, King Hu, Tsai Ming Liang, Hou Hsiao Hsien, anyone?   Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag is still cited by film critics all over the world--was cited, in fact in Goeff Andrews' book, Film: The Critics' Choice as one of the 150 great films in world cinema.

Not a lot of Oscar winners in that book.


Read or Die, the TV series

Looked through the Read or Die TV series. Not as spectacular, and a few implausibilities (three girls save your life and you feel annoyed they show up at your door?) but interesting enough--turns out from the manga the story is a hell of a lot more complicated, with not one or four but seven paper masters fighting evil here or there. Good fun.

(Have I mentioned that I thought the Read or Die OAV was wonderful, perhaps brilliant, and that I preferred it by a Pacific mile over Pixar's The Incredibles?)


"Oro, Plata, Mata" and "Mga Bilanggong Birhen"

For an additional corrective to Oro, Plata, Mata (Gold, Silver, Death, 1982), check out (Mario) O'Hara's Mga Bilanggong Birhen (The Captured Virgins, 1977). Even if O'Hara walked out before postproduction (mapapansin mo napakagarapal and disjointed ang editing ng film na ito (You'll notice the editing is rough and disjointed)), it still has his beautifully understated visual intelligence. Plus O'Hara gives us many sides not just to the upper-class characters (who (Peque) Gallaga has more empathy for) but the lower-class ones as well (who Gallaga demonizes in Oro, Plata). Gallaga fails to develop his characters in the second act (the provincial house and forest sequences), so we hardly care about them in the third (the raid on the forest house and the assault on the bandits). In Bilanggong Birhen you do come to care for what happens to Armida Siguion Reyna (The unfaithful wife--I do think it's the performance of her career), to Mario Montenegro (The rebel leader), to Alma Moreno (Armida's daughter) and Rez Cortez (Alma's lover).

Bakit Bughaw, Tatlong Taong, and Oro Plata

From Pinoyexchange:

Loonzhaus: I agree.....amidst the kaguluhan of the war, hindi nawawala 'yung feeling of attachment ng manunuod sa characters nila masugi at rosario.....dito nagkulang si Peque Gallaga sa Oro, Plata, Mata.....sa tingin ko kasi, mas naging abala siya sa pag-create ng mga highlight scenes na tunay na pag-uusapan and in the process, nawala ang emotion ng mga characters ng pelikula.....dinala na lang ang manunuod sa visuals na tunay namang napakaganda.....sa Tatlong Taon, while naipadama ni Mario sa atin ang takot sa nangyayaring giyera, hindi siya humulagpos sa karakterisasyon ng mga pangunahing tauhan. Oo nga, now i realized kung paanong 'yung setting ng apartment complex ay naging korteng maglilitis sa "pagmamahalan" ni babette at bobby. Mario was quite vocal sa pagiging "emotional" ni Brocka na sabi mo nga na almost always ay caught up with his characters. Bilib lang talaga siya dito sa tapang as a film maker. Pinupuri din niya sa Bernal dahil pareho daw French ang kanilang influences. Sayang nga lang at 'di binibigyan ng pansin ang kagalingan ng isang Mario O'Hara.

(I agree.....amidst the chaos of war, the viewer never loses the feeling of attachment to Masugi (Christopher de Leon) and Rosario (Nora Aunor)...this is where Peque Gallaga failed in Oro, Plata, Mata (Gold, Silver, Death, 1982)...in my view, he was more concerned with creating highlight scenes worth talking about, and in the porcess, lost the emotion of the characters...he just swept the viewer along with his visuals which are truly beautiful...in Tatlong Taong, while Mario was able to show us the terrors of war, he didn't stint on characterization of the primary players. Oh yes, now I realize how the apartment complex setting (in Bakit Bughaw ang Langit (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)) resembles a court judging Babette and Bobby's love. Mario was quite vocal at (Lino) Brocka's being "emotional," the way he always seems to be, as you say, caught up with his characters. He really believes in his (Brocka's) courage as a filmmaker, though. He praises Bernal because he (Bernal) is like the French in his influences. Too bad not enough attention has been given to Mario O'Hara's greatness)


Even more "Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?" (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)

From Pinoyexchange:

That cactus scene felt unforced. It was a symbol, but so quiet and unemphasized di mo mapapansin kung di ka nakatingin (you wouldn't notice it if you weren't looking).

And the 'minor' characters--notice how, when a big confrontation or whatever happens, they all turn out to watch? It's something like 'the court of public opinion' you hear about in TV and newspapers, only here it's the shape and size of the apartment complex's courtyard. It's incredible how precisely and how detailed is (Mario) O'Hara's portrait of the structure of this mini-society--a microcosmos of the larger Philippine society.

And that sense you got of intimacy even in the big scenes--I always have this impresson of O'Hara looking down on his people and story, orchestrating everything, arranging that the narrative runs just right--not too loud, not too quiet. At the same time he's right next to the characters, urging them on, feeling for them, knowing and understanding and loving them. You see this most of all (I think, though it also comes through strong in Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)) in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976).

It's like a double-vision , and that I suspect isn't just hard to do it's almost impossible to do. (Lino) Brocka couldn't quite do it--he's almost always caught up in his characters. (Ishmael) Bernal could do it better than Brocka--but not, I think, as well as O'Hara (plus O'Hara's camerawork and editing is much better).

This is why I think O'Hara's our best, bar none.


Bakit Bughaw and Condemned

From Pinoyexchange:

Loonzhaus: That was what exactly Albert Sunga saw in that particular scene -- 'yung tingin daw ni Ate Guy ay may kislap ng pang-unawa at pagmamahal. Du'n nga daw siya nagsimulang mahulog kay Bobby.

At saka talagang ultimong maliliit na characters mula duon sa bading na nag-o-offer ng lollipop hanggang duon sa mga nag-iinuman at nanay na may karinderya, magagaling lahat. May ikinukuwento si Direk Mario na si Bb. Collantes daw na siyang nagsulat ng istorya ay matandang matanda na that time at pinilit lang niya talagang magsulat. Ayaw na nga daw kasi nanginginig na ang isang kamay pero sabi ni Direk sa kanya, hangga't may isang kamay at makinilya, kaya pa niyang gumawa ng isang obra. At ito na nga ang kinalabasan. Tuwang-tuwa daw siya sa character sketches ng pelikula lalo na dun sa character ni Babette na itinulad sa isang cactus na kahit isang patak lang ng tubig ay mabubuhay na at mamumulaklak kahit may katagalan. Parang si Babette, sa isang patak ng pagmamahal from Bobby, biglang namulaklak at nagdesisyong tumayo on her own.....na-inlab yata ako sa movie na ito.....by the way, first time ko lang siyang napanuod.....

(You know, that was exactly what Albert Sugna saw in that particular scene--that look of Guy (Nora Aunor) had a spark of understanding and love. He said that's when he started to fall for Bobby (Dennis Roldan)).

And even the minor characters, from the gay offering a lollipop to the men drinking and the mother at the neighborhood store, they're all great. "Direk" Mario told a story about Ms. Collantes who wrote the story, that she was old at that time and that she forced herself to write. She didn't want to, because one hand was already shaky, but "Direk" told her, as long as she has the other hand and a typewriter, she can do one more work. And this was the result. He was delighted with all the characters in the film, especially Babette, who's likened to a cactus that with just a drop of water will flourish and flower, given time. Babette, with just a drop of love from Bobby, suddenly blooms and decides to stand on her own...I seem to have fallen in love with this picture...by the way, it's my first time to see it... 

Napanuod ko rin ang Condemned at masasabi ko na talagang napaka-credible ng presentation ng pagmamahalan ng magkapatid na Nora at Dan. Hindi ko alam how to say it pero parang si Mario O'Hara, kaya niyang gawing intimate ang eksena kahit "napakalaki nito." Alam mo 'yung eksenang nag-aaway na si Babette at ang nanay niya, malaki siyang eksena in the sense na andaming taong nakapaligid at umaawat sa kanila....pero sa batuhan ng mga salita nu'ng dalawa, it's as if silang dalawa lang ang tao sa screen at naglalabasan lang sila intimately ng mga tunay na saloobin......parang ganun ba......siguro nga kaya magaling si Mario ay dahil pinahahalagahan niya ang character sketches na siya niyang bukambibig sa forum.....at kaya niyang i-detach ang kanyang sarili sa artista para magawa ang tamang timpla ng characterization......

(I also saw Condemned and I can say that the presentation of sibling love between Nora (Aunor) and Dan (Alvaro) is highly credible. I don't know how to say it, but Mario O'Har can make the scene intimate even if it's a "big" one. You know the scene where Babette and her mother are fighting, it's big in the sense that the scene involves a lot of people surrounding them...yet in the exchange of words between the two, it's as if they were the only ones around, and they're expressing themselves intimately and honestly...something like that...maybe why Mario is so great is because he values the character sketches he mentioned in the forum...the same time he's able to detach himself as an artist to create the right mix of characterization...


Still more on Bakit Bughaw ang Langit (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)

From Pinoyexchange:

Great stuff, Loonz. Plus, O'Hara's visual intelligence is at work there. Far as I can remember, every shot in the film from beginning onwards was a long shot, the camera keepign its distance as if clinically observing the characters...up to a point: when Nora finally softens towards Dennis, stops seeing him as a strange and possibly dangerous creature and starts looking at him as a person, O'Hara suddenly cuts to a closer shot--the first in the film--of Nora looking at Dennis in a new light, with affection, the tentative beginnings of love.

The storytelling here is so perfect, in terms of camerawork, music, acting. Every detail is right.

More, Nora's relationship to Dennis isn't sexual at all, thoough the neighbors and her family try to imply otherwise: actually this is one of the few stories of agape (as opposed to eros) that I know of that isn't just embarrassing, it's good, possibly great. That's incredibly difficult to do, much less do well--you need a delicate touch, a sureness in your handling of details. I suspect Ozu would appreciate this film.

It's just--I don't know, if you're familiar with O'Hara's other films, he knows to what depths of sensual perversion and cruelty the human heart can plunge (after all, he wrote Insiang). Which makes him somehow credible when he tells a story of selfless, unsensual love (he knows one thing very well; he must know something of its opposite). But even if that principle doesn't hold (an extreme suggests its opposite)--look at Nora and Dennis in Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? or Nora and Dan Alvaro in Condemned--even if it isn't true that you need to know one to know the other, he knows; you can see it in his films.

More on Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)

From Pinoyexchange:

May dalawang eksena akong nagustuhan talaga sa Bakit Bughaw dahil kitang-kita rito ang kakaibang "mata" ni Ate Guy. 'Yung eksenang nagkakagulo sa labas ng apartment nila Bobby, sumilip si Babette sabay tapon ng tingin kay Bobby na kasalukuyang abalang kumakain. Kita sa mata niya 'yung magkahalong tuwa at awa dahil sa kawalang-malay ni Bobby sa mga nangyayari sa paligid niya. Pangalawa ay 'yung last frame ng pelikula na mula sa pagkakaiwan sa kanya ng pamilya niya sa kabilang kalye, biglang pihit si Babette at rehistro sa mata at mukha niya ang tagumpay niya sa sitwasyon. The confidence was really there. Sabi nga ni Direk Mario, kakaiba ang pelikulang ito sa typecasted api-apihan role ni Ate Guy dahil si Babette ay natutong manindigan at magdesisyon para sa sarili niya.... Hay, napakaganda talaga ng pelikulang ito.....

(I especially liked two scenes from Bakit Bughaw because they show us Guy's (Nora Aunor's) unique gaze.

The scene where there's chaos outside Bobby's apartment, and Babette looks in and sees Bobby in side, eating peacefully. You can see from her eyes the mixture of delight and pity because Bobby is so unaware of what goes on around him.

The second is the last frame of the film where her family is across the street, about to leave, and you suddenly see the triumph register in Babette's eyes and face. The confidence was really there. "Direk" Mario said the film is so different from the usual typcasted martyr roles Guy played because Babette learned to fight for and decide for herself.

It's such a lovely film!)


Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981)

From Pinoyexchange:

Detailed account of the screening of Mario O'Hara's Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981) at the NCCA (National Commission on Culture and Art in Intramuros, Manila) last Friday:

LOONZHAUS: Last Friday, I had the privileged of watching the very beautiful movie, Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?, with my fellow ICONians, Nestor, Albert, Glorina, Manny So, Mandy Diaz, Maritess, etc. NCCA's Tanghalang Leandro Locsin was almost half full with several GANAP members, Nora Aunor admirers and young Masscom Students from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the movie from beginning to end. It is one of the best ensemble acting I have ever seen on screen, no exaggeration. Ate Guy (Nora Aunor) as Babette was simply superb -- as in ang galing galing ng characterization niya (her characterization was great!)! Truly, this is one of her most underrated performances -- sayang talaga (a real pity). After the screening, we waited for the resource speaker that afternoon -- Direk Mario O'Hara himself. Sayang nga lang at medyo natagalan siya ng dating kaya iilan na lang kaming inabutan niya sa preview room pagdating niya (Unfortunately he came late and there were only a few of us left in the preview room when he arrived). Mas masaya sana kung nakita niya kung paanong mag-react ang audience sa bawa't eksena ng kanyang obra (It would've ben better if he saw how the audience reacted to every scene of his work)..

During the introduction, the guy from NCCA said that Direk Mario specifically requested that they include Bakit Bughaw for the In Focus program since this is one of his favorite movies. By the way, the copy used for the screening was courtesy of our very own Albert Sunga. Direk Mario confirmed this to the audience after the microphone was turned over to him for the open forum. The open forum was very lively and Direk Mario gamely answered all our questions except for the one asking him for a brief history of Philippine movies kasi nga sabi niya
(because he said), he is a lover of the art but not necessarily a historian. Though he stressed that the art of moving pictures should have been born out of a specific need by the audience -- lahat naman daw ng art form ay nanggagaling sa need na ito (all art forms come from a need of the audience). Following are the highlightsof the forum:

1. When asked on his favorite actresses, he first mentioned that heand Ate Guy are members of the mutual admiration club (ilang beses na rin kasing nabanggit ni Ate Guy na siya ang paborito nitong direktor
(Guy has said many times that he's her favorite director)) and laughed heartily. He went on telling the group na ang mga paborito niyang actress na naka-trabaho na niya ay sina  (his favorite actress among all those he has worked with are) (in order): NORA AUNOR, Mitch Valdes and Maricel Soriano. Sa mga aktor, wala siyang maisip (among actors, he can't think of any). Si Dennis Roldan sana kaso tumigil nga daw kaagad ito sa pag-aartista -- sayang daw talaga ang talento nu'ng bata (There's Dennis Roldan, but he's stopped acting--the talent of the boy, wasted). ;-)

2. Ang nagustuhan daw niya kay Ate Guy ay ang pagiging open nito bilang aktres
(What he likes about Guy (Nora) is her openness as an actress). Napaka-sensitibo daw nito at tunay na walang makakatalo sa mata na punumpuno ng emosyon (she's so sensitive, and truly unbeatable, the way her eyes fill with emotion).

3. Sa mga direktor naman, karamihan ng influences niya ay foreign directors
(Among directors, his chief influence are foreign directors). Sa local naman, influence niya si Lino Brocka at Ishmael Bernal but not necessarily lahat ay on the positive side (Locally, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal are influences, but not necessarily all positive). Marami silang collaboration works ni Lino before kasama na ang Insiang (They've had many collaboratons, including Insiang). Ang "ayaw" lang niya kay Lino ay ang pagiging overly emotional nito at times (what he "dislikes" about Lino is his being overly emotional at times). Basically daw ay movie fan si Brocka kaya nagkakaroon ng failure kapag pumapasok na ang emotion nito sa pagdidirek (Basically Brocka is a movie fan so his direction starts failing when emotion comes in). Emotional din ang description niya kay Ishmael pero bilib siya sa clarity ng narrative nito (He would also describe Ishmael as emotional, though he believes in the man's clarity of narrative). Controlled na controlled daw nito ang takbo ng istorya niya (He truly controls the flow of the story).

4. When asked kung anu'ng naramdaman niya nang halos walang naipanalong award ang Bakit Bughaw ang Langit except from the Catholic Mass Media Award before, eto ang kasagutan niya: SUMAMA ANG LOOB KO
(When asked what he felt when Bakit Bughaw ang Langit failed to win any award except the Catholic Mass Media Award, he answered: I felt bad). Naniniwala daw kasi siya na napakaganda ng pelikulang ito (He believed the film was truly good). Nakakalungkot nga lang na underrated ang pelikula at totally snubbed sa awards (It's just sad the film was underrated and totally snubbed at the awards). Pero eto ang consolation niya -- ang Bakit Bughaw ay BINABALIKAN at NATATANDAAN bilang isang simple at magandang pelikula (But he has one consolation--that Bakit Bughaw is returned to and remembered as a simple and fine film). Natutuwa nga daw siya nang one time ay nakausap niya ang isang retired critic at sinabi sa kanya na number one sa listahan nito ang Bakit Bughaw bilang isa sa pinakamagandang pelikula ng kasalukuyang henerasyon (He's delighted that at one time he spoke to a retired critic who told him that Bakit Bughaw was number one on his list of the best films of the next generation).

5. Among our young directors, gusto niya si Jeffrey Jeturian at Quirk Henares (Keka)
(He likes Jeffrey Jeturain and Quark Henares (Keka)).

6. Nilinaw din niya ang mga nababalita nuon na hindi para kay Ate Guy ang LA LOBA NEGRA
(He clarified the newas about Guy and La Loba Negra (The Black Wolf)). Nagulat nga siya at nagtanong kung sino ang nagsabi nuon dahil para sa kanya, at pinaninindigan niya ito, WALANG SINUMANANG MAY KARAPATANG GUMANAP SA LA LOBA NEGRA KUNG HINDI SI NORA AUNOR (He was surprised and asked who said this because for him, no one else can play La Loba Negra except Nora Aunor). Para sa kanya, ito ang kanyang DREAM MOVIE (This for him is his dream movie). Hindi totoo na isinulat niya ito para sa isang MESTISANG MAPUTI dahil ang lead character ng La Loba Negra ay isang Mexican Mestiza wife of the Governor General -- and as such, KAYUMANGGI o BROWN ang kulay nito (It's not true that he wrote the part for a fair-skinned woman because the lead character of La Loba Negra is a Mexican Mestiza wife of the Governor General--and as such is brown-skinned). Sinabi rin niya na nagawa na ito ng Ballet Philippines before (This had been done by the Ballet Philippines before). Sa ngayon, from La Loba Negra, naging HOCLOBAN na ang working title nito (The working title from La Loba Negra has become Hocloban). Bale ang Hocloban daw ay siyang nagiging La Loba Negra (It's the Hocloban that becomes La Loba Negra). So, iisa lamang ang dalawang titles na ito (The two titles are the same). May isang producer na raw na nakabili ng story rights nito pero binibili niyang pabalik to ensure na mapapangalagaan ang obrang ito (A producer has the  story rights but he's trying to buy it back to make sure it gets made). Condition din niya na si Nora Aunor lamang ang maaaring gumanap dito (One condition is that only Nora Aunor can play the part).

7. DREAM ROLE naman niya for Nora Aunor ang lead character sa SAKAY TAYO SA BUWAN
(His dream role for Nora Aunor is the lead character in Sakay Tayo sa Buwan (Let's Ride to the Moon)). Hindi pa niya tapos ang script para dito mula sa panulat ni Lualhati Bautista (the script by Lualhati Bautista isn't finished yet). Pero sinisigurado niyang gagawin niya ang lahat to ensure na magawa ang pelikulang ito NEXT YEAR (But he will do all he can to ensure that the film will be made next year).

8. Payag din siyang gawin ang stage version ng Bakit Bughaw ang Langit
(He's willing to do a stage version of Bakit Bughaw ang Langit).

The forum ended after more than an hour. The group gave Direk Mario a much-deserved standing ovation. Tuwang-tuwa siya
(he was delighted) while mingling with the group after the forum. Habang naglalakad ang grupo namin palabas ng Intramuros, nagulat kami nang makita namin si Direk na humahabol sa amin (When our group was walking our way out of INtramuros, we were startled to see "Direk" running after us). Papunta raw siya ng Malate area to meet a friend (He was heading for Malate to meet a friend). Totoo po ang tsismis -- mahilig nga siyang maglakad para makakuha ng story ideas, character sketches, at kung anu-ano pa (The gossip is true--he's fond of walking to get story ideas, character sketches, and whatever else).


Filipinos in The Incredibles

From pinoyexchange:

greatbop: so you're saying americans should be proud dahil brad bird's an american?

Americans are proud of their Americans. What's wrong with Filipinos feeling the same way?

i rally hate that trait ng filipinos-.

"Let's celebrate dahil a filipino has done some work on it!"

So what are you saying? That we should be ASHAMED that a Filipino's worked on something?

No. I'm saying we should only be be pround of people that deserve to receive it.. Manny Pacquiao is an example, Efren Reyes is one. they are true gems within their colleagues. Not some "generic animator". You gets my point?

Frankly you don't seem to have a point. We should be proud of Paquiao, of Efren Reyes, of every Filipino who does good work, in the Philippines or out of it. Why reserve admiration for the well known--the people who need it the least?

You seem to assume that only people known for their work, who win awards, are the only ones that deserve recognition. In my ten years writing on films, what I've discovered is that that is almost never true. In fact people of real talent usually go unrecognized, because they're too busy, too obsessed with their work to look for said recognition, or they're too insistent on not compromising their quality to make the right friends to give them said recognition. Instead of being awarded, they're called 'iconoclasts,' or 'troublemakers.'

People who are known, who are recognized, are good at marketing themselves. This has little to do with people who are good at what they do--people who should be recognized, over these self-promoters.

And it's not just the artist/auteur filmmaker. The little people, the craftsmen in the background who do good work--why don't they deserve recognition? Because their credit is so small? Because the vision isn't theirs--they only collaborated on it (in film, the most collaborative of all artforms?)? So this 'generic animator' worked day and night, meeting the deadline, pouring his heart out to try do quality work--he doesn't deserve recognition? What's your criteria? How can you say who or who does not deserve recognition?

What right do you have to say this?

The Incredibles

The Incredibles


Motorcycle Diaries

Just saw The Motorcycle Diaries. It's moving enough and entertaining enough, and skilfully made (by Walter Salles of Midnight and Central Station fame), and Gael Bernal has charisma enough to consign Billy Crudup, Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke (but not Robert Downey, Jr.) combined to the shadowy corner of a room, forever.

But why do I get the feeling the movie is something of a whitewash? The only serious flaw we see in the character is that he's too honest; the only hanky panky visible is a little harmless flirting, some groping in a car with his true love (okay, there's that dance, but he looks very, very sorry afterwards).  I thought Bernal was a more real youth in Y Tu Mama Tambien (the more emotionally complex film, overall), while this movie comes off as a recruiting picture for the Communist Party--and to tell the truth I've seen better recruiting pictures for the Communist Party (Battleship Potemkin, I Am Cuba and Lino Brocka/Pete Lacaba's Orapronobis, anyone?).


Cartoon Network

from Peoplesforum:

Saw the pilot for that Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends or whatever the hell it's supposed to be called. Bigger budget than your usual Dexter's Lab (it's from the same gang) but not much more inventive. I'd have invented a cooler apocalyptic whateverthatwas that ends the movie.

jenniferb: we watched that.  twice.  the animation reminded me of Samurai Jack.  the second time I was kinda listening but not watching, and the dialogue was pretty annoying.

"Annoying" is a mild way of putting it. This group of guys ran out of ideas years ago. Perfect match with George Lucas in the running-on-empty department, I think (they still work for Tartakovsky, don't they?).

Orcaman: I'm afraid you may be right, Noel. Powerpuff Girls may be Craig MacCracken's One Big Idea.

I actually prefer Cow and Chicken to Powerpuff or Dexter's Lab. The latter two had maybe one or two entertaining episodes (the, oh, Beatles episode in PPG, the first episode of Dexter's). Cow and Chicken (which have more people in common with Billy and Mandy than with Tartakovsky and company) actually had some sense of genuine dementia. Plus a show where they fling around a lot of severed pork butts (C & C) can't be all bad.


More Chimes

I first saw Chimes of Midnight on a pirated video. Awful sound, lots of snow, and the vertical wasn't too steady, and despite all that, I realized it was a great film. Kept missing it in New York, but when I go back to Detroit it turns out they're showing it there for two nights. I attended both nights. I felt I had to, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

It was a tremendous experience. In an interview of Keith Baxter (he plays Prince Hal) he tells us Welles needed to shoot an extra scene, of Falstaff and friends running through the snow (they just heard Hal was crowned king). It was spring, and there was no snow around, so Welles laid some white bedsheets on the grass and they just started shooting.

On the big screen, if you look carefully, you can actually see the folds of the bedsheets as they lay on the ground.


Animatrix and that whole 'Matrix' thing

I thought Animatrix was a mixed bag, my favorite being that bit where the kids were playing in that 'haunted house'--I liked that even better than I liked the two sequels (not that I liked the original Matrix all that much). Still, the most I'd prolly do is rent the Animatrix, maybe even just borrow it if it isn't too much trouble...

edit: it's on Cartoon Network, for free.


Orson Welles' "Chimes of Midnight"

From pinoydvd:

Quoted from Noel Vera: Welles' Chimes of Midnight is perhaps the greatest film I've ever seen.

rse: After reading your reply, I looked at Ebay and found a Spanish-produced DVD version of Chimes at Midnight and immediately bought it. I just saw it and I agree, it's a great film!  The ending is poignant and moving, the action scenes masterly done.   There's not much plot and the narrative seems fragmented (I'm not much of a Shakespeare's buff), but I guess this film is not about plot, it's more like an experience.  Pure film -- and I agree it's one of the greatest films I've ever seen.

Actually if you know the story, it has too much plot. It's a compression of Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, with bits from Holinshed's history. The amazing thing, and I know this because I've seen the annotated screenplay which shows which line comes from which play, is that Welles picked and chose from over sixteen hours of Shakespeare to form his script, and he jumps and joins and skips lines of dialogue confidently and authoritatively to create a seemingly seamless whole.

Unfortunately, the sound is terrible, so it's perfectly possible that a lot of the story is lost in garble.

But the Battle of Shrewsbury--it's awesome, isn't it? I think every battle sequence since, from Apocalypse Now to Braveheart (which tried to copy it) to Lord of the Rings (which also shows influence, particularly that struggle with Orcs that ends Fellowship) pales in comparison.


Peter Lorre in "Mad Love" and "M"

Mad Love is wonderful, Peter Lorre spectacular; the Citizen Kane influences were fun to try and spot (Lorre's bug-eyed doctor being the elderly Kane, the shadows; the cockatoo).

TCM was kind enough to run M again some hours afterwards, and I thought I'd just glance at it, but I couldn't help getting hooked; Lorre's performance here hasn't diminished with years or repeated viewing--if anything I'm more in awe of what he accomplished with his few minutes of screent time.


More Day of the Dead

Showed Day to some people today. Holds up pretty well, tho they thought the monologue at the trailer was too long (thought that part was a lovely bit of writing myself, '16-mile-long tombstone' and all). When all hell breaks loose, however, all hell breaks loose; the gore reminds me that Day is still unrated while the Dawn remake (the commercial screening, anyway) is a mere "R"--that Romero forsook at least half his original budget to be able to bring in an unrated version.

Was looking at the bonus features, and can't help thinking after Savini's comments that his approach to makeup--the use of misdirection, and of on-camera effects--isn't too far from what old-fashioned stage magicians do, that (I haven't fully worked this out yet) there's something simple and appealing to their approach that CGI doesn't even bother to try and do. Maybe it's the old-fashioned way the artist collaborates with the audience in creating an illusion, where in CGI the computer geeks present it baldly, wholesale, as a 100-percent realistic image, without recognizing the fact that there's an asymptotic curve when it comes to perfect realism, and that no amount of programming or computing power is going to touch that perfection.

In effect (pun intended), god bless Savini and his kind in this age of computerized crap.


Keaton's The General

From People's Forum Atlantic Refugees Folder:

Buddomonn: Keaton's The General is a visual treat

One of the greatest shots in that film is of Keaton chopping wood on his train (for fuel), while the entire battle front unravels behind him. He looks up, sensing something, looks behind him, sees nothing the matter (the front has long sinced passed), shrugs, goes back to chopping wood, unaware that he's now travelling in enemy territory. Beautiful image, and irreducibly funny.




Day of the Dead

Saw Day of the Dead again, and it's great, great, great. Dawn is of course the critics' favorite, for its comic book flavor, relative lightheartedness, and commentary on consumerism; when they went to see Day, they were expecting more of the same.

But Romero had moved beyond the satire of Dawn; he was making metaphysical and philosophical statements on the human condition, rendered in extremis. Soldiers vs. scientists, men vs. women (or woman), pacifists vs. idealists, all cooped up in a hellhole of a pressure-cooker, temperature set to 'apocalyptic.' Unpleasant characters and nasty, tense dialogue? It's the end of the world; things are falling apart. They're not going to sit down and drink tea, they're going to fight each other tooth and nail for whatever little is left worth having.

This is black comedy on the order of Dr. Strangelove. More, it's influenced a number of films, from 28 Days Later (the macho military mindset) to Shaun of the Dead (zombies being educated--hilarious film, perhaps the best of recent zombie flicks). The Dawn remake tries to one-up Day, by showing us that island paradises aren't safe either, but Day's metaphor is just too powerful. In my book, top of the heap of undead movies.


Huckleberry Finn

Bedtime reading: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Clemen's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had its fun and fine moments, but too much of it was spent on longwinded digressions and editorializing, with plenty of fifty-cent words thrown in to sound impressive; I found myself cutting a lot of the prose  and almost all of the adult satire out (not because it was shocking but because it might go over children's heads). Huck Finn is almost the polar opposite--it's a pleasure to read out loud, because Huck's way of speaking is the way most people round these here parts speak anyway; plus he has a common-sense attitude that's downright refreshing. I tend to read the passages exactly; take a word or phrase out, and the beautiful rhythm of the sentence, sometimes the whole paragraph, is ruined, somehow.

Final note: Huck's accent was a lot thicker in Tom Sawyer than it is in his own book. I suppose Clemens had to tone it down for the long haul.


Guess the film

Was playing this in People's Forum, wondered if anyone can name the film from the plot outline:

woman is a partner in her husband's business, which involves travelling. While he's away, she feels lonely, and has an affair. Eventually she leaves her lover to join her husband. Then one night, when having drinks, the three of them meet.

(Regulars from People's Forum are not qualified to guess!)


The Bride of Frankenstein

Call it my Halloween special:



I remember seeing this years ago on a Betamax tape, right after seeing the original (I had the films taped off HBO, way back when the channel was new). "Frankenstein" impressed me with one scene, where the good doctor (Colin Clive) exposes The Creature (the indelible Boris Karloff) to sunlight, and The Creature gropes helplessly, trying to reach the unreachable source of warmth and brightness; the rest of the picture looked cheaply done, with an ending I thought particularly disappointing, the extras running up what obviously was a soundstage set to surround the Creature, and The Creature tossing what patently looked like a dummy off the top of the windmill he was trapped in, before burning to death.


Which meant I wasn't in a good mood when I got to see "Bride." The opening scene with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) spinning off a new story to Lord Byron and her husband already struck a wrong note--it felt like a cheap attempt to justify a sequel. Dr. Pretorious's homunculi I thought silly--Dr. Frankenstein's stitched-together monster looked obsolete compared to those perfect (if tiny) creatures, making me wonder why Pretorious would bother asking the doctor for help at all (they were to combine Pretorious' black arts with Frankenstein's resurrection techniques to create a "a man-made race"). The rest of the film was more bizarre than bloodcurdling, down to the Bride's flowing robes and daintily birdlike gestures. I don't really understand it at all, at the tender age of (I'm guessing) twelve or so.


Viewing it so many years later, I finally got it, to the point where I'd just about consider it one of the greatest horror films ever made.


Why Luxo, Jr. is the best piece of computer animation ever

From Pinoyexchange:

deathcradle: What has Pixar done na hindi Disney?

Luxo, Jr. (tho it was distributed by Buena Vista). Still Pixar's best, in my opine.

greatbop: uh... right the 2 minute demo that can be seen in Fiding Nemo DVD...yep.. it sure had excellent script writing.

You only need one good idea to tell a good story.

Luxo's an important film because it reminds us that emotions and story are far more important than innovative digital technique...something Dreamworks would do well to learn (they did with Shrek, but not much else).

I'm not too crazy about Pixar's brand of sentimentality, though; two minutes is about most I can stand. Finding Nemo's well-told, but give me the wild, anything-goes, nonsentimental quality of Spongebob and, come to think of it, Looney Tunes: Back in Action anytime.

greatbop: it's a 2 minute technical demo. that was that. facial expressions were next to nonexistent then too. the Ps2 could do a better job of rending the animation, too.

Oh rendering is nothing; that's a matter of how much money you want to throw at the computer. Luxor Jr. was important because for the first time, computer animation had a heart, it created characters, a mother and son, it created a delicate fairytale mood (using office desktop equipment) and it moved people.

And it did all this without facial expressions! That's the magic. Movement, the tilt of a lampshade, the slightest flicker of the power cable. Lasseter's artistry recalls an older art, that of puppetry, of bringing inanimate objects to life.

It's still one of the few pieces of computer-animation that can move people...one of the few pieces of computer animation that I actually like.

greatbop: i... c... so you're no fan of pixar.. no big deal.

No. Give me Studio Ghibli or Gainax anytime.


The Batman

Finally saw The Batman. The art looks suspiciously like that of the Jackie Chan cartoon series; the whole thing looks like it's pulling in the general direction of anime, maybe Korean anime (I should give the credits a closer look).

The series is set early in his career; Alfred isn't a grouchy old codger, but a grouchy young codger; the voice of our hero sounds younger, more vigorous. A lot of understated acting and meaningful looks.

And it's expensive. Lots of tricks used to suggest depth, like out-of-focus smoke or foreground object, and even some shots that look as if they used a multiplane camera (do they use multiplane nowadays, or is it all done by computer?). Lots of light effects. Motion blur. Pretty impressive, actually, except it doesn't seem to come together into a look, the way Burton's Batman movies did, or the succeeding animated series did (with far less elaborate animation, at that). And I miss Elfman's theme.


Eyes Wide Shut: the ending

From a_film_by:

Matthew Clayfield: which makes EYES WIDE SHUT, to my mind, the only Kubrick picture that ends on such a note of hope (albeit a slightly jaded and cautious one).

I had a rather different interpretation (similar to my reaction to the end of It's a Wonderful Life--the two come to similar
conclusions, come to think of it). If, thanks to Kidman's marijuana-induced moment of honesty, a whole world of erotic possibliites was opened up to Cruise, the rest of the movie was Kubrick's way of demonstrating (comically, magisterially) that that world wasn't open to him.

So when he finally comes back to Kidman and she says "let's fuck," it's not just an affirmation of their marriage; it's an invitation to possibly impregnate her, engender a child, further seal their marriage (and seal off Cruise's sexual freedom) all the more solidly, forever and ever, amen. Those two words are the sound of Cruise's velvet cage clanging shut.

Which may be why it's the one Kubrick film I've liked in a long time.

Kevin John: You don't think Cruise welcomes that invitation after such a horrible descent into hell?

Isn't that the worst part--that he's not only cut off from every avenue of escape, but has (like Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life) lost the will to even try?

It's hell because there's no fulfillment. Cruise is teased, seduced, led towards one tableau or the other, but when he's at the point that he might participate, the possibility is shut down, flat.

Death might be preferable.



Finished Louis Feuillade's Judex last night and it was lovely; much of it--the multicharactered, multistoried narrative--seems at the very least inspired by Victor Hugo. It's old-fashioned, but not in the embarrassing way Griffith can be old-fashioned--it's more evenly told. 

Interesting to note that Judex, a masculine, capable and undoubtedly virile man, is hemmed in at all sides by women--Jacqueline, with whom he falls in love; Diana Monti (dark-eyed Musidora--Irma Vep in Feuillade's Les Vampires), his antagonist; and his own mother, with whom he pleads to be released from his sworn oath. He's helped by the men--his brother, Cocantin, that delightful Licorice Kid (a gamin if ever I saw one). 

There was one moment that threw me off: a girl (Cocantin's fiance) dives off the ship to try recover Diana Monti, and when the ship docks, Cocantin asks about her, and Judex shrugs him off! Tad callous, I thought, even if it was the punchline of a quick joke; she had helped him at one point. He could at least wonder where she went. 

Kerjean and Cocantin seem like variations on Judex's theme--one's fate veers towards total tragedy, the other towards total happiness. Judex is relieved (or should be) to get what he does get, a measure of both. 

The power structure too is interesting: Favreaux lords it over lesser (and poorer) beings until he's kidnapped; Judex wields power over Favreaux until he falls for Jacqueline, Favreaux's daughter; Jacqueline, who is forever being assaulted, bound, and kidnapped at one point or another, wields the ultimate power, of love, over both Favreux and Judex.



Johnnie To's Lifeline is fifty minutes of shameless melodrama sprinkled with a handful of tautly directed rescue sequences, attached to forty-five minutes of the most massive, intricate, fiendishly plotted "firefighters escape burning building" sequence ever created (it adds to the thrills that Hong Kong doesn't have nowhere near the same safety standards as the United States, either in fire prevention or in filmmaking). This thing makes Backdraft and Ladder 49 look like marshmallow roasts--can't get the image out of my mind of the firefighters groping around in the building's dark belly, when suddenly the huge air ducts that line the ceiling start belching a thick snowfall of sinister dust and ash. You wonder if the firemen are insured against what they are in danger of breathing; then you wonder if the actors are...

If not for the first fifty minutes I'd call this one of To's best, but even the melodrama wasn't that bad--To whips them along nicely, and the actors play their cliched roles as if they've never seen a firefighter flick in their life (who knows?).


Edgar Ulmer on a budget

Just saw Edgar Ulmer's Pirates of Capri, about the pirate Sirocco (Louis Hayward), who raids the ships of Queen Carolina (Binnie Barnes) the same time he doubles as Count Amalfi, Carolina's favorite courtier, and am I exaggerating matters a bit much if I say this is at least as enjoyable as--and perhaps more visually interesting than--The Adventures of Robin Hood? Louis Hayward affects what sounds like a Spanish accent (actually, he's supposed to be Italian) when masked as Captain Sirocco and the oddest titter this side of Steve Buscemi (or do I mean Beavis?) when playing Count Amalfi ("You're very talented, Amalfi!" "Thangk kew! Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!").

Ulmer juggles a somewhat complicated plot that throws together revolutionary fervor, talk about social reform, and intricate court intrigues, making room along the way for grand ball scenes, a breathtaking escape (Hayward or his stunt double--but Shirley Ulmer claims Edgar always made his actors do their own stunts--drops down what looks like a hundred-foot building in 24 seconds), and a massive palace takeover scene straight out of the French Revolution (this is the Revolution with a happier ending).

You'd think Ulmer, used to four-day shoots on zero budgets in films like Detour, would be lost in a production this big, but he directs as confidently as Cecil B. DeMille, using the sumptous costumes and gorgeous sets (built in the legendary Cinecitta Studios) to give the film a luxurious texture, at the same time employing noir shadows, crisp editing, and odd camera angles to keep you alert, visually stimulated.

It's full of sly moments of character revelation (Amalfi in a carriage with his Countess orders soldiers with spears to charge a gang of unarmed convicts, showing that Amalfi (or Sirocco, in posing as the Count) has his ruthless side, while the Countess, disgusted with the charge, has her softhearted side). Hayward's Sirocco is remarkably likeable, even with the vocal eccentricities (or is it because of them?): he has an easy Bruce Wayne/Alfred Pennyworth chemistry with his loyal aide Pepino (Mikhail Rasumny), and real erotic tension opposite the Countess Mercedes de Lopez (Mariella Lotti), who despises the Count she's forcibly engaged to, the same time she's secretly in love with the pirate. There's a surprisingly complex treatment of Queen Carolina--Sirocco believes that she's a kindheartedwoman frightened and out of her depths, and insists on protecting her from the revolution (the same time he's mounting it). He's trying to play the game both ways, attacking from without, eating away from within, not just because it's effective, but because he's a believer in both sides--in the justice of the people's cause, and in the goodness of the queen (you wonder if maybe there isn't a love quadrangle here--Amalfi loves the Countess loves Sirocco loves the Queen). Ulmer doesn't stint in giving us the complexity of the problem Sirocco/Amalfi's solving, the same time he manages to make us believe in the hero's confident, surefooted (he has to be, the slightest slip and he could be hanged as a traitor or shot as a reactionary) way towards a solution. Wonderful, surprisingly intelligent fun.


House of Wax

Saw Andre de Toth's House of Wax. Wonderful fun, especially with Vincent Price's velvet-voiced villain (a wronged villain, something--I'm not sure, but I seem to remember it that way--he often liked to play (well, there was the Phibes movies)) and Charles Bronson perfectly cast as his mute assistant (lovely touch there, where the camera pans past a row of grotesque wax heads, then zooms in to point out Bronson's among them--a shot parodied in Young Frankenstein).

The subtext seems to be the transient nature of art, and the inverse manner in which it is received by its audience. Price's character (which seems to borrow elements, even images, from The Phantom of the Opera) starts out as a genuine if unsuccessful artist; when the fire burns his prized waxworks, he continues as some kind of horrible but commercially triumphant parody, ingenious in the way he continues his trade, but with something essentially perverse, essentially false under the surface success (funny--what makes him a false artist is that he uses real material for his art). What ruins him is the temptation to reach out once more, to recreate a past masterpiece (his beloved Marie Antoinette), to become, however fleetingly, an artist again (As a final stroke of irony, he becomes, in effect, what he strives to achieve).

Of course, de Toth had to make concessions to the 3-D effect. Some of the staging is painfully odd (the fainting lady, the fencers) some of it, I'm guessing (not having the necessary glasses), must have been a startling success (the swinging pinata, the skeleton turning its hand, the hanged man in the elevator cage).


Philip Kaufman

From The Forum With No Name:

On Kaufman:

Simply put, I love his filmmaking. He's got an eye, he knows how to cut, and best of all, he gives his films a wonderful, voluptuous texture, a lot like De Palma (tho not as showy). They're great to look at, at least.

I thought his putting the Invasion of the Body Snatchers story in an urban setting cast the whole story in a new light--if these aliens can win in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business, and it's easy to spot a strange move, how much easier would it be to conquere a city? Plus, Kaufman's Invasion is funnier, and done in that inimitable style.

He's not perfect; I don't like his "European" films as much; I prefer it when he subverts some genre film (science fiction, film noir, historical epics). Too bad about Twisted.


Still More Kong

David, there's an interpretation of Kong I keep hearing about (well, Kael mentions it in her review of the remake), that Kong represents the black man--wild, then fettered, then unleashed--and I suppose his fascination for white women. I think I can see some basis for that kind of reading, and that the filmmakers tended to play up this angle in a sort of 'horror of miscagenation' way (that sex with a black man, savage, ape, is horrifying). What do you think? Does it impair your enjoyment of the film?

David Ehrenstein: Well the black angle is very obviously there, for films is all about a white woman being kidnapped in order to be raped.

Except that Kong can't rape he because he has no penis.

We don't see one, true.

Science Fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer (now there's a pervert) wrote a short story ("After King Kong Fell," nominated for a Nebula in 1973) speculating about what happened after the end of the film. Denham was sued, bankrupted, and eventually murdered by one of the island natives, who never forgave him for taking their god; Ann sued Driscoll for 'promises not kept,' which had New York abuzz: what kind of promises? Farmer points out that the gorilla's penis is an inch long when angry, which makes it physically impossible for him to rape a human woman...only with a gorilla forty feet tall, proportionately speaking you're talking about a twelve-incher, to which Farmer concludes 'we may never know.'

Doc Savage makes a quick appearance. Well, it is his territory, after all...



More Kong, The Most Dangerous Game, Joel McCrea

David Ehrenstein: Noel, are you familiar with The Most Dangerous Game ? It was shot at the same time on the same jungle set with the same Fay Wray.

Ted Fontenot: And with a very young Joel McCrea in the lead. It's all hokum, but, taken for what it is, very enjoyable.

Wray and McCrea appeared together in the excellent little comedy The Richest Girl in the World although it is really a pairing of McCRea and Miriam Hopkins. Wray is sort of a foil/bestfriend/stooge. I highly recommend it. Good story executed and acted well. My other favorite McCrea and Hopkins collaboration is Woman Chases Man. Another screwball comedy, need it be said.

That was an very good review of King Kong. I started to see it the other night on TCM but didn't finish. I haven't seen it all the way through in years. You reminded me that I need to finish up on that re-viewing. You're right, it could have been titled, Kong: The Tragedy of.

David: I love McCrea with Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier, and above all Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story.

He was the best.

Ted: Yes, he works fine with Arthur and Colbert (even V. Lake). I like the way he does the man/woman repartee in those movies you mention, David. Not to mention, the authenic sexual heat he generates and seems to bring out in the leading ladies. The stoop scene in Merrier and the massage scene in The Palm Beach Story are remarkably similar in the sexual texture and tenor.

Indeed, he brought some sass to his role in Foreign Correspondent, which came out right around the same time as those other movies, that isn't necessarily in the script or direction. Gary Cooper was who Hitchcock wanted, I understand, but Cooper, who although I'm a big fan of, definitely wouldn't have brought that sort of All-American boy verve and (yes) ingenuousness to the role.

David: Joel McCrea's magic was that he really looked and acted like someone you know. You could imagine meeting him and having a perfectly ordianry conversation with him. The same can't be said of Cooper who while "salt of the earth" was emotionally remote. That's why he worked so well opposite Dietrich in Morocco.

On Kong:

Just learned that Obie--Willis O'Brien--was a boxer. Hah. I caught that, or at least the sense that he knew something about hand-to-hand combat.

I've seen The Most Dangerous Game and liked it, David, even heard the story that they shared sets and star, even that the giant wall set was a leftover from De Mille's King of Kings (figures; it has De Mille's sense of scale). Kind of like the short story better, but it was clean and efficient, and effective for its time.

On McCrea:

I loved him most because what ever he did, he did quietly. He was the master of understatement and of effortlessness (what Grant employed to present glamour McCrea employed to present a number of things--naive idealism; hardwon honor; what have you). And I do think one of the highlight performances of his career was Ride the High Country.




King Kong (1933)

(plot discussed in detail)

Saw King Kong again after--ten? twelve?--years, and better still, recorded it. Crummy VHS copy, but that's better than staring wistfully at the Netflix link to the Jessica Lange remake.

What can I say? It's a thriller, built to tell its story as fast as possible. The first few scenes are there to do nothing except hammer home several plot points: that the expedition's destination is "mysterious," that the crew is "tough," and that they're armed with rifles and plenty of "gas grenades." Only the scenes with actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) really stand out (almost in contrast)--that haunting fog-shrouded moment when she reaches out for an apple (is she stealing it or buying it?), and the extended scene where, decked out in her Beauty costume, she receives instructions from film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) to look terrified, so terrified that she can't scream, and if she covered her eyes maybe she can let one out. She covers her eyes; she screams (as only Fay Wray could); and then (delicious, delicious touch) First Mate Jack Driscoll (tough guy Bruce Cabot) flinches, not out of fear, but out of fear for her (two character details, one an important plot development, revealed in a single moment).

I love it that when on Skull Island they gradually learn that the native ritual they stumble into is a wedding, the girl in the middle is the bride, and left it at that; I love it that Ann keeps saying she's glad to be on the trip, that she's glad Driscoll couldn't keep her on the boat, and when she finally is the star of the night, abducted by the natives and offered to their god, the look on her face is as much pleasurable thrill as it is terror. Kong's subtext is kidnap and rape (and wild, bestial (and interracial) sex), and that's what gives much of what happens its lurid charge (that was the mistake of the remake; it put everything in romantic soft-focus). This was a big family hit back in the '30s, right? Can you imagine all the young boys (wonder if it was as popular with girls?) being exposed to stuff like this?

And when the monsters finally come out--okay, forget that herbivores shouldn't just charge without provocation (I'm looking at you, Stegosaurus), but Kong's battles with the various animals are actually well-thought-out sequences. When he faces off with the T-Rex, it's two wide-stanced wrestlers angling for the best hold, the T-Rex trying to reach with his long neck over Kong's thick back with his razor teeth, Kong continually trying to push the Rex off-balance by grabbing at one of his powerful feet (at one point he uses a judo throw) and landing bone-crunching punches; he finally uses his definitive advantage--his arms--and climbs on the Rex's back, and--did I mention how violent this movie is?--rips his jaws apart. Less elaborate but even more ingenious is how he deals with the whiplike Plesiosaurus--by cracking him like a whip.

And of course, there's that little after-battle detail we all love Kong for--cradling his conquest in his arms, examining their limp necks for signs of life, he drops the corpse, beats a tattoo on his chest and roars his triumph and approval. "I am Kong! Hear me roar!" he is undoubtedly saying, but he could as easily be saying "This is the life! Man, this is the life!"

Then there's his private session with Ann--it isn't just that he sniffs her clothes, he tickles her and she can't help but respond, kicking out her shapely legs; to top it off, he sniffs his fingers after tickling her (Kong has a scent fetish). Did I mention wondering how all the boys in the audience must be taking all this?

Finally there's the finale atop the Empire State: Ann is at the base of the domed top (this was before they attached the TV antenna), and Kong is hanging on to the dirigible docking post, puzzled at why he's so hurt. He picks up Ann; puts her down, then looks (the ambiguity is thrilling) like he's nuzzling her, almost affectionately; if you  hadn't been conquered by his frowning at all the blood on his chest, you must have succumbed to this (either that or you just ain't looking). It's perfect that Ann never reciprocates, never returns his affections; this is Kong's tragedy, not hers (Jessica Lang is a pretty good actress, but that her character can grow to love a monster like that is not just a huge stretch of credibility, it's soft-headed). 

His final gesture just before he falls--why, he's hamming it up, raising his arm in the air like Caruso about to sing his final aria, or Hamlet about to take a bow. Cut to a long shot of a patently fake dummy plummeting to its death. That it looks fake is immaterial; you need that plummet, because that's exactly what you feel like doing in response to Kong's fate; that sexist, brutal, murderous bastard has committed the final crime of stealing your heart.


Cinema One Originals looking for a dream film proposal

Helping a friend spread the word on this. Anyone interested should email Ronald Arguelles at Ronald_Arguelles@abs.pinoycentral.com, there are two attachments he needs to send you.

Here's the letter:

Cinema One, the premiere Filipino movie channel has always believed in the unique vision and innate gift of the Filipino filmmaker. As a leading proponent of Filipino films we are aware that there is a wealth of talent out there just looking for the perfect break, opportunity or venue to showcase their craft.

In light of this, Cinema One is launching an exciting new project that will give Filipino filmmakers the funding and impetus to create original full-length features in digital video format. The chosen commissioned works will then be aired both locally and internationally under the Cinema One Originals banner.
To this end, we would like to invite you to submit proposals, including all information specified in guidelines to the following address:

Office of the Programming Director
Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI)
10th Floor, ELJ Communications Center Building
Eugenio Lopez Drive, 1103, Quezon City

or you can submit thru email with all the requirement indicated in
the attached guidelines to

With your participation and support, we see “Cinema One Originals” as an on-going, long running series that will not only put much needed focus on Filipino films and filmmakers but will also expose, inform and educate our Cinema One audiences to the wide and wonderful spectrum of Philippine movies, available for their viewing pleasure.

Respectfully yours,

Ronald Arguelles
Director of Programming

Attached Application Form and Guidelines

Cinema One Originals Guidelines

1. All filmmakers are eligible to join Cinema One Originals - the commercial or the non-commercial, the young or the seasoned.

2. Interested parties must be able to accomplish and/or submit the following on or before Oct. 15, 2004, Friday, 5pm,
to the
Cinema One Originals Secretariat,
CPI Programming office, 10th floor,
ELJ Communications Center Building,
Eugenio Lopez Drive,Quezon City:

a. a duly accomplished application form
b. a synopsis in either English or Filipino
c. a brief resume
d. two (2) recent 2X2 photos of the filmmaker/s
e. samples of previous work dubbed in VHS, CD, or DVD

3. The Cinema One Originals Secretariat will choose eight (8) qualifying proposals by Oct 18, 2004.
Formal announcement of accepted proposals will be made on October 20, 2004.

4.The final produced digital films must be submitted in DVD format on or before January 12, 2005, 5pm,
to the Cinema One Originals Secretariat (see the address above).
The submissions should be labeled properly with the following information:

a. title of the film
b. production company address
c. contact numbers of the filmmaker/s
d. full name of the director
e. running time

5. The preferred running time of the digital production should be anywhere from a minimum of ninety (90) minutes
to a maximum of one hundred-twenty (120) minutes.

6. Narrative features, as well as full-length documentaries, will be accepted—so long as they fall into the inclusive time restriction.

7. A total of eight (8) finalists will be selected. Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI) will award to the chosen fillmakers a total production grant of six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00) per project.

8. All eight (8) finalists will be required to attend a one-day briefing with the project organizers, the date of which shall be announced accordingly.

9. Fifteen (15) days after the announcement of the finalists, the filmmakers should submit the following to the Cinema One Originals Secretariat (see the address above):

a. the full screenplay and/or a detailed treatment
b. production schedule
c. production budget and counterpart financial plan

10. The release of the project fund will be as follows: 50% of the P500,000 production budget upon signing of the agreement with CPI, 50% of the P500,000 production budget fund based on the submitted production budget requirement. One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) will be given to the filmmaker or production group upon submission of the final product.

11. By January 05, 2005, the filmmakers of the qualifying proposals should submit the following miscellaneous requirements:
a. production stills
b. behind-the-scenes footages
c. a one-minute trailer
d. production credits

12. Announcement willbmade early next year for the screening or film festival of the eight (8) qualifying films.

13. The filmmakers and the major cast/actors of each feature production are obliged to participate in the promotion of the project.

Cinema One Originals Rules and Regulations

1. Only entries by certified Filipino citizens shall be accepted.

2. Employees of ABS-CBN, Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI), and their affiliates are disqualified from joining the competition.

3. All entries must be completely original and independently produced (i.e., not produced by commercial outfits).

4. Entries that have been previously exhibited in any public screening will be deemed ineligible.

5. All entries must be in digital video format (i.e., digital editing and postproduction).

6. Two (2) DVD copies must be submitted for screening and archival purposes.

7. Due to copyright laws, the music used in the digital entries must be original, licensed, or in the public domain.

8. Dialogue should primarily be in Filipino but may occasionally include English or other Filipino dialects, provided that the production has Filipino subtitles.

9. For joint directorial efforts, the filmmakers must assign a single representative to act on their behalf. All official correspondence shall then be addressed to the representative. The organizing committee shall not be held responsible for any controversy that might ensue amongst the partners regarding the sharing of the production grant/budget, cash prizes if a contest will be mounted on the project launching next year, and the like.

10. The Cinema One Originals Secretariat will ensure the safety of the films throughout the period in which the cinematographic materials are in its custody. In case of print loss or damage, CPI is obligated only for the cost of replacing the damaged DVD.

11. DVD shipments to the Cinema One Originals Secretariat/CPI must be prepaid. The organizing office shall not accept any collect shipments of any entry.

12. CPI or Cinema One (the host channel) reserves all the intellectual rights to show and distribute all eight (8) full-length features in their perpetuity.

The Parson's Widow (Carl Dreyer)

Dreyer's second film and, believe it or not, a comedy, and a funny one too. Young theologian Sofren (Einar Rod) wants to marry Mari (Greta Almroth), but her father won't allow it until he has a decent position as a parson; he gets his chance at a small village, with one catch--he has to marry old Margarete (Hildur Carlberg) the former parson's widow. Sofren agrees, thinking Margarete hasn't many years left to her, but then she's already buried three of her husbands...

The film doesn't have too much of Dreyer's distinctive visual style; if anything, it has almost everything else Dreyer lacked (or shed) in his later films--a (relative) lightheartedness, a (fairly) swift stortelling pace, a (rather grotesque) sense of humor. The moment when Margarete asks guilelessly if Sofren already has a girlfriend and he stares at her, slack-jawed, is priceless; so is the moment when Sofren, beguiled by a glass of schnapps (possibly drugged) and a (mouthwatering) piece of herring, mistakens Margarete for an attractive young girl and proposes to her. Some moments of slapstick, as when Sofren is beaten up, or when he flirts at who he thinks is Mari but turns out to Margarete's old-maid servant are funny, but seem to suggest an unsettling flavor to Danish humor--often deadpan cruel, even violent.

A small complaint: this being his second film, you can hardly expect Dreyer to be the master of all aspects of filmmaking. I thought he relies too heavily on intertitles to tell his story, myself, at least this particular story--you don't see that fondness for text in his later Master of the House, least of all in his silent masterpiece, The Passion of Joan.

The final passages, where Margarete finds herself contemplating life in all its awful and wonderful complexity, are intensely moving. I might add tenderness and sweet acceptance as some of the qualities I'd never expect to find in a Dreyer film.



Fahrenheit's 59 deceits (Kopel's exaggerating, of course)

  From Pinoyexchange:

quote: Originally posted by Lucius

59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 911

Read it. Some of it is spot-on on Moore; he does tend to take footage or information and warp it to his purposes.

On the other hand, a good deal of those "deceits" are nitpicking. Documentary filmmakers since Robert Flaherty have either staged or massaged their images or details to help make a stronger case. If the basic idea is accurate, well...

And Kopel goes overboard with some of the attacks (well, going overboard seems the name of the game here). Deceits, fine, but cheap shots? What's wrong with them and so what if Moore uses them?

Kopel also flies in the face of what's known at certain points. No, despite all of Kopel's insisting and presenting thin evidence, Saddam has no direct connection with 9/11; no, invading Iraq was not an urgent priority or next step for the USA. Kopel makes a fairly good case, overall, but he destroys it by overselling (again, admittedly, the name of the game both Kopel and Moore--and Bush, for that matter--are playing here).


No end to the Passion!

From the online edition of BigO Magazine, fan mail regarding my article on Mel Gibson's snuff flick (The Passion of the Christ)

Excerpt (my replies in red):

> On the subject on The Passion Of Christ, all these talk about it being anti-semitic and not being accurate enough... I think those who are saying these just TOTALLY missed the point of the film. It's like seeing a few black little dots on a corner of a huge whiteboard.

Why, any great evil will look good if you stand back far enough. Hitler, Mao, Stalin, basically their message and intent was the upliftment of their respective peoples. When you look at the general outline of their rhetoric, it's all noble sentiments and beautiful ideas. It's in the details... the little black dots you spoke so disparagingly of... that their true nature is revealed.