Collected Dailies 4

Many of my movie-watching choices are inspired by film discussions that I listen to on podcasts such as /Filmcast, B-Movie Cast, Movies 101, Double Feature, etc. Such is the case with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), featured on Filmspotting recently. First thing to impress me in the movie is its color. I wrote a review of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and I remember reading about the care and trouble taken with the color in that movie. Some woman – I forget her name – was the great Technicolor expert, I think. When Speed Racer (2008) came out, I remember a lot of chatter about the color in it (I liked the color, but not enough to finish the movie). We’re living in an age of greater subtlety in color palates, not to mention the ubiquitous blue light, but it’s still a pleasure to feast one’s eyes on the richness of a Colonel Blimp. And what happened to the “r” in “colonel”?

The first startup that I worked for encountered a rough patch and was acquired by the Arthur J. Rank company, which also made Colonel Blimp. Perhaps you’ve seen the big dude hitting the… the gong? Whatever that big cymbal thing is called… I never got to meet Mr. Rank, if he was in fact still living at the time. Rank Co.  eventually sold the company to some awful Texas conglomerate of three letters, the first being D, but I was long gone by then.

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Me and Orson Welles (2008) reminds me how much I loved the three seasons of  Slings and Arrows. I look forward to watching them again. I had Season 1 in my hand today, but decided to wait.

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For years I kept up with the Harry Potter books on tape, followed by the films. Then I ran out of gas or lost my momentum or whatever a third of the way through the Half-Blood Prince (2009). Watched the first part of the movie two or three or four times. Manohla Dargis obviously had the same problem, but she didn’t have the luxury of waiting a year or two. Now, with the Deadly Hallows in the offing, I’m going to try again…and… I’m glad I waited. It feels fresh, it’s dark, there are hormones, students and teachers and parents can get killed, which makes it matter, it’s noir, and… uh oh. The “seven” trope. Seven battles in Scott Pilgrim. Do I have to sit through seven pieces of Valdemort in the next two movies? Should I read the book first?

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Finished Lost, Season 6. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen a lot of great series, but for pure entertainment, this one is my favorite.

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Well, I’m the first-round winner of the Cinexcellence UnScene contest. I get a dvd, which I’ll review here.

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Just Wright (2010) – How did Queen Latifah get that scar? Is it common knowledge?… She’s 40+ playing 35, but she looks younger than that. Makeup! She’s another entry on the long list of women working after 40 (along with Pam Grier in the movie) – once a rarity, now a commonplace… Common, btw, plays an NBA all-star but the cameraman in several shots makes him look shorter than Queen herself. And how come at 38, a top NBA player, he’s still single, but then falls hard for a transparent gold-digger like the Paula Patton character?… But no, I wanted rom com and I got it, because Latifah and Common have chemistry and whatever that means, whatever that is, it’s all you need to make the long wait for the final clinch worthwhile… I need to watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair (200), wherein Rock “explores the wonders of African-American hairstyles.” Latifah, Patton, and Grier don’t have a single curly hair among them; what’s the current zeitgeist?

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Gunga Din (1939) is William Goldman’s choice of best movie ever. Starts out very cowboys and indians, filmed up near Owens Lake and Lone Pine, with those typical Hollywood-movie rocks in the landscape. I asked a couple of Indian friends about the movie, as it matches three British soldiers against hordes of Thuggees. My friends were not enthusiastic, about Gunga Din or about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

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As I watch Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010), a couple of questions:

– Is the movie borrowing from Season 6 of Lost?

– Why not find real Persians to play the  prince and princess? Disney could strengthen U.S./Iranian relations with such a move, even if Walt himself would have bombed Teheran by now. Well, you may say, Disney needed bankable stars, but stars are in a movie for one reason and one reason only, or so claims William Goldman, and that’s to open it. Since when has anyone counted on Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton to open a movie?

– For a guy who’s been knighted, Kingsley, who requires to be addressed as “Sir Ben,” sure seems to get a lot of thankless bad-guy roles.

Nice touch having the Persian prince and princess discuss Armageddon.

But just to be clear, loved the movie.

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There is a scene in Ip Man (2008) ( a Grade-A movie) that reminds me that all cultures are not the same. Two martial-arts masters duel in secret. A young man sees them and reports the outcome of their match to others; meanwhile, the two men agree to keep the results of the match to themselves. Soon the whole town is talking about the match, and the loser is outraged. A scene follows in which the losing master, the young man, the young man’s brother, and a crowd from the town all argue about the rights and wrongs of the situation. The winning master, Ip Man, stands watching with a quizzical look on his face.

Watching the scene evolve, I wondered if the film was setting up conflict between Ip Man and the losing master. The losing master denied everything, demanding justice. Would he think that Ip Man spoke out of turn? He demands that Ip Man confirm his words. Ip Man stands quietly, a quizzical look on his face.

In our current Western culture of gossip, tell-all media, and 24/7 news cycles, the group onscreen and the audience with them would automatically assume that the cat has been let out of the bag. Everybody now knows who  won and who lost the fight, even if everyone isn’t already sharing a video of it on their   phones. The focus falls on the loser’s denials, or Ip Man’s superiority, and secondarily on the youthful paparazzi’s luck,  acumen, or culpability. The loser’s protests then seem pro forma and we watch Ip Man for his response and the losing master for his discomfiture.

In the scene as it plays out, however, the older brother scolds the young man. The masters are forgotten. How could the boy speak out as he did? He has brought embarrassment to a master. As an object lesson, his brother hauls down the young man’s trousers, exposing his bare buttocks to the crowd. Be part of the group! Consider the consequences of your actions to other members of the group!

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William Goldman’s “The Big Picture” was published  in 2000. It’s a collection of newspaper articles written over  a ten-year period (the 90s), predicting the performance of each year’s summer movies, guessing at Oscar nominations, and opining on the state of Hollywood cinema. I discovered Goldman in the 50s and have been following him ever since, and this collection of articles provides some great insights into the movie business. Among other things, Goldman reminds me to keep watching old movies and indies, because new and big and Hollywood are not necessarily, or even probably, synonyms for “good.”

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I was  killing time in a fabric store a long time ago, waiting for my spouse, and I picked up a copy of “War and Remembrance” that was lying by the cash register, and began to read it. By the time that we left the store, I was hooked, and I checked out a copy of the book from the library the same day, and read it through. Then, when the miniseries came out, I was excited to learn that the romantic lead was to be played by Robert Mitchum, whom I liked a lot. Sadly, he was too old to be credible in the role and I never finished the miniseries. I was remembering that as I watched Anzio (1968) last night. Mitchum is the perfect age for this one. Despite being made by Dino De Laurentiis, it’s a war movie with a brain… I checked out some reviews of the movie and found one for the Sun-Times by Roger Ebert. What a career. The review is 42 years old. But come to think of it, I used to watch Ebert on PBS with Gene Siskel in the 70s. A little Jack Russell terrier would jump up on the couch for the Dog of the Week pick and one week, Siskel picked Circle of Iron (1978), which I liked, and I jumped up on my couch in protest.

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Boy, the old comedies really rub your nose in the racial divide.

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Tough watching Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). Although a classic, no wonder it was a flop at the box office in 1937. Four grown kids with lives of their own are faced with a mom and dad who have lost their home. As my three sisters and I try to deal with a similar situation, I can only watch this one scene at a time. It’s too accurate. And I know it advance that it doesn’t have a happy ending.

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Watching You’ll Find Out (1940), available from NetFlix, was like walking down the street and going to the movies on a weekday evening when I was a kid. Fun and pleasant. Lots of references to popular radio, which in those days was our TV. Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre get top billing on the movie these days, but Helen Parrish, Dennis O’Keefe, and the Kay Kyser band were the actual leads in the movie. Karloff in his scenes sounded an awful lot like Jeremy Irons in later life. His mouth looks like the Irons mouth. One thing I like about a lot of  ’40s movies, including this one, is the closeups. Let’s have more closeups! Or maybe they’re just better in black and white. The movie includes Ish Kabibble (Mrywyn Bogue). I can’t remember ever seeing Ish in a film before, but I do remember him from radio. He died in Joshua Tree, California, of all places. Not much happens in Joshua Tree, but if I had known he passed on there, I would have sought out the commemorative plaque.

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Harry Brown (2009) – Too bad actors have to get old and poop out. Caine is 77 and I’ll be sorry to see him go when that happens to him. In the meantime, he’s still able to man up and keep the slums safe by shooting and stabbing wayward youth.

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Near Dark (1987) reminds me how badass Lance Henriksen could be. 70 years old, 166 roles, most of which are in movies and TV shows that I’ve never heard of. Still working,  cranking them out. He was in The Slammin’ Salmon (2009) and Appaloosa (2008), but sadly I didn’t remark him in either. Maybe I’ll go to Netflix and list his films and watch him in several of them for a bit.

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Ahh. Lost Season 6. Finally.

And as I watch, I’m as interested and engaged as ever. Happiness is having a whole season to watch of a show that you like.

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I had an urge to watch Taken (2008) again.Didn’t remember most of it and enjoyed it all over again. Of the multitude of silly parts, the only one that bothered me – because it was just so lazy? – was the scene in which Neeson pretends to be a French policeman shaking down some Albanian lowlifes, and the whole thing is done in English. Weird… Maggie Grace, 25, playing a 17-year-old, that was a little weird as well.

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