Collected Dailies 9

Email from my niece:  Danny DeVito is coming to SF Sketchfest next Tuesday night at the Castro, to have a conversation with James L. Brooks after a screening of Broadcast News (1987). Janet being the co-founder/co-director, our tickets await at the door, if only we can bestir ourselves and drive up to the city. 99 acts in its 10th year; the thing is getting huge.

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Friday Night Lights and Undeclared, from Netflix. The Undeclared cast, after their 17 episodes and cancellation, go on to fame in various flavors. Who from Friday Night Lights has gone on to stardom?

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Androcles and the Lion (1952) – When I saw Victor Mature looking down from a balcony on Jean Simmons in this one, I immediately asked myself, what chemistry is this? Victor, dressed in his Roman general’s togs, looks tired, world weary, aging. Just his role, or too many Hollywood nights? I remember when I first noticed Pacino looking old. He never tried to hide it and I respected that. Some, age hardly touched. Paul Newman. Some aged early. Tommy Lee Jones got the gig in Space Cowboys (2000), side by side with Garner, Eastwood, and Donald Sutherland, and didn’t look out of place with the three geezers at all. Supposedly, he was their contemporary. Either way with Victor, the true ravages of age or a role calling for a worn-out legionaire, I took his interest in Simmons, who was dressed, or wrapped, in a simple white fabric and was in her early twenties at the time, with a mixture of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor vibes and plenty of closeups, to be that of an older man called upon to reflect on life’s beauty and missed opportunities. Then I discovered that he was only 38 when he made the movie and that whole train of thought went out the window.

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Mother and Child (2009) – A lot to like. Be fun to write about, some rainy day.

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Arn: The Knight Templar (2007) – In Sweden, it’s all in Swedish; in the Holy Land, English. Then Arn lays out a little Arabic and Saladin says, “You speak our language.” and I thought, Dude, you’re a Kurd; it’s not your language either. But Saladin probably never made a big deal about the Kurd thing whilst uniting the Arabs.

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The Social Network (2010) – Sorkin can write, no doubt about that. I was taken out of the movie somewhat by Eisenberg channeling Danny Pudi all the way through… My college had four fraternities, one each for the BMOC, jocks, rich party animals, and nerds (before the taxonomy of nerds had been clearly established). As a freshman, I attended all the rush parties. Uncomfortable! Except for that of the nerd group. On the day that invitations to join appeared in our student-union mailboxes, I found one, from the nerds. This being the early 60s,  it turned out that the nerds, to the surprise of everyone, harvested all the most sought-after frosh. This being the early 60s, although I attended the introductory parties, I never considered actually joining a fraternity. I was gratified by the invite, though. And I did have a girlfriend for a year who was in a sorority, so I did get to go to a couple of parties and a couple of dances, getting drunk at all of them, and experiencing the  sorority-house cat and gossip.

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Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds clearly didn’t see Kill Bill (2004), in which The Bride faces the same situation. I felt a lot more uncomfortable with Uma in the box that I did with Reynolds, but then she was only required to zen punch her way out, not emote for ninety minutes in a Stephen King-type situation… Funny to hear Stephen Tobolowsky’s dulcet tones over the line three-quarters of the way through, as he be’s mean. If you’ve never listened to The Tobolowsky Files podcast, I recommend it… Having watched North Face (2008), Frozen (2010), and this one, I am not taking endings for granted anymore.

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Big Love, season 4 – I’m sort of amazed at how dialed-up this season is – intense every moment. There have been crises that in previous seasons would have taken weeks to resolve. Here,they crop up and then get shouldered aside because so much else is going on. Makes me wonder what the final season, number 5, just beginning, can do to maintain parity, or more… I haven’t checked any reviews or discussions or whatever, but of the multitude of soaps I’ve watched, I can’t remember seeing anything like this. It’s great…And it goes out with a perfect bang. Soap at its best… Meanwhile, the next-t0-last episode of Caprica 1.5 introduces a plot twist that I so never saw coming. That’s what I always liked about BSG and Lost: the surprises.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) – How I knew this was a class film: Milla Jovovich goes to the showers, gets the water running, takes off her guns and knives, but before she can remove a single piece of leather, gets interrupted and has to go fight zombies… I have absolutely no memory of the first three entries in this franchise, all of which I’ve seen. This one is all about the visuals. Ali Larter adopts a babe look that doesn’t work for me as well as her Heroes persona… Some rainy day, I’d like to look into this more closely – Wes Anderson and Jovovich, now 35 and a mom but still kicking zombie ass. Instead of using the quick cuts that make it impossible for the viewer to follow a fight, Anderson goes the other way, using slo mo to linger over the action. Video game on screen.

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One little thing about Big Love: seems to me that often as not, they don’t get the hymns right. Seems like a strange thing to get wrong, but every few episodes I find myself thinking, where did that music come from?

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Listening to a Robert Parker 2010 novel. He left a few behind when he died, which is good. Takes a little of the fun out of it, though, knowing that he’s gone.

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Went to see Amaracord (1973) one night in San Diego, back in ’73, and then The Godfather (1972) the following night. My impression at the time: Coppola was no Fellini, in spite of The Godfather’s subsequent glory. I mention this because I watched the first hour of Piranha (2010) last night, after watching Machete the night before, and Aja is no Rodriquez. I can enjoy a ride at the county fair, but for a classic ride, you’ve got to go find a Disneyland… First sign of trouble in Piranha: old guy gets eaten but later his bloody corpse washes up. Corpse?!? These are Jurassic super piranhas? There shouldn’t be anything left of the geezer but a couple of clean white bones, a wedding ring, and a grinning skull; Aja just wanted that corpse to rear up in th water; weak! Second sign of trouble: the CGI blood is laughably bad – there is no excuse for bad CGI blood in this, our high-tech age – bad CGI in 2011 is sort of like Rush Limbaugh still big and bold eleven years into the new millenium. Makes you realize that (1) Kubrick was off by a thousand years and (2) it takes less than 50% of the population to screw everybody, including the planet itself… Anyway. T&A-wise, Aja is a wannabe Rob Zombie here, and I’m thinking of unrated, director’ cut of The Devil’s Rejects. Inadvertantly or vertantly, Aja has put himself in his own movie via Jerry O’Connell. My best financial advice to you the reader: invest in gun companies. They do well no matter what, and especially well in times of trauma, like, for example, when a mentally ill person goes on a shooting spree at a public gathering. If the individual uses a Glock, say, and manufactures casualties in the double digits, Glock sales dependably shoot up. You could look it up… Anyway. Too many underwater piranha POV shots after which, cutting back above water, the piranhas don’t show. Weak! Rule of thumb: the more artificial boobs, the worse the movie. So far in Piranaha, they’re all artificial. In Crank: High Voltage (2009), the Neveldine/Taylor flick, the artificial boob takes a round and springs a leak. Now that’s quality moviemaking! Let’ go see what Aja can do in the final 28 minutes to win me over… I hiked in to Havasu Canyon back in ’58, before the lake was created. Canyons, waterfalls, reservation. When the lake came on the scene, my parents bought a lot. Nothing ever came of it, even after the developers moved London Bridge to the lake, piece by piece. I wonder if it’s still there.

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Machete (2010) – Doctor tells nurse that human intestine is 60 feet long. Shortly thereafter, Danny Trejo, holding a scalpel and faced with a bad guy, needs to dive out a window with a 60-foot drop to survive… Babe agent sits in her car in front of a house. House blows up. Barbecued corpse bad guy lands on her hood with meat thermometer sticking out of his neck. Red mercury goes up and pops out top of thermometer with little squeekey sound… At some point in this thing, I realized that I might be watching a classic, according to my personal definition of the term. Trejo, the aging incredible ultimate chick magnet. Steven Seagal, wearing a truly strange rug, his fat draped, playing the mom- and daughter-decapitating chief bad guy. De Niro, capping his career with an accent of unknown provenance. Jeff Fahey, no longer Lost: “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In hell.” “Then give them my best regards…” and “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In heaven.” “Guess I won’t be seeing them, then.” Cheech in a dog collar, with a box of Cubans and a box of Mexican blunts. Don Johnson, gunning down innocents… Is there a baby-boomer vibe with this venerable cast? Many a moment when Tarantino would have stuck in a homage, but Rodriquez is his own homage… Attack of the undocumented: lots of pimped out low riders, one of which rears way up and squashes a bad guy, and, at the back of the pack, an ice-cream cart… It’s a classic if I want to rewatch it later, and then again later; so the jury is out. It’s got a chance, though.

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Big Love, season 4, and Caprica 1.5 – Both still getting it done for me. Medicine for Melancoly (2010) – Good start; looking forward to watching this one. Lots of San Francisco in a genuine indie with a cool color scheme: black and white with shades of color.

Major Barbara (1941) – I sat down to watch this mainly to see Wendy Hiller again. Plus Rex Harrison and an all-star cast… After being away from Shaw for a long time, I was looking for something to read on vacation a while back and took along Man and Superman. I had forgotten what an interesting blend of romantic comedy, conversation, politics, and religion some of his plays present. He wrote Major Barbara in 1905. Young penniless academic fellow (Harrison) falls hard for young Major in the Salvation Army (Hiller), who turns out to be the daughter of the world’s most successful (richest), eccentric maker of weapons  – as opposed to, in Pygmalion (1938), not-so-young well-off academic felow (Leslie Howard, and then Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964)) falls hard for poor young flower-seller (Hiller)… Here, our very first glimpse of Deborah Kerr in the movies… Major Barbara has a great deal of dialog that, it seems to me, would be of great interest to Kurosawa (who I’ve been studying). I’ve got to Google Shaw and Kurosawa and see if there is any connection between them… Well, there is someone named Shaw Kurosawa… Major Barbara was shot with German bombs falling on London. Cast and crew would run to the bomb shelters and then return when the all-clear sounded… The Salvation Army was formed in 1865; it was forty years old when Shaw wrote his play… I read a review in which the critic opined that there was much to relish in the movie but that just sort of sat there. Hmm. If you watch a Shaw play, you will be lectured; perhaps it was the critic who just sort of sat there while he took his medicine.

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Devil (2010) – Shyamalan finally got his name on something decent.

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One way to measure how good a romantic comedy is, is to see how quickly and how much you want the two protagonists to fall in love. In the case of ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945), the Powell/Pressburger film, with Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller as the lovebirds, for me, the answers are: quickly and a lot.

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The Other Guys (2010) – Enough smiles and chuckles to satisfy me. 44 Inch Chest (2009) – It screens like a play and I like plays. Just sat and enjoyed listening to a movie’s worth of dialog. Ian McShane plays the urbane, less-foul-mouthed member of the group, which is a change that’s fun.

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Why did Fonda make My Name is Nobody (1973)? I could look it up, or try to, and maybe I will…And while I’m at it, why did Leone want that movie  made, either?

But I’m glad they did it.

Fonda was 68, and looked pretty good for that, but his heart had to be bothering him by then, and it was an action film that had him on a horse and flat on the ground more than once. He had nine years left, and was involved in twenty-three more projects. Maybe he wanted to add to Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) or maybe he just wanted to work, because that’s what he did. It’s a same to see a legend showing up in his twilight for something like Tentacles (1977). But then, Shelley Winters, John Huston, and Bo Hopkins were all in that thing as well. “It’s turning the beach… into a buffet.” Must have been some money to spend on salaries…

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I was in Safeway yesterday and it seemed like every time I turned down an aisle, Alice Cooper and his mom were there, discussing some purchase. The guy stands out. Very friendly. He posed in the checkout line for a phone pic by my spouse, who told him that she was a fan, though beyond recognizing his name, she doesn’t know much about him. He’s just finished his 2010 Theater of Death world tour and said he was fagged, and looked it… Tonight nine of us were sitting in a pizza joint, eating our pizza, when Owen Wilson came in for the fifth time in two weeks and waited ten or fifteen minutes in front of us for a couple of take-out pizzas. This was a couple of hours after the virial “Owen Wilson was killed snow-boarding” news on the Internet. The usual thoughts-when-face-to-face-with-a-celebrity crossed my mind. Get an autograph. Mention my niece, who had a role in at least one of his movies. Ignore him. Figure out a way to interact with him in a way that would cause a hint, a tiny particle, of his – fame, money, talent, you name it – to rub off on me. Then he left and the normal world reestablished itself in my vicinity. And speaking of my niece: ten years ago she and David Owen and Cole Stratton created SF Sketchfest. A decade later, the three of them continue as the festival’s directors  and the thing is just booming. It runs in SF for  three weeks every January and the list of performers this year blows my mind. Almost 300 entries. Roll call for  improv and standup. It’s Comedy University and all you need for admission to it is money.

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Sitting in Maui with a laptop, appropriately, in my lap, watching Futurama, My Name is Nobody (1973), and South Park is something new for me. The Netflix in the lap, not the Maui. Seems sort of decadent.

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Kenny (2006) – It made me laugh. The film took a while to get here from Australia, but worth the wait.

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Something has to be done  about the wolf pack situation in the eastern U.S. You can’t go skiing or snow boarding without being pulled down and eaten. You can’t go down into the New York subway, or was that a train station (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)), without the  same thing happening. Great time to be a wolf movie star, though, or his or her agent.

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One of the guys on /Filmcast absolutely loved Frozen (2010). Somebody else didn’t, I forget who. It’s genre, it’s predictable but unpredictable, it gives some love to New England ski slopes, which counts for something, even if was really filmed in Utah. Despite myself, by the end of it, I had some dampness in the armpits, sorry for that image. It’s a way to pass 93 minutes. If you want quality and a much deeper level of emotional distress, I refer you to North Face (2008).

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The Duplass brothers continue to ascend and I still haven’t watched the second half of The Puffy Chair (2005). It’s an outrage… If you know what they were doing with the camera in Cyrus (2010), please write and tell me – that little zoom in/zoom out thing and clunky back-and-forth move during the one-on-one conversations… Working with John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and Catherine Keener – that’s making a movie… Tomei and Hill did the same zoned-out-zombie thing; were they being mother and son with that? It worked for me.

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The A-Team (2010) – Right off the bat, quick cuts in the action scenes. I do not like that. Nothing actually has to happen. The director just needs to capture snippets of action and stitch them together. Boo… But having said that, if you want an expansive (they’re all expensive but not all expansive)  action movie with some ideas and some stars,  you’ve got to put up with cost-cutting somewhere. Good action movies don’t grow on trees. And while I’m think of it, I liked G. I. Joe (2009) just fine; don’t know why so many rag on it… Why the hyphen in “A-Team”?… At the end of the movie, as everything is blowing up, metal hurling, fireballs, gunfire, exploding cars, so forth, I noticed that there was a score, and I had to smile as I imagined Alan Silvestri sitting there watching the silent footage of the mayhem and shouting out to his wife and kids in the kitchen, I’m supposed to write music for that!!?!… But he wrote the score for Volcano (1997), so maybe not.

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Pranzo di ferragosto (Mid-August Tea) (2008) – Mid-August in Rome, when the holiday Ferragosto is celebrated. Four women in their 80s and 90s. Two men in their 60s. Nobody gets hurt. Wine is drunk and food is eaten. There are smiles. The Italian for “It’s fine” and “Don’t worry” and “Eat!” and other such simple phrases is repeated often enough for you to learn and remember them.

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One Response

  1. Just the description of Buried (2010) gives me the creeps. I’ve only recently gotten over the time I spent watching “The Bride” underground. I think it will have to remain unseen for me.

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