More on Notorious

ted fontenot: It's funny how Grant is a thorough bastard in that movie, right up to the end when, transferring the object of his sadism from Bergman to Raines, he triumphantly locks Raines out, leaving him to his dire fate. Yet you never cease to identify with him and pull for him. That's how good he is at making you feel the man's torment coming through the ambivalence.

David Ehrenstein: Hitchcock brought out the dark side of Cary Grant like no one else.

Grant and Rains were tormented; difference is, Grant got Bergman, and Rains got it coming. I felt for both, maybe with a sneaking extra dose of sympathy for Rains (I don't remember who says it in TCM, but he's supposed to have been very handsome in person, all the women had a crush on him).

David: And that voice.

Oh yeah. It was the foundation on which most of The Invisible Man was built on (that and the wonderful special effects).

David: Gloria Stuart said that even though he was invisible Rains kept trying to upstage her. Whale had to admonish him about that.


Vincent Gallo's stolen pen--er, prosthetic

From David Kehr:

After the screening in Cannes last year, I ran into Claire Denis who had a very funny story. It seems that one of the prosthetic penises used in "Trouble Every Day," in which Ms. Denis directed Mr. Gallo,went mysteriously missing after the shoot. Claire said she recognized it immediately when it appeared on screen in "The Big Bunny (sic)," and later confronted Gallo about it. According to her, he stammered and turned away.


Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)

Saw this for the umpteenth time (it's Cary Grant Friday on TCM), and for the umpteenth time was blown away. Poor Alicia (Bergman), with her nymphomanic appetites--which, it's suggested, stem from a deep inner conflict with her father; poor Devlin (Grant), who shies away from women because of painful experiences in the past with women like Alicia; poor Alex (Rains), the, strange to say, most innocent of the three (strange because he's the villain), insecure because she's so beautiful and he's so old. Three unhappy people talking at cross purposes with each other, lying to each other, yearning that the other open up to him or her. It's about as painfully funny a portrait of an unhappy love triangle as any I can think of, and that there's an espionage plot seamlessly grafted on to the affair giving it a breathless urgency makes the film all the more remarkable. 

Everyone points to the famous scene early in the picture where Hitchcock circumvents the Production Code about the permissible length of kisses (about three seconds) by having Alicia and Devlin pleasure each other with a series of shorter kisses, all the while locked in a casual yet carnal embrace, giving what is unmistakeably meant to be foreplay (it could as easily be postcoital but Hitchcock possibly to placate the censors pointedly shows them arriving at the apartment beforehand)--a brief buss, a nuzzle, an earlobe caressed, a nibble, the languorous sound of the waves cascading leisurely down the beach. Lovely scene, but really a prelude to the hot sizzle Hitchcock delivers later at Alex's house party, where in the official story Devlin has to think up a quick excuse for him and Alicia to be near the fateful basement (storehouse of the film's official MacGuffin: powdered uranium in wine bottles) and grabs Alicia, giving her a hard kiss. The allure of forbidden fruit (she's married to Alex), the added spice of exhibitionism (she's revealing her infidelity to her husband) flavors the thousand-watt charge of her frustrated feelings for Devlin unexpectedly given chance to vent: she gets into it (the way only Bergman with her astonishing intimacy with the camera can), she abandons herself to the moment, her whispers to Devlin are hoarse with lust and hopeless love.

And while Devlin and Alicia's romance/hatred for each other dominates the audience's attention, you can't help but point out another just-as-crucial couple onscreen, tearing each others hearts out: Alex and his mother Madame Sebastian (Leopoldine), who Alex loves and hates in equal measure and who loves and suffocates him in turn, heartbroken when her son chooses Alicia over her, to the point that she takes to bed (presumably to die). Then the magnificent moment when Alex comes to her bedroom, and admits failure (of his marriage, of his manhood); and Madame Anna--rising from her bed, putting a penis (sorry, cigarette) in her mouth--nonchalantly lighting it (symbolizing, in effect, the rekindling of her virility). 

Then the ending, the slow glide down the stairways, the dread and terror one feels for Alicia that so neatly turns about with the simple slamming of a car door and settles unshakeably on Alex's shoulders. Alicia's glowing expression as she looks at the man she truly loves, while the man who truly loves her (and he does; he only turns malignant when he learns of her betrayal, of the danger she has put him in--whereas Devlin's regard for Alicia is never similarly tested) is left behind to face his destiny.



More Pickup

David Ehrenstein: Pickup on South Street is Sam's masterpiece. In The King of Comedy Jerry watches it on TV -- the sequence where Widmark picks Peters' bag in the subway. later this same shot is re-created when Dihanne Abbott lifts the ashtray from Jerry's house wehn he throws them out.

Ted Fontenot:

Pickup is a 9/10's of a great noir. The ending's too sunny side of the streetish. Fine acting, tough story, toughly told (and "toughly you may thole", as John Crowe Ransom might have it), though. Ritter was better there than I've seen her anywhere. She subsequently ended up working the smartass slattern maid type into the ground. Peters is not only sexy as hell, in that beat-me/curse-me/make-me-write-hot-checks way that appeals to all us guys at a core level, but she gives a damn good performance--she's the young Ritter. Of course, Widmark makes that movie really something special. Among those in the Cagney line, there are many who can't traverse that razor thin line (besides Cagney) between the operatically pathological and the pathetically all too human. Widmark's not Cagney, but he ain't Tom Cruise acting tough, either. He's real thing. Somewhere between Cagney and James Wood (who I also like). Widmark's still living, too, I think. Wonder how he's doing?

David: He's doing OK. There was an NYT interview with him about a year or so ago.

"The ending's too sunny side of the streetish"

That's something a lot of Hollywood films had to contend with at the time; even Touch of Evil has that ridiculous subplot of 'breathing marijuana' on Janet Leigh's clothes (can we say gang rape?). Nowadays we have the liberal regulations to really say something strong (well, in the '70s anyway), but nowhere near as many good filmmakers.

And I totally believed in Peters; there are women like that, many of them married to their abusers.

And Fuller's a terrific actor. I loved him as the Nazi killer in Larry Cohen's Return to Salem's Lot.

David: We can say a lot more than gang rape. The look on Mercedes McCambridge's face when she says "I wannawatch!" is unforgettable.

Ted: Hey, Widmark didn't abuse her. He just popped her now and then. As Joe Bob Briggs use to say, "I never hit a woman unless she begs for it." All joking aside, Peters is all you can ask for in that role.


The Devil's Backbone

Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, about an orphanage in the Spanish Civil War that is haunted by a ghost, is best in its atmospheric first half, when the evil is unexplained and seemingly irrational, and (brilliant touch) a huge bomb lies dormant in the orphanage's courtyard. Later, as we get to know more about the ghost, del Toro tries to replace the sense of mystery with characters that seem to symbolize the various factions of the Spanish Civil War.

It works, imperfectly; we do get caught up in the characters, particularly the oldest orphan, who is infatuated with one of the pretty staffers, the elderly couple running the place, and Jacinto, the young man who originally came from the orphanage and has come back, apparently to destroy it. Del Toro knows how to create characters, to get his actors to play them out persuasively, to provoke our pity and horror when terrible things happen to them. He's not quite as confident at trying to develop how they eventually resolve their various conflicts, but the memory of the first half, our sympathy for his characters, and his gorgeous cinematography carry the film (more or less) through.

I'm not too crazy about the CGI effects (somehow I found them more appropriate in Hellboy, which is a stylized comic-book world, but not here); one scene of the ghost vanishing seems too, well, obvious, and a piece of debris rushing towards the screen to black it out seems like the grossest Hollywood action-flick cliche (the flies, tho, are a cheek-twitching success).

It's not a perfect film, it's only partially successful, but it does stay with you. 


Pickup on South Street

Saw Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street again, and it still holds up, from the tense opening sequence in the subway car (Fuller's journalism training taught him to grab you from start) to the long takes where various lowlife characters--pickpockets (called 'cannons' here, the language is wonderfully precise), informers, 'muffins' and Commie spies argue with each other and reveal themselves to each other and struggle with each other's wants and needs. 

Wondered about Skip (Richard Widmark), and the ease with which he seems to best the police, the Communists and the US government, then it hit me: he's not dealing with very high-ranking people, either in the government or in the espionage ring; in effect, they're all small-timers trying to grift each other.

The DVD has all kinds of revealing comments, from Fuller telling us why he likes constructed sets (he likes the control it gives him), to his revealing that Jean Peters' phone booth scene was shot partially blind (there wasn't room enough between the booth and the wall for the camera operator), to Widmark's remark that he swung from his shack to the dock drunk on several martinis, and nearly fell into the water.

It's terrific; I doubt if Widmark ever got a more complexly sympathetic role, a kind of street samurai with hands for weapons and a tarnished (and yet all the more important because of its tarnish) code of honor to follow; I doubt if Thelma Ritter got a better role, as the informer who, despite everything, loves Skip even if she did sell him for $38.50--as Skip himself says it, "she's gotta eat."


Dead Ringers (a defense)

Dan Salitt: Well, about performance, for one thing. I like Jeremy Irons in other films, but I feel as if he's just sending big semaphore signals in those two performances, which are conceived as opposites of each other to the point where little else comes over to me.

Dead Ringers has a lot of problems with its script I agree, but I didn't feel that way about the performance(s). Seems to me Irons played out the differences obviously to hide the fact that they were very similar.

It's something identical twins tend to do among themselves; having the tendency to be close and to look alike, they play up their differences to the point of exaggeration. The similarities are there, but they're almost like subtext--something neither twin will
talk about or even admit to unless forced.

And the similarities are there--that image of the two walking across the room using the same gait is more than just a visual joke, it's a revealing insight into their true psychology; when they're alone (I mean with each other), when they're not aware of trying to be different, when they follow their natural instincts or are half zonked out by drugs, they're exactly alike. Even the way they carry out dialogue between themselves is different from dialogue between other people--it's like one man having a conversation with himself.

Oh, I found Irons in Dead Ringers eerily accurate and honest. Even asked my identical twin brother (who's fond of movies too), and he agreed.


Exorcist 4: The Making Of

L.A. Weekly Article

Read the Exorcist article and it's an interesting multiple-viewpoint thing (maybe leaning towards Schrader's side than anyone).

the film is visually wide-open, with a dramatic sense of landscape and a marvelous attention to the subtlest tricks of light. Moreover, this Beginning views demonic possession less as a singular occurrence — the terrors visited upon an innocent young victim — than as a contagion born in the hearts of men, able to cross oceans of time and space, infecting entire communities in its wake.

That sounds not a little like Boorman's Exorcist 2. They seen the movie, I wonder?

Two things: Carr from what I read in this article doesn't seem to know what the hell he's talking about, at least when it comes to filmmaking, and neither does the writer of the article, at least when it comes to Exorcist 2.

Chris J: Well if you reference the critical pans Boorman's film got when it came out, and even perhaps if you saw it with the stigma of stink bomb attached to it... then it might have carried over with it.

The charitable thing to say is he googled the film title and went along with the general consensus; if he actually saw the film and voiced that idiotic opinion then my opinion of him's dropped thirty notches, right there.


The Manchurian Candidate

Saw The Manchurian Candidate some days ago, and never found the time to mention it. It's a pretty good update on the classic political thriller, and as David points out, Meryl Streep--whom I've never been a fan of--is excellent in it, mainly because (I think) 1) she's a villainess here; and 2) it's a comedy (a very black comedy at that) that 3) requires intelligence, of which she has plenty.

I'd say the fundamental difference between this and Frankenheimer's classic (other than the updating of setting and references) is the shift in emphasis from the Raymond Shaw character to the Captain Marco character. Laurence Harvey's Shaw was the tragicomic heart of the original Manchurian, I think; it went so deep into his skin and his relationship with various people (not to mention his mother) that you mourned the loss of his humanity, the same time you laughed at his irascibility (maybe you mourned him because he was so unlikable, so recognizably human).

This updated Manchurian focused on Denzel Washington's Captain Marco, on how he deals with his nightmares and suspicions and how he makes himself heard. Washington makes the most of Marco, a frightened lab mouse of a man; Liev Schrieber's Shaw in comparison is essentially a distanced concept that shows intriguing glimpses of soul.

Final note: the brainwashing scene is nicely nightmarish, but not insane, the way the original was. Wish Demme came up with an equally nutty if not nuttier sequence (I mean, he's a Corman alumnus, dammit). Not Demme's best, but possibly his best in a long time.


On Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve

From The Forum With No Name:

Ted Fontenot: She's (Stanwyck) more appealing there...than any woman has a right to be. And Fonda fits with her just perfectly. She and Fonda rank with Hepburn and Grant, Stewart and Sullavan, and a few other notable comic couples.

David Ehrenstein: I love the bit where she's looking in a pocket mirror at what's going on behind her and doing a running commentary on all the women on the ship trying to throw themselves at Fonda.

Ted: Yeah, that's great. The whole thing's so organic, culminating perfectly with the tripping and blaming it on his clumsiness. The running away from the snake, then thinking it could have followed them to her cabin two decks below, the snuggling, her tousling his hair while he, his eyes averted, pulls down the hem of her skirt--the first 20-30 minutes of that movie are just about the best thing on movie earth.

David: "It's the same dame!"

And don't forget the sublime charm of the great Eugene Pallette.

Palette's great--the kids, who have no fondness for talky screwballs, loved him when he rolled down the stairs singing that drinking song.

And Stanwyck commenting on the mirror is mirrored by Stanwyck commenting on the horseriding scene...

Ted: That horse scene is also superb--it and the mirror scene are both narration schemes and both serve to satirize what in many movies would be the obvious and obligatory. Her comments are like counterpoint narration to what's happening. Hodges and Caine used something like that to good comic effect in Pulp. Actually, it was used too much in that movie and finally ended up losing its effect.

Not to mention the horse himself was a pretty good performer.

Ted: Stanwyck can't be praised too highly--although her English accent in The Lady Eve ain't much to speak of

True, but the timing of the thing and her delivery--she just slips into it like it was a silk stocking--was just about peerless; it's like she's gone over into predatory mode. You can't help but feel sorry for Fonda all over again.

Ted: The combination of aplomb and vulnerability goes to the heart of her boundless appeal. It's no big deal, you right. Her confidence leaves no doubt she'll prevail. It's like Fonda's comment re that she looks too much like her to be her--only a real Englishman wouldn't have to sound enough like one, so she must be one.

There's something to that, the same time you're struck by the boundless resourcefulness of the human mind--if he want's to believe it's a different dame, he'll invent a reason why it's a different dame.

Stanwyck whose eyesight's clearer (but ultimately gets clouded by love as well), has a better line of reasoning: they look different because they were in love at the time.

Ted: Fonda, who was never better looking or more winning, makes a thoroughly believable male sex object. He's an immensely appealing naif, but he's not stupid or dumb by any means. The guy had a fantastic resume right up until he pulled up stakes and left for Broadway: Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, The Male Animal, The Magnificent Dope, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, The Fugitive, then bye-bye for seven years. What a shame. He was Ford's choice for the the more complex, deeper roles; Wayne was used for the roles with the simpler psychology. It wasn't until Fonda left, and Wayne had shown he could do these more complex things with Red River, that Ford awarded Wayne both kinds. (Legend has it that Ford, upon exiting a viewing of Red River, is supposed to have commented, "Well, I'll be damned. The big son-of-a-bitch can act.") It was never the same between Fonda and Ford when Fonda returned to the movies.


Defense and response to The Village

(with apologies to Tonya)

TJ: But did the change in the adults' and childrens' relationships really need to be explored?

I thought so, yeah. I wanted to see how the adults and children adjusted , compromised and lied to each other to accomodate the radical break in status quo. I think that would have been even more disturbing and horrific than a few scare setpieces.

I'm reminded of a short story by J.G. Ballard, "Thirteen to Centaurus," where a small group of people are crammed into a small spaceship embarked on an interstellar journy for the nearest star system; turns out it's an elaborate hoax to study how humans would react to such a journey. What Ballard comes up with in that story is a hell of a lot more unsettling than anything Shyamalan does in his movie.


Zhang Yimou's Hero


It opened in Manila on February, 2003.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Read the two volumes of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (or LXG, as the movie likes to put it) and they are fine entertainment, but I have a few comments:

1) Moore's a talky fellow (is that long, long appendix at the end of volume 2 required reading?!)

2) He's fond of a certain sexual act that, well, let's say it's off-putting, the way he flings it about in his stories (Miracleman, League vol. 2), when he wants to be rilly, rilly shocking. It's second-rate perversion, is what it is, and it gets tired.

3) I can see where the movie version is a condensation (and, to put it bluntly, an act of same-as-above) of the two volumes.

4) his Rasputin-like publicity photo is like a hilariously naive notion of what a deep and mysterious artist should look like. If he really wanted to creep me out, he should make himself up to look like, I don't know, Tony Blair.

5) Rereading LXG vol. 1, and the near-rape of Mina Murray, it occured to me--what the hell was she thinking of, going into an opium den unaccompanied like that?

6) The art in vol. 2 seems better than in vol. 1.

7) Of the different writers whose characters appear in LXG--Stoker's, Stevenson's, Haggard's, Poe's, Doyle's, Verne's--Moore's favorite, or the ones he seems to make the most use of, are H.G. Wells'.

Think about it: Wells' devices play a crucial role in both adventures--Cavorite in vol. 1, the Martians in vol. 2 (and it takes yet another character from yet another Wells novel to ultimately defeat the Martians). As if, well, all the other writers are good for filling up the foreground and margins, but to threaten to end the world (or save it), you need something on the scale of Wells.

That said, if Moore really wanted to use some mind-bending, world-ending or altering concepts, he should have used Olaf Stapledon.

8) Despite the reservations and after all is said and done, it's smart and witty fun.


Cartoon Network

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.


The Lady Eve

Was watching The Lady Eve again on DVD with the commentary on, and the girl (whoever she is) pointed out how Stanwyck at least twice directs the action going on onscreen, and how the question of her identity--who is she, is she telling the truth or pretending--reflects the general question of illusion and reality in films in general (not to mention Fonda's insistence on the difference between ale and beer--which he's not sure of himself). Wonderful stuff. Plus Stanwyck is to stand tall for.



James Whale's Showboat has that indelible image of Paul Robeson as Joe singing "Ole Man River" (played to a dramatic montage of blacks struggling under the chains of slavery and hard living) and the brilliantly tense scene where Julie and Steve (Helen Morgan and Donald Cook) are about to be arrested for the crime of miscagenation (Julie has, in that oft repreated phrase, "Negro blood in her").

Whale manages to stuff it all in: melodrama, music, and an intriguing undercurrent of sexual and racial tensions, kept chill and bracing and suprisingly fleet-footed by the pretense that this is just a musical, dammit! With Irene Dunne as Magnolia Hawks, and Allan Jones, heartbreaking in his final scenes, as her no-good gambling lover, Gaylord Ravenal.


The Invisible Man

Wonderfully stylish horror film, most of it a long and brilliantly gradual striptease of the protagonist bit by bit--first his hat and glasses, then his bandages, and finally his clothes. Then, in a more difficult process of unveiling, we learn of his megalomanic state of mind, which was a product of the invisibility potion, and not (as in the H.G. Wells novel, which I barely remember) a natural, psychological result of his state of invisibility.

Whales defended the change, saying he wanted a more sympathetic character; I'm not sure I agree. Still, Claude Rains' performance (mostly his voice) did suggest it was as much the man's inner desires as it was the potion that drove him mad.

I do also remember the ending was markedly different in the novel, and it was fascinating to watch this version--if one had to catch an invisible man, that's as good a way as any (the novel's method, if I recall correctly, was something of a mess). The final scene reveals Whale's total sympathy for the man, a final unveiling of intentions and appearances as the curtain draws to a close.


The Fugitive

This was a real surprise--a sombre, beautifully photographed adaptation of Graham Greene's arguably best work, The Power and the Glory, and from John Ford. I'm aware of his Catholicism, and I've seen Latinos in his westerns, but I never realized just how profoundly he felt his faith, or how well he could depict Latin Americans beyond the odd stereotype or caricature (I've always thought John Huston was more effective on that score--that this novel would be more up his alley).

And Henry Fonda, that quintessentially American actor, playing a Mexican priest. If you can get beyond his height and his flatly Yankee inflections, he's amazing--the furtive, frightened eyes, the bowed posture, the tight lips terrified to let a careless word pass them.

Sure, his character has been watered down--he's not explicitly a drunkard, and we aren't shown his mistress or bastard child. But I don't agree that he's left with mere pride as a flaw. You can see it in his face, in the way he holds himself; he suggests a whole panorama of sins he's feeling guilty for (the way he looks at Dolores del Rio, for one, implies they have more going on than what's said onscreen; the way he tightly clutches a bottle of brandy in another scene implies he's too fond of the stuff to simply let go).

And the photography, by the great Mexican cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa--I thought Reed's The Third Man was the most superbly photographed adaptation of Greene; I have to count this one as a possible equal, maybe even superior (it isn't as flashy, for one, and it fits the film's austere spirituality perfectly). Ford himself considers it his favorite of his own films, and I'm not sure I disagree...


Alan Moore in Justice League Unlimited

Saw that Justice League, Unlimited where they adapted a short story of Alan Moore's "To The Man Who Has Everything," about what they got Superman for Christmas. Interesting, has more characterization and pithy lines of dialogue than the ordinary toon episode (the first episode was a snoozer, tho I did like Green Arrow), but didn't play that spectacularly different.


I Stand Alone vs. Taxi Driver

An exchange from Pinoyexchange:

Don't bother. Irreversible is just your plain old-fashioned revenge story. If the director didn't tell the story backwards, there wouldn't be anything to the movie. It's so gimmicky it has no impact.

Astroantiquity: Maybe you failed to see I Stand Alone  since these movies interweave. Furthermore, it's not gimmicky, it has something to say which have been expounded on I Stand Alone and continues on to Irreversible. And, haphazardly thrown comments aren't appreciated much.


I Stand Alone I thought another gimmicky shocker, with maybe an interesting performance by Nahon, but really, this is the same territory Scorsese covered with Taxi Driver (only he did it with more cinematic flair).

astroantiquity: Well, gimmicky it may be (with nods to a gamut of directors, William Castle to say the least-- The Father of All Gimmicks). But, I found the movie to be weirdly fascinating and moving. If on a very visceral level. I guess, to get into it you have to be somehow on the same level as the characters (as what the inestimable Ms.Crawford would have done with a role), and be like them in a way. Now, Taxi Driver. I don't think that it serves that movie right to drag it into this, it has firmly entrenched itself in filmdom.

Yeah. Alienation is a Very Big Theme for most filmmakers nowadays; the trick is to say something actually new with it. Noe tries to break through with shock tactics (YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS TO LEAVE THE ROOM...29...28) which is cute and all, but does it say something beyond what Taxi Driver said, and far more eloquently, years before?

Taxi Driver is rooted firmly in New York--I've seen one or two of the street corners where it was filmed, and the character isn't too far from some of the crazies you find there; it also has as a source of inspiration Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground.

Where does I Stand Alone come from? Are there people stalking the streets of France, muttering racist, misogynistic rants? All I saw were people enjoying their coffee and croissants. If they do say something racist or misogynistic, it's in a different flavor, under the guise of hypocrisy, of "civilized" European rhetoric. The more violent and direct racist expressions are mostly by younger men (it's even set in the past--in the 1980s--to avoid dealing with the very different flavor of racist rhetoric in France today).

Granted some leap of imagination is involved, having a crazed Vietnam war vet driving around Manhattan, or having a crazed butcher wander around the streets of Paris; what gives the game away are the various encounters of the different protagonists. When Travis Bickle talks to Wizard, or has a date with Betsy that goes horrifyingly wrong, or tries to reason with Iris to leave her whoring, it's a comedy of manners that points up just how disconnected Bickle is from these people (Schrader's script on this regard is brilliant); when Nahon's butcher meets people it's just an excuse to punch them, shoot them, or fuck them; the real point of Noe's movie is the wandering monologue that runs almost the length of the film (and has no connection with everyday, real France).

No, the worlds of I Stand Alone and Irreversible (including that hilariously staged rape) are solely in the mind of Noe. Interesting, and there's a place for his kind of self-referential cinema (somewhere on the same shelf as Lars Von Triers and his comically blinkered vision of America in Dogville), but it's just not top of my list, because it doesn't touch the real world as we see it. It doesn't even portray (as say Kim Ki Duk or Michael Haneke, two shock filmmakers I admire far more, do) human relationships very convincingly.


Fay Wray is dead

The heroine of one of the greatest monster movies ever made is dead:



No end to "The Hollywoodization of Filipino Movies."

av_phile1: Pardon my ignorance, can someone define what a brainless movie is and what a thinking movie is?  I must be too deep in Holllywood s**t to tell the difference.  Examples pls.

Are the movies Seven, Basic Instinct, Hamlet, Schindler's List, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Dr. Zhivago, The Last Emperor, Empire Of The Sun, Silence Of The Lambs, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Lawrence Of Arabia,  brainless?

Are the movies Roma, Seven Samurai, The Piano, The Pianist, Amacord, Chocolat, My Life As A Dog,  Amelie, Crouching Tiger..., Last Tango In Paris, thinking movies?

If not, what are??  How to distinguish?

Seven isn't brainless, it's stupid. Nice-looking, though.

Basic Instinct isn't brainless, it's timid.  Mas malibog ang mga films ni Peque and Tikoy (Tikoy and Peque's films have more libido).

Hamlet you got to tell me which version.  Olivier's is okay, Gibson's is a farce, Branagh's is comprehensive, but not much else.

Schindler's List is hopelessly saccharine and simpleminded.

2001 A Space Odyssey is also stupid, but the filmmaking's great.  Besides, the filmmaker's innermost perversions are on display.

Dr. Zhivago--eh, As the World Turns in Russia.

The Last Emperor is big empty spectacle with a passive character in the middle.

Empire Of The Sun is really funny--JG Ballard turned into a Boy Scout adventure!

Silence Of The Lambs is well done, decent enough, but it's not Demme's best--it's not the poetry of the American middle class, or not as much of it as, say, his masterpiece, Melvin and Howard.

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane is wicked fun, but it tries too hard.

Lawrence Of Arabia is too tasteful, and Peter O'Toole too pretty (someone once said if he was any prettier he'd be called "Florence of Arabia").

Roma is crazy fun.  I don't think it makes sense.

Seven Samurai is so bloody violent (and great) it overwhelms its flabby humanitarian themes.

The Piano is pretentious surrealism, and it stole an image or two from Goeff Murphy's genuinely great Utu.

The Pianist I haven't seen. I like Polanski tho, and he doesn't sit easy on Hollywood's lap--this is a convicted rapist, remember (note: finally saw it, liked it far more than Spielberg's saintly drama).

Amacord isn't Fellini's best.  Some fine images, some grotesqueries a la Roma.  Mixed bag.

Chocolat--Clair Denis' film is finely made, if soporific; the Lasse Halstrom version is crap.

My Life As A Dog--sentimental crap.

Amelie--terminal cuteness.  I like the earlier, colder films.

Crouching Tiger--art film posing as martial arts film.

Last Tango In Paris--great film. Could have been more explicit, but the emotions are real.

How to distinguish?  No hard and fast rules.  Case to case basis, just argue for each case.

Not all brainless things are bad, not all thinking intelligent films are good. You can't get more intelligent than Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, which talks of racism, or of Man for All Seasons which is so damned self-righteous (it stacks all the cards blatantly in the hero's favor), or even something as recent as Schindler's List (Jews good, Nazis bad) and yet I say they're so thoroughly wrongheaded it's like pouring gold down a toilet.  Intelligence is no guarantee of quality, and I'd take somethig gaga stupid like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective or Freddy Got Fingered over the lot.

Anyway, it's not brainless films per se that I object to--I mean, who ever got an ounce of meaning from a divine piece of nonsense like A Night at the Opera?--but the multimilliondollar muscle they expend in pushing this crap.  A bit of it is fine, but Hollywood--and most Americans by extension and many Filipinos by default--never know what's enough. Moderation in all things, and as in food, variety and emphasis on nutritive material is recommended.


Even yet still more Hollywoodization

X44: If we had a 1:1 ratio of Hollywood / Non Hollywood or Commercial /Non Commercial fare then chances are things will level out, even our "tastes".

That's a thought.  For every five screens showing Harry Potpot, another five showing, uh, Batang West Side (West Side Avenue). And if there are six films from Hollywood out, there should be six from the local industry. Either they hold off the other three hundred Hollywood flicks lined up or they subsidize/cut taxes/whatever the local industry until it can line up as many local movies.

No problem with that. For the record, Pirates of the Caribbean is okay, same with Finding Nemo. I do like my share of brainless Hollywood crap...


Yet even still more Hollywoodization

It's starting in China

Say bye bye to the movies of Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuangzhuang among others.  If they do go on working, I'll bet they'll be working in that totally flavorless Hollywood mode.  

It's the blockbuster mentality.  Small film, modest return, more adventurous.  Big film, big budget, of course you want to make sure you get your money back, so take out all the intelligence, take out all the eccentricity and flavor.  What's left is like--how did one guy in the article put it?--like fast food "no nutritional value at all."

Remember, popcorn tastes good but is mostly air.


Still yet more Hollywoodization

Quote from: milkeemee2 on Jul 30, 2003 at 11:13 PM Why don't we do the French model.  I think in France, a portion of the price one pays for a movie ticket goes to a fund which subsidizes production companies engaged in churning out art movies.  In doing so, we will create a big art movie market.  That will be a very good starting point.

That's one good suggestion.  

The French actually have a policy of "cultural diversity" "principled on the right of each country to produce and distribute its own images, be it via cinema, television or multimedia, as an expression of its culture. Akin to this is the protection of a country’s language and expressions in all its form. It also recognizes the importance of a framework of independent, well-balanced regulation policies."

Translation: they make sure their French films are seen.  Regulation, in other words.

Don't be too worried about the words "well balanced" in that excerpt, palabok lang yan.  Jack Valenti has been pressuring the French market for years to open up some more, and the French have been pointedly ignoring him.


Still even more Hollywoodization

X44: I mean these mochacinno-slurping dingbats are hopelessly devoted to the church of Hollywood. . .hell, they even think they're Americans.  Grin

Word, mother.

The market is important in a capitalist economy.  France is fairly capitalist, but it's a fucking Communist dictatorship when it comes to Hollywood movies.

In Iran they practically use the celluloid for firewood (ooh, nice image...).

In India...well, they don't have a capitalist economy, and they're doing just fine...


I, robot commentary

From a_film_by egroups archive:


>superb article


> Let's hope this compromised success buys
> Proyas some much-
> needed clout. I don't see him going the way of Jan
> de Bont -- he'll
> use the success to do something personal.

Of the newer effects-heavy filmmakers, he seems the most promising. Prefer him over Emmerich, or even Lucas.

Elizabeth Nolan:

>I know Asimov's name but haven't
> read any
> sci-fiction

Asimov I'd say, forget it; but if you're at all interested in dipping your toes, I'd recommend Philip Dick, JG Ballard, John Sladek, Thomas Disch among others.

> I think a robot filled world of 2035
> would look like a
> Robert Estes painting: clean, crisp, but melocholic.

I'm second-guessing the filmmakers and your notion sounds fantastic, but I think that emotionless,undistinctive cityscape is their point. And Asimov's (unfortunately) vision.

> The cgi images of the cityscape included graffiti,
> which
> made no sense to me

Didn't think of that. Anti-anti-graffiti paint, perhaps? Still if they're showing graffiti you'd think they'd want to make a quick sociological point by showing the graffiti artists, how and why they're doing it.

> Further, I found the use of a badge in the wallet in
> the
> his pocket as the requirement for identification
> rather
> unimaginable.

Could be his retro inclinations (again, it would have been better if they actually made a point of this, maybe in a scene or line of dialogue).

> I, ROBOT did not seem to have have any technological
> applications beyond the human size robots... it's
> like the
> minute and ubiquitous computer applications never
> made
> it to 2035...

This, surprisingly, is a detail actually faithful to Asimov. He completely missed out on the development of the computer.

> (I think it is a sweet potato pie; yesterday
> for the first time I had sweet potato chips in place
> of the
> plain potato chips; probably healthy with less
> salt.)

Terra chips which are a mix of sweet potato, taro and other exotic tubers is quite good.


> (Dark City is a Gnostic film preceding Matrix by a
> few years, and
> much better.)

Hah. I happen to agree with this. Tho the best SF I've seen onscreen in recent years is, I think, Cowboy Bebop.


Still even more Hollywoodization of Filipino films

Continued from earlier posts:

av_phile1: Is it Hollywood deliberately killing the local cinemas of Japan, etc?  Or is it  because the better Japanese directors, producers and actros have all migrated to Hollywood?  And have not produced any film competitive enough for world distribution.  Is it the fault of Hollywood that the japanese market prefer hollywood flics?  (I think there are now more blond japanese youths than americans, thanks to those hair dyes,  pinoys not far)

Hollywood never deliberately sets out to do anything except make money.  I don't hold them responsible any more than I hold responsible an animal that goes wild, or a man that goes amok.

But you do shoot said animal or man, for safety reasons.

No, I never heard of a Japanese filmmaker selling out to Hollywood. I was going to say Hollywood has a better track record of using imports in the past, but I remembered that Jean Renoir did his worst films in Hollywood, Sternberg grew heavy handed there, and Fritz Lang, while he did some decent work, never matched M or Metropolis when he worked in Hollywood.  And I prefer Murnau's Faust to his Sunrise, which was far more expensive and more sentimental.

Nowadays there's Milos Forman who did the overproduced Ragtime, the stupid Valmont, the hysterical People vs. Larry Flynt, and the unfunny Man in the Moon.  Worse case of Hollywoodization I ever seen.

It's not a question of what's fair--who cares?--it's a question of what works.

And if the upper classes (and mostly the upper classes) are against the taking out of LOTR, Star Wars, etc. (I've gone to Manuela and the Gotesco cinemas and I can tell you, Star Wars is not big there--good place to watch em if the Glorietta moviehouses are full), they can toss their Starbucks mochaccinos at me  Grin