Collected Dailies 8

First experiment with Netflix Instant on the TV instead of the computer: The Red Shoes (1948). Some practice will be required to control the experience as completely as if it were emanating from a DVD player.

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Finally, after… well, years, and two previous setups that I didn’t use… my son and I found ourselves in the same room with the TV and my laptop and the wireless hub and the something box, that have all been sitting there, with cables, for ages, and he kindly reconstituted it all for my Netflix Instant queue and whatever other online viewing I choose to do, streaming or otherwise. It struck me yesterday how much time I spend at Blockbuster and various libraries and dealing with Netflix movies in the mail… Be interesting to see how quickly and how much I switch over to this new source. Maybe I need all that running around to provide meaning to/for my hamster-like existence, or maybe I’ll be liberated from some of it.

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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, not in Season 1, but, in the end…)? Well, disks 1 and 2 have kept the surprises coming. I’m not disappointed… Plus, one sign that a show is working for you is that you want more of whatever it’s giving you. I want more Graystone interaction with his cyborg daughter (so far, none). So I keep watching, waiting for it.

***

Bound (1996) – It’s been 14 years since I last saw this. It holds up. Remember Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity (1944), in the scene where he tells Stanwyck how carefully they’re going to plan the murder, and then they turn around and go out with some half-assed plan that runs right off the rails? Same thing here. Fun-but-violent nonsense, but this Joe Pantoliano, this guy, this Ralph Cifaretto, this f**king guy – pure gold… What a start for the Wachowskis, after which they turned around and made The Matrix.

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Amazing coincidence department: Watched Episode Two of Extras and then started to rewatch The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and both had the non-PC-correct rhyme “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, what are these?” in them. How can that even happen?… If someone asked me to name the ultimate exploitation film, I might use this one. From start to finish, appeals directly to the most debased and prurient interests. Many try, but few succeed this well.

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Bored to Death (2009) – Somebody on /Filmcast liked this series. The first episodes are engaging. Strange to say, Jason Schwartzman sort of reminds me of Tom Cruise… I don’t think of myself as a TV-watcher, since my TV isn’t hooked up to anything but a DVD player, but what with Community, Caprica, Extras, Breaking Bad, The Office (English version), Reno 911, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Big Love, Fringe, True Blood (at least Season 1), Six Feet Under, Lost, BSG, Slings and Arrows (my favorite of all), the one about the pie maker, the one about Eli the lawyer, the one where a piano falls on her and she’s dead, Heroes, Terminator, some Sons of Anarchy, some Jericho, Flight of the Conchords, Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sopranos, I guess I qualify…

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I was wondering if Ron Perlman and Mickey Rourke ever made a movie together, because if so, I’d want to see it. But IMDB says no.

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Inception (2010) – Jeez, DiCaprio in the movies – the guy gets a lot of grief. Goes crazy in The Aviator. Bad marriage in Revolutionary Road. Shutter Island, I won’t say. Next movie, he’s J. Edgar. If you’ve read Ellroy, you know all about J. Edgar. Give this guy a break – let him take a Tom Hanks role for a change… I saw Inception at the multiplex whilst surfing for six hours there. If ever there was a big-screen movie, this is it. On the TV screen, the second time around, not so much… Ok, I take that back, after watching the whole thing. I just remembered the gun play and ruckus from the first time around; I forgot how clever the movie is. Why can’t there be more like it?

***

I Am Love (2009) – Tilda Swinton, getting it done. She shows a side, or at least a part, of herself that I haven’t seen before… For the score, I think that John Adams turned up some unused pages from his “Nixon in China.” I was mesmerized (probably not the composer’s intent)… Tilda’s line readings were kept to a minimum; if you’re fluent in Italian, let me know if she sounded like a Russian speaking Italian, like an American  speaking Italian, or like an American speaking Italian like a Russian.

***

Knight and Day (2010) – The movie begins and I get to thinking about Tom Cruise. Is the man a walking metaphor for life itself? He works at his craft from a young age, making movies, making more and more successfuller movies, becomes a mega star, does quality work, has some publicity ups and downs, and now here he is at the age of 48, back in the traces, making a movie that he has to know will not burnish his long career (or can you burnish a career? what can you burnish? your legend?), but which no doubt pays a bunch, and what’s up with his wife and kids and Scientology, so forth? And just as I’m thinking about how futile it all is, there he goes, onscreen, talking about his life’s regrets, right at the start of the movie. Wow. I’m put in mind of Lee J. Cobb at the end of Twelve Angry Men, with his angry monologue about life and how it screws you. Cruise, it’s like carrying that boulder up the mountain and then the buzzard pecks out your liver, on a daily basis. (Sometimes it takes two myths to encompass the mystery of life.)… The Wachowski brothers (well, it’s brother and sister now, I guess) spent a lot of time and money building a freeway section in Oakland and using it to film the action sequence in The Matrix Reloaded (2003). Seven years later, Knight and Day comes along, in this new age of CGI, and casually tosses out a scene on I-93 that makes a mockery of Neo and his ealier doings… I like Cruise and Diaz in this. Cute couple. He’s ten years older than her, which in Hollywood boy-and-girl years is just about right; Cameron won’t be playing this role ten years from now, though Cruise might… Sarsgaard is a cross between Jack Lemon and Keifer Sutherland here. Viola Davis earns a paycheck playing that CIA boss of a thousand movies; I hope they have reunions, those of this role; I’d like to see that; cocktail hour where they mingle, all being the boss; banquet and speeches; and then home, deep in the Valley.

***

So marijuana movies have become a genre? There was Cheech and Chong and there was Easy Rider, and increasingly, movies like Half Baked and the Friday movies. I recall a Canadian Vancouver-based movie with “green” in the title. And the one where the older woman is growing pot. But have we passed the grass tipping point? Perhaps with Weeds and Pineapple Express? When grass is finally legal, will the genre wither or simply transmogrify? To be continued…

***

Leaves of Grass (2009) – I can’t get over how well actors act, especially actors like Edward Norton. The movie begins with him lecturing a class in classical philosophy and he, well, he sounds like a professor giving a lecture that he’s given many times before, with lots and lots of words pouring out of his mouth. Lately I often find myself shaking my head as I watch a scene, thinking, Now that’s acting!…And speaking of words pouring out, I was noticing once again that Kermode is remarkable in that respect, once he gets wound up. He talks about the talent in his book… I like this movie. Feels fresh and is for sure unpredictable. Tim Blake Nelson wrote, directed, and did a good job acting in it. He’s a busy guy. The Grey Zone (2001) was one of his. He’s got six more in post-production or filming… The film’s social conscience, such as it is, makes it a nice sidebar to Red Beard.

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The Filmspotting Forum’s movie dictation club or group or boards or whatever it is has dictated Red Beard (1965) to me for December. Watch and report. I haven’t done one of these since last February. Must get under way tonight, though last time it took me ten months to wrap it up... Possible beard marathon: Red Beard, Yellowbeard, Blackbeard, Bluebeard, Silver Beard, and Janice Beard.

Or, for those bloggers with the lists: The King’s Beard; Growin’ a Beard; The Lady and the Beard; Spock’s Beard: Don’t Try This at Home; The Man with the White Beard; The Dreaded Beard; Beard Club; Beard & Co; Beard & Moustache Experiments Nos. 1-4; Beard the Lion; Bested by a Beard; Bothered by a Beard; Enter the Beard; Father’s Beard; Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard; Sam’s Artistic Beard; Snow Beard; Hello, Fred the Beard; The Beard; The Winter of the Beard; Why Father Grew a Beard; and With Peter Beard in Africa: Last Word from Paradise.

***

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – Like Connery as Bond, Noomi Rapace defines the role. Rooney Mara may step up, but one thing we know for sure: she won’t be ripped like Rapace is.

***

Going the Distance (2010) – A good movie to study in screenwriting class. What works in it and what doesn’t? Plenty of both to choose from. Exam question: how many different movies are fighting each other to get out, and which of them, if any, amkes it?… It’s also a good movie to rag on for fun…  Has Drew Barrymore had work done? Besides the reduction surgery, I mean. Makeup can make an amazing difference, as anyone who has been to a wedding knows. But still, the woman just looks different here and I wonder whether simple weight loss and cosmetics can explain it… This is director Nanette Burstein’s first foray into fiction. I liked The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) a lot, and the book even better, skipped American Teen (2008). Barrymore shoulda gave her a hand with this. The we-almost-make-it ending provides a metaphor for the whole movie… Whoa. Just saw Mick LaSalle’s review in the S.F. Chronicle: little man jumping out of his seat. One of the best romcoms of 2010. Gives us a flavor of the economic concerns of young folks. That would be Drew and Justin Long. Well, in the movie Drew gets a job at the Chron, so let’s cut LaSalle some slack. The NYT liked the movie, which is why I watched it. No accounting…

***

The Mystery of Charles Dickens (2000) is Simon Callow’s one man show featuring the great man and Callow is up to the job. I like these things. Watched the Ian McKellen Shakespeare anthology, Acting Shakespeare (1982), the other night. Who knew, watching him emote, that in the fullness of his years he’d find himself transmogrified into Magneto, surrounded by bad mutant henchmen. Callow as Dickens immediately introduces a mystery in his show, by saying something about a “rook’s nest.” I thought that a rook was simply another name for a crow in a flock. Hence, a single bird in a nest couldn’t be a rook. But no, I’ve learned something. A rook is just one type of crow. That’s too bad. I liked the idea of crows ganging up and acting rookishly, but I’ve been disabused. Though I haven’t been rooked.

***

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… The American, John Sweet, wasn’t a professional actor; Powell saw him work in a production of Our Town in England (he was a G.I. over there for WW II) and hired him for the movie; he never made another one and now he’s a retired teacher in North Carolina. But anyway, I keep hearing John Wayne in Sweet’s voice, so I checked and the two were born within 280 miles of each other, 9 years apart, so I guess that explains the accent… From the dialog, sounds like the movie was made before Pearl Harbor, during Lend-Lease. An interesting time in American/UK history, which we don’t often see onscreen. (Later: nope, it was made after Pearl Harbor, but to hear the actors say it, there were still a lot of isolationists after the Japanese attack. I should look it up. I’d say Pressburger got that wrong.)… The movie is a fable, a confection, a propaganda film, with four miraculous happy endings for the price of one,  but everyone in it is so damned decent and honorable, with the young men preparing to ship out (the Normandy landings commenced on June 6, 1944), that I couldn’t help feeling moved. The heroic English score didn’t hurt. There is a sequence of bombed out buildings, followed by a quick shot of contrails overhead, that is worth the price of admission for me. The actors are all gone now, save for Sweet and Sheila Sim, and God bless them both. Criterion includes interviews with each… It’s rare to find an actor or actress named Sim (my mother’s maiden name), at least of the English or Scottish variety, Sim also being an Asian name. Alastair Sim playing Scrooge might be the most famous…

***

Iron Man 2 (2010) – You know how sometimes in the credits there is a crawl with a list of stars, diminishing in luster a la Doug Benson’s Leonard Maltin game, but with “and Marlon Brando” or “with Laurence Olivier”  at the end? This one has that, using “with,” and my question is, what’s the difference between “and” and “with”? Is it just whim, or do the two uses signify?

***

There is a line running from revenge to slasher and the dude in The Horseman (2008) is located quite a ways along that line away from Josey Wales and towards Michael Myers – unless we just accept Australians as operating on a trigger more easily pulled than otherwise normal… Scene-not-seen-before: dad receives daughter’s ashes in a pot. Takes pot to the ashes cemetery, I’ve forgotten what that place is called. Later retrieves the ashes and takes them home for later scattering. Discovers daughter was in a porn video. Dumps ashes in kitchen wastebasket. Thinks better of it later and sits on kitchen floor sorting ashes from peelings.

***

Anybody here remember Terence Hill (Mario Girotti)? Back when Eastwood headed back to the States, the blue-eyed, blond Hill helped fill the spagetti-western void in the ’70s with movies like My Name Is Trinity (1970) and My Name is Nobody (1973). I sat watching Doc West (2009) last night, marvelling at this dude. He’s 71 and looks absolutely great. How did he manage that? The movie itself is silly family fare, upon which I won’t rag. The nostalgic, elegiac music cranks up every time a female face or landscape appears onscreen – that was a good thing. Someone complained about a couple of glitches in the sound sync, but I’m guessing that some of the actors spoke their lines in English and others were dubbed from Italian… This is a movie where the hero steps into the saloon and the piano stops and silence falls as he walks to the bar and orders a glass of iced tea… One thing that did make me smile was the scene in which Doc West rides into Santa Fe – a typical cowboy-movie town on the prairie, with an assortment of boxy clapboard houses distributed along a wide main street – whereas Santa Fe was founded in 1608. By the late 1800s, the town had been around for 250 years or so. Adobe and (Pueblo) Native Americans abounded. The funny thing is, this film was shot on location in Santa Fe, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of town. The state has a variety of western-town movie sets and Hill has worked at this one before. More New Mexico scenery, please!

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The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) – Fine entry in the kidnap genre.

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The fellows on /Filmcast were saying the other day how much they liked The Rockford Files (1974), so I Netflixed the show and watched an episode. James Garner was the likable actor of his day, sort of like Tom Selleck. Garner had filled out a bit from his Maverick days for Rockford… Funny to watch everyone drive around in those old U.S. clunkers with not a foreign car in sight, other than the odd Mercedes. Course, our Bug was seven years old by then and we had also acquired a little box-on-wheels, aluminum-engine Corolla… James Woods shows up in the episode I chose, very young… I never watched Rockford and I was trying to remember what I did watch in 1974.  The answer: not much. From ’62 to ’70, the only shows I remember are The Man From U.N.C.L.E (1964), Secret Agent (Danger Man) (1964), and for a year at dinner-time, F Troop (1965). Then a spate of Masterpiece Theater shows, but by ’74, we weren’t watching anything. Our TV set only received one station for years and we didn’t get color until ’81. But now, with DVDs, all things are possible.

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Solitary Man (2009) – Out of respect for what Michael Douglas is going through, I’m not going to rag on this movie. I will say that he plays the same part in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) and I liked him in that.

***

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) – Pleasant to watch – I’m partway through – with Ricardo Darín radiating some screen charisma. However, if this ends like I think it is going to end, both with respect to the crime and to the romance, I’m going to feel that it was too obvious and too plot-silly to deserve the Oscar respect that it received. I’m always glad to be watching a South American film, though. Reminds me of that PBS (?) series, the name of which I’ve forgotten [see comment below], used in Spanish class, that took place in part in Argentina and had a little romance in it… Later: My problem is, I’ve seen soooo many of these murder-mystery movies that it’s hard to ignore the wheels turning – hard not to spend time trying to guess the twists, which takes one out of the movie. Plus, the romance almost seems like part of another movie to me. I’ve seen a number of them lately with the man and woman reconnecting after twenty years or so… The writer has a bright idea for an ending and builds the story back from there, and then tacks on the romance. I mean, if man and woman are desperately in love for x years, why did nothing happen all that time? Explain please… And there is the matter of the Oscar. I remember when Silence of the Lambs won. It was a moment in my life when I realized that some things were never going to get better and the best that I could hope for was that they not get any worse. Silence of the Lambs, acme of U.S. culture for a year… I just caught a glimpse in the newspaper of a picture of Bening and Moore in The Kids Are All Right. Treasures.

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4 Responses

  1. The streaming feature has potential, but there is very little even of recent films on it. Also, there is the occasional clipping on the subtitles and no feature that I can tell to turn on subtitles for English language films. Can’t tell you the number of times somebody said something and it didn’t matter how many times I repeated it, I couldn’t figure it out. I still remember the story about the English and French subtitles on Casablanca that couldn’t agree about what Lorre was actually saying.

    My favorite is when you have “guest stars” in a movie. I think Stan Lee as the man mistaken for Larry King deserves a “with” rather than the more inclusive “and”.

    Love Terence Hill. I found him with My Name Is Nobody, watched the Trinity films, Crimebusters, and I think I should check out his TV show Don Matteo.

    I wish there was a way to comment on portions of your post, without all the work to snip out the portions. Oh well, I talk too much anyways.

    • No English subtitles for English-language films? That’s a disaster for some of us. My spouse requires them and I often do. Bummer.

      My blog layout doesn’t encourage comments on all the little snippets. Wonder what I can do about that?

      Michael, your blog continues to amaze. What a collection of movies you’ve watched and commented on. Truly impressive.

      • Just watched the new Joan Rivers documentary and on the PS3 there does seem to be a way to turn on subtitles. However, they weren’t available for this movie which makes me wonder.

        I had a humbling experience the other day when I found this blog: http://gravymovie.wordpress.com/

        10,000 movies! I am only up to 3,728.

      • I’ll have to look into this subtitle thing more deeply.

        A movie a day for 20 more years and you’re there, at 10,000. A person could take it easy and just watch a movie every two days and get there in 60 years. Course, every day that you watch one movie, many other new ones finish production somewhere in the world, some of which are must-sees before you croak. But perhaps if you keep your lifetime average high enough (and by you I mean us movie-watchers), you come back as an usher.

        I had the idea the other day that if you spend enough time with a particular movie, it becomes your friend. (But not a porn movie, which might just be pretending.)

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