Blockbuster Online's misleading website

Checked out Blockbuster Online's website. It looked incredibly varied, far more than either Netflix or Greencine or even the Chicago-based Facets (whose really interesting films are on VHS, not DVD). Sent them this message:

"Inquiring about your catalogue. If, say, a search shows 38 films by Yasujiro Ozu, does this mean you have all 38 films of Ozu? If a search shows Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett, does this mean you have it, even if it has not been released on DVD yet? I don't think the way you present your catalogue is very clear."

They promised me a reply within 2 days, and as promised I got this:

> Dear Noel,
> We currently show an actor's entire filmography when
> browsing by name. These actors may have an extensive
> list of movies. Unfortunately they may only be a
> limited number of their titles in our library. For
> purposes of research, we feel it's important to not
> just show the DVDs that are available, but the
> entire breadth of an actor's career. In addition,
> many titles have not been released to DVD and are
> only available on VHS.
> If you would like to recommend a movies(s) for our
> online library, please reply with the titles(s). We
> can submit a request to our Online Buyers. If the
> movie title you requested is available on DVD and
> meets Blockbuster's approved MPAA ratings, it will
> be added to our library. If you have additional
> requests, please feel free to contact us.
> Your Friends at Blockbuster Online

To which I replied:

"If I may note, the filmographies are hardly complete;
you list only 38 of Ozu's titles, for example, when he
has over forty. I don'tsee much here that
imdb.com can't already provide.

Plus, there's the overall effect that you seem to be
providing titles you don't actually have. Nothing explicitly says here that not all these titles are available. Don't you think you should make it clearer which titles you actually carry and which you do not?"

Another 48 hours, and they said:

> Noel,
> We make it clear what we carry by providing an add
> to queue button by titles we carry to rent online.
> We apologize if this caused any confusion for you.
> If you know of titles you would like us to carry
> please place a request for that title and we will
> submit it to our buyers for approval.
> Your Friends at Blockbuster Online

"I don't know. When I make a search of director's
films on your site, I see a long list. Only when I click on
the "see all editions" link do I see an "add to my
queue" button (if the film is available). Seems to me
I need to do a lot of things before I can confirm
if Blockbuster carries the titles or not--and it still
doesn't clearly say whether or not the title is
available. A man can easily get excited and sign up
for your service before he realizes not everything
listed can be rented. Maybe the fastest way to confirm
that this is the case is to do what I did--write to
you to ask.

As for suggestions--everything available by Charles
Burnett, John Cassavettes, King Hu, Chang Cheh, Hou
Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang, Ritwik Ghatak, Bimal Roy,
Jean Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Roberto Rosellini.
That's off the top of my head, I'm sure there's plenty
more you need to acquire before you can rival or
exceed Netflix's catalogue."

No response to that one until now.

UPDATE (9/17/06): I was going to say, well, it looks like they removed those 'filmographies entire' from their website, with the added snide comment that their Bollywood selection is pretty damned poor. Then I noticed, calling up Charles Burnett, that they included Killer of Sheep, which isn't available on DVD. Nope, they're still putting titles they don't have on their website; it's just the filmographies that have dumbed down.


Argento vs. Romero

keating: DARIO ARGENTO is the master of visual technique which most Romero zombie flicks are missing.

I'd say Romero and Argento are two different flavors. Most of Argento's films have a luxurious visual style, where Romero often relies on verite (handheld shots, gritty realism, low-budget look, etc.), saying one is inferior to the other is like saying one style of filmmaking is inferior to the other. I think the world is better off with both Argento and Romero in the world, myself.


Ebolusyon interview

Here's an interview (or 30% of it) conducted by critic Alex Tioseco of the filmmaker, Lav Diaz:


Essentially the process of making the film (10 years!) was every bit of an evolution as the film itself. Actually, it sounds like something Orson Welles was trying to do with his Other Side of the Wind--only Lav managed to finish his.


Breakwater in Vancouver

Mario O'Hara's Woman of the Breakwater, the first Filipino film to make it to Cannes since Lino Brocka's Orapronobis (Fight For Us) in 1989, goes to Vancouver.

Writeup by, I believe, Tony Rayns, who programs the Dragons and Tigers section of the Vancouver festival. 


Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family)

Lav Diaz's 9-hour Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family) screened at the Toronto Film Festival

I wish I had been able to link this earlier. But the description and Steve Gravestock's admiring comments should be useful. Hopefully, the film will screen elsewhere, perhaps in Berlin, Hong Kong, Singapore. It's still a work-in-progress, incidentally; right now Lav is working on an 11-hour cut...



RMN: Noel, what do you think of Always?

I have to see it again. I saw it long after it had been drubbed by the critics, and thought: hey, it's pleasant enough, funny enough, and Spielberg uses those big-scale setpieces (the training sequences where planes dump their load off-target, for one) lightly and wittily enough. Also have to see the original, A Guy Named Joe. For some strange reason I've lost the need to see every heaven-makes-excursions-on-earth picture ever made (my favorite, for the record, is Michael Powell's Stairway to Heaven aka A Matter of Life and Death). But I remember liking Always.

On Spielberg, I've pretty much made it clear that in some ways I think he's overrated as a filmmaker, just as in some ways he's sadly underrated.

He has his place in the filmmaking world (more than what I can say about many directors who just don't deserve to sit behind a camera); his works (many of them) have value and are worth looking at, if not always taking seriously.

At the very least, even his very worst films are worth looking at, for the visual ingenuity he displays. That's what I think, anyway.

More on Philippine cinema

--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Damien Bona" <damienbona@y...> wrote:


I saw just a handful, including Manuel Silos's Blessings Of The Land which is so primitive and absurdly melodramatic in its portrayal of the hardships of a farming family - and its tragic oxen --as to be endearing.


It's very simply done, and perfect in its simplicity, I thought. Considered one of the best of the '50s films, though of course there's Gerardo de Leon's pictures, which I think are even better.


Made thirty-five years later. Mario O'Hara's Fatima Buen Story, is even more melodramatic. In fact, it's so extreme that one has to assume the hyper-stylization is purposeful, even if it's not clear to what purpose.


I can tell you that the filmmaker and his writer (Frank Rivera) thought the subject matter so grim and unappealing they decided to have a field day. I thought it was nicely over-the-top, but the lead performance by Kris Aquino (former President Corazon Aquino's daughter and the host of the talk show described below) was kind of weak. Wonderful supporting cast, though.


Jose Javier Reyes's Phil-American Boy starts well as a comedy of Filipino mores which captures the nuance of the culture well. But it deteriorates to stock melodrama, the stuff of TV movies and ends up pretty simple-minded.


Pretty much agree on this. Plus he's a writer-turned-director who's never developed a real eye. Capable of knocking off a script in three days, and there are peope who say "it shows, too."


But then there are the two Lino Brocka films I saw, which are just superb: You Have Been Weighed And Found Wanting and Mother, Sister, Daughter


Mario O'Hara wrote the script to this and plays the leper.


As a stylist who employs an acute visual sense and an understanding of the emotional connotations of various inanimate objects that populate his mise-en-scene, Brocka is the peer of Sirk and Minnelli.


I've heard him called that, with the additional proviso that he tells his story in noirish terms (at least with these early films, and especially with Manila in the Claws of Neon).


got to know Lino Brocka, who seems to have been a truly beloved man.


Sadly, Brocka was more caught up in the political movement than knowledgeable about what was going on, and he joined belatedly (about the time he was doing his best works, 1974 to 1976, he was on good terms with Marcos' daughter; this changed in the '80s). But he had a good heart.


By the way, for anyone wanting to start to understand Filipino culture which definitely has its extremes, I recommend watching "Good Morning, Kris" an Oprah-esque show starring Kris Aquino, which is shown on some international channels in the States. . To put its mildly, it is side show extreme. One episode was the damnedest thing I've ever seen - it was showcasing extremely handicapped people, and featured two young pinhead brothers, one of whom held tight onto his penis the whole time because he had to pee. The hook for their segment was "Boys Who Are Mistaken For Monkeys." There was also a retarded boy who was about three feet tall who spent his entire segment strumming a toy guitar.


I'd say she found her calling as a talk show host rather than as an actress.


On an altogether different intellectual level, I also recommend the works of writer Jessica Hagedorn


I don't know if this is available, but I also recommend Rey Ventura's "Underground in Japan" about the Filipino illegal alien community that lives in Tokyo. Excellent book, with high praise from Donald Richie:




Russ Meyer: Breast in Peace


Really put a bust on my day when I heard about it. Exploitation flix fans everywhere should be feeling a little meloncholy.

Thanks for the mammaries, Russ.  Grin


Greatest science fiction films ever made

Someone asked:

10. Hesus Rebolusyunaryo (Hesus the Revolutionary, Lav Diaz)

9. Exorcist 2: The Heretic (John Boorman)

8. God Told Me To (Larry Cohen)

7. Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard)

6. Videodrome (David Cronenberg)

5. Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

4. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovksy)

3. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)

2. La Jetee (Chris Marker)

1. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)


Introduction to Philippine Cinema

Surprised at the sudden interest in Philippine cinema. If I may address as many posts as I can:


On recommendations on Philippine films, I posted a list of 13 favorites here:




with the added warning that anyone who begins covering Filipino films from the '80s onwards (much as Alexis and I have) struggle against the deterioration of film prints, even of films as recent as from the '80s (I note that in the article); in fact our earliest available prints come only from 1939--we have an increasingly serious state of amnesia, in effect, with regards to our film heritage.


If I were to rewrite that article, I'd finally try do a comprehensive list and include Gerardo de Leon's El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster, 1962) as a great adaptation of an important social- protest novel; and Celso Ad Castillo's Burlesk Queen (Burlesque Queen, 1977) for its sheer visual poetry. Plus Lav Diaz's 5-hour drama Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001) and Mario O'Hara's war/horror/lyric/love story Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000) for pointing out new directions for our cinema--Diaz applying the narrative styles of Hou Hsiao Hsien and Tarkovsky to his philosophical dramas, O'Hara employing the low-budget techniques of Edgar Ulmer and Larry Cohen to an imaginative and even poignant view of the world.


(Edit: and as a matter of fact I did rewrite that article, here:




As to zarzuelas, I'm surprised any textbook would mention '70s musicals; not that there weren't any, but that they were less like filmed zarzuelas (which had their heyday in the '30s and '40s--the charmingly simple Giliw Ko (My Love, 1939) being the oldest surviving example) than like Hollywood musicals on a shoestring budget. Maybe the most innovative recent musical is Mike De Leon's satire Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (an intricate pun on the word "worried" (kakaba) and "are you?" (ka ba?) which translates, lamely, into "Worried?") in 1980.


I'd also agree that de Leon's Batch '81 (1982) is sadistic-- effectively so, I'd say, and it's correct to assume de Leon meant the violence allegorically, as a metaphor for Marcos' fascism, but that this is hardly his best work; Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, 1981) suggests the violence psychologically, and is far more personal and evocative (there are those that say it's autobiographical, at least with regards to certain characters). The writer of the Film Comment article that covered de Leon's works (from Itim (Rites of May, 1975) to Batch '81) did a good job, but I think he really missed out when he failed to see that film.


Incidentally, wrote about de Leon here:




As for available copies of Lino Brocka's Maynila sa Mga Kukong Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975); I remember seeing VHS copies in New York's video stores, presumably subtitled. A DVD is being planned, but that's in the future.


Two Brocka films can be found at Facets in Chicago; Orapronobis and Macho Dancer. I wouldn't know if they have subtitles or not.


Recent Filipino films I recommended can be found on VCD or even DVD format here:




and search for titles like Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof), Sisa, Pangarap ng Puso (Sisa is hard to recommend--think really, REALLY cut-rate Ulmer--but insanely imaginative); Peque Gallaga's erotic noir Scorpio Nights; Lav Diaz's science-fictional Hesus Rebolusyonaryo (Jesus the Revolutionary). All, unfortunately unsubtitled.


There are some classics to be found here:


LVN Video Catalog


And I imagine other recent films, including Viva.


(Update as of 3/29/06) Apparently you can find in Kabayan Central four worthwhile films with English subtitles: Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Breakwater (first Filipino feature film to go to Cannes in fifteen years), Lino Brocka's Macho Dancer (not his very best, but quite good), Ishmael Bernal's Relasyon and Manila By Night (both among his best; Manila in particular being his masterpiece).


Another alternative is Cinema One in The Filipino Channel (TFC), which a lot of Filipinos seem to subscribe to; they show almost all the films I've mentioned above (untitled, unfortunately); if you have a friend who has a subscription, he could tape it for you, maybe even do "benshi"...


(9/23/06) And for those in the United States and members of Netflix, a list of recommended Filipino films available on Netflix


Defending DePalma, Part Deux

Astroantiquity: "How can you assume that I don't "see" the styles mixed together? Don't be too condescending, because people aren't too stupid(well, some people are but I'm far from it)."

I didn't assume anything about you; I'm just presenting my argument. And any sign of condescension is an assumption on your part.

"Anyway, in the service of Brian de Palma, I think it would be better for him and for you not to use Femme Fatale as a representative of his work.  It's cinematic trash through and through.  The only saving grace in that bomb of a film is Romijn."

Oh, it's one thing to say something's trash; the challenge is to prove it. I'm not saying Femme Fatale is a great work, just a pretty good one, maybe even fun and brilliant trash, and one that's easy to use to bash over the heads of lesser filmmakers (Tarantino, et. al.)

"Perfunctory meaning selfishly.  Thank you."

That's a meaning of the word I've never heard of. Where did you pick up that definition?

"His movies don't resonate with the same power as Argento's nor Hithcock's."

Not as much as the best Hitchcock, I'm willing to admit. I've already pegged what I think is his proper status among filmmakers a while back. Argento's great and all, but when he can come up with scenes as moving as, say, Sissy Spacek with Piper Laurie in Carrie, or Spacek at the prom, or Angie Dickinson's character in Dressed to Kill, or Travolta's character in the final scenes of Blow Out then maybe we can say he's a great drama filmmaker as well...

"As far as politics is concerned, and serious messages are concerned,  John Waters was able to pull off a very serious message albeit in a brilliant satire (serial mom, although we do see a watered down version of John Waters)."

Oh, Waters. I much prefer Romero. Waters makes a few good satiric points but other than his color design it's hard to call him a filmmaker--more a satirist that happens to work on film (his non-film activities are more interesting, I think). A more shocking Mel Brooks, say.

"He was able to make Serial Mom more effective than Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers"

Okay, we agree there.

"So, this brings me to this: Are de Palma's movies effective?  Yes, in a way they are.  They somehow get the message across.  But, are they original enough?  No, I don't think so.  Brian de Palma riffs Argento, but has never given him any credit for all the riffing that he has done.  Hell, BDP has even called the guy a hack publicly."

I agree with wedge, there is no law to say one must be original (otherwise, George Lucas wouldn't have what little career he has). Arguably, Coppola in The Godfather movies wasn't being original, merely great in an old-fashioned manner (Coppola cribs from Visconti's The Leopard, in many important ways). And the point I've been trying to make all this time is that sometimes riffing off several chosen filmmakers is a style as well; if he adds anything to it (the aforementioned humor and sexuality) then it's an even more distinct style. I'm not talking mere camera moves, but moods, emotional tones, narrative strategies, sensibility, a whole other shebang.

And when did people have to credit others for their riffing? That's like providing cliff notes to take with you to the movie. It's more fun to guess, De Palma knows this, and that's part of the pleasure of his films--he's riffing and doing variations of a theme (something, incidentally, Bach and Mozart do very well).


Pinapaitan, "first class"

Something I wrote way back in December, 2002:

Neighbor's birthday last night. He's Ilocano, meaning from Ilocos Norte, so this is genuine Up-North home cooking being served... 
...which didn't include the seafood, though no one minded (a donation by his officemates). Small crabs, some five inches plus across, steamed with leeks, garlic and ginger, but thick, rimmed with deep-red fat and crammed with the sweetest meat. Came with a sweet n' spicy liver sauce, the way you serve roast pig; not healthy, but very good. 
Also huge prawns, the size and thickness of, well, a good-sized penis. Head was full of orangey fat; the flesh was briny fresh. No sauce--you kidding? Would only ruin it... 
Then the wife served her pinakbet--stewed vegetables, the heart of Ilocano cooking. Bitter gourd, usually chopped but here she used the small fruit, about the size of a large plum; eggplant, again not cut but whole, around the same size. In fact none of the vegtables seemed to have been cut or diced in any way; the tomatoes were whole, the string beans, the patani (white beans)--what she did was to layer the different vegetables in a palayok (clay pot) with bagoong isda (fermented fish paste, as opposed to shrimp paste), and top with huge chunks of bagnet--deep fried salted porkloin. NO WATER--the vegetables stew in fish paste, bagnet fat, and their own juices; the wife doesn't even open the palayok to mix it, she simply shakes it...
It tastes incredible. Bitter gourd, crisp beans, sweet eggplant, salty fish paste, deeply rich pork, all mixed up and thoroughly, as Samuel Clemens once put it "swopped their juices" with each other. This stuff tastes even better the next day, when the juices have swopped overnight... 
That was the wife; the husband spent the early evening making goat adobo. Very dry adobo, just enough oil to line the pot, plenty of garlic, enough soy to darken the meat, vinegar. Incredibly tender--he complained that he overcooked the meat, I said I've tasted pork that wasn't this tender, or tasty. Not the least bit gamy. 
Kilawing kambing is raw strips of goat sliced very fine, mixed with ginger and chilies and vinegar--again very tender (he claims it's overcooked, I claimed he doesn't know what he's talking about). The vinegar--Ilocano vinegar, dark and powerful--is so tart it curls the goat meat; first time I looked in, I thought I was staring at a potful of poisoned centipedes, all curled up, only poisoned centipedes prolly never tasted this good...
Then the climax of the meal: pinapaitan "first class." I've heard and written about this before, I was tasting it now for the first time: the upper intestines of a goat, thoroughly cleaned and chopped, mixed with bits of innards and liver and made into a fatty soup, then flavored--oh so subtly--with goat bile. 
Making Ilocano bitter goats' innards stew "first class" is no easy task--easier matter if the stew was made from lower intestines, the food found there is already digested; with upper intestines stuffed with digesting food, you have to have raised the goat yourself (or know the one who raised it very well), and know for sure that the goat's only eaten good-quality grass... 
He'd spent the whole morning cleaning the intestines--squeezing them out, hosing them, pulling them inside-out and picking at all the dirt--one piece of shit left behind will give the stew a rancid flavor. This is the key to good Ilocano bitter goats' innards stew; you can't boil the innards for a safe amount of time, you lose the texture of the intestines; you have to have clean intestines to begin with. 
Adding the bile is yet another art; he fries the gall bladder in lard with garlic, squeezes out the bile with a cheesecloth, applies it to the stew with a medicine dropper. A drop too little and it's just goat stew; a drop too much and it's inedible... 
Well, last night it was glorious. Tender intestines, chewy liver, bits and pieces of interestingly shaped and textured meats--who knew the old goat (actually, it was probably a kid) had so much flavor inside him? And the soup--ahhh, the soup. Thoroughly cleaned, innards are incredibly sweet; flavored with bile, well, I've just discovered a whole new definition of the word "bittersweet." If I ever suffer the misfortune of a failed romance ever again, I can easily picture myself consoling myself with a hot cup of this stuff. Seems to me that given a choice between a girl and this pinapaitan, I'd seriously have to think about it first...



Jude: I like Close Encounters best, mostly because of Terri Garr and Francois Truffaut. I also enjoyed the first 2 Indy movies. Jaws is OK until you see the shark.

Everything else, meh.

Hear, hear.

Actually, his boy-as-hero films were an early career development (I blame Truffaut, who in CE3K said "you should work wid keeds. You are terrific with keeds"). His best films are when he uses the camera with all the exuberance of a child, the way he does with Jaws, CE3K, and (underrated masterpiece) 1941.

No, I'm not a fan of Color Purple and I know blacks who are embarrassed by it too. For a more honest telling of what blacks went through in the South, you could try Sounder, Roots, and Charles Burnett's wonderful, wonderful Nightjohn. And you should read Empire of the Sun the novel to see how much Spielberg missed Ballard's point.


Defending De Palma

Does he say anything? Does an artist have to (think the Marx Bothers)?

astroantiquity: Which is an apples and oranges analogy if you ask me, you really can't compare the two right?  The point of comparison is so out there.

Yes, I think as an artist one does have to say anything.  Even if it is something to the detriment of the majority, it's better than not being mentioned.  Well, De Palma has a voice and has wit that a lot of directors copy and fail, but I don't think he has his own visual style (except for the cheesy split screen which he often uses, which annoys me to no end) which he can actually call his own.  At best, De Palma is a perfunctory director going the rounds of making a movie.

Okay, I know that kind of thinking, and I guess it's popular, and I suppose it has a point (we must make movies that say  something). But it misses out on so much! Does that make the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Rene Clair, Jean Cocteau lesser filmmakers because they avoid serious messages? De Palma has a few 'relevant' pictures, like Blowout, but I can't take it seriously as a political film any more than I can take Welles' political or socially relevant themes in Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil seriously--both have a more personal agenda. Does that make Welles a lesser filmmaker?

Sure it's apples and oranges; I'm all for appreciating both, for the different kinds and varieties of oranges, even the not-so-sweet ones. The Sicilian blood orange has a unique color and tart flavor, and has a unique place in Italian cooking, and I'm glad it's there. It's not the greatest orange, or the sweetest or most nutritious, but it's there.

I think his use of split screen is brilliant; he can even cut within the split screen or do fadeouts; it' like following two trains of thought simultaneously. Check out Kill Bill for indifferent use of split screen.

And yes he derives from Hitchcock, Welles, and Argento, among many others; thing is you never see those styles mixed together, and in the service of sardonic jokes Hitchcock can only wish he did (I'm thinking of the shower room scene in Carrie, the first 20 minutes of Dressed to Kill); it's the camera moves, and brilliant color, and sound design combined with that prankish sensibility and sensuality and a generous amount of 'quoting' from other filmmakers that's original. Femme Fatale is a joke Hitch couldn't even begin to concieve of, a 90 minute loop-de-loop pratfall that ends with De Palma landing miraculously on his feet. Is it socially significant? Hell, no. Can Tarantino and his ilk do something remotely like it? Hell no.

If that's perfunctory (Meaning, he makes it look casual and easy? I'm even more impressed), it's better than the best efforts of most other filmmakers.


Defending Brian de Palma

Astroantiquity: I've been largely unimpressed with BDP.  I'm always left a bit cold.  He seems to borrow (and I'm using borrow loosely) from a lot of other directors, and you seem to think if he has any of his own style.  I seem to think even George A. Romero is light years better than he is(although, Romero is a genre director he has his own style and he does have something to say which I can't say the same thing for BDP).  Oh well, just my 2 cents.

De Palma has his voice. Call him at the very least Hitchcock without the Production Code style censorship; at best a prankster extraordinnaire with a voluptuous visual style capable of out-Hitchcocking Hitchcock (at least when Hitch is not at his best) and putting it over with a sense of humor and sexuality all his own.

Does he say anything? Does an artist have to (think the Marx Bothers)? Still, I think he does: in Dressed to Kill it's "Watch what you wish for," in The Fury it's "Sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child," in Casualties of War it's "Truth will out" in Carrie it's "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." De Palma puts his own spin on these themes of course. 

I wouldn't put him on the same level, but he has his place, maybe below Scorsese and Altman and Coppola and Kaufman (and, come to think of it, Burnett), definitely high above Tarantino and Richie and even Soderbergh (think about it: maybe the only Soderbergh that will last is probably The Limey and Out of Sight). Romero I'd count as an equal; De Palma has done more  interesting work (as in more in number, not necessarily more interesting), but what Romero does few other filmmakers can touch. Well, maybe Pasolini, Argento...


I want to read J.G. Ballard

joeybrash: I need a new writer to read.

I watched Empire of the Sun, and I loved it!  One of my greatest movies to date, actually (haven't read the book)

and Crash was disturbing, yet asteeg.  Cronenberg is a genius.  mad, but a genius

what J.G. Ballard books should I read (this question esp. for Noel Vera Afro )

Good luck on him. He's unsettling and difficult to read.  The movie of Empire of the Sun does little to capture the flavor of his works, which feel as if they were set on some alien planet, even the more realistic of them like this one is (it's somewhat autobiographical).

Check out the short stories first, preferably the earlier ones before you try the more avante-garde stuff (one of his stranger shorts is "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan").  Then hunt down his disaster novels before trying works as advanced as High Rise, The Concrete Island and Crash.

For fantasy on a level beyond Tolkien, try The Unlimited Dream Company, where the hero strews his seed on the ground, and flowers sprout where the semen lands.

He takes a lot of patience, but I think he's worth it.


hotlove666: Nabokov follwoing the salacious Lolita, which mad him a best-seller,with Pale Fire was a bit like Bunuel sticking it to the raincoat brigade by following Belle de Jour with The Milky Way.

True, but the prurient portions, beautifully written they may be (that apple striking the palm with a polished plop!) keep taking a backseat to the love story. Which seems relegated, like a forgotten raincoat, to one corner of the baggage compartment for most of the novel, or that's the way Nabokov intended it; actually, it's the only thing we take away after reading the whole thing.

It's so unutterably sad--Humbert harping on his great obsession when the truth of the matter is that they're like two hunted criminals stuck with each other in a noir nightmare, their only real bond being this unholy thing between them; Lolita's attempts to escape him are really attempts to have a normal life. And the only reason why Humbert loves Lolita is because she's the only nymphet who has really hurt him--sexually precocious allure is a good basis as any for sexual obsession, but there's nothing like suffering to give root to love.

Kubrick could only sketch and make it obvious in the film (that "Lolita" theme music is a dead giveaway--but he needed that theme, I think otherwise there's just too few clues as to Humbert's true state of mind).


Was Hitchcock a feminist?

wedge: Was he a feminist (his choice for the female roles somehow an example of women's liberation from the masculinist society...however...) or he merely exposed the shortcomings of the weaker sex?

Naw, he was a pervert.

He chose women because he loved to victimize and exploit them, on the set and on film, and because they're so open to exploitation and exploration. His contempt for people, particularly actors male and female, is legendary.

How'd that story go? Something like this: "it has been brought to my attention that I was reported to say 'actors are cattle.' Nothing could be further from the truth. What I really said was that actors should be treated like cattle..."


Almodovar vs. Gosengfiao

From a_film_by:

David Ehrenstein: Almodovar is unquestionably talented. But I've never really been all that impressed with his work. When he first burst upon the scene his supporters -- like Kael -- were always going on about how "daring" he was. Yet I've never found anything at all daring in any of his films, even "Law of Desire."

Count me in the lack of love, even more so for the later, more 'human' works (Talk to Her, All About My Mother) than for the wilder, earlier ones (which I do like). Actually, there's what I think is a Filipino equivalent to Almodovar, and one who started working earlier than he did--Joey Gosengfiao, gay Filipino filmmaker with Japanese blood who was doing straight-faced camp in the early '70s until today.

In fact his masterpiece, Temptation Island (1981, no relation to the reality show) is stranger than anything Almodovar's ever done, I think: beauty pageant contestants on a ship that sinks are marooned on an island, where they are forced to seek food, water, shelter, and a place to plug in their hairdryers. Plenty of sex, bitching, giant ice cream cones and a climactic act of cannibalism.


Women I'd love to take to bed with me

Isabelle Adjani (Eye-gougingly beautiful woman who pines to the point of insanity for a man in The Story of Adele H.)

Irma Adlawan (Luminous in Bagong Bayani (The Last Wish) and heartbreaking as the raped mother raped a second time by the screen adaptation of her life in Tuhog (Larger Than Life); also extremely sexy in person)

Emmanuelle Beart (Naked pagan dance in Manon of the Springs; beautiful and mostly nude in the four-hour La Belle Noiseuse; wickedly funny in 8 Women)

Ingrid Bergman (Beautiful in For Whom the Bell Tolls (John Derek, Bo's husband, rated her the only woman who deserved a '9' after seeing her in that picture); heartbreaking in Casablanca (the film is laughable without her); devastating in Notorious)

Marilyn Chambers (seminal performance in art porno Behind the Green Door; fascinatingly phallic in Rabid)

Marion Davies (possibly the first and one of the finest screwball actesses, particularly captivating in The Patsy)

Jeon Do-yeon (Breathlessly powerful opening sex scene in Happy End; the rest of the film is a memorable drama about a woman forced to choose between her husband and loving child and her lover)

Maria Falconetti (Gives perhaps the single greatest--and most erotic--performance on cinema in The Passion of Joan of Arc (linke to article explaining why it's erotic))

Ariadna Gil (one of the most beautiful faces in Spanish cinema; stood out in the otherwise lackluster Belle Epoque; was maddeningly desirable in Amo Tu Cama Rica)

Ana Marie Gutierrez (gave indelible performances in at least two great Filipino films--Takaw Tukso, an erotic Ingmar Bergman chamber piece set in Manila, and Scorpio Nights, the definitive Filipino statement on sexual nihilism and despair, set during the terminal years of the Marcos era).

Camilla Horn (beautiful as the woman desired by Faust in the first half of Murnau's Faust; even more beautiful as the ravished woman wandering alone in the snow with her dying child, in the latter half of the same film)

Gong Li (Red Sorghum; Raise the Red Lantern; Ju Dou; Farewell to My Concubine. Need I say more?)

Irene Jacob (Delicately erotic in Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique; heedlessly passionate in his Trois Couleurs: Rouge)

Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette, Duel in the Sun; the combination of holy saint and half-breed spitfire is irresistible)

Machiko Kyo (memorably sensual as the raped wife in Rashomon, and as the traditional wife who is even more desirable than her liberal, Westernized daughter in Kagi)

Ida Lupino (alternately tough, sensual, vulnerable and neurotic in films like On Dangerous Ground, They Drive By Night and High Sierra; and an accomplished filmmaker to boot)

Anna Magnani (funny, sexy, simply great performance in Rome, Open City; memorably theatrical in The Golden Coach)

Lea Massari (Gave me a whole new view of mothers in Murmur of the Heart)

Ruby Moreno (Inexhaustibly sexual in the Japanese-Korean comedy All Under the Moon; funny and touching in the erotic noir thriller Segurista (Dead Sure))

Nargis (One of the most beautiful faces in Indian cinema, who gives one of the greatest performances in Indian cinema in (what else can you call it?) Mother India)

Lena Olin (Passionate, crazed, unforgettable in films like The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Enemies: A Love Story; even in something as flawed as The Ninth Gate she's a sexual powerhouse)

Rena Owen (Strong, unmistakably sexual presence in Once Were Warriors (a great performance too). And, I might add, a wonderfully shameless flirt)

Leni (god help me but my dick has no conscience) Riefenstahl (Beautiful and one of the greatest filmmakers on Earth. Oh, and a Nazi--but nobody's perfect...)

Waheeda Rehman (With Nargis, one of the most beautiful faces in Indian cinema, with wonderful performances in Pyaasa and Kaagaz ke Phool)

Jeong Seon-Kyeong (no-holes-barred performance in To You, From Me; the scene in the toilet is to, uh, die for).

Barbara Stanwyck (In The Lady Eve, in Double Indemnity, uses sex as a weapon; men can only succumb)

Jung Suh (mute, sensual, with a memorable way with fishhooks in Kim Ki Duk's poetic, emetic The Isle)

Sharmila Tagore (impossibly beautiful great-granddaughter of poet Rabindranath Tagore, and a favorite of Satiyajit Ray in films like The World of Apu and Days and Nights in the Forest; even when I met her in New Delhi a few years ago, she was one foxy grandmother...)

Kate Winslet (Wonderful, sensual and warm in films like Heavenly Creatures, Jude, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Oh, and in Titanic, but I try not to hold that against her...)


In defense of Grace Kelly in Rear Window

wedge: I think how the way she seduces Jeffries...she's too elegant. And she's like a mannequin in a Burdines boutique.

She's elegant and that's the joke--complete mismatch with Jeffries, plus an ice-queen facade you would just love to violate (that moment between her and Raymond Burr, with Stewart watching, that turned me on). But she's a warm breathing human being underneath the facade, vulnerable to jibes about her upper-classism, and to Jeffries' reluctance to commit himself. Plus that slow-motion kiss introducing her to the film is (to me, anyway) like a fantasy of a kiss come true.

wedge: Hm, I think she was merely the atypical Hitchcock leading lady eh? Was used to seeing the Marion Cranes, the `I's, the Julies, the Alicias...tragic figures in tragic plots, deprived of a happy ending unlike Lisa Fremont.

Well, Janet Leigh in Psycho, that's Hitchcock in a different flavor. There's the thriller Hitchcock, the romantic Hitchcock, the light entertainment Hitchcock, with several films representing an overlap of either two or three qualities...and the observation that comedy especially light comedy is never as easy as it looks.

Which reminds me of a story: Cary Grant went to the Oscars one time, this was when he had long since retired, and at the door the girl asked him his name. When he told her, she said "You don't look like Cary Grant," to which he replied "Nobahdy daas, dahling!"


Sexual Hitchcock

wedge: Now that we speak of it, what do you think is the most `sexual' (if not erotic--which is a different term altogether) Hitchcock film?

Tippi Hedren's rape in Marnie is shocking yet sensual. There is eroticism in the moment when Bates peers into Marion's hotel room (the remake ruins things by having him masturbate). Notorious' sensual long kiss has been mentioned to death, but I think the kiss in the wine cellar was more dangerous, more abandoned, and sexier because of that. Rebecca has its moments but it's more a Selznick film than Hitchcock, something he's admitted himself. There's wonderfully sexy wit in Rear Window ("preview of coming attraction"), North By Northwest ("Should I murder you?" "Please do...") and To Catch a Thief ("Do you want a leg or a breast?"). Even Hedren being assaulted by birds in The Birds had a perverse undertone to it (her alabaster skin being pecked by hundreds of sharp beaks).

But for sexual urgency I can't think of a more intensely dry-mouthed moment than Scotty waiting for Julie in her hotel room in Vertigo. After that sequence, I practically had to smoke a cigarette...


More on Hitchcock and Notorious

From pinoydvd:

wedge: Hitchcock is famous for sexual innuendoes in his films (hence, his name speaks of it hehe  Grin).

Alex's Electra complex is slightly similar to Norman Bates', though the latter exudes a more fatal manifestation of such mental disturbance.

You mean Alicia's (in Notorious) Elektra complex (Alex I suspect has an Oedipus complex with his mother). Yep, Alex is definitely a father figure. Tho she much prefers her fathering from Devlin.

wedge: You think there's an incestuous affair between mother-and-son? Alex's affinity (in my opinion) with his mother is simply like what we call being a `mama's boy'.  Oh. I only suspect it was Alicia and her promiscuity...

No, not incest, but she does smother him with her love (and visible contempt) and she does get under his skin like no one else except Alicia can (that's why she's so jealous of Alicia--because she gets under her son's skin).

Sometimes sex is the least perverse aspect of a relationship. Sometimes repressing sex or the fear of sex is sicker than its opposite--which is what Hitchcock was all about.