Twelve favorite erotic films

From a_film_by:

Amo tu cama rica - Emilio Martinez Lazaro

Cafe Flesh - Stephen Sayadian

Gojitmal - Jang Sun Woo

Init sa Magdamag - Laurice Guillen

Jizda - Jan Sverak

Kagi - Kon Ichikawa

L'Age d'Or - Luis Bunuel

Salo - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Scorpio Nights - Peque Gallaga

Straw Dogs - Sam Peckinpah

Ultimo tango a Parigi - Bernardo Bertolucci

Videodrome - David Cronenberg


Still more Looney Tunes

from Atlantic Refugees:

JC: I'm thinking Roger's biggest mistake was the rabbit--all whine and whackiness, very little charisma or real wit

I think the film succeeds despite the annoying rabbit.  Elvis Bus and I had a similar discussion about "Shattered Glass".  I found Hayden Christensen's Stephen Glass to be unbearably whiny, but EB stated that the editor, played by Peter Skaarsgard, was in fact the main character, there to point out how annoying or pathetic Glass was.  So apply EB's response to "Shattered Glass" to my feelings about "Roger Rabbit".  Hoskins is the main character, and he's terrific.

On Rabbit's heart--I don't know. When I watch the movie again, the parts with Hoskins mooning over his dead brother and talking about his history with regards to Toontown (rehashed from Chinatown) felt like the most tiresome bits.

I was referring to a certain underlying pathos and nostalgia about Old Hollywood.  Those bits you speak of are brief and seamlessly integrated into the overall piece, without dragging it down (into "depressing" territory).  I'm not suggesting the film is profoundly moving.

You know, it's funny...in a lot of cases, I would prefer the gleefully anarchist approach of something like "LT:BiA".  But there's something about a "go-for-broke" sensibility that doesn't appeal to me.  When you throw everything at a wall to see what sticks, the end result is usually messy, incomprehensible, and rather pointless.  Perhaps the hallmark of a great artist is knowing when to show some restraint?  

Depends. Restraint in Renoir and Ozu makes them great, but there are filmmakers--Pasolini, or Peckinpah, or Dutt, to name a few off the top of my head--who push the outside of the envelope, who try for too much and get it just right.

I wouldn't put Dante quite in their class, but there is a fascination in seeing just how much you can pile on in a tired and old game of spot-the-references to the point that it actually seems new again.

The list of allusions is actually quite impressive, and not what you'd see in the usual Zucker/Abrams/Nielsen quickie: mention of Duck Soup; of '50s SF movies (Fiend Without a Face; Day of the Triffids; Robot Monster; This Island Earth; Forbidden Planet; and the Dr. Who series); the falcon from The Maltese Falcon; a picture of Chuck Jones; Mel Blanc voice effects; a graffiti from Dr. Strangelove; crossdressing; Finding Nemo (which is okay--actually I find all of Pixar just about okay--but I'm not a big fan); political correctness; Mike Tyson; Them!...after a certain point it stops being a mess of references and becomes a style. Not easy to do, that (see list of Zucker/Abrams movies upthread).   

Actually, the key references I'd say is Duck Soup; Dante is going for a Marx Brothers everything-but-the-ktichen-sink feel. That and basically the classic Jones shorts. I'd say the greatest compliment I can give the film is that it lives up to the comparison.

I'd say I see your rabbit with my Fraser and up the ante with Dante (channeling Jones) against your Hoskins.

I've tried the 'kids test' thing too--two of them; they loved it. Couldn't interest them beyond fifteen minutes of Roger Rabbit, though, especially when Hoskins is onscreen (and I like him best--though not all the luggage he brings to the movie (dead brother, et.al.)).

JC: Well, duh...it does pander to those with short-attention spans. 

Not quite; they loved Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

The movie was too flabby, too sentimental.


The Little Fugitive

With Morris Engels' death I took a look at his first film. Was prepared to see something crude, unsophisticated--this predated Cassavetes and the Nouvelle Vague, after all--but what I saw was a lovely little film, not small-scaled, but precisely scaled to the height, sensibility and concerns of the two children. Their feelings of terror, of worry, of ambition, loneliness and loss, small as they may seem relative to the adult world, loom huge and immediate to us, seeing through their eyes.

More, some kids happened by while I was watching and caught the scenes of Joey killing time at Coney Island. The last thing I would expect was that the adventures of a little kid, without plot or the usual mechanics of drama, would interest children, but they were entranced--they worried for him, cheered him on, waited with him as he sat on the sand, wondering what else he can do. The connection was instant and effortless. Amazing.




Defending Looney Tunes

The Ring 2

JC: Wow...Noel liked a film that's getting mostly negative reviews.

Chris D: Even Ebert didn't approve!

But then Noel liked Looney Tunes, something I find impossible to fathom.

But, heck, we all have a propensity for a critical failure every now and then.

JC: Yeah...I thought it was weird that Noel listed "Looney Tunes: Back In Action" as a favourite as well.  I mean, I kind of liked the movie, but it really seemed like little more than warmed-over "Roger Rabbit".  Worth a $2.00 rental, and that's about it.  We'd better watch it though, or Noel will turn us all into MONKEYS!!!  :)

David Ehrenstein (again) liked it. But we're both Joe Dante fans (him more than me). Gremlins 2 is a masterpiece. 

I think Looney Tunes is superior to Roger Rabbit. It's unencumbered by any pretense to a story, and it has a genuinely subversive spirit. Zemeckis, on the other hand, is a comic filmmaker with deeply conservative feelings (Rabbit tried to be moving, big mistake).  

And (again), it's by Dante, a far better filmmaker than Zemeckis.

Was looking at parts of Death Becomes Her--maybe the last decent Zemeckis flick. Wonderful acting by Hawn, Streep (much prefer her in comedies), Willis, and a glorious little gem of a cameo by Sidney Pollack as a heart-fluttering doctor ("It appears her neck is broken--well, I can't be sure without an X-Ray. But that protrusion of the bone under the skin--that isn't good.").

Almost spoiled by a moral message ("make of life what you can"), but Streep and Hawn make hay of that little nugget. Yes, Dante does include a moral or two in his movies, but he makes it clear he takes it no more seriously than we do; Zemeckis actually believes in the crap he's preaching (Contact, anyone?).

ted fontenot: Well, you don't get much more cynical than Used Cars, a movie I like a lot. Very inventive, had its own comic spirit. Back to the Future is pretty damn good, too. Unfortunately, it's a movie many people who see it at a certain time in their life think they later have to negatively overreact to show they have grown.

JC: Noel, I can see what you're saying about the "subversive spirit" of "Looney Tunes: Back In Action", but I thought the film was worth a rental, and little more.  As I was watching it, I thought, "Well, this is fun, but totally disposable."  It's too dependent on movie parodies and in-jokes to generate any real interest of its own.  The action isn't particularly well-staged, either.  The Louvre scene really is the only sequence I felt was all that inspired.  The "Gremlins" sequel is underrated...there's some smart satire at work there.  (So, are you about to tell me that "Small Soldiers" is better than "Toy Story"?)

I'll agree that Zemeckis isn't a great filmmaker, but IMO, "Roger Rabbit" is his one great film.  I came to this after my nieces' repeated viewing of the film, and my realization that damnit...this one holds up extremely well.  It's got a terrific script, with tongue firmly in cheek, and evokes a classic period in animation.  I don't think it takes itself too seriously at all.  Bob Hoskins gave a wonderful performance in this, and Christopher Lloyd was effectively creepy as Judge Doom.  Heck, even Mr. Rosenbaum has it on his Top 1000 list.

I stop at Small Soldiers. Joe vs the Volcano,which David loves, I still don't get--but i haven't seen all of it.

In-jokes and parodies can be unfunny, 98% of the time; what Dante did was to pile on the in-jokes and parodies and self-reflexive jokes willy-nilly until it became a style all its own, a 'can you top this?'whirlwind comparable to the early silent greats.

And who can dislike a movie that has Daleks in it?!

Used Cars

I like that; that's excellent Zemeckis. But it's also early Zemeckis, back when he was out to prove something. Back to the Future was wonderful fun, tho I didn't like the 'model family and home' subtext. And I guess I do like the middle portion of Castaway too.

Cheryl Powell: You guys are making me want to see Looney Tunes though. I sat through Space Jam (at a theater back when there was such a thing as a $2 matinee, and this is Chicago, it's the law here we had to see Michael Jordan's movie) and hated what they did with Bugs' personality in that one.

JC: I'll certainly give the film (Looney Tunes) another look in the coming years.  On first viewing, it just seemed like yet another bombastic, overblown action-comedy that served as little more than an ad for Warner Bros. merchandise (yep, they even got a plug for "Batman" in there...and let's not forget WalMart).  Also, Fraser and Elfman didn't interact nearly as convincingly with the cartoon characters (despite the substantial advancements in technology!) as Hoskins did in "Roger Rabbit"...that aspect of the filmmaking felt more rushed to me...or perhaps Hoskins was simply more attuned to the physical nature of the role.  The bit with Elfman turning into a cavegirl was utterly degrading to the actress, and pandered, big-time, to the teenage male audience.  Steve Martin almost completely missed the mark in a self-consciously over-the-top performance.  Not a single line from the movie stayed with me.  And I'm all for pop-culture references, but mimicking a scene from "Psycho" barely qualifies as a joke.  It's like that scene in the awful Leslie Nielsen vehicle, "Spy Hard", where he and a female companion dress up and dance like Travolta and Thurman in "Pulp Fiction":  if you're not going to offer up some form of commentary on the original scene, what's the point?...where's the comedy? 

As for "Roger Rabbit", despite an irreverant, and yes, subversive tone, it still manages to tell an elegantly-constructed, timeless story with some degree of heart, and more importantly, soul.  And it typically sidesteps the cheap, transitory gag, which is a great deal more than can be said for LT:BiA.  But I'll give the former a second chance, and see if I'm wrong about this...I severely doubt it, though.  

 Cheryl Powell

I certainly don't feel as strongly about "Looney Tunes: Back In Action" as Mr. Vera does, but rest assured, it'sa masterpiece compared to "Space Jam".

Hoo, boy, to paraphrase: I saw Space Jam; I tasted Space Jam; I smelled Space Jam, and ma'am, Looney Tunes is no Space Jam.

Dante's on record as saying he was making the movie to be the exact opposite of Space Jam; in fact, the unofficial title of the picture was The Anti-Space Jam.

True Bob Hoskins does a miracle of a performance in Roger Rabbit--maybe the only thing there that I actually liked. But humans are irrelevant in Looney Tunes; those are Bugs and Daffy, back up there onscreen in all their anarchic majesty (I'm thinking Roger's biggest mistake was the rabbit--all whine and whackiness, very little charisma or real wit).

Actually, I thought both Joan Cuzack and Steve Martin were the only ones who kept up with the toons--Cuzack by playing mother hen to a nestful of hand grenades (aliens in mason jars, forsooth!), Martin by gleefully condescending to his employees (no wonder he wants to turn everyone into monkeys).

It isn't just the Psycho parody that made the film funny--it was the Psycho parody plus the Walmart jab plus the Triffid, plus the Robot Monster, plus the Daleks, plus the Area 51 jokes, plus the Indiana Jones homage plus the Bond references plus the Star Wars parody--and that's just off the top of my head. It's not a single line or moment, it's a whole wobbly pile of them, pressing down and generating critical mass.

I mean, I dislike parody/homage comedies as much as the next guy--I've seen the Police Story! series, the first movie, and the less and less funny sequels; ditto the Airplane! movies (Top Secret!, however, seems to have aged well). I've seen all three Scary Movies and a few of the stuff Nielsen and Sheen (and Assante and Lovitz and Young and Carrere) have made. This one seems different. If I were to try pinpoint the difference, I'd say it's (edit) a matter of degree--in the timing, the inventiveness, the utter determination to go for the odd punchline.

And Dante's a filmmaker, unlike Jim Abrahams, the Zucker and Wayan brothers and even Carl and Rob Reiner, who couldn't stage a comic sequence to save their lives (they used to make funny movies, though, those lasttwo...).

Chris D: C'Mon! Airplane!'s a classic!

It's got a few great jokes--heck, many of them have at least one or two thigh-slappers. I kind of like Top Secret! overall; it even has a nice look--a parody of '40s colored war films.

Come to think of it, Reiner's The Man With Two Brains has a look--but that's mainly because his cinematographer happened to be Michael Chapman. And Reiner's much better when he's trying to be silly on his own terms rather than merely doing parodies (That was Brooks's specialty--well, it used to be, once upon a time).

On Rabbit's heart--I don't know. When I watch the movie again, the parts with Hoskins mooning over his dead brother and talking about his history with regards to Toontown (rehashed from Chinatown) felt like the most tiresome bits. Maybe the highlight was Daffy vs. Donald, and that wasn't even very inspired. Well, I did like Kathleen Turner's voice.

Death Becomes Her, however, still makes me chuckle. And consequently, still moves me.


The Sins of Harold Diddlebock

Easily the worst reputation of any Sturges or Lloyd film, this is surprisingly engaging. Lloyd and Sturges aren't the most obvious choice in the world to mix--Sturges with his crisply witty dialogue, Lloyd with his freewheeling slapstick, and it's significant that Howard Hughes, who was responsible for most of the worst films of the period was producer. But there are moments--the bartender building a drink before Harold's eyes, for one--where Lloyd manages to build a vocal rhythm, and other moments--the lion up the building, for another--where Sturges approaches Lloyd's level of visual humor (many of the jokes in this final sequence, however, are modeled from Lloyd's great Safety Last). Sturges and Lloyd went too far in this film, but at the same time, I do think that for minutes at a time they achieved something neither was able to do before. Interesting.


Mario O'Hara made Likhaan Drama Fellow

Belated announcement--only got to posting it now:

Mario O'Hara made Likhaan Drama Fellow

Likhaan: 922-1830


PANAYAM: The UP ICW Lecture Series on Literature of LIKHAAN: The UP Institute of Creative Writing (UP ICW) resumes with the fellowship lecture of Mario O’Hara – the 2003-04 ICW National Fellow for Drama – on 4 March, Friday, 1-4 p.m., at the CAL AVR, Bulwagang Rizal, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Mr. O’Hara is a prizewinning actor, director, playwright & scriptwriter; the compleat package. His directorial jobs encompass a wide variety of genres, e.g. , Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bakit Bughaw ang Kulay ng Langit, Condemned, Bulaklak ng City Jail, Babae sa Bubungang Lata, Sisa and Pangarap ng Puso.

He received, among others, the following awards: 1978 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Best Screenplay, for Rubia Servios; 1984 MMFF, Best Director, for Bulaklak ng City Jail; 1986 MMFF, Best Director, Halimaw sa Banga; 1998 Urian Best Director, for Fatima Buen Story; 1998 Centennial Literary Awards, Grand Prize (zarzuela), for Palasyo ni Valentin, which was staged by the UP Playwrights’ Theater, under the direction of Tony Mabesa, during its 1999-2000 season. It was published by the UP Press in 2003.

UP ICW Adviser Professor Emeritus Bienvenido Lumbera will be the emcee-moderator, while UP Film Institute Director Dr. Roland Tolentino, the critic/reactor. On the other hand, UP ICW Director Vim Nadera, Jr. will deliver the welcome remarks, while Prof. Arthur Casanova of the Brent International School at BiƱan,Laguna will introduce O’ Hara.

The public is invited.


The Ring 2

Vast improvement on the American remake, mainly because they hired Nakata to do it. Nakata doesn't remake his Japanese sequel (which veers into a complex science-fiction tangent, tho it does have a few memorable sequences), but instead takes an idea or two from the original novel on which Ringu was based: namely, that Sadako's (Samara, here) main purpose isn't to merely kill people but to propagate herself.

The film is a quite eloquent rebuke as to the proper method of creating Japanese horror--Nakata takes many of Gore Verbinski's visual motifs (the seeping water, the tree, the housefly, the woman falling off a cliff) and makes them his own; they're all here, but they're all different, part of a consistent and far creepier vision. We learn more about Samara--we learn of her feelings towards water, we learn more of her mother, we learn of her ultimate goal (which, however, is a watered-down version of what she wants in the novel).

Nakata takes a consistent and coherent script (yep, more coherent than even his Ringu original), fashions warmer characters (we understand the relationship between Rachel and her son more, and better still, empathize with them better, than with the heroine and her son in Ringu), and gives us his trademark feel for atmosphere and understated menace. The sound design also feels more like his--the way he uses scare sound effects in a restrained manner, the way he uses prolonged silence to heighten terror. He doesn't even forget to throw in the odd, somehow unsettling touch--a pink balloon caught in a tree.

It's not as outright frightening as Ringu, mainly because the freshness and surprise is gone, but it's an honorable, well-made successor (better, I'd say than Shimizu's incoherent The Grudge, both versions).


More Happy Together

From Atlantic Refugees:

Chris D: Discuss Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train with David sometimes. Once someone asked him why he loved the film so much (this was on a non-film board with other gay posters) and he simply said something like "That film is my life." And that's wonderful to me, I think the power of film is not camera angles or perfect mis-en-scene, but discovering every once in a while that someone has felt that same obscure emotion/feeling that you've been unable to verbalize all of your life. Chereau tapped into David's consciousness with that film. What sets David apart from many of us, that he knows film and the language of film so well that he can support his emotional discoveries by discussing the director's technique and how he got there.

Happy Together, I think, speaks to the power of hope, and that sometimes hope is enough. And that having a connection to someone is sometimes more important than seeing that connection through to completion, that's important to know that there's someone out there, somewhere.

This guy (I can't recall his name) felt so out of place with society (not only as Chinese person in Argentina, not only as a straight man in a straight world, either) that he was clinging to someone that so clearly made him unhappy (but unhappiness is better than loneliness, for him). He was so paralyzed by his alienation that he simply couldn't act, and when this new guy (the cook) came along he was so frightened that he couldn't even talk into the tape recorder. And it wasn't until he said goodbye that he realized the mistake he made, and he was eventually content in having the photo, but not the person just exemplified his dire state of mind.

And yet it's all set against the cook character who so clearly wants the other guy, and it's really just an intense personal tragedy.

And I'd wager that David connects with the alienation aspect. He's a gay black Jew in a straight white Christian world. Throw in the fact that many of his gay friends (almost all, actually) died from AIDS, and you get to see why David loves this film so enthusiastically.

Just being gay doesn't always do it for him

Obviously. He's long considered some of the biggest enemies of the gay community to be the segment of the gay community that wishes to appease the heterosexual dictatorship. (he'll toss the term 'kapo' around to describe them.) I suspect that, in part, his dislike for Schumacher and Almodovar is that they seem to marginalize their gayness in their films. With Schumacher, it's easy to dislike him because he's a crappy filmmaker, but I've read David's rants against Almodovar and I find him less convincing.

Mind you, Noel, this is all supposition on my part, and probably out of line. But I consider David, not a friend so much, but to be someone I deeply admire. I think he's brilliant and I love him dearly. He'll never know the impact he's had on my life or my way of thinking.

Just to complicate things further, David may seem rabidly PC, but he isn't as enthusiastic about the politically and racially sensitive Jonathan Demme as you might think, while Scorsese, whose films' portrayal of and personal relationship with women is iffy at best and who rarely if ever portrays gays onscreen, wins his full approval.

I can see where Those Who Love Me hit David like a freight train, but I can also see that in filmmaking terms it's a magnificent piece of work--maybe my favorite French film in years. In terms of camerawork, of performances, of threading numerous stories in and out to create a personal piece of art that at the same time comments on society in general, it's not altogether embarrassing to set it next to Renoir's Rules of the Game--that's a high compliment, in my book.

I saw Happy Together--a more ironic title I can't think of at the moment--more as a portrait of despaire. That's why I thought the opening sex was so powerful--it's not the sex, per se, but the emotions implied in the scene that broke through for me. Leung screws Cheung aggressively, mercilessly, because only in this limited physical sense can he truly possess and dominate the man; in real life, Cheung's character is as maddeningly elusive and untrustworthy as any free spirit with the face and body of an angel.

Leung spirals downwards as Cheung floats away out of reach. I never saw the ending as a sign of hope, but of survival. He lived through his despair, found maybe someone new to be interested in, and consoles himself with the sight of a magnificent waterfall. But his great love is gone.

And of that great love? That was the most mysterious part. There's no hard evidence to support this, but I think Cheung loved Leung as well, despite everything; I think he wanted the relationship to work, but he was hoping Leung would be man enough to work hard at it and forgive or overlook his excesses. Hey, it's true love, he's probably thinking--can't you go this far for me?

Anyway, that's how I saw it. Thanks for the explication, Chris.


Almodovar, "Happy Together"

 From Atlantic Refugees:

Chris D: I'm about to sit down and watch Happy Together. Putting an 18 year old in an empty room with that film and chances are you're going to make a kid very bored. But put him in a room with To Kill a Mockingbird, and you at least have a shot at keeping him entertained.

(W)ho decides what those standards are, and once standards are established, doesn't that limit an artist's artistic freedom?

Standards are the worst thing for the evolution of an art form. Lots of crap films may result if standards aren't followed, but who knows when a genius will come along and see something interesting in one of them and find a way to make it work.

I'd say that standards and rules are what's ruining Hollywood product today.

Heck, it's in my post--the standards I believe in are found in certain critics whose qualifications I've described, and maybe they shouldn't decide, definitively, but they should be heard.

And I've also pointed out that Rosenbaum's list may sound like a personal list, but he defends it--ably too. I say it's a more credible list than AFI's.

As for laziness--that's what we fight against. Easiest thing in the world to go with the flow of PR and marketing junkets. Why champion them when they have millions of dollars to back them up?

And I'd like to see the kid that stays disinterested and unperturbed with the opening of Happy Together.

I don't freak if my list resembles someone else's (if it's exactly alike, then I wonder if I've acquired a stalker), and I'm not too worried about 'restrictions'--art does what it can, and criticism follows, trying to make sense out of it all.

And everything's restricted, in one way or another--by money, by demographics, by who we are and the nature of celluloid. Creativity arises from struggling with restrictions. Without any restrictions you just have entropy and chaos, not art.

(edit) Sight and Sound took the most interesting tack--it printed everyone's list, not just the final one, online, and even included reasons for choosing if the person so wishes. I was poring over those lists (and who made them) more than I paid attention to the final one.

Chris D: Noel, now I'm curious what you thought of the opening of Happy Together. Other than the in your face buttfucking, there wasn't anything particularly notable about it. Maybe others find that provocative, but I didn't think too much about it.

It was a well-done scene though, I liked how Wong Kar-Wai (or however you spell his name) paid attention to the look and feel of every scene of the film, and there was a starkness to that scene that I enjoyed. But ultimately I find the film so carefully crafted, so meticulously planned, that it comes of as too mechanical for my tastes. There's very little spontaneity in the film.

Most of the scenes are so short that they don't build up any suspense or tension. The couple of times there are extended sequences, like when two of the characters are in the bar and they discuss listening and the one asks the other to make a goodbye recording, they are amazingly effective. But the short scenes come off as dictatorial to me, they shout at me, "You are supposed to feel this emotion right now."

But I really love the last ten or so minutes of the film and it makes the rest of it so worthwhile.

JC: Sounds like an episode of Queer As Folk.

Chris D: I agree. To me, the scene in Happy Together, in retrospect seemed shocking for shocking's sake, even though it was very much prettied down. For those of us who have partaken in gay sex, it just seemed dull.

JC: "Art" films are totally not above pandering, yet often in the most tedious ways imaginable.  There are so many European ones involving sexuality (particularly in relation to "coming of age") that seem more like soft-core porn disguised as art.  I haven't seen Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" yet, but it would appear, at first glance, to fall into that category.  Of course, I'll have to see for myself, just to be sure...hehe. 

Chris D: There is a different sensibility in Europe though. They need more to be titillated than us. So if we get a Come Undone or Nico and Dani over here, it seems almost pornographic, while over there it's the basic Basic Instinct.

JC: It's not an issue of being a prude...just about the directors being dishonest about their motives...often suggesting that they're creating something "complex and profound" when in fact they're (for the most part) just aiming to titillate.  Pedro Almadovar's "Talk to Her" was a psychologically interesting film, but much of it did strike me as somewhat exploitative.  I don't know...maybe it's just my inherent cynicism towards the pretense of many writers and directors.

Recent Almodovar I don't quite like...seems tame compared to his wild days.

And at his wildest, he pales in comparison to one Filipino filmmaker Joey Gosengfiao, whose Tempation Island back in 1980 (about a gaggle of beauty pageant contestants marooned on a deserted island searching for food, shelter, and an outlet to plug in their hairdryers) is stranger, more perverse, and wackier than anything Almodovar could think up of.

Happy Together--well, I'm het, so I can't speak for gay men...but David Ehrenstein thinks the world of the film, and he's nothing if not gay.

Interesting you should think it's all carefully planned--Wong is famous for improvising on the set and making up his script as he goes along. What gave you that kind of impression?

I thought with the cinematography (by Chris Doyle, natch), music, and acting, it was one of the most swooningly romantic films I've ever seen, from "either team" so to speak. Amazing thing is, Wong is straight, tho David claims he got good input. And it's the one Wong film I really like (other than the charming if slight Chungking Express) because it's the one Wong film where I felt the characters expressed real pain.

Chris D: Like I said, every scene is perfect. Every scene in the film works by itself. In many ways the film is like an anthology of short stories, and only after you've read a few do you realize they all stick together somehow. Not a great analogy, but I hope you realize what I mean.

But after some time, I think the perfection works against the film, because it seems like you're being manipulated into feeling the precise emotion he wants you to feel. In other words the film lacks spontaneity and you begin to lose interest in where the film is taking you since you don't seem to have to invest anything of yourself into it.

But the core relationship of the film is haunting, honest and true. It took awhile for it to feel 'gay' but the second half definitely makes it a 'gay' film rather than a love story that happens between two men.

But you gotta understand David Ehrenstein. I'm not sure if you know him the same way I know him, but he has a tendency to love films more than he probably should when they seem to copy scenesfrom his own life. But I love David for that because I'm the same exact way. And judging from what I know about David's life, I can understand why he finds Happy Together so transcendent. There's a bit of his soul trapped in those frames.

(Like I said, every scene is perfect)

That makes the film sound even more impressive to me, considering much of it was improvised. You don't get Kubrick-style detail-managing in a Wong film.

(it seems like you're being manipulated into feeling the precise emotion he wants you to feel)

Again, an interesting reaction, considering Wong himself sometimes doesn't know until the day of shooting what he's going to do, and in interviews can barely tell you what a scene is is supposed to mean. Ambiguity and a wealth of alternative interpretations is something that often goes hand in hand with Wong's films.

Seems to me you've latched on to a quite vivid and strong impression of the film that you believe works only one way and nothing else. Not considering this wrong--I find it utterly fascinating. I'd like to know what you thought the film meant, one of these days.

((David Ehrenstein) has a tendency to love films more than he probably should when they seem to copy scenes from his own life)

Not on his personal life, I'm sure, but as a critic, he does have a bullshit meter that works pretty well most of the time, far as I can judge. Just being gay doesn't always do it for him--he's violently antipathetic towards, say, Schumacher and Almodovar, and he loves macho-shithead directors like Scorsese.

Not saying Happy Together doesn't correspond to anything in his life--I wouldn't be surprised if it does--but there's things in it in cinematic and narrative terms that impressed me enough to consider it Wong's only significant work (tho I haven't seen 2046 yet).


Andre Norton, RIP

Andre Norton


Wes Craven's Cursed


Phantom of the Opry

from Atlantic Refugees:

Red Fields: I loved Phantom on Broadway. We had friends who knew the stage manager and got a tour of the whole place. It was pretty neat going under the stage.

The movie Phantom had one decent number--and yep, it's the "Prima Donna" song, with Minnie Driver 'singing.'

Weber is the master of elevator music.

Red Fields: No disagreement there. It would never occur to me to buy a CD of his music. I loved the show during the two or so hours it lasted. It was more than the music for me. The visuals were awesome.

I hear good things about the stage production too, but the director (Harold Prince, if I remember right) is a master of stagecraft.

I think Schumacher's mistake is to simply transcribe that kind of craft onscreen, where something like a fluid change of scenery or the juxtaposition of two people at different locations singing at the same time, while dramatic onstage, is simply achieved on film by 1) a cut, and 2) split screen or fade-in.

But Schumacher's really a glorified set-dresser; it wouldn't occur to him that he didn't have any talent for filmmaking.

Chris D: haven't seen the film version so I can't really comment. But I think if the film preserves some aspect of the theatricality that should be considered a bonus. Aspects of Angels in America didn't come off well on film simply because cuts and edits were used where the stage version asked us to use our imagination.

One of my favorite films of all time is Vanya on 42nd Street, not because it was a good adaptation of the play Uncle Vanya, but because the film perfectly captured the theatergoing experience. Audiences are smart, most people who will see Phantom of the Opera will be well aware that it was once a stage musical. That nugget should be exploited.

It's a real challenge to try capture theatrical devices on thebig screen; Vanya on 42nd is a wonderful example of what can be done that way. Another would be Altman's Come to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.


The Passion of the Christ's boxoffice glow

Interesting sidenote: talked to the manager of the local theater chain and she tells me that a total of 11 people watched The Passion of the Christ's recut version over the weekend.

So much for the idea of making it a Holy Week perennial.

100 Best American Films lists

From Atlantic Refugees:

Chris D: The guy who wrote the linked piece by Noel kinda supports my theory above, especially towards the end. But he doesn't quite make the connection.

Films that have broad appeal, i.e. are 'universal,' can often seem dull and uninteresting to various individuals. When discussing various directors, he often seemed to prefer the more personal films (like Kundun and The Conversation) over the widely accepted ones. He just highlights my points.

With that said, I don't have a huge problem with the AFI list, sure it contains some clunkers, but no matter who makes a list, it will include some clunkers, it's expected. The AFI list was made with a broad spectrum of interests represented, and you have to realize it was made from a list of 400 films that wasn't extremely adventurous to begin with.

I had a couple of friends determined to get through all 100 films on the AFI list (a dubious task, in my opinion) and they soon discovered they had an affinity for Billy Wilder and they went on to check more of his films, and then this helped them find various actors they enjoyed and so on. I relate this semi-anecdote, because that was the purpose of the list, to encourage people to check out some films that many consider to be great. It encourages people to explore films they would otherwise skip. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

I'd encourage people to check out Rosenbaum's list, with even more worthwhile films that don't have some dinosaur institution trying to promote them (at least half the films on the AFI list are in no danger of being neglected). That would be even better.

I don't think someone sharing some of your choices some of the time is all that bad; not everything about film watching is subjective. There are classic rules for drama, and basic techniques on filmmaking, and ways most people mostly agree are good; and if such rules or techniques are bent or broken, the better films usually have good reasons for doing so.

And when I say mostly and usually, my point would be this: there's no absolute means of saying what's good or not, but there's a general range of agreement among informed people what constitutes a good film, and what that list of films would be.

It's obvious what's wrong with saying that film viewing is totaly objective: it's just not true. No two people will totallyagree on a list. On the other hand, the weakness of saying it's totally subjective is to say that nothing, not the ideas of people who think about or make or watch films, means anything. If everything is meaningful, nothing is meaningful. There has to be some kind of balance.

Instead of precise rules and precise lists, I would present a continuum that shades towards the very worse and very best at either end, where maybe not all (knowledgeable) people might agree, but many would.

And how to identify that balance? How to more or less objectively set standards? Well, in the case of film critics (just to keep this at manageable length), look at the people and what they write. If they seem to be wide-ranging in their interests, if they don't condemn any single genre outright, if they consider both past and present films, silent and sound, from various countries, if their arguments are sound (and if not, if they admit that they're writing from a bias), if they know film history and have a good number of films under their belt, I'd say they're credible, and their opinion would count for something.

There's no magic number or formula for determining this, but you can follow what they write, and after a number of articles it often surfaces. Read enough such people and you can determine whether or not a film is considered good by people who know what they're talking about.

Now, the opinions of people who aren't as aware of film history or who haven't seen as many films or aren't as varied in their diet don't count for nothing--their emotional responses and personal experience brings something to their reactions, of course. But if they aren't fully or even slightly aware of what's been done and what's out there, I'd say their reactions are valuable for just that much, what personal experience and emotional makeup brings to the table. That's not nothing, but that's not everything.

The method I've outlined is not a 100% sure guarantee either, but I'd say it's the best method out there, and better than, oh, following the AFI list.


100 Best American Films list

From Atlantic Refugees:

JC: I agree that it's more appropriate to create a "Best Of" list based on some degree of consensus amongst a large group of well-respected voters.  It's just annoying when you hear someone complaining about the AFI list, and then creating another, based on their own personal tastes, trying to pass it off as the "definitive" one.

Here's a good one

More to the point, Rosenbaum's list justifies itself through his films (mainly excellent), and through his defense of his choices. It's not just a case of claiming one is better than another--he makes a good argument about the deficiencies of the AFI list. His final sentence is a fine zinger.

New Delhi, last bit

On our last night in Delhi, I went out with two filmmakers. Our guide promised to take us to some of the nightspots, and promptly delivered us to the dance club in a five-star hotel.

We argued with him--we didn't want to spend the rest of our rupees in an overpriced disco with a bunch of yuppies! Where do YOU hang out? He told us that most places are closed by eleven, so he would have to think of something...

He did. He brought us to this alley with a lot of people walking (unusual, as Delhi is dead by nine p.m.) to this decrepit old building. Not a dance club--no music, no sound of a crowd inside. We looked up and in the balcony were this row of girls waving at us.


Yep, it was that kind of "club."

Our guide was at the top of the stairs looking down;One of the filmmakers looked at me, and I asked him: "do we want to do this?"He said, "no, I just wanted to drink." We entered, crossed a dark hallway, and I swear, I had to step over the women's kids--some of them two years old, others almost newborn--to get across. All four of us were led into a room--one room!--with a bed over three feet high, as high as my waist (I had to hop to get on the bed, and my feet dangled).

A woman stood in the doorway, gave us a hard stare. We blinked back. She had something of a paunch...but she was pretty, with lovely doe eyes.

We asked our guide if we could just drink there; he said that's not possible. We asked what was the going rate; he said it's a thousand rupees for the three of us. We said, we'll pay the going rate, only the girls don't have to sleep with us, they just had to drink with us. We handed over the money.

Hell, don't ask me why we did that--it was my chance to taste "curried pussy," as someone put it, and as things turned out, I was as shy as a teenage virgin.

They didn't like that. No sex, just drink--what kind of perverts were we? They demanded an extra two hundred rupees each. Our guide said no. They said they didn't have the beer. We stood there, stony-faced, then as if on cue, got up to leave. Our guide had a few heated words with the girl, then we went down the stairs.

Our guide had a surprise for us as we left. He had told them that he was related to the city's police chief, so they handed back the money we gave, but no, he was magnificent; he pushed away the cash and said they can add it to their usual take at the police station tomorrow. They pressed the cash in his hand. Outside, we counted it--all one thousand rupees, intact. We had gotten a full refund from a Delhi whorehouse.


New Delhi, cont'd

continuing from here:


Talking about love...one of the guests at the festival was an actress in Satiyajit Ray's films. She was incredibly lovely then, and she's just as beautiful now, a grandmother of fifty-five.


My programmer friend and I were totally smitten with her. I swear he'd moan in his bed (we were roommates), and once, he invited her to meet in our hotel room. You should have seen us, airing the room, picking lint from everywhere, ordering tea and coffee, hiding all the shirts and underwear we had hanging from every available spot. He had fanned out the books he had bought--an Encyclopedia on Indian Cinema, a screenplay of The Apu Trilogy, and (you wouldn't believe how proud he was of this touch), an illustrated pocketbook edition of the Kama Sutra. "To indicate how sexually progressive I am," he said. I hissed in disgust. I hadn't had time to shop, all I had was a piss-ant book on Indian cinema and an even more pathetic one on Bollywood, plus (which was the only thing I can actually brag about) a collection of short stories by filmmaker Ritwik Gatak.


When she arrived, she looked...incandescent. She sat on the single chairbeside the TV set. They deliberated while I quietly served the coffee and tea (she refused both, to my dismay).


Oh, and she had used our bathroom. The way he described it, we took turns sniffing the chair she sat on and licking the toilet seat she had used. He put the chair in one corner of the room, and would sit on it only on special moments where, as he put it, "an electric charge would shoot straight up my alimentary canal."


Before he left, he gave me a final report--he had asked for her signature, had accidentally touched her behind, and had been able to buss her on her cheek in farewell. It turned out to have been his birthday a few days before; he considered this the best gift he could ever have. I couldn't get an autograph, but I did manage to have someone snap a picture of me beside her. We were pathetic.


From a_film_by:

Is your writing inspired by/modelled on film critics or literary authors?

My list mostly reflects writers I'm actually comfortable with than writers I consider truly great (tho some of them are, definitely). As to HOW they influenced me, well--

Bazin, Agee, Greene--as I said, no real direct influences; just that they happen to be my standards for graceful, understated prose, evenhandedness (something I rarely achieve, myself), and impeccable intuition when it comes to films (tho what Agee sees in "Monsieur Verdoux" I'll probably never understand).

Joe Bob Briggs--for his ability to take on a different persona in his articles, and for reminding me not to take things too seriously.

Constantino Tejeros--for his no-balls-barred, fuck-you attitude towards conventional wisdom on Philippine cinema.

Cervantes--a critic, a great one. Incisive and hilarious, a surgeon with a sense of humor.

Hugo--for his exhaustively detailed journalism. And for being a negative example of windy political essaying.

Edgardo Reyes (who wrote the great short novel "Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag," on which Brocka based his film)--for his beautifully onomatopeaic prose on Manila's sights, sounds, smells.

JG Ballard--not only for showing us that the mind is the ultimate frontier, but also for his chilly emotional distance.

Philip Dick--not only for his out-there ideas, but for the ever-present sympathy he holds for losers, outsiders, the common man.

Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess--converted Catholics both. I have this thing for converts and their sometimes desperate, sometimes moving theology.

Those are a few of my influences; some are like the ground I walk on, some are like the sun's warmth. Don't know how else to put it.

Throw in Fernand Point's Ma Gastronomie, which is one favorite source of food metaphors. And you haven't had an orgasm until you've tried an egg fried in butter his style.



from pinoydvd:

halvert: i saw a bout de souffle(breathless) at a film fest some years back. can someone please educate me about how it changed cinema?

Godard pioneered the jump cut among other things with Breathless. Most Hollywood films show, say, a man getting into a car, the man starting the car, the man driving off; Godard would have the man touch the car door and cut to him driving off. It was a huge time and money saver and it removed all the boring parts, leaving in what interested him most. He also inserted quotes from favorite authors, short scenes by favorite filmmakers (Jean-Pierre Melville asked what he wanted to do most in life, and replying "to be immortal, and then to die.")--turned the cinema into a visual essay of sorts, to talk about and meditate on what struck him at the time, even if it had nothing to do with the plot.

Plus there was that breezy slightly melancholic tone, even if the most horrifying or hilarious things were happening--pure Godard.

You see the results of his filmmaking everywhere today; aside from Griffith (who pioneered the close-up, the iris, the fadeout, and parallel editing, among others), I think he's the most influential filmmaker who ever lived. Every MTV filmmaker and filmmaker who does things MTV-style owes something to Godard; Tarantino and all his imitators owe something to Godard. Even Brian De Palma owes something to Godard, especially in his early films.

Does "Million Dollar Baby" support euthanasia?

From pinoydvd:

aszamora: My question about the movie though is "Does M$B supports euthanasia?" Huh Some of my conservative relatives who always attend the Sunday mass and always urging me to do the same are planning to watch this because 1 of my uncle is a big Clint fan. I just want to warn them if indeed this movie supports euthanasia. Any input is most welcome. Thanks!!  Smiley

Well, it doesn't discourage you. But the setup is so dumb and should never have taken place that it's not a very intelligent supporter of euthanasia.


Scorsese, yet again

Max Macks: Vera Noel  If you know of any place you can direct me  where there are discussions re.  violence and blood and gut please do.

I wouldn't know where people discuss blood and guts and violence. I discuss it with my guts and balls, if that helps.

Ever read Notes from Underground, Max? That's a helpful work in understanding Taxi Driver.

Actually, Dostoevsky is helpful in understanding Scorsese's films--a lot of 'vulgarities' and 'violence,' masking an inward quest.

Two deaths

Teresa Wright

(Any fan of Hitchcock should know her...)

Morris Engel

(Any fan of Cassavetes and of the Nouvelle Vague should know him...)


Yet again, Scorsese

From Atlantic Refugees:

Max Macks:I wonder if I am the only one who posts here who does not care for most of Scorsese's  (bloody) films.?

No, there are quite a few, and not only on these threads--why do you think Scorsese's never won an Oscar?

I'll have to grant that point--his films aren't all that accessible, or all that willing to let you pass without a psychic bruise or two. You've got to be obsessed about that sort of thing to really get into it, I guess.

Oh, and another Scorsese that has no violence and is a beautiful, beautiful film--The Last Waltz.

Million Dollar Bloopers

From pinoydvd:

Stig: 1. I've seen my share of ICU patients, and i have yet to encounter one who can talk with A FRIGGING ENDOTRACHEAL TUBE stuck i their neck. Thats just not possible. I thought this lack of research was reserved for local telenovelas, but there it is. In an Oscar winning movie no less.

2. Towards the end of the movie, it's revealed that Maggie lost the fight. This total bulls**t. Any boxing commision would have disqualified her opponent just for hitting Maggie while she was down. But no, not only do they let the fight continue, they award her the victory after hitting an opponent after the bell rings, that's a DQ right there.

Haw! Good points.  Grin

'The Passion' recut

From I Spit On Your Groove:

Naz Nomad: Speaking of Passion, I saw a trailer today for the new theatrical re-release of Passion Recut.

Maggie O: Now with more bris

Naz: Walk a mohel in my shoes.

unperson: Mel spent a long time whipping it into shape in the editing room. He thinks he's really nailed it this time.

crabgrass: He died for your SMPTE, you know

Austin: Is it true they're trying to spin off a TV series? I can't wait to see the pilate.

Chana Masaledar: These puns are godawful. Jesus Christ!

Austin: Don't be a threadnanny. Every topic gets degrailed from time to time.

DH: Jeez, try a simple pun and they crucify you for it.

Gus Sheridan: This is all making me very cross.

Naz: But why resurrect that movie?

Randy Wylde: I think he's trying to remove some of the stigma.

I log off for a day and when I come back y'all do cheap jokes on the Passion recut? Of all the--I'm so pissed I could explode. In fact, I think I will explode, just to let off steam. Here:


So there. I swear, if I had to rewrite the Constitution, I'd see to it that criminals guilty of religious irreverence get the death penalty. You deserve all the pun ishment that you can get.

Naz: It was mass hysteria.

Maggie: Can you transubstantiate that rumor?

There you guys go again, turning whatever into whine.


Again, Scorsese

Max Macks: I had never seen Taxi Driver until last year after getting
a VCR .
I thought it was crap.
How many people really think Scorsese is great just because
so many others rave about him.?

It helps to think of Taxi Driver as Scorsese's Dostoevsky piece.

I think Scorsese's great, and no, it's not because of what people write about him; I see the films and respond to them. Call it the lapsed Catholic in me that thirsts for blood and guilt and violence and beneath all that, the whispered possibility of redemption.

If there's a difference between him and Mad Mel, it's that his films have the visual and rhythmic feel of an drug-crazed Impressionist artist playing with a camera, while Mel is like a monomanic masochist stabbing the same spot on his thigh with a penknife, then showing everyone the blood.

Not everything Scorsese makes is violent or has Italian gangsters in it, tho everything does deal at some level or another with an inner, sometimes spiritual anguish. Throw in New York, New York and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore as relatively non-violent (relatively), non-Italian movies. New York is I think an underrated great musical. And King of Comedy is a dark, dark comedy about obsesson and privacy that tends to stay with you.

Age of Innocence, for all the lack of blood, Scorsese describes as one of his more violent films. The violence is more emotional and psychological than merely physical--which is really what Scorsese's all about.

After Hours may be Scorsese's most unsettling film--a comic view of Hell, set in the Soho area.

He doesn't make pleasant, feel-good movies, which bothers a lot of Academy mo--sorry, voters. And as far as I know, he's never been accused of good taste.

The greatest film Disney ever released

Bought the "Nausicaa" dvd (yep, you heard me--"bought") and it's glorious, just glorious. Not just a bright, clean picture, but the sound effects and music are crystal clear--you can hear the slight muffling of people speaking with breathing masks on, for example, or the terrible whirring and clicking of millions of insects swarming.

Care has been taken with the translation--little inconsistencies that have bothered fans have been patched up the best they can ("it was unconscious so it didn't breathe much poison" changed to the more defensible "it didn't seem to have breathed much poison;" "Lord Jhil" changed to "King Jhil" which makes some sense--what princess would have a mere lord for a father?). I miss the hair-raising name 'God Soldier,' given to the monster raised from Pejite (the more religiously neutral--and flavorless--name "Great Warrior" is substituted).

Patrick Stewart as Lord Yupa doesn't capture the original's fierce warrior growl, but he does have the regal authority, and his inflections seem at least as eloquent. Chris Sarandon runs away with the character of Kurotawa (he has the best lines in the film), the three old men are played up for comedy, Lohman and Thurman do fine as Nausicaa and Kushana, respectively, and the wonderful Mark Hamill is sadly wasted in a bit role (fear of overexposure? He had a major role in "Laputa"). The music, as far as I can remember, is largely unfussed with (unlike the horrendous rendering of "Laputa").


Oscar 'losers'

He's (Scorsese) in excellent company, side-by-side with American filmmakers who've never won a competitive Oscar like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock (who was nominated six times, incidentally, and lost all six times--and wasn't even nominated for his masterpiece, Vertigo)

Klause Weaseley: Orson Welles won an Oscar for SCREENPLAY, Noel. Unless of course you're talking about DIRECTING Oscars.

Shared, with Herman Mankiewicz.

Yeah, I mean directing. And not honoring Welles for Magnificent Ambersons, Macbeth, Othello, Touch of Evil, Chimes of Midnight, F is for Fake, among many, many others.

Was looking at the 1966 best picture winners at the Oscars--Sound of Music, ugh. A better film than, say, Chimes of Midnight? I think not.

Funny tho, Chimes was nominated, at the Cannes Film Festival, and lost to--A Man and a Woman! Would you believe Welles losing to that 90 minute cigarette commercial? Sometimes Cannes has its off days, too.

wedge: Hehe. Remember getting the dvd of Un Homme et Un Femme merely because the blurb says "Winner of Cannes Palme D'Or". Got me there. Yeah. Also remember branding the film an overextended Heno de Pravia ad.

Klaus Weaseley: Oh, btw, Noel, Alfred Hitchcock is NOT an American. He's British.

Oh, jeez, you mean Hitchcock wasn't speaking in a Southern accent?  Shocked

He made American films later in his career; some of them were nominated for best picture and best director. One of his pictures won best picture--Rebecca, not one of his better films, I think--but he's never been honored for the really great films he's made (Notorious; Psycho; Vertigo; Rear Window; North by Northwest, etc., etc.).

halvert: have the oscars ever gotten it right? like godfather?

Godfather 1 and 2.

And I think they gave a special award to Murnau's Sunrise.

That's about it.

Klaus Weaseley: What about How Green Was My Valley? Or any one of John Ford's works? Roman Polanski for directing The Pianist? All About Eve? The Lost Weekend? 8 1/2, The Shop on Main Street, Rashomon, Fanny and Alexander and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouisie all won Best Foreign Language Film. Talk to Her won for Best Original Screenplay.

Y'know who lost to How Green is My Valley, right?

Polanski's award was a mercy Oscar. He deserves one, but he deserved one long ago, for Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby.

All About Eve and Lost Weekend are overrated.

The foreign winners are good films, but there are others that same year, or films by the same directors, that were better and weren't honored.

Talk to Her is way overrated.

indie boi: Oscars mean nothing. They are not the Nobel Prize for movies; they are an industry giving prizes to itself. Oscar Night is a big convention that, for reasons beyond my ken, 800 million other people feel obliged to watch. It's a long, stuffy party, and the Oscars are the party favors.

-- Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

Yeah. Looked up a few things, here's what I found:

Great films of 2002: Spirited Away (2001, but it reached the US 2002); Sokurov's The Russian Ark.

Spirited Away deserved its 2003 animation Oscar, but I thought it deserved more--that it was the best of that year.

8 1/2 is a great film, but that's the same year as The Leopard.

The Shop on Main Street--the same year as Chimes of Midnight? No way, Jose. Deserves its Oscar over A Man and a Cigarette Commercial, though.

Rashomon is a great film, but hardly Kurosawa's best (I'd say that's Ikiru, or Seven Samurai), and that same year was Welles' even greater and more beautiful black-and-white Othello--again, ignored by the Academy.

I like Fanny and Alexander but it's hardly Bergman's best (that would be Shame, The Seventh Seal, Smiles of the Summer Night among many others). And that year was Scorsese's King of Comedy, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Geoff Murphy's Utu and Bresson's L'Argent.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouisie is a lovely late film, but again, not Bunuel's best (Los Olvidados, Viridiana, Simon of the Desert).

Anyway, I've said before I find the idea of a Best Foreign film absurd--what, the rest of the world only makes five great films a year? Hollywood could barely manage one a decade.

halvert: i like 'allabout eve' and 'talk to her'.
chacun a son gout, i guess.
what about sophia loren's win? or jodie foster? or brando?did anyone deserve his/her acting oscar?

Actually I enjoyed All About Eve, (and Bette Davis was great in that one; also George Sanders), and even Talk to Her (it had maybe one outrageous moment, where Almodovar used to have five or six). I just think there are better films around, if the Academy bothered to actually look.

Sophia's a wonderful comedienne, tho I thought Silvia Pinal was better in Viridiana. Jodie Foster is about as empathic as a mousetrap, plus I thought Glenn Close acted circles around her in Dangerous Liaisons (she was villainous and sympathetic).

Brando should have won for Streetcar Named Desire (they were busy clearing up their backlog re: Humphrey Bogart) and Last Tango in Paris (I don't know what they owed Lemmon, but his was definitely not the best performance that year--yeah, I saw Save the Tiger), not for the films where he actually won (Pacino should've gotten Brando's Oscar--and it should have been for lead actor, not supporting). As always, the Oscars get it all mixed up.


Popularity in the Oscars

From Forum Without a Name

ted fontenot:  like Clint. Always have, but have always wanted to like him even more (even though I think he's the greatest post-John Wayne John Wayne leading man), but have often been disappointed. This is because his reach is constantly beyond his grasp. Clint's a smart man, I think, well-read, intelligent, but he needs to get back to feelings and instincts. (He thinks his movies out too much.) Then I think he'll be better.

Oh, you never win a best picture Oscar by being unpopular. Case in point was Michael Curtiz directing Casablanca, who won over Henry King's direction of A Song For Bernadette--people loved Curtiz, hated King.

Of course, this works on the assumption that King's work was better than Curtiz, which is debatable--you don't see any cult of adoration growing around either directors. But I do remember that Curtiz's approach was more 'pop' (plenty of cameras wooshing in on their actors for punctuation, and in fact Spielberg is on record as admiring him), while King's was understated and elegant.

Incidentally, while Bergman in Casablanca was beautiful, absolutely no one could touch her there, there's something to Jennifer Jones in Bernadette that you can't quite forget. King never shows a hint of salaciousness in his visual treatment of Bernadette, but it's that very worshipfulness of Jones' onscreen virginity that seems so, well, arousing...


Critic After Dark: A Review of Philipppine Cinema

The book is a compilation of my articles, from 1994 to 2004, mainly of Filipino films, with a few pieces on foreign films (the better pieces, I like to think) thrown in, including my articles on The Passion of the Christ.

From the introduction in Big O Magazine:

Segurista was one of the first Filipino films that became a hit in Singapore in recent years prompting further imports of Asian independent films. Filipino film critic Noel Vera in his new book, Critic After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema, tells you why Segurista is not just a dirty sex film. The book will be published in April and available at this year's 18th Singapore International Film Festival.

Here's an excerpt

It will be possible to order the book online, from Big O; I'll post details as they come.

The Taj Mahal (New Delhi, cont'd)

The third day four of us hired a van to drive us two hundred kilometers to Agra. It took four miserable hours going out--it was hot and dusty and I swear the driver kept nodding off to nap every few minutes--then we arrived.

And we saw it. The Taj Mahal. Built four hundred years ago by the Mughal dynasty's most architecturally ambitious emperor Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite wife. Mumtaz died in childbirth after giving Shah Jahan fourteen children; he started work on the mausoleum that same year and it took him twenty-two years to finish--Austin of Bordeaux and Veroneo of Venice had helped in its decoration, and the main architect was Isa Kahn, of Iran. Marble from nearby quarries, coral from the coast, onyx from Belgium; Mumtaz's tomb is decorated with forty-three different gemstones, and the marble screen surrounding her tomb is filled with exquisite carvings. Each of the four gigantic entrances have words from the Quoran written on them, a breathtaking sight: flowing Arabic script, each word roughly a foot square in size and difficult enough to write well with ink on paper, cut from black onyx and inlaid in white marble!

It's a massive edifice, but the overall effect isn't of heaviness at all; the perfect symmetry, the pale, almost translucent marble (you can see into it to the depth of a few inches, I think), the soaring height, the way the lines break up the sun's rays into different shapes of light and shadow give it an unbelievable sense of grace and otherworldly mystery. It doesn't seem rightly of this earth; when I looked at itthat morning I couldn't believe I was there, or that it really existed, or that this all wasn't a dream. Looking back, I'm even less sure than I was then.

Story has it that Shah Jahan had planned a twin mausoleum across the river, made of black instead of white marble, but his son Aurangzeb revolted and put him in a fort upstream, where he spent the rest of his life gazing at his wife's tomb. When he died, his son refused to spend the additional money to build his mausoleum and had his tomb placed beside his wife, the only element that mars the building's perfect symmetry.

Bullshit. Incarcerated with the Shah Jahan had been his entire harem, and I wouldn't be surprised if he spent as much time frolicking with his newest mistresses as he did gazing at his wife's monument. And the Taj Mahal is surrounded by numerous smaller mausoleums, for his lesser wives (to the left of the Taj Mahal is a mosque, however). Knowing things like this can put a real dent in a monument's romantic history...

Only it doesn't. When you're actually there, in its presence, you don't care if Shah Jahan had screwed his harem three different ways every week for the rest of his life--the sheer beauty of the structure, the passion and energy poured into it by its craftsmen and architects and workers is overwhelming. Despite its builder's sordid history, it IS the most extravagant monument ever created in the name of love.


We wuz robbed

We wuz robbed

New Delhi (cont'd)

Also visited the Qutab Minar, literally Tall Tower, the tallest in India, about 280 plus feet high--not impressive, I suppose, except it had been built some eight hundred years ago, out of fitted stone. Up close, it's impossibly high and unbelievably beautiful, adorned with carved inscriptions from the Quoran. Beside the tower is Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the Might of Islam Mosque, the first mosque ever established in India--it had been built by Muslim conquerors from Hindi temples, and you can see the difference in Hindi and Muslim architecture--the Hindi built in a series of interlocking stones, which is actually safer during an earthquake, while the Muslims knew the secret of the arch, complete with keystone.

I had followed advice and not hired a guide at the Red Fort, which made it cheaper (entry into the Fort was almost eight dollars), but there was one disadvantage--every picture I took didn't have me in it; I couldn't trust anyone with my camera. So at the Qutab Minar, I hired a guide for four dollars (looked at his badge to make sure he was official) and he took my pictures for me (still a risk, but a better one, I think. Well, I still have my camera...).

Actually, the guide was a good buy--he had this dotty theory that the Qutab Minar had actually been built by Hindus, not Muslims, who he said were better engineers; the Muslims took the tower and merely dressed it in red sandstone, geometric designs, and holy inscriptions. I didn't point out to him that the tower was supposed to have been built in stages by several Muslim rulers, though he did make the compelling case that the Minar wasn't a minaret--meant to call the faithful to prayer--but an astronomical device. As proof he pointed out the twenty-four sides (hours of the day) the position (outside of the mosque, not connected to it), and the entrance (which faced north, not east towards Mecca).

STILL no end to the Passion!

It's a year later and they still don't get it! Latest reply to what I write about Gibson's snuff flick (and from a pastor yet!), and my response:

Hogwash!!!  I am so TIRED of these scholars and theologians pushing THEIR ideas.

As a pastor myself.... I seek anyway that God reaches out to the kids of our time.  I believe God used Mel Gibson's gifts to do just that.

If we would just stop looking for what we hope to put others down with; if we could just stop trying to say I'm sorry for things we have not done but wish to burden our children with the repentance of; if we would just start doing what we tell our congregations to do: Trust God!!!

I took my youth group to see this film.  They did NOT see antisemetism.  What they saw was what they know to be true: How easily a mob is stirred up.

What was the major response???  "I will never miss church services again!  I never realized until I saw this visual presentation of what might have occurred, just how much Christ suffered and just how much God gave up for me."

I rest my case.  


-Massachusetts -home of the Pharasees


Comment from pastorsandir - 3/1/05 6:52


Well, bully for you that your kids responded so positively and shame on you for taking kids to this piece of garbage...one of the most painful experience I ever had was listening to the cries of terror and confusion of kids over the extreme violence in this picture. This is child abuse of the worse kind.

Because none of you saw any anti-Semitism in this picture doesn't mean there isn't any; I rest my case with what I have read and written--all available for you to address and attack if you wish (please see the links).

Otherwise, we'll have to agree to disagree with what we believe--you, that God used Gibson as an instrument to spread his word (of what, the message that Romans and Jews were bloodthirsty scumsuckers?), me, that Gibson was so crosseyed obsessed with sharing his pain with as many people as he can that he chose the writings of some 19th century anti-Semite (you read any of her writings? She asserts that Jews drink the blood of Christian babies. Check it out) and the German poet who supplemented much of her 'visions' with writing of his own.

From where I'm sitting, the 'mob' happens to be the crowd supporting this snuff flick, and they're pretty consistent about howling for blood--real Christian attitude, that is.


Comment from noelbotevera - 3/1/05 11:49 PM

My Oscar picks

From pinoyexchange:

MEM2: what was your oscar pick?

Well, if I had my druthers...the Best Picture Of Last Year (actually Of The Past Two Years, it's back in 2003) was Nathaniel Khan's documentary My Architect. Lav Diaz's 10 hour long Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family). Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Breakwater (Woman of the Breakwater). Maybe The Aviator as the best Hollywood mainstream movie.

For fun, I'd throw in Hellboy, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and uh Prisoner of Azkaban.

I need to see Tsai Ming Liang, Godard, Hou Hsiao Hsien and Kiarostami's latest.

And as for the Oscars not awarding overdue awards...wow, name your example: William Holden got an 'overdue Oscar' for Stalag 17 because he lost for Sunset Boulevard; Bogart got one for African Queen because he lost for Casablanca. I could go on and on.

And if you think it doesn't happen anymore, Paul Newman got one for Color of Money, his least interesting performance to date, while Pacino got his for yelling his head off at O'Connell in Scent of a Woman (Pacino, who did Godfather 1 and 2?).

The Oscars are a joke. I don't think Scorsese, or Filipino films really need them; an Oscar winning Filipino film would 1) have a big budget (around 15 million dollars--you do the math); have some easy-to-digest theme or moral (mentally or physically handicapped heroes would be nice; kids too), and have a feel-good ending, or a really feel-bad one.

Anything really interesting--like imagination, or a sensibility or complex point of view, or a storyline you can't reduce to three sentences, or concern for character or real acting--would only harm its prospects.

They should just go and make good films, is all.