I, Robot

I, Robot

South Carolinian barbecue

Schuler's in Latta, South Carolina, being on its northern edge, serves rather North-Carolina-like barbecue; you have to pour the mustard sauce on the side to give it the true SC tang.

It's very good pit-cooked 'cue (tho they do use commercially bought coal briquettes instead of starting from hardwood), coarsely chopped and juicy; the mustard sauce gave it that little extra something to make it stand out from its northern cousins.

It's served on buffet with excellent sides, from softly salted lima beans to fresh-baked buscuits, to robust turnip greens.

Not to mention tremendous ribs--crispy burnt ends that lead (as you chew along the bone) to meltingly soft smoky meat.

The desserts are glorious--peach cobblers where the crust is sweet and the peaches tart, blueberry cobblers where your teeth bite into crunchy buttery sugar, a red velvet cake with icing to die for,  and these crispy chocolate cookies with chunky chips and walnuts that I had to load into my pockets, just so I can taste em at home.

It's maybe not the best barbecue place I've been to (to date, that honor belongs to Allen & Son in Chapel Hills, and Wilbur's in Goldsboro), but it's easily the most beautiful, with picture windows in the back that open out to a meandering little stream with ducks and geese (tossed em some biscuits and the damned fowl almost attacked me).


Imelda at La Tienda

Something I wrote back in January, 2003 (reminded of this by the latest and most improbable hit in Manila, the Imelda documentary):

Saw Sex and Lucia, and after the screening, asked the director of Instituto Cervantes where he'd eat for good Spanish food, and he mentions La Tienda. So we went there.

Salad was slices of smoked blue marlin over greens with sweet white onions, capers, julienned beets, and a green & black olive vinaigrette. Soup was sopas de mariscos--clams, shrimps, squid and fish in a soup so thick and flavorful and garlicky they must have pureed a whole mess of seafood (plus cloves of garlic) for the broth and THEN added the chunks and bits of whole meat after.

Main course was baked lapu-lapu (I think that's snapper), prawns and squid in a white wine, toasted garlic and onions sauce. The onions were so sweet, they seemed candied. The other main course was lamb shank in garlic sauce--falling off the bone tender lamb in a thick and creamy and faintly sweet garlic sauce.

Dessert was pan de sal (dinner roll) ice cream with pureed olives and tomato jam. It was delicious--sweet, bread-flavored ice cream with a trace of cummin, over a layer of olive puree, and a bottom of sweet and faintly tart tomatoes.

Great food. We take pride in having the best Spanish food in Asia, better than you can get in far wealthier Hong Kong. It's one benefit of being opppressed by the Spaniards for four hundred years.

Plenty of Japanese clients--the place was full. The waitress also recommended the dessert to a pair of Japanese execs, who looked doubtful till she pointed at our table. So they ordered it. They were having fun arguing over the actual contents of the dish with the waitress when we left...

Oh, and guess who sat behind us, impeccably dressed and made up and all: Imelda Marcos. The Iron Butterfly has to eat her Spanish food in a restaurant now, like everybody else...that said, she was one classy looking lady, even with extensive plastic surgery, even at her age.


Exorcist 2, and why it's better than The Exorcist

From The Atlantic online:

Exorcist 2 in my opine may not have the cheapo shock thrills of the first Exorcist or the unintentionally funny awkwardness of Blatty's Exorcist 3 (officially the real sequel), but it does have Burton spouting all that heavy theology, which on one side is irredeemable camp, on the other has Burton's beautiful growl and Boorman framing and lighting him in such a way he looks a hell of a lot holier (and more devastated) than Jim Cavaziel in Gibson's momumentally unimaginative Passion.

Then there's the filmmaking. Which is gorgeous. Which (some of it, anyway) is inspired by the flying sequences in Murnau's underrated Faust, only in gloriously amber color, as if Boorman smeared honey on all his lenses.

The film is a great something--sometimes I think a monumental sick joke on religion, sometimes I think a fantastic filmmaking experiment that you shouldn't (for the sake of your sanity) take too seriously. It's Boorman turning the theological bullshit Blatty (appropriate name, I think) spouted in the original picture into something that resembles science fiction--a scientifically workable theory on the nature of evil, no less.


Breakwater around the world

Breakwater went to the Brussels International Film Festival (the famous one), and is going to the Tokyo Film Festival, the London Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival and Pusan Film Festival. Also Vladivostok in Russia and Hamburg in Germany. More invites forthcoming.

As of this time, Katherine Luna won best actress at the Cinefan Festival of Asian Cinema in New Delhi, India.

Still more Hollywoodization

From av_phile1, in pinoydvd:

How old is the Filipino film industry?  I think those post-war films were the toddler years of our cinema. Aping those hollywood movies was like what budding fine arts students do when copying artworks of the masters to sharpen their technical skills before their own individualistic artisitic styles can shine through.  

Unfortunately, the aping continued to the 70s and uo to now.  The problem is that hollywood has also been evolving in both technical, production, directing and artistic stykes.  Starting with those glossy musicals and Greta Garbo films under the studio stable system of the 30s to the 50s, then to the adolescent rebel years of the 60s and 70s starting with those James Dean films and the French Connection-like films.  The materials and the neo-realist styles and themes evolved.  Along the way, pinoys have been mimicing one change after another, never really finding their own indivdualism or signature.

The first film was shown in the Philippines in 1897; the first Filipino film made by Filipinos was shown in 1919. Before World War 2, we were doing 60 films a year, and was the most advanced moviemaking center in Southeast Asia.  

Arguably the greatest Malaysian moviemaker ever was Filipino Ramon Estella, who made films there and taught the Malaysians how to make films. We did musicals, horror, dramas, action, comedies--you name it.

After the war, we were doing neorealism (Anak Dalita (The Ruins)) and noir (48 Oras (48 Hours)). Manuel Conde's Genghis Khan so impressed film critic James Agee (ever read him? Classic volumes on film criticism, the scriptwriter for African Queen, and Night of the Hunter, and a Pulitzer Prize winner) that he befriended Conde and championed his film to Venice film festival. Gerardo de Leon continues to dazzle film critics today (ask Pierre Rissent, ask Tony Rayns), and impressed even David Lean. De Leon was influenced by Ford, admittedly, but also Kurosawa, and he wrapped that great film style of his around subjects that were quintessentially Filipino.

Hollywood has influence--that much I know. But there are filmmakers then, filmmakers in the '70s ((Lino) Brocka, (Ishmael) Bernal, (Mike) de Leon, Celso Ad. Castillo) who resisted that, and learned not from Hollywood but from de Sica and Fellini.

Today, (Mario) O'Hara, (Mike) de Leon and Lav Diaz have moved beyond that neorealist style into different directions.  De Leon is sui generis, God only knows what goes  on in his head or inspires him; Diaz is inspired by Tarkovsky and Kurosawa Kyoshi and Hou Hsiao Hsien--admirable models indeed.  O'Hara--well, I don't know where his influences come from.  He's never seen Godard, or Renoir, or Hou Hsiao Hsien or Wong Kar Wai, so I can't tell...but of the three his is possibly the wildest imagination.  Check out Sisa or Pangarap ng Puso (Demons).

Tikoy Aguiluz carries on in the neorealist tradition, a la Brocka, but he has a canny commercial sense and sharp nose for a good story that almost helped him break out internationally with Boatman (he sold that to Warner Brothers too) and with Segurista (Dead Sure).  Still have expectations of him.  And who knows, Celso might still surprise us...

Hollywood has little to offer--mostly a banal, chewed up storytelling style that's imaginatively and culturally bankrupt. I've cited filmmakers who have gone to Hollywood who saw what made them distinct and special become dull and smoothly glossy--Emmerich, Goeff Murphy, Roger Donaldson, Verhoeven, Besson, Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, even poor Jean Juenet isn't doing all that well nowadays.  The list is long, and gets longer all the time.


Steak Night

My butcher had gone home early, so I couldn't get the two-inch porterhouse I usually ask for (I have them cut special). Instead I settled for two one-inch porterhouses that I cooked separately.

So I slathered them with a mix of canola oil and melted butter; sprinkled them with lots of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper, then cooked them, one at a time, four minutes to a side, in a cast-iron pan that had been heating in a 500 degree oven for half an hour.

While the steaks rested for about five minutes, I sprinkled a handful of fine-chopped onions into the pan (I forgot to buy shallots), cooked em for 30 seconds, then poured in half a cup of balsamic vinegar (the good stuff, really sweet), and reduced it over medium heat until there was about a couple of tablespoons left. Took it off the heat, Dropped three tablespoons of butter into the sauce to melt, and served it with the steaks.

The quiet tart-and-sweet of the reduced balsamic and the rich velvety nuttiness of the butter gave the porterhouse a lovely flavor. We ate it with hot and crusty French bread and a salad of mixed greens dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a crushed garlic clove, kosher salt and cracked black pepper.


Don Quixote

More than halfway through this epic tale of the Knight of the Rueful Figure.

If I had to sum them up, I'd say Sancho Panza was the kind of man who mostly thought about what was in front of him and little else (maybe his wife and children, but that's about it). He follows Don Quixote because it never occurs to him that the man is crazy (later it does, but it's too late; by then he has come to love the man). He has the foolishness of a child, a fairly cunning one, and the wisdom as well, in that he values simplicity and honesty above all.

Don Quixote, surpisingly, is rather clear-eyed; you can talk to him about a number of subjects and he'll reply as cogently and intelligently as any sane person. The problem is what he considers important. He may know about the world around him but what matters is the world beyond that world, of knight errantry and dragons and enchantments and whatnot. The rest is there, but irrelevant. As for wisdom, needless to say his is the wisdom of the mad, in that he values gallantry and courage above all.

So you have a simpleton who sees little except what's in front of him, and a madman who sees little except what's not in front of him. What falls in between the nearsightedness of one and farsightedness of the other is the rest of the world. And that's Cervantes' novel.

I'd say he's in the league of Shakespeare, perhaps stranger; he plays more intricate metaphysical games.


Stone ground grits

I stopped trying to trick up stone-ground grits with heavy cream and chicken broth; cooked plain, in water with kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper and a pat of butter,it's delicious in a simple, corn-sweet way.

Then the next day--after letting them sit in the fridge overnight, cut up the solidified chunks into slices, fry them in butter till toasty crisp, and serve them with maple syrup.


Notorious, The Lodger

Notorious is a great film, one of Hitchcock's best, with an anomalous performance from Grant, easily his finest, as a coldhearted bastard; an incandescent one from Bergman, who is ravishing; and a great performance from Claude Rains, who manages as the film's odious villain to still prick at your heart by film's end.

Just saw The Lodger (1928), a silent Hitchcock, based on Jack the Ripper, with stairway compositions that appear later in Psycho, a kiss so hot he just had to try and top it in Notorious, and a sense of wrongful accusation central to all his films. The first real Hitchcock (it was his third) and a real pleasure to watch. Starring Ivor Novello (remember Gosford Park?) as The Lodger.


Still more Hollywoodization

av_phile: "Any recommended DVD title?"

A Touch of Zen, Come Drink With Me, and The Valiant Ones for starters...

"Our traditions, history and culture doesn't seem to contain the swashbucking adrenalin-producting karate, jujitsu, kung-fu, ninja and samurai, nor the legends that can make good Disney animation material  to interest hollywood a bit."

It's not the actioners...though an arnis film would be nice.

"To ask Hollywood to stay out of the picture, you might as well ask for the moon.  They're too powerful politically and economically to stay on the sides."

We don't ask, we legislate.

"Do you mean hanggang  cinema art houses lang ang habol natin?"

That's a lot to ask right there--are you aspiring for a Crouching Tiger size hit?  How many Crouching Tigers are out there? How many Life is Beautiful?  Ten, twenty tops. Then ask: how many foreign films are made--that would be in the thousands.

Most foreign films are lucky to get a total gross of seven to fifteen million.  Princess Mononoke, if I recall correctly, grossed not much more than ten million.  That's Studio Ghibli, backed by Disney. One million is considered respectable business; heck, a hundred thousand is okay, as long as you've covered price of a rental, which can cost as little as five thousand for a print.

"Can't we produce a Walt Disney or a Ralph Bakshi?  Can't we have a local John Williams? Can't we flood world cinema houses with an epic like Jose Rizal?"

Sure--start with Southeast Asia.  LIke I said, what works.  That's how Hong Kong did it.

"Are we just confined with the likes of Lea Salonga na pang theater lang? Or pang voice talent lang?"

It's more: "what have we done to catch their attention?"

"More of an exception.Hindi kaya there would more chance of saving the local cinema if we get Hollywood's assistance?"

Hollywood help us?  Sure--it's a matter of trying to convince them why us and why not, say, the Thai?

"And there are new developments in all-digital movie production that we will need to revitalize our industry, rather than using or enhancing those old movie recording euipment."

We don't need Hollywood for that. Lav Diaz is doing a digital movie; so is Tikoy.

"For sure we can't beat 'em.  Might as well join 'em."

Try, oh, Lee Tamahori, Geoff Murphy, Roger Donaldson.  Sound familiar?  Or try Ringo Lam, and Tsui Hark. Or Milos Forman and Roland Emmerich.  Wolfgang Petersen. These are people who joined Hollywood, and ended up making Hollywood crap. There's the rare John Woo or Paul Verhoeven who succeeds within the system, but I much prefer their native product...

"Movies small fry?  With each hollywood movie generating box-office returns about the equivalent of a brand-new Boeing 747 jet .  I think worldwide, it's even bigger than the aviation industries combined."

Is wrong.  The aviation industry is a multibillion dollar industry, you're talking about hundreds of Boeings, not even considering other planes, subsidiary industries, airports--heck, NAIA is bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster hit; I'm willing to bet the JFK Airport in New York is more expensive than any single movie studio.

Movies are considered strictly small fry, and the Philippines is considered a small market--Japan is the biggie, and even then Jack Valenti has only so much say over how US should dictate foreign and economic policy to open up the Japanese market.  

Oh, forgot the Chinese.  The US is droooooling over that market, but the Chinese are a hard nut to crack.  They do pretty good movies too, and it's a successful little industry. Again, by tightly regulating the Hollywood imports.

ADB, IMF, World Bank, they don't even look at movies.  I know, I have talked to those people for years. Take it from me, textile is a bigger industry than movies.


More Hollywoodization

"Understandable.  France is not only anti-Hollywood.  It's anti-american and anti-british in general.  It seems to be a history-based nationalist angst against english-speaking countries with a national memory of a terrible war with the americans in the 1700s.  Latest evidence - their strong resistance against the US/Brit led coalition against Iraq at the UN."

Terrific cinema, innit?  Terrific culture too...

"I think the Hongkong and Chinese cinemas benefitted form Hollowwod incursion when the latter exploited their martial arts traditions to box-office delight, there, in the US and elsewhere.  It's sheer commercialization of a culture.  But i suppose chinese talents, producers and crew got windfalls in the process too.  Did the phenomenon produce art films?  Now i don't know if suspending actors on wires flying around in a fight scene is one."

See something by King Hu. Blows Crouching Tiger up and down the block.

"The same goes for Japanese films.  Hollywood exploited japanese traditions of the ninjas and samurais and the jap military-like discipline  to make box office hits worldwide.  And while hollywood profited, am sure those jap movie moguls did as well."

True and true. But that was then, this is now. At that time, the foreign market wasn't seen as a major source of income, and Hollywood marketing wasn't geared towards selling to foreign markets. It was easier for foreign cinemas to flourish.

In the '80s, Hollywood discovered the world market, and now more than half their market is outside of the US.  Hollywood NOW is a threat to our industry, and to industries all over the world.  That's what happened to Hong Kong, and Japan. Hollywood killed their live action cinema.  This happened around ten or less years ago.

"At this time and age, to me it doesn't seem to make sense to close doors and act as if we can make a viable cinema industry on our own with only the pinoy market as our audience."

By all means, watch other movies from other countries. But in a strictly ghettoized environment. And by all means sell to other countries.  We can be open to foreign markets--Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, for starters. the rest of Asia to follow; that's how the Hong Kong cinema did it in the '80s. Hollywood?  They were never interested in us, and we don't need them to sell our movies. They can knock on our doors if ever they want us, which I doubt will happen.

"The audience must be the entire world."

Hollwyood can stay out of the equation.  They're the danger. Art  house cinema circuit--we can actually talk to them, if you like.
"The product must be world-class."

No problem with this.

"That's why hollywood and a few european, indian, chinese and jap films became known worlwide and their industry got the windfall because they were shown in many countries and made good box-office returns."

True, and here's the difference: Hollywood is doing it NOW, and to the detriment of every other foreign film--and, in the case of Hong Kong and Japan, to the detriment of THEIR native cinemas.

"Otherwise, if we remain content with the pinoy audience in this country"

I'm not content with just the local audience.  There's the film festival circuit the US art house circuit (mind you, this mainly books US independent films), and the world cinema arthouse circuit.

"we will remain with low budget films of little remark.  The returns simply cannot justify a producer's nvestment."

Bubungang Lata, Pila Balde, even Insiang.

"But closing our doors with trade barriers to hollywood films, frankly i have grave doubts such an act willl even gash the knee of hollywwod, much less cut the legs below."

It won't--see above. I'm concerned with saving our cinema, not hurting Hollywood.  I'd like to do that, but that's not possible. Yet.

" And doing so will only incurr the ire of the IMF/World Bank"

Not on cinema! That's a small fry industry. I've dealt with IMF and World Bank people.  They're concerned with steel, infrastructure, agriculture. They don't even know movies exist in other countries.

"And one result is that our films would get the same treatment in the world markets and not be given a fighting chance out there"

The way India and France are doing it?  IMF and World Bank don't think that way.

"I don't see how our cinema can flourish when the country's economy is ruined."

Because we discriminate against Hollywood films?  Not going to happen--like I said, movies are strictly small fry. Again, see France, India, Iran.  They seem to be doing just fine.


Ebolusyon, an 8 hour Filipino film

Anyone in New York might want to check out the film "Ebolusyon" by Lav Diaz, showing at the Asian American International Film Festival (schedule in this link, scroll down to middle of page):

Took ten long years to make and is 8 hours long, and even then it's still a rough draft (the final 10 1/2 hour version was lost when an editing computer crashed a few days ago), but worth seeing, I think. I've seen his 5-hour long "Batang West Side" (West Side Avenue) and that was pretty much one of the better Filipino films I've seen in years.

'Splaining it to idiots

From pinodvd's thread: Who are your top 5 favorite Filipino directors?

llanesmark: To  all the readers im not that good in terms of who are the best filipino film directors? Why do you like them? And what film did there real best.

greatbop: NONE. they all suck. they're all unimaginitive.

Yeah. Right.  Roll Eyes

murcielago: Haha.  I'm with you on this greatbop. Grin Grin

...jesus christ, another one...

Another one what? You think it's just greatbop and I who feel that way? You think we're the exceptions? I haven't  been watching any Filipino movies lately for a good reason or so I thought. Was I out of the loop for too long? Have we produced our own M. Night Shayamalan, Ang Lee, or even a Gurinder Chadha in the meantime? Where are the movies? 

Hey, I just feel it's careless (to put it politely) to lump an entire country's cinema and filmmakers into one category (sucks).

M Night Shayamalan? Ang Lee? Chadha? Against Lav Diaz, Mike de Leon, Lino Brocka, Mario O'Hara, Celso Ad. Castillo, Gerry de Leon? I'd like to hear the argument.

murcielago: Point taken. It's just that the sweep and crassness of greatbop's remark perfectly captured the indifference and disappointment over local movies I've developed thru the years as a more-than-casual movie watcher. Sadly film has proved to be just another arena where Filipinos have underachieved. Without exception, the supposedly better local movies I've come across I can only describe with any combination of the follwing: unoriginal, unrealistic, ostentatious, uninspiring, and technically crude.  I'd be as proud as you the day Filipino film makers achieve international acclaim and recognition, never mind commercial success.  Do you honestly believe we have broken thru the world stage even once? I ask cause you're asking me to compare our directors to ones who have.  And lest you think so, that isn't even my gauge for judging a movie. 

The sweep and crassness of bop's remark doesn't even begin to convey the idiocy of what he's saying. If he's seen the relevant Filipino films, then maybe we can take his remark seriously.

You HAVE to be careful saying things like that. Or be prepared to back up your statement. Because you'll be questioned about it, that's for sure. It's not being 'onion skinned,' it's calling on a comment that was probably posted without thinking and probably without much knowledge of the subject being disparaged.

So, have you seen Pila Balde, Segurista, Pangarap ng Puso, Bubungang Lata, Batang West Side, Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion, Bayaning Third World, Rizal sa Dapitan, Lihim ni Madonna, Eskapo, Sisa, La Vida Rosa? Has he?

If so, let's talk further.

We've always been world class; not all of us (maybe a fraction of a percent) and certainly the world doesn't know it. It's a matter of marketing.


"NONE. they all suck. they're all unimaginitive."

i concur.  Wink

Another yahoo.  Roll Eyes

1ringwd4s: exactly!  Cheesy


From Gulliver's Travels:

Here we entered, and I saw  three of those detestable creatures whom I first met after my landing feeding  upon roots and the flesh of some animals which I afterwards found to be that  of asses and dogs, and now and then a cow dead by accident or disease. They  were all tied by the neck with strong withes fastened to a beam; they held  their food between the claws of their forefeet, and tore it with their teeth.

My  horror and astonishment are not to be described when I observed in this  abominable animal a perfect human figure; the face of it, indeed, was flat and  broad, the nose depressed, the lips large, and the mouth wide. But these  differences are common to all savage nations, where the lineaments of the  countenances are distorted by the natives suffering their infants to lie  grovelling on the earth, or by carrying them on their backs, nestling with  their face against the mother's shoulders. The forefeet of the Yahoo differed  from my hands in nothing else but the length of the nails, the coarseness and  brownness of the palms, and the hairiness on the backs. There was the same  resemblances between our feet, with the same differences, which I knew very  well, though the horses did not, because of my shoes and stockings; the same  in every part of our bodies, except as to hairiness and colour which I have  already described.

I did indeed observe that the Yahoos were the only animals in this country  subject to any diseases, which, however, were much fewer than horses have  among us, and contracted not by any ill-treatment they meet with, but by the  nastiness and greediness of that sordid brute...the cure  prescribed is a mixture of their own dung and urine forcibly put down the  Yahoo's throat.


Hollywoodization of Filipino films (con't)

av_phile: Not if the IMF or the WOrld Bank has anything to say to that.  Let's go protectionist in our movie industry.  Like Frrance or Italy.  I think it has been said that protectionisn breeds lousy products.  And all the while i thought the movie industry is already protected.

No, the industry isn't protected; more like exploited.

Mind you, I'm not advocating protecting the  trapos (TRAditional POliticians) in the industry--I'd like to see them gone myself. But if you kill the establishment I can guess what'll take over, and it's not the indie artist, it's the one with the big multinational bucks.

Protectionism breed lousy products in France and Italy?  Check out their protected cheeses and wines and stuff. American cheddar tastes like toothpaste in comparison.

I guess it all boils down to attitude, with or without protectionism.  How sure are we that protecting the local movie industry will churn out movies that can be nominated for an Oscar best foreign film award?  Ok so you don't believe in Oscar.  But i think it's a start.

It's chicken and egg, cart and horse. If we protect them, will they do quality product?  

All I can do is look around me at the cinemas that are successfully resisting Hollywood, have their own vibrant, viable cinemas, and that's France, India, Iran (arguable about France, but they do have a distinct and unHollywood art cinema).  All of em have protectionist policies.

France has always hated and been suspicious of Hollywood; they've never relented in their restrictive policies.  India has always been an economy apart. Japan and Hong Kong used to be unaffected by Hollywood, then the recent blockbousters came, and Hollywood discovered the overseas market, and these were the most open ones, and they were the ones that fell (okay, Japan had its problems, but making a live action Japanese film is harder now than ever, not to mention making a hit that'll outperform Hollywood--Spirited Away is the exception that proves the rule).

It's a matter of looking around, seeing what works and what doesn't.


Psycho Squared

From a_film_by (http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/a_film_by/):

> Van Sant's Psycho

It's actually an interesting exercise. I was involved in a kind of performance piece titled "Psycho Squared," where my identical twin brother and I sat down and dissected the original and Van Sant's remake as they played on a pair of video screens. I thought the results were rather illuminating, even if maybe the gimmick with the twins was a bit much.

Some of our observations:

- The remake may be a mostly shot-by-shot copy, but the length of the scenes varied, sometimes considerably. There were times we had to pause the original to let the remake catch up, times we had to pause the remake. You notice Van Sant unconsciously (or consciously) trying to vary the pacing of different scenes, as if trying to avoid a studiously faithful copy of the original.

- Mort Mills' patrol officer was far more anonymous and insectlike and ultimately frightening than James Remar's (who, after all, is a known character actor doing a cameo).

- Chris Doyle captures the grimy airlessness of American motel rooms, using what looks to be dimly available light. It's an admirable achievement, but it only points up Hitchcock's tendency to brightly light his sets, particularly the motel bathroom where every tiled and porcelained surface was spotlessly clean. Hitchcock, it seemed to me, demanded this unnervingly hygienic presentation, all the better to desecrate it with blood and fear.

- The crucial talk between Norman and Marion goes by far more swiftly in Van Sant's than in Hitchcock--as if Van Sant, though he knows how important the scene is, knows we've already run through it again and again , and wants to get it over with. A mistake, we thought. Anne Heche holds her own, though, against memories of Janet Leigh in the scene.

- We thought Vince Vaughn's Norman's masturbating to Marion Crane undressing was a big mistake--sexual release suggests a release of tensions, a partial satisfaction of desires, and hence one less motivation to do what he eventually does. Of course in one sense it wasn't him that does it--but you get what I mean.

- Overall Perkins captures Norman's vulnerability far more successfully, while Vaughn emphasizes his infantile creepiness. After all is said and done, we preferred Perkins' approach--it made his downfall all the more horrific.

- On the other hand, we thought Vaughn's vamping William Macy's Arbogast was a hilarious success: tall sweatered young man pressing close to dilapidated milquetoast, who doesn't like it one bit but has to smile, nevertheless.

- Simon Oakland as the psychiatrist delivers what has famously been called Hitchcock's worse ever scene; what's interesting is that Hitchcock and Oakland handles that scene better than Van Sant and Robert Forster does (in other words, it's possible to make a 'bad' scene worse). Oakland treats it like a pitch, delivering dry facts that we already know with all the energy and gusto of a used car salesman, in a pace calculated to keep us from falling asleep. Forster mulls over every word and syllable as if it was his only chance to make an impression in the picture (which in fact it was and he does--a bad one).

Worst scene or no, we did conclude that the scene had an important function: it gave us the conventional wisdom, the pat answers, the what's-supposed-to-be final solution; it comforted us with the impresson that everything has been resolved and accounted for. Then we meet Bates one more time.


Hollywoodization of Filipino Films, con't

av_phile: What is so patently wrong about hollywoodizing Filipino movies?  Without a hollywood to ape, would pinoy films have flourished?

Nothing wrong with Hollywood that a tactical nuclear weapon can't fix.

That said, they have their place.  Just keep it restricted and heavily taxed, is all I ask.

Flim: With the way filipino movies are going, are you sure we deserve an industry? Maybe a pushcart more like it.

Let's put the pushcart before the horse, if we have to. Kill Hollywood here in Manila, or at least regulate it down to size, then give more money to filmmakers like you...

If we're talking of influences, sure Hollywood influences, and steals what it can...Ford Westerns influence Kurosawa who influences Peckinpah...Disney cartoons influence Tezuka's big eyed heroes, who influence Miyazaki, who influence post Little Mermaid animators to make their heroes big-eyed...

What I'm talking about is business.  Hollywood is killing Hong Kong, it's killing Germany, it's killing Japan's live action fare, it's killing cinema all over the world.  The only ones that are thriving if at all are tightly regulated--France, India, Iran, to name a few. Let's double the tax on Hollywood films, put a quota on theaters to show more Filipino films, etcetera, etcetera.  

Free market?  End result is, rich get richer, poor get poorer.  How do you think the 1997 Asian crisis and current recession get started?  World Bank is reviewing its policies, same with the IMF.  Free market is fine for the big picture, but it wouldn't hurt to get Marxist (or at least Castro-ish) on Hollywood.


Hollywoodization of Filipino movies

Discussion from pinoydvd, thread of the same title:

The Hollywoodization of Filipino Movies


How to make this all pay for itself?  

I say, tax the Hollywood movies.

Japan is resisting okay, same with France, and India.  All of these put restrictions on Hollywood films.

Regulate those suckers. Down with Hollywood.

Flyderman: Shouldn't we just leave those who have no desire to explore the greatness of cinema to their mindless Hollywood shallowness?

Let the market find its level? Know what'll happen?  The local industry sinks out of existence, this including the indies, and hollywood reigns supreme, forever and ever, amen.

I read and talk to people from these industries (Japan, France, India), seen some of em in action, and they work.  They work with regulation, not a strict free market.  

And it's not as if the local industry is without handicaps.  We're taxed 26 to 30 percent--one of the highest rates in the world.  The miracle isn't that we do one or two good movies in a few years, the miracle is that we have an industry at all.


Fahrenheit 9/11

Saw it. Strident, hysterical, manipulative, etc., etc, plus the mother who lost her son and went to Washington to find closure was out of place precisely because it seemed to be the one most honest and unmanipulated part of the whole movie. I liked it.

I don't think the power comes from anything Moore has done (he's both a pretty loud screecher and a mediocre filmmaker in my book), but from what Bush and co. has done, through the years and all over the world (well, Moore does put it onscreen). I don't think there's anything new here--this has all been available in one form or another elsewhere--but if people are shocked into knowing things for the first time by this movie, who am I to argue if it helps, in however small a way (and I doubt that with 2,000 theaters and $61 million dollars to date its effects are all that small) in bringing down the brainless bastard in the White House...?


Greatest performances by women (still thinking of Brando)

Y'know, for some reason I had a hell of an easier time making up this list:

Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc

Nora Aunor in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God)

Anna Magnani in Rome, Open City

Lolita Rodriguez in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting)

Supriya Choudhury in The Cloud-Capped Star

Nargis in Mother India

Camilla Horn in Faust

Kinoyu Tanaka in The Life of Oharu

Monica Vitti in L'Avventura

Lilian Gish in Broken Blossom

Looking at the list, I realized I don't have any comic roles, mostly martyr ones. Well, I can think of Mae West Margaret Dumont, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Bette Midler among others...but not on a top ten list. 


The Long Goodbye, a defense of the Altman film

Out of respect for Jake Bren at People's Forum, I'll try posting as much of his comments/replies as possible:

(Jake) Really, I wasn't expecting literal adaptation. The whole movie felt slapped together, with little unanimity other than Altman's directorial trademarks. And I don't bridle at the casting of Gould as Marlowe. Marlowe was always part schlub. But he also had some kind of compelling air, which Gould lacks entirely here. What struck me most was being reminded that you could get steak and chips for 85¢ at a bar in 1973.

All Altman's films feel slapped together, even something with a relatively tight script like The Player or Streamers. It's what he's all about. And this Marlowe being uncompelling is part of the revision--he's the ultimate fall guy, innocent, what-have-you; even the police know more about the case than he does.

(Jake) That may well be, but then it doesn't work with the source material. There's always a part of Marlowe that is something to be reckoned with; by the cops, by the baddies, by the women. Altman, Brackett and Gould achieve none of this. And Marlowe being played and left out of back-room proceedings is not so much of a revision.

Well, as someone upthread pointed out, the source material ain't exactly high literature (even the cat gets the better of him). It all works into a final moment of disillusionment and anger, possibly as much towards the genre as towards the 'best friend.' A kind of final gesture towards it all.

edit--I mean, even Chinatown which I like at least as much as this, is still within the genre. This was the movie that pretty much trashed it all when it came to gumshoe detectives.

And it's so very damned odd which I like a lot. All that meandering, it goes against the grain and breaks out of the hardboiled detective plot. Which, after all is said and done, is pretty limiting. 

(from ted fontenot) Altman often comes across as a higher class Michael Moore. He wears thin. They both have this insulting '60's moral superiority they're ready to flash at the drop of frat flag or something.  He's often just in for the deriding of a convention, a mindset, a tradition.  He's often only "anti".  You have to admire the labor he puts into his sophomoric pursuits.  His rubbishing the detective genre is amusing, mildly, but it finally wears thin.  I mean, the putdown of the heroic detective--even the cops know more about the case than he does--ha, ha.  Wow, what an ambition!  Next!

Well, ted's pointed out one tendency of Altman's, to sort of skim from one cultural niche to the next--I mean, The Company is lovely, but it's not exactly a very deep look at the world of dance, is it? (edit) And Pret a Porter I can't defend as being any good, only I like it because I think it's what the fashion world deserves. I hear his next film is on art galleries, which makes you think two things, one that you're glad someone's doing something on some of the more esoteric corners of modern culture, and two that you'd wish he'd spend more time and care exploring that culture, or doing something weightier; one or the other sentiment to dominate, depending on how much you actually like Altman.

But I don't agree that The Long Goodbye is an actual trashing of the hardboiled genre--if you look at Marlow, he's duped and fooled and outwitted, but he's not stupid; it's his basic decency, his tendency to think the best of his friends that makes him so blind. (edit) Might be significant that Altman makes this film and sets it in the 70's, when movies were questioning everything and anything. I suppose you can see Altman feeling superior to the material, but maybe that's part of the spirit of the times and part of the nature of questioning (do we question anything we feel inferior to?). But there's a tone--I don't know if this registers or not--of regret or nostalgia in the film for Marlowe, a kind of fondness and familiarity for him that, sure, breeds some contempt, but also identification, so we're thrown as much as he is by the twists of the plot. And when he finally unravels it, we share in his disillusionment and anger.

You might say Altman's version is really the story of the last good man shedding his last illusions. It's a tragedy, finally, a kind of eulogy to the man that Marlowe used to be.

(Gus Sheridan) But Jake nails it- what Altman and company missed is that, when push comes to shove, Marlowe's a fair badass.


When pushed came to shove, Altman's Marlowe had the more radical reaction. Shot into the heart of the genre, so to speak.

I don't think the book's trash; it stands on top of the genre, I agree, and it has its share of observations about LA and life in general and an aging Marlowe (some of it is autobiographical, right?) to make it more than memorable. But I do think the movie's a valid, well, reinterpretation, so that both book and film shouldn't be embarrassed that either exist.

I should qualify what I said about high literature; actually, even literature needs revising when it's adapted; saw Michael Curtiz's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn recently, and while it does a better job of telling the story than the Elijah Wood version, it rearranges and undercuts the book in so many ways that the resulting movie is rather toothless. I don't think a more faithful version is what's needed--frankly, the book's ending is a botch--I do think you need to capture at least the tone or spirit of the book, even maybe only a section of it, maybe with an indirect adaptation. Shoeshine, perhaps? 

(Going back to Long Goodbye, I'd say it did capture some of the spirit of a lone knight out of step with a corrupt world--and it's his ethics and loyalty, not any lack of skill or competence, that makes him out of step--only that world is '70s LA and Hollywood looms large in it).

(Jake) And all of this leads to why the film doesn't work. The only aspect of the story told in the movie that indicates that Marlowe is the Last Good Man Standing is his refusal to believe that his old friend could have brutally murdered his own wife. So Marlowe the character is deconstructed right out of the picture and replaced with Gould's shambling nebbish. If Altman's point is the revision of the story and genre to fit the times and he sees fit to dramatically alter the plot in order to achieve this, then the experiment is doomed from the start, because it relies on an assumed knowledge of the character of Marlowe on the part of the viewer and then proceeds to hamstring him to the point where he is rendered a dullard and a simp, which makes me wonder why anyone, a client or a cop or a psycho Jewish small-time gangster, would consider him to be worth any of their interest at all.

I'm all for experiments, even failed ones, and there is much of Altman that I admire and greatly enjoy. But The Long Goodbye doesn't work for me on any level at all.

I think Hayden's got a point--a '30s Marlowe and a '70s Marlowe would be fundamentally different, and putting one in the other's setting wouldn't make sense.

And I agree with Phil--this Marlowe isn't dumb, or witless, or without resources; he's innocent. That's what innocence means to Altman, and to the audience of the time, a certain blindness that keeps you from seeing the truth, no matter how tough or brave or smart you are.

So Marlowe the character is deconstructed right out of the picture and replaced with Gould's shambling nebbish.

Maybe the basic problem here is, that shambling nebbish has only selective appeal; I enjoyed him enormously. And yeah, I thought his roundabout way of reacting to things, not quite taking them seriously, passes for wit.


Buffy season finales

Saw the final episode of season 7 some days back, and it struck me that Joss Whedon seems to have the most cinematic style of the directors...either that, or because he's producer, he can command the best talents, biggest budget, etc. The TV screen seems deeper when he's directing.

The seasons the Buffistas usually gripe about, season 5 and 6 and 7, I don't know, I like 'em, especially 5 and 6. Glory I thought a clever supervillain--I could see the story conference: "How about we get someone as annoying as Cordelia, then give her godlike powers? Wouldn't the viewers just love to see her ass kicked?"

Season 6 has its virtues, I thought--no great issues, just a lot of smaller, grittier, grimmer ones. Like real life, which is apparently what Whedon intended.

Oh, and the final song on the soundtrack as the finale winds up, the Catholic schoolboy in me recognized it. It's by Francis of Assissi:

1. Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me bring you love;
Where there is injury, your healing pow'r,
And where there's doubt, true faith in you.

2. Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, - only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

3. O Spirit, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul - .

4. Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all that we receive,
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

Kind of moving, to find so Catholic a prayer in a show chock full of pagan trappings.


Thinking of Brando, and the greatest performances by a male actor

Off the top of my head, in no particular order, rather more inclusive than exclusive, and subject to change anytime:

Peter Lorre in M

Takashi Shimura in Ikiru

Vic Silayan in Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye) 

Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai

Guru Dutt in Pyaasa (Thirst) and Kaagaz ke Phool (Paper Flowers)

Raj Kapoor in Awaara (The Tramp) and Mera Naam Joker I(My Name is Joker)

Orson Welles in Touch of Evil and Chimes of Midnight

Michael Gambon in The Singing Detective

Charlie Chaplin in City Lights

Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu and Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Last Tango in Paris

Mario O'Hara in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting)

Burt Lancaster in The Leopard

Pierre Fresnay, Jean Gabin and Erich Von Stroheim in Grand Illusion

Franco Interlenghi and Rinaldo Smordoni in Shoeshine

John Cleese in Fawlty Towers

Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr. and The General

Laurence Olivier in Richard III

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather 1 & 2

Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver

Ralph Richardson in Long Day's Journey Into Night

Yves Montand in Wages of Fear

Anthony Perkins in Psycho

Cary Grant in Notorious and His Girl Friday

Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius

Max Von Sydow in The Seventh Seal

Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ

Michael Moriarity in Q: The Winged Serpent

Might come out with a shorter list, one of these days...



More webspinning

Originally posted by dizzydean

"Yup, you are nitpicking"

That's what I said.

"You do have a point here although I thought the train scene was close as it gets as having personality."

That scene has lots of personality. His mask was off. And you're right about the wisecracks, that's to lend life to the masked Spidey. Raimi maybe thought the wisecracks weren't effective onscreen, so instead he tends to tear off Spidey's mask or keep the fights to a minimum.

"I dunno if you are serious or this was meant as a joke but web slinging and nocturnal emissions? You gotta be kidding!"

Uh...read Freud. And I'm not the only one to notice this.

"I seems you haven't read the comic book...well i won't spoil it for you here in case you haven't."

That Franco becomes a supervillain? Doesn't excuse the stiffness, dead father or no.

"And finally yes, as i said before Spider Man's life in the comics IS soap opera. That's what's great & different about the series."

When I say that, that isn't a knock. Spiderman practically started that sort of thing, and it's the comic's unique flavor.

"Freud was a hack! Well sorry i can't agree with you on this one."

Don't you masturbate?

"yes that's why IMO you shouldn't have included it in your review"

Whatever. I put what I please in my articles. They are not models of economy, nor are they meant to be.

"So.....which do you like better, Harry Potter: POA or Spidey 2?"


Well, I like the directing better in POA, the script better in Spidey 2, and most everything better in Hellboy.

But my fave comic-book movies are 1) Batman Returns and 2) Altman's Popeye.


Marlon Brando, 1924 - 2004

Marlon Brando made his name with A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway; he had a similar impact on the 1951 film version, a panther stalking a stage--he was such a vivid presence he had the effect of making Kazan's elaborate film sets look stagy and insubstantial (Vivien Leigh's Blanche was doomed from the start). Kazan put Brando on more naturalistic settings in On the Waterfront and the effect was not as startling--there he was more of a hunted animal than a predator, belonging to the gritty urban background rather than dominating it.

The two films were his essential work, more or less; he was a boxoffice star and heartthrob with The Wild One, but it was his pair of films with Kazan that cemented his reputation. He made some stretches--a clever Antony opposite the clueless James Mason as Brutus in the rather humdrum Julius Ceasar, a brooding Mr. Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty. He gave wonderful support as Vito Corleone in The Godfather to Al Pacino's Michael, but I thought his last great performance was in Last Tango in Paris--his name there was Paul, but that's almost irrelevant; that was Brando onscreen, getting Maria Schneider's fingers stuffed up his ass...

As for the latter years--it's not all decline and fall, and even the precipitousness of it was an indication of his scale. He did an amusing parody of himself in The Freshman, he was memorably grotesque as the fat Dr. Moreau with an ice cooler hat (though Kilmer's parody of him was even more memorable). Just to measure the size of him, disappointment and all, you just have to think--who could compare to him now. Maybe Robert Downey Jr., in terms of disappointment, Johnny Depp in terms of odd career choices, Nicholas Cage in terms of intense acting method. Pacino dominated both Godfather films and De Niro was, fittingly, the younger Vito in the sequel (Brando and De Niro's performances together complected the character), but none of them are remembered or idolized the same way, none of them approached his magnitude. Maybe Brando himself never quite exceeded the impact he made in Streetcar, that of the panther stalking the stage.


the best comic book movies

Noel...I'm curious: what superhero movies do you think are better than Spiderman 2? I've been pretty disappointed by, well, most all of them, including Tim Burton's take on Batman. The had the look right, but poor storylines and the characters were off...

I thought Batman Returns is the best of the lot, followed by Altman's Popeye. Not conventional choices, but Superman, while dear, is kind of dull. I don't like straightforward adaptations.

As for the characters being off--hell, no, I didn't think so, or if they were off, I thought they were wildly and imaginatively off.  Batman is the worldweary ringmaster, but the glory of  movie are the villains: The Penguin as a Charles Dickens grotesque writ large, The Catwoman as embodiment of the pathos/danger of the cat/woman (both are subject to the most amazing acts of sadism, both retaliate with feline ferocity). I haven't found a comic book film in recent years--or ever--to compare to villains like these, and Daniel Waters' witty dialogue just rounds it up for me (you should read the original script though, it has an extra twist or two). With all this, who cares about storylines (or you might say the storyline  is how all these twisted sickos distort each other even further...)?

As for Popeye--ah, well, I love the lopsided poetry, is all.