Collected Dailies 7

Watching Community, Joel McHale keeps reminding me of somebody else. He looks a little like Jim Carey, but that isn’t it… now it comes to me: Peter Krause.

***

Watched The Kids Are All Right (2010) and saw an awful lot of acting, wall-to-wall acting. I mean, Please Give had acting, but it couldn’t hold a candle to this one. Thank God they didn’t let Streep anywhere near it. That would have been intolerable… Someday I plan to check out all of Julianne Moore’s movies and calculate the percentage of them in which she becomes nude, in full or in part, at some point or other, and then do the same for Charlotte Rampling, and see which percentage is higher. Of course Rampling is 64 and Moore is only 50, so Rampling’s gross numbers will be higher… If you know which campus that is at the end of TKAAR, please let me know.

***

I liked Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) and Youth in Revolt (2009), so I don’t have a problem with Michael Cera. I’ve only watched Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) up to the battle of the bands at the beginning , but so far, I’m not feeling it. Maybe this is because a romantic comedy comprises the emotional road trip that begins with two individuals apart and ends with them together, and our enjoyment of the trip depends upon the chemistry between the two along the way. Do Scott and Knives have that chemistry? Cera, 22, and a high-school senior, or junior? Or are they even the couple in this movie? Do Scott and Romona have that chemistry? Not feeling it here… I’ll give it a chance, but A. O. Scott begins his NYT review, “There are some movies about youth that just make you feel old, even if you aren’t.” Scott believes that SPVTW is the opposite of that, but at the moment, I don’t… Ok, I take it all back. A likable movie that won me over. A good-natured movie that never required more than 60 seconds of attention at a time. Also helped to have a buzz on.

***

Having watched Powell and Pressburger’s Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death, I’m having a go at A Canterbury Tale (1944). So far: when you introduce an American character, a G.I., have him start every sentence with “say.” Say, that’s not a bad idea.

***

I wanted sleazy slasher horror – something to have fun reviewing – so I plucked Blood Creek (2009) off the shelf. Cover photo of a bald guy with a scarred, swastika-embossed noggin, in a leather jacket. Only four reviews on MRQE, including ones from FulVue Drive-in, Bloody-Disgusting. and Buried. Positive reviews. Promising. But uh oh. Original title: Town Creek. Not promising. Doulbe up-oh. Michael Fassbender is the Nazi. I should have checked the box more carefully. The man is a star. This is not good. On the other hand, Kevin Costner made The New Daughter, and that think was excreable. Don’t give up. Hmm. A cast comprised of Aussies and Brits and Germans? The budget to fly them all to West Virginia, where the movie is set would be… oops, my mistake. Filmed in Romania. Director  is Joel Shumacher, who has made, well, lots of stuff. Real movies. Two Batmans. Falling Down (1993). Tigerland (2000).  Phone Booth (2002). The man is 71. Going senile? Or have I stumbled over a real actual movie here by accident? Chances of sleazy horror? Going down!

***

Caprica (2009) – Dramatically tough to create an engaging 17-episode first-season series when you know that it’s going to end with the world blowing up? Well, disks 1 and 2 have kept the surprises coming. I’m not disappointed.

***

Looking for Eric (2009) – Ken Loach’s latest. I’m up to the part where we learn that our man walked out on his pregnant wife and now, thirty years later, wants to go back and hook up with her. How’s that going to happen? Otherwise, all that great Loach realism is on display, indicating that England is still England… Opening credits: the longest list of production companies I’ve ever seen on a movie. Given Loach’s low budgets, seems like every one of these companies must have been a individual who kicked in $20 or so (in £s, of course)… Oops. There goes the realism. Nice feel-good japes though. Fun to see a genuine sports hero switch over to acting, too.

***

Agora (2009) – The sound I was making as I watched it. Philosophy. The clash of religions. The Library of Alexandria. Rachel Weisz’s body double stepping out of her bath before you’re properly settled in your seat.

***

World War II: When Lions Roared (1994) – The lions are Hoskins, Lithgow, and Caine. When the parts were handed out, and I picture it sort of like a high-school play, the two obvious stars got Roosevelt and Churchill, leaving Stalin to the third. Who is that under that wig and those eyebrows and that Stalin ‘stache?… Yes… it is him… Good history movie. I read a great biography of Harry Hopkins’ years with FDR, the author of which I forget. Good to see Hopkins get some screen time for a change, well-played by Ed Begley Jr.

***

Flight of the Conchords – Guess if I want to see these guys anymore, it’ll have to be live.

***

For whatever reason, I haven’t watched any of those doctor and lawyer shows that each week deal with a current social issue or two. Until Eli Stone (2008), that is. I just watched the first season on DVD. Each episode, a new issue. My question is, given the fact that no one has ever learned anything in high-school civics/social studies class, why not just show an episode from one of these shows every so often? Couldn’t hurt.

***

The Hulk movies are entertaining except for the Hulk himself. It would make all the difference if The Hulk, when called into existence, was moved to do something other than rage and break things. Perhaps his big transformation could be triggered by Bruce Banner’s extreme hunger, and Hulk would binge on sushi, or the transformation could get set off by Bruce Banner’s powerful thirst, with Hulk doing Jello shots to an insane degree. Or, of course, Bruce could get a powerful itch down there.

***

Earthstorm (2006) – Starring Stephen Baldwin and, yes, Dirk Benedict. I’ve finally watched a movie starring Dirk. (The moon is splitting in half, and one of those halves, the big half, is going to fall down here. News at eleven.)

***

You know how when you go to IMDB and list all of a particular actor’s movies  and you haven’t heard of 98% of them? Take Malcom McDowell, for example. He made If… (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Blue Thunder (1983), and at least 120 movies I’ve never heard of. Well, Cut Off (2006) is no longer one of them; I’ve not only heard of it now, I’ve seen it. (And hey, IMDB no longer numbers its lists of actors’ movies. Boo.)

***

My metaphor for Please Give (2010): it’s like a ride down a river, a river not too big, not too fast but not sluggish either, no rapids, bending this way and that in gradual fashion, heading towards (toward?) that final big ocean (which is you know what), but, between beginning and end of the ride, gets nowhere near that finality. You’re on board with eight ensemble actors, all of them indistinguishable from actual interesting, quirky (in the service of plot) characters. Nicole Holofcener is at the rudder. The ride ends and you get out and stretch your legs, refreshed and thinking that somewhere down the road, you’ll come to another dock, with Holofcener waiting in another little boat, ready to give you another enjoyable little ride.

***

I probably have heard more positive comments about Community (2009) than any other TV show. Finally Netflix’d the first disk and watched the first episode. Ultra smart, fast-paced, satisfying. Good to see Chevy Chase working, in something that’s good. He and Jeffrey Tambor seem to be converging into the same person (bad grammar? They aren’t merging; their appearance and timing are becoming more alike)… Uh oh. Episode 2 beats the same drum. One thing I loved about Lost was its knack of introducing new, frequent, unexpected developments… But now, more episodes. I like. Though why write a character who is of Arabic extraction and then cast a half-Indian/half-Pole? Plus cast a Pakistani as his dad? If you want Danny Pudi for the kid, and he’s great, he’s perfect, then why not just rewrite the character to fit?

***

A little love for The Box (2009) – Brisk pacing. Some money up on the screen. Frank Langella, James Marsden filling in for Tom Cruise, Cameron dressed absurdly to the teeth throughout, made up in a way that accentuates the wrong things, southern accent. I never had a clue where the thing was going but I didn’t mind the ride. Supremely silly. Richard Matheson wrote the short story. He’s 84 now. Wonder if he watched this and if so, what he made of it.

***

Georgia O’Keeffe (2009) – I love Joan Allen in so many movies. She’s perfect for O’Keeffe in her later years. However, here, at the age of 53, she’s called upon to play a 29-year-old beguiling the older Alfred Stieglitz, who was 52 at the time. There is suspension of disbelief, and then there is sort of looking sidelong. Oh, well. When she finally takes off for Taos, I breathed a sigh of relief. We lived in Los Alamos from 1970 to 1973 and a couple of times, we took off around the Jemez to Abiquiu to see if we could spot her, but we never did.

***

Netflix’d The Big Bang Theory (2007) due to the ongoing good reviews. Our TV isn’t connected to anything, antenna or computer, so TV shows come courtesy of DVD. Oops. Laugh track. Show is automatically disqualified, which is too bad, because the segment up to the opening credits made me smile. Same thing happened with The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006) and Mad About You (1992) with Helen Hunt. Laugh-tracks? Really? In 2010? I wondered for a moment if Big Bang might be filmed in front of a live audience, but no, and even if so, an audience that robotic would count as a laugh track anyway… Could it be that Big Bang started with the tracks and then dropped them?… 7,000+ entries for “The Big Bang” and “laugh track.” Filmed in front of a live audience. Could be professional laughers in the audience. Laughter could be enhanced with canned laughs. There are some clips with the laughter removed, leaving silent gaps. Other audience sounds betray live presence. So forth. Hmm. Probably still going to send it back. Too annoying.

***

[See the comment below for additional information and corrections to this post regarding this movie.] Finally getting around to The Double Life of Veronique (1991), or “the beloved Double Life of Veronique” as someone put it. ***Spoiler*** For some reason I thought that the Pole lived and the French… hey, how come I can say “Pole” but nothing better than “Frenchie”?… Anyway, I had that backwards, which took me out of the movie for a minute. The  cinematography is mannered but that’s ok. Weronika goes to the cardiologist, who evidently did not tell her not to smoke… There is a political layer to Double Live, with Poland achieving freedom at the same time that Weronika’s soul looses its mortal coil and heads west to France; this layer, twenty years later, is probably transparent to most U.S. viewers; it didn’t have much punch for me. I liked the real world photographed in the movie and Irène Jacob was ok. She’s 44 now and she’s made a bunch of ok movies, nothing special; Kieslowski died in his 50s of heart disease and AIDS. knowing where Jacob and Kieslowski were headed probably bummed me out a little as I watched the movie.

***

I’ve never tired of westerns. I was making a mental list the other day of all the 50s TV western series I could think of. A lot. An amazing number. So I’m glad to welcome Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom (The Good, the Bad, the Weird) (2008) to my TV. I figured out the Bad pretty quick, and then the Weird, who, given the difference in cultures here, I thought at first might in fact be the Good. In fact, maybe he is the Good. Nah. It’s just that the Weird grabbed the most screen time at first, then the Bad. I presume that the Good will catch up in due course. I started another Asian western maybe a year ago, dropped it. No so this one. A train sequence at the beginning involves the G, the B, and the W all there and operating for difference reasons – one to rob the train, one a bounty hunter hunting, one after a treasure map. Result: gun-play and callbacks to Leone. The title is not misplaced. One can only watch and rewatch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) so many times. Just as Lost in Austen revisits Pride and Prejudice, and if it isn’t the same masterpiece as PAP, so what, just so does TGTBTW lets us enjoy the wine of TGTBTU in a new Asian bottle… Too bad Leone isn’t alive; I think that’s he’d have enjoyed this one, especially the finale, a complete, loving homage.

***

Is there an island with a neighborhood on it in the river next to the Bronx called City Island? Let’s Google Maps it… Huh. There it is. Well, kudos to writer/director Raymond De Felitta for making a swell comedy/drama – City Island (2009) – that takes place there. Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Ezra Miller, and Emily Mortimer take the script in their professional hands and make us believe. And a fine script it is. De Felitta has won some prizes and maybe he ought to win something for this one. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Italian-American family members all yelling at each other at the same time, especially at dinnertime. De Felitta wrote Two Family House (2000), which I liked a lot and then totally forgot, like most of what I watch… Looking at the map, I realize how much I don’t know New York. I picture the Bronx more to the west, but if you’re coming down 95,  City Island is off to your left in Long Island Sound.

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7 Responses

  1. Caprica is an outstanding series which stands on its own merits. It also enriches future re-viewing of BSG. I don’t really separate the two.

  2. Weronika did not go to the cardiologue; Veronique did. The cardiologue did not tell Weronika not to smoke because Weronika is not seen smoking in the film and may not even be a smoker at all.

    There is no political layer to The Double Life Of Veronique; Kieslowski repeatedly mentioned in interviews and books (eg: Kieslowski On Kieslowski, p.189) that The Double Life Of Veronique was about ’emotions and nothing else’. Kieslowski had dispensed with politics years earlier and had given a good indication of his view of politics by having Weronika, in the film, oblivious to the political demonstrations in the Rynek Square of Krakow.

    Weronika’s soul did not lose its mortal coil and head west to France; Weronika was a living soul, so when she died Weronika was no longer a living soul. To presume Weronika had a separate soul, distinct from her body, which then travelled over to France must be considered pure speculation on the part of a viewer and relies for its support on the pre-Christian pagan myth, adopted into post 1st-century Christendom, of an immortal soul surviving the death of a person and living in another life.

    Kieslowski died of complications after heart surgery in a Warsaw hospital. Kieslowski did not die of AIDS – nobody dies from a syndrome. People who have the syndrome known as AIDS die of complications from one or more pre-existing and medically-known diseases, which other people can recover from, but from which AIDS sufferers cannot, because of compromised immune systems.

    Wikipedia states that: ‘By the time of his 1993 film Blue, (Derek) Jarman was losing his sight and dying of AIDS-related complications.’

    The Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski (who had directed Three Colours Blue) died two years after Derek Jarman and it is possible that a magazine called ‘Hello’ had jumped to the conclusion that he was the same director who had directed ‘Blue’ and had died from AIDS-related complications after heart surgery. This then seems to have been copied around the internet.
    (See the thread: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001425/board/nest/38775059)

    Alexandre FABBRI
    KIESLOWSKI’S WORLD

    • Thank you so much for the time and effort that you’ve taken with this comment, and for the knowledge provided! I’m feeling a little chastened for my post, but the learning is worth it.

  3. You are very welcome! I’m still learning things about The Double Life Of Veronique two decades after first seeing it. Kieslowski was an amazingly private man.

    I have spoken to Irene Jacob but to be honest the director is probably the one most able to explain the part of himself that was put into this film and unfortunately he is no longer here to ask. He did once say that he put a part of himself into all of his films but he would never ever tell anyone what part, not even his wife!

    I bid you a very good evening for now and by all means, if you wish, please add yourself and your website details to my Guestbook. You are most welcome to visit at any time and leave comments or questions on the forum under one of the headings.

    Alexandre FABBRI
    KIESLOWSKI’S WORLD

  4. Sadly, I have no knowledge to contribute as the above poster did, but I will agree wholeheartedly with your takes on The Box and The Kids are All Right. We went to the former wanting only to be entertained, and that is what it provided (and only that, plus giggles). I saw the latter all alone in the theater in PTown, while brooding during an extended kerfluffle with the bf. Man, was it the right thing to see!

  5. The Powell and Pressburger films seems like, to some extent, you are following the FILMSPOTTING films – any interest in watching PEEPING TOM? the Michael Powell film they are reviewing soon?

    • Hi, Simon. Yes, I was inspired to watch Colonel Blimp and Stairway to Heaven by the Filmspotting marathon. I’ve had The Red Shoes in my queue for ages; I hope to get to it some day soon. In the meantime, I’m watching A Canterbury Tale. In all of these films, I’m impressed with Powell and Pressburger’s great humanity. Of course, WW II was going on, which I’m sure affected their work. Peeping Tom, however, is a whole nother kettle of fish. I started it once but got interrupted and didn’t go back to it, for whatever reason. It was totally controversial in its time, but now in the age of the Saw franchises, it might not seem so bad. Let’s see what Adam and Matty have to say about it.

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