Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Marathon Man (1976) **

It's really well put together, Sir Larry and Dusty give "A" list performances, Marthe is lovely, NYC looks gritty and grimy in that awesome '70's way, but the implausibility of it all is too much in the end. Still, it's worth seeing if only to be reminded of a time when only the bad guys used torture.

Monday, February 23, 2015

'Arrested Development' Season 5 Air Date: What's In Store For Next Installment?

“Right now I’m cutting a version of season four that tells it chronologically,” said Hurwitz in an interview with Pretentious Film Majors. “There’s more of a story that has to be told somehow, and we’ve got the whole story broken. Season four was always meant to be like act one of a three-act structure.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Solo con tu pareja (1991) *

Disappointing first feature from otherwise talented director Alfonso Cuaron is ostensibly a rom-com/sex farce but it's lit like a dour crime drama, not funny and not the least romantic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Miller's Crossing (1990) ***

Typically solid Coen's production doesn't soar to the heights of some of their other films, but it's still packed with smart and witty scenes and some terrific supporting performances.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) ****

How to do an action/fantasy film right. One of the greats.

The Humbling (2014) **

It's always Pacino you're watching, but he's interesting to watch plus he has excellent support from Greta Gerwig. Opens and closes a lot like another film but without the same panache.

Jupiter Ascending (2015) **

Overlong, repetitive and predictable, this grand space opera does have a handful of superb action sequences that break the over-cut, shaky-cam approach of most action films these days. Excellent art direction, makeup, costumes it's just not quite there in terms of compelling narrative or compelling leads.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Letter To The Millennials — Medium

So one of the things I want to teach you about is a time from 1965–1980 when the artists really ruled both the music and the film industries. Some said "the lunatics had taken over the asylum” (and, amusingly enough, David Geffen named his record company Asylum), but if you look at the quality of work that was produced, it was extraordinary; in fact, most of it is still watched and listened to today. Moreover, in that period the most artistic work also sold the best: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper was without doubt the best record of the year but also the best selling, and The Godfather was similarly both best movie of the year and the biggest box office hit. That’s not happening right now, and I want to try to understand why that is.

Aside from the subjective distinction about what constitutes "the most artistic work", during that period (65-80) the artists and the majority of the public were the same generation. It was because the Baby Boomers numbers were so huge they were, and still are, the primary market force. Today, Boomers don't go the movies very often (or buy as much music) but Millenials do it's just that their numbers are nowhere near as large as the Boomers so they are a market force, just not on the scale of the Boomers' heyday. Great movies and music are still being made today, arguably better than ever, but the market is much more diverse than ever so to be a "best seller" the movie/song has to be appreciated by all segments and that usually spells "artistic" disaster.

Note: Starting with this post, excerpts from the linked content will be shown in Italics at the top of the post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Case for Hollywood History by Francine Prose | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"Until recently, I’d assumed it was understood that Hollywood would emphasize the 'story' aspects of history, and that a distortion of real events, on screen, would hardly constitute a lie. Except for those cases in which I felt that a film was being used as propaganda—Zero Dark Thirty comes to mind—I’d never been particularly disturbed, and certainly not surprised, to learn that a feature film had altered a real event so as to ramp up the drama. At what point, I wonder, did we start expecting films to tell the truth about the past? And won’t we be in trouble if we do?

The films of the '70's represented a major shift in style for mainstream films towards a more realistic portrayal of everyday reality. The idea was to better reflect the reality of most moviegoers rather than present an escape. Thus, movies came to be seen as more "real". Compare nearly any film from 1952 with any film from 1972. The former are not even attempting to represent reality, but a 'story' reality and the viewer knows this. Films today trade on this almost hyper-reality, trying to convince the viewer that they are watching in effect a "newsreel" and not a fictional narrative. THIS is the problem when your "story" is supposed to be something that really happened and the movie wants you to believe it really happened but it DID NOT HAPPEN. That's usually called "lying". The thing is, this is NOT a big problem to correct. Just change the names of the people involved, move the locale, switch the genders, do SOMETHING CREATIVE and stop trying to sell tickets "based on true events" that never happened.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Age of Consent (1969) **

The great Michael Powell's last film and like all his others it's interesting and beautifully shot if not entirely compelling. Certain directors could learn a lot about "finding something to look at" just by viewing this film. Uneven but enjoyable.

Stairway to Heaven (1946) ***

Romantic fantasy of WWII aviator who miraculously and mistakenly survives plane crash and must defend his life in a sort of way station to Eternity in order to keep it. Spectacular images and surprisingly intelligent script are high points but there's a section of the "court room" discourse that veers off into a lengthy and irrelevant history lesson that really takes you out of the picture. Still the visuals are worth it.

Grammys 2015: Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares Person of Year speech - LA Times

"Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too, up in about '63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. 'Big River,' 'I Walk the Line.'

"'How high's the water, Mama?' I wrote 'It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)' with that song reverberating inside my head. I still ask, 'How high is the water, mama?' Johnny was an intense character. And he saw that people were putting me down playing electric music, and he posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing.

"In Johnny Cash's world -- hardcore Southern drama -- that kind of thing didn't exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing. They just didn't do that kind of thing. I'm always going to thank him for that. Johnny Cash was a giant of a man, the man in black. And I'll always cherish the friendship we had until the day there is no more days."

Crazy, rambling, confessional, score-settling monologue by Bob Dylan. And sorry, Bob, your voice IS shot.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Undernews: Study: Monsanto helped kill the monarch butterfly

"The report makes it abundantly clear: two decades of Roundup Ready crops have nearly eradicated milkweed—the monarch caterpillar’s sole source of food—in cropland of the monarch’s vital Midwest breeding ground."

The Lion in Winter (1968) **

12th century English royal court shenanigans brought to rambunctious life by a fine cast with an even finer script. The scenes stretched out to "expand" the original play are unnecessary and detract from the experience however.

Bitter Victory (1957) **

Odd WWII film set in North Africa dares to ask when is it "war" and when is it "murder" instead of just being a pro-Allies propaganda flick. Admirable, but the script and leads are not quite up to the task.

On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno | Interview | Music | The Guardian

"'I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.'"

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Pro Dumpster Diver Who's Making Thousands Off America's Biggest Retailers | WIRED

"While researching his book, Humes obtained what was one of the last interviews with William Rathje, the late University of Arizona garbage researcher. During that conversation, the archaeologist said that US overconsumption reminded him of the ancient civilizations he had studied, in which the moment that extravagance began to outstrip resources always seemed to signal the descent into contraction and decline. In Garbology, Humes urged a break with that historical pattern and an all-out commitment to cutting waste. But in his conversation with Rathje, the university researcher noted one big problem with this idea: 'No great civilization of the past has ever pulled this off,' Humes says Rathje told him. 'None.'”

Sirens (1993) ***

Superb casting helps this straightforward look at Australian painter Norman Lindsey who had a penchant for nudes. With models like this can you blame him? Nicely done.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Undernews: Recovered history: The biggest protest with the most arrests in American history

"Yet Mayday has no place in our collective memory, thanks in part to the pop culture habit of shoe-horning protest history into 'the Sixties.' This nonviolent radical action, moreover, doesn't fit into the classic narrative of the New Left's rise and fall, a story in which noble democratic ideals degenerate into bitterness and violence; large movement organizations are painstakingly built and then collapse; and revolutionary phantasms overtake a radicalism based on homegrown traditions of dissent."

We are creatures of narrative, yet reality doesn't have any.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Bernie: A blunder for the ages : Sports

"And maybe just a tad lucky, too. Brady won his first Super Bowl, at the end of the 2001 season, when Rams coach Mike Martz had a lapse in strategy by failing to give enough carries to future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk."

Again with this canard! If you check the stats for SB XXXVI you'll see that Faulk averaged 4.5 yards per carry whereas Warner had 8.3 yards per throw. They should have thrown MORE not less, as most NFL teams have discovered since. The Rams lost because they had 3 turnovers (and a missed field goal) and the Patriots had none. You seldom win any game with a differential like that.

And the Seahawks didn't lose because they called a pass play at the 1 yard line. They called the WRONG pass play, a very risky pass play to the inside, and Wilson failed to realize it in time and throw the ball out of the end zone.