Sunday, May 06, 2007

Black Book d. Verhoeven

Yesterday, I just had one of those experiences that stayed with me all through the day. I was lucky enough to take the 5 minute walk to the Garden Cinemas and catch what may be the best new film that I will see all year. Paul Verhoeven's Black Book is such a wonderful over the top melodramatic film, made about such a serious subject that it's only hours after leaving the theater in awe of what I saw that I was even able to attempt to delve into what I loved so much about the film. Not even my bedroom ceiling falling down last night under the weight of water, in my first weekend in a new apartment in a new state, 2 days before I start a new job (perhaps more on that later), can temper my enthusiasm about this film.

Black Book starts off by telling the story of Rachel (soon to be Ellis) a Jewish girl living in Nazi occupied Holland. Soon enough, after her hiding place is bombed by the Nazis Rachel through rapid succession of circumstances finds herself working as part of the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation. Having recently been lucky enough to have seen Melville's Army of Shadows in the theater last year parts of the resistance story seemed familiar, even if set in a different country. Verhoeven had numerous tight and tense scenes of resistance fighters attempting to make their way in and out of various Nazi posts on what seemed mostly like suicide missions. And their were more than enough of these action or suspense sequences to keep virtually any viewer entertained I would guess.

However, what stuck with me throughout the film, and what is sticking with me afterwards is the overwhelming moral ambiguity of the characters and their motives throughout the film. The resistance fighters are flawed. A Nazi has a kind heart. Their were so many twists and turns throughout the film that in the end, it was not out of the question to be wondering who exactly am I supposed to be rooting for here? One way Verhoeven achieved this was bringing his characters sometimes unwillingly, sometimes unknowingly into acts of violence. A devout Christian member of the resistance struggles to even pull the trigger as he sees his fellow member of the resistance getting beat near the point of death, that is until he hears the assailaint take the Lords name in vain. Then the bullets come flying. Do members of the resistance sacrifice Jews for their own fellow non Jewish Dutch countrymen? Questions like that arise against such a fast paced kinetic background, that if you stop for a moment to think about it as you are viewing you may miss the next twist, and there are several!

But, what's more? It's only after the Dutch resistance has proven "successful" and Holland is liberated that Verhoeven brings more problems to the core. As, Dutch flags wave in the street and soldiers come down in a parade on side streets women are having their blonde hair shaven, stipped to their underwear holding up signs "Nazi Whore." Is Verhoeven suggesting that the Dutch treatment of their own citizens after the war was no better than the Nazis? One character says as much. But, again, as the viewer, where do we look in the film for definitive answers. More often than not their isn't a definitive answer. The moral ambiguity throughout, and the questions one is left with is the very genius of the film. In a story about the indisputable good cause of the Dutch resistance against Nazi Germany we see the darkest side of human nature in our heroes as well as our villains.

It's been years since I have seen Basic Instinct or Showgirls, two of Verhoeven's more recent efforts. But like in those films sex does play a huge role in this film. Rachel/Ellis is stripped bare often in aid of the resistance, and humiliated often as well. Candice von Houten bravely plays her role. It's the first film I have seen her in, and after seeing this film their is nobody else I could picture in this role. She was wonderful. The rest of the supporting cast at the very least held their own and at times were even magnificent, Thom Hoffman as the resistance fighter Hans especially stood out, as did Sebastian Kock as Muntze, head of the Nazi SS.

More even than wanting to recommend this film to all of my friends I now find myself also wanting to check out earlier Verhoeven as well. I am among many that snickered at Starship Troopers and Showgirls, but after an effort like this, I think its time for me to give his other films another look as well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Second Annual BS Movie Draft

Because I have one more cup of coffee to finish before hitting the bank, post office, and a Tree Festival, I may as well address the Second Annual BS Movie Draft!

Yes this was brought to us by the same people who brought us The Director Draft in March of this year. And before that, Last Years Inaugural Movie Draft. The internet is a strange place, when you find these exercises on a soccer message board. But as I have mentioned before last years Movie Draft was one of the funnest experiences I had, and probably more than anything stirred the direction of this blog to be primarily focused on film. So, howbout that.

At any rate the rules were similar to the first draft...

The aliens are pissed. After opening up the time capsule containing the movies from the first BigSoccer Movie Draft and sitting through dross like the Unusual Suspects and Big Fish, they've demanded a recount.

SO once again, if humanity were destroyed tonight, what movies would you place inside a time capsule to be discovered by either possible survivors, future sentient beings, or aliens?

Movies selected in the first draft are ineligible. See below for alphabetized list.

The draft will be ten rounds. Four hour windows for each pick. PM the next in line when you've made yours. Please proxy picks if you know you'll be ofline for awhile.

The winner will be the one who selects ten movies that best offer the greatness of cinema to future civilizations. "Greatness," of course, will be defined by participants to their individual tastes. Basically, it's a ********ing free for all.

We had 13 participants this time around and a stable of 200 movies chosen in the first draft, which could not be chosen this time around...

African Queen, The (1951 Huston)After Life (1998 Hirokazu)Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972 Herzog)Airplane! (1980 Abrams, Zucker Bros.)Alien (1979 Scott)All About Eve (1950 Mankieweicz)All About My Mother (1999 Almodóvar)Amadeus (1984 Forman)American Graffiti (1973 Lucas)American in Paris, An (1951 Minnelli)Andrei Rublev (1969 Tarkovsky)Animal House (1978 Landis)Apartment, The (1960 Wilder)Apocalypse Now (1979 Coppola)Awful Truth, The (1937 McCrarey)Babe (1995 Noonan)Band of Outsiders (1964 Godard)Battle of Algiers, The (1965 Pontecorvo)Battleship Potemkin (1925 Eisenstein)
Being John Malkovich (1999 Jonze)Belle De Jour (1967 Bunuel)Best Years Of Our Lives, The (1946 Wyler)Bicycle Thief, The (1948 De Sica)Big Fish (2003 Burton)Big Lebowski, The (1998 Coen)Big Sleep, The (1946 Hawks)Birds, The (1963 d. Hitchcock)Birth of a Nation, The (1915 Griffith)Black Rain (1989 Imamura)Blade Runner (1982 Scott)Blood Simple (1984 Coen)Blow-Up (1966 Antonioni)Blue Angel (1930 Von Sternberg)Blue Velvet (1986 Lynch)Breaking the Waves (1996 Von Trier)Brazil (1985 Gilliam)Breathless (1960 Godard)Bridge on the River Kwai (1957 Lean)Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974 Peckinpah)Bringing Up Baby (1938 Hawks)Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969 Hill)
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1919 Wiene)Caddyshack (1980 Ramis)Casablanca (1942 Curtiz)Casino (1995 Scorsese)Chariots of Fire (1981 Hudson)Chinatown (1974 Polanski)
Cinema Paradiso (1989 Tornatore)Citizen Kane (1941 Welles)City Lights (1931 Chaplin)
City of God (2002 Meirelles, Lund)Clerks (1994 Smith)Clockwork Orange, A (1971 Kubrick)Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977 Spielberg)Colors trilogy (1993-94 Kieslowski)Cool Hand Luke (1967 Rosenberg)Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000 A. Lee)Das Boot (1981 Petersen)Days of Being Wild (1991 Wong)Days of Heaven (1978 Malick)Dazed and Confused (1993 Linklater)Dead Man (1995 Jarmusch)Dead Poets Society (1989 Weir)Decalogue, The (1989 Kieslowski)Deer Hunter, The (1978 Cimino)Do the Right Thing (1989 S. Lee)Double Indemnity (1944 Wilder)Dr. Strangelove (1964 Kubrick)Duck Soup (1933 McCarey)East of Eden (1955 Kazan)Eat Drink Man Woman (1994 A. Lee)8 1/2 (1963 Fellini)Empire Strikes Back, The (1980 Lucas)Enter the Dragon (1973 Clouse)
Evil Dead trilogy (1981-92 Raimi)Fargo (1996 Coen)Fanny and Alexander (1982 Bergman)Fantasia (1940 various)Floating Weeds (1959 Ozu)Forbidden Games (1951 Clement)Full Metal Jacket (1987 Kubrick)400 Blows, The (1959 Truffaut)Godfather, The (1972 Coppola)Godfather Part II, The (1974 Coppola)Gone with the Wind (1939 Fleming)Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966 Leone)Goodfellas (1990 Scorsese)Graduate, The (1967 Nichols)Grand Illusion, The (1937 Renoir)Great Dictator, The (1940 Chaplin)Great Escape, The (1963 Sturges)Hard Day's Night, A (1964 Lester)
Harold and Maude (1971 Ashby)High Noon (1952 Zinneman)His Girl Friday (1940 Hawks)
Hoosiers (1986 Anspaugh)How Green Was My Valley (1941 Ford)Ikiru (1952 Kurosawa)
In the Mood for Love (2000 Wong)It's a Wonderful Life (1946 Capra)Jaws (1975 Spielberg)Jean de Florette (1986 Berri)Kelly's Heroes (1970 Hutton)Kwaidan (1964 Kobayashi)L'Avventura (1960 Antonioni)La Dolce Vita (1960 Fellini)La Strada (1954 Fellini)Last Waltz, The (1978 Scorsese)Lawrence of Arabia (1962 Lean)Les Diaboliques (1955 Clouzot)Lion King (1994 Allers, Minkoff)Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03 Jackson)Los Olvidados (1950 Buñuel)M (1931 Lang)Mahanagar – aka The Big City (1963 S. Ray)Maltese Falcon, The (1941 Huston)Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, The (1965 Melvaux)Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962 Ford)Manchurian Candidate, The (1962 Frankenheimer)Marriage of Maria Braun, The (1979 Fassbinder)Mary Poppins (1964 Stevenson)Masculin, Feminin (1966 Godard)Menace II Society (1993 Hughes Bros.)
Metropolis (1927 Lang)Monkey Business (1931 McLeod)Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 Gilliam, Jones)Mulholland Dr. (2001 Lynch)My Fair Lady (1964 Cukor)My Life as a Dog (1985 Hallström)My Man Godfrey (1936 La Cava)Night of the Hunter, The (1955 Laughton)Night of the Living Dead (1968 Romero)Nights of Cabiria (1957 Fellini)Night on Earth (1991 Jarmusch)North By Northwest (1959 Hitchcock)Nosferatu (1922 Murnau)Notorious (1946 Hitchcock)Oklahoma! (1955 Zinneman)Olympia (1938 Riefenstahl)
On the Waterfront (1954 Kazan)Once Upon a Time in the West (1968 Leone)One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975 Forman)Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976 Eastwood)Passion of Joan of Arc, The (1928 Dreyer)Pather Panchali (1955 S. Ray)Paths of Glory (1957 Kubrick)Philadelphia Story, The (1940 Cukor)Pierrot le Fou (1965 Godard)Persona (1966 Bergman)Platoon (1986 Stone)Princess Bride, The (1987 Reiner)Psycho (1960 Hitchcock)
Pulp Fiction (1994 Tarantino)Qatsi trilogy (1983-2002 Reggio)Quiet Man, The (1952 Ford)Raging Bull (1980 Scorsese)Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 Spielberg)Raising Arizona (1987 Coen)Ran (1985 Kurosawa)Rashomon (1950 Kurosawa)Rear Window (1954 Hitchcock)Rebecca (1940 Hitchcock)Rififi (1955 Dassin)Right Stuff, The (1983 Kaufman)
Roma, Citta Aperta – aka Open City (1945 Rossellini)Rosemary's Baby (1968 Polanski)Rules of the Game, The (1939 Renoir)Run Lola Run (1998 Tykwer)Samurai trilogy (1954-56 Inagaki)Sansho the Bailiff (1954 Mizoguchi)Scarface (1932 Hawks)Scarlet Street (1945 Lang)Schindler's List (1993 Spielberg)Searchers, The (1956 Ford)Secret of Roan Inish, The (1994 Sayles)Seven Samurai, The (1954 Kurosawa)Seventh Seal, The (1957 Bergman)Shadow of a Doubt (1943 Hitchcock)Shawshank Redemption, The (1994 Darabont)Sherlock, Jr. (1924 Keaton)Shining, The (1980 Kubrick)Silence of the Lambs, The (1991 Demme)Singin’ in the Rain (1952 Donen, Kelly)Sleeper (1973 Allen)
Some Like It Hot (1959 Wilder)Sound of Music, The (1965 Wise)Spinal Tap (1984 Reiner)Spirited Away (2001 Miyazaki)Stagecoach (1939 Ford)Stalag 17 (1953 Wilder)Sting, The (1973 Hill)Star Wars (1977 Lucas)Strictly Ballroom (1992 Lurhman)Sunrise (1927 Murnau)Sunset Boulevard (1950 Wilder)Taxi Driver (1976 Scorsese)Thin Blue Line, The (1988 Morris)Third Man, The (1949 Reed)39 Steps, The (1935 Hitchcock)Throne of Blood (1957 Kurosawa)To Catch a Thief (1955 Hitchcock)To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 Mulligan)Tokyo Story (1953 Ozu)Touch of Evil (1958 Welles)Toy Story (1995 Lasseter)Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948 Huston)12 Angry Men (1957 Lumet)2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 Kubrick)Ugetsu (1953 Mizoguchi)Un Chien Andalou (1929 Buñuel)Usual Suspects, The (1995 Singer)Vertical Ray of the Sun, The (2000 Tran)Vertigo (1958 Hitchcock)West Side Story (1961 Wise, Robbins)Wild Bunch, The (1969 Peckinpah)Wings of Desire (1987 Wenders)Wizard of Oz, The (1939 Fleming)Woman Under the Influence, A (1974 Cassavetes)Yojimbo (1961 Kurosawa)Young Frankenstein (1974 Brooks)

Got all that? Good.

Since I was moving for most of the duration of this draft, I didn't feel as connected as I did with the first draft, or the Directors Draft. But, I look at my stable of films and I'll be damned if they are not magnificent. The roster is below.

1. Contempt (Godard 1963)
2. L'eclisse (Antonioni 1962)

After my first two picks a fellow drafter commented, "Contempt and L'eclisse? You're love life must be sensational right now." Of course, not. It's a greasefire, but these films would stand out for me even if I was happily married. Whereas Band of Outsiders opened up Godard to me, Contempt just floored me and made me realize his genius. After seeing over 150 new to me films since then, Contempt is still my favorite of all time. L'eclisse moved me more than almost any film since Contempt and is the best "new to me" film I have watched in 2007.

3. In a Lonely Place (Ray 1950) - Possibly my favorite noir, though some may debate it's noir status, and definitely my favorite picture of Nicholas Ray's a director I love. Bogart and Grahame are absolutely perfect.

4. Late Spring (Ozu 1949) - To get my favorite Ozu in round 4 was a delight. Moreso than even, Tokyo Story this film is Ozu for me.

5. A Man Escaped (Bresson 1956) - Probably Bresson's most accessible film. He gives away the ending in the title and still creates one of the most suspenseful films I have ever seen.

6. Imitation of Life (Sirk 1959) - I love my mellodramas, and this film never has me less than a crying mess at the end. Beautiful, wonderful, and subversive.

7. A Place in the Sun (Stevens 1951) - A movie I rate higher than anyone else I know. Perfect mellodrama, and the American Dream/Love Story told better than its ever been told. Beyond that, it may be the among the most beautifully photographed black and whites ever.

8. L'enfant (Dardenne 2005)- Among my very favorites of the past decade. The Dardenne's more than anyone have picked up Bresson's torch (though they still have a long way to go to equal Bresson). I find myself replaying the final scene in my head so often. Just heartbreaking.

9. No End (Kieslowski 1985) - The saddest of Kieslowski's and probably also my favorite. Also, it may be the last fil in which politics played even a supporting role in Kieslowski's films. A transition from early to late Kieslowski.

10. Suspiria (Argento 1977) - I won't ever forget the first time I saw Suspiria. The soundtrack, the over the top gore, the colors. It was fantastic, and still is. Among the greatest horror films ever made.

So, it was fun. And the thing is, I can think of another shortlist of 50 for the 3rd annual draft should it occur next year. Lord knows there are enough great films left unpicked.

Norwalk Dispatch part 1

So, yes. I am less than a week into the largest change of my life. Moving halfway across the country and knowing nobody in my new town. But stuff has gone relatively well so far. The move itself went well enough with help from my father as we loaded up the U-Haul and had two relatively uneventful days of driving before getting to our destination in Norwalk. Before all that, the goodbyes in Indianapolis were just as hard as I had imagined they would be. But at the same time, I know I will see and hear from those people again. So, I can't be too sad. Indianapolis, will be what I consider home still for a long time, but I am adapting to Norwalk alright in the first week.

The apartment has started to come around a bit, with a bit of a film motif in the front room with two Godard film posters (In Praise of Love, and Band of Outsiders), A Virgin Suicides poster, and a Van Gogh print over in the "dining" area. At just over 400 sq feet, there isn't a ton to work with, but I don't have a ton of stuff so thats okay. As I look over towards my kitchen area, I like the exposed brick near my oven and sink, but I do not so much enjoy my oven yet which does not seem to be calibrated to the right temperature. Either that or my freezer is set at mega freeze. I also am getting used to doing dishes in a single basin sink, which is not my favorite thing in the world, but I will get used to that.

The one piece of furniture, an old chair from Indy, that I was gonna bring out turned out to have become moldified on the bottom after sitting in our basement. So, the one chair I have here now is a directors chair. Luckily come mothers day weekend I will be recieving a chair from some friends and possibly a two top table. Then, the apartment will be all in order.

The town itself seems to be great, if a bit expensive. Amenities, etc nearby include...

Work - 0.7 miles or less than a 15 minute walk
My bank - less than a 5 minute walk
Library - right across the street
The Stand - A juicebar/vegan and raw food resturaunt less than a five minute walk
Garden Cinemas - Norwalks local art movie house, less then a five minute walk
Trader Joes - 4 Miles away
South Norwalk - The trendy nightlife place of Norwalk, a twenty minute walk, or a two minute busride.

This isn't to mention the numerous other resturaunts, latino groceries, and numerous other amenities within walking distance.

Now, if only I could find a church to suit my liking to worship on Sundays, all would be complete.

But, this weekend I will visit the large Catholic church across the street for Mass. I will check out the Stand for a vegan Brunch on Sunday, I will visit Garden Cinemas to see Black Book which I have wanted to see for a while. And earlier in the week I think I have found my local for happy hour once or twice a week. I don't forsee myself going for too much nightlife as the bars are expensive. But, thats okay. It's better for me that way anyway.

I'll be living without cable at least through December when I will have my car paid off, and possibly longer as I pay back some loans to my parents who very graciously forwarded money to me for the move. In the meantime, I still am keeping my Netflix account up and running. I hope to get down to NYC (a 55 minute train ride) for some films or New Haven maybe. And hopefully I will get this blog back up and running a bit more regularly as I am getting settled in again. For the meantime, I will be keeping the name as is, since Indy still has my heart and I love that town. But thats all subject to change.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Islanders? Really?

I'm gonna step away from film for a moment and probably for the next week or two. I'll be in crazy pre-packing mode before the big move. And my mind will be mostly on that. Beyond that, last night I watched Antonioni's Blow-Up and it was the least impressive Antonioni I've seen yet, so I don't have much to say about it. And, before that, I watched Domino and really liked it. And against all odds I have been preching the virtues of Tony Scott as a director to friends. But it will take a while before I find myselfactually sitting down and putting to paper why I suddenly find myself to be a fan of Tony Scott.

So in the meantime, it's your once-a-year hockey post. Though maybe there will be more after the move. See in Indy, it's nearly impossible to follow the NHL. Bring into that as well, the team of my youth, the Philadelphia Flyers were just abysmal this year. But, when I was out in Norwalk, interviewing I was able to get the New York sportstalk stations on the radio. And it happened to be at a time when the Islanders and Rangers were in a home-and-home series. At this time I decided if I move out there, I'd become an Islanders fan, or at least follow them.

It's the same way that I followed the Pacers out here. I am not going to trash the hometown team just to be different from the locals (Dallas Cowboys, New York Mets, DC United, and Mexican National Soccer Team excluded). I wish good things for them and the town. And yes, I realize New York is not in Connecticut. BUT, Norwalk does border Long Island Sound. And Long Island sound = Islanders? Well maybe not, but thats the rational I used.

So lucky for me, the Islanders make the playoffs. And there first round matchup just happens to be against the best team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres. Conviniently enough, I hate the Sabres already! Game 4 is tonight, and I'll be watching it on tape delay. I've caught the last two games of the series and already find myself really having a strong affinity for the Islanders. I was euphoric when they won game 2 to even the series and I was PISSED when a call went against the Islanders at the end of Game 3, right after the refs missed a tripping and holding call that would've given the Islanders a power play (granted it's been an abysmal power play) in the final 2 minutes. If I was in the crowd I would've thrown shit on the ice as well!

The main thing is that I am remembering how damn fun hockey is to watch, and playoff hockey especially. I am thrilled to be going to an area of the country where there is professional hockey again. I am pulling like crazy for the Islanders to win this series so they will still be in the playoffs when I make it out there. I won't have cable the first several months in town as a financial decision, but I would hopefully find a place nearby to watch them. My new hometown* team. And hell, if they fall out of the playoffs, first, please resign Ryan Smith Islanders. The kid can play. Second, maybe then Icegirl Meredith will have a few more days off and we can meet up somewhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Miami Vice

Two weekends ago I watched Miami Vice. I don't know what I expected going into the film. I just wanted a break from films with subtitles maybe and a way to be entertained on a saturday night without thinking too much. But the film did make me think a lot. So much so, that two days later I sent this email to a friend of mine...

I have been thinking a lot about Miami Vice the past two days. I must
be crazy...

I know I am in the far far minority on this film but I just loved it.

The dialogue was minimal yes. It was choppy yes. But the film was about two guys attempting to stay human in the face of a high pressure job in which they see only the horrible side and despicable side of human nature. They need to be serious the entire time and be completely focused the entire time. It was because of how effectively Colin farrell and Jamie Foxx wore those masks that made the love
scenes and stories come to the forefront in the second half of the movie.

Beyond that Mann uses the architecture and setting of Miami as a wonderful and perfect dark and brilliantly alive backdrop to the whole film. When Foxx and Farrell are on that rooftop in the first 30 minutes of the film after Antonio calls in distress, it looks as if they are on the very edge of teh world, and they may as well be. In the end the use of architecture and setting as backdrop for the themes of the film made me think that the film was somewhere along the lines of a Michaelangelo Antonioni (L'Avennturra) film on crack.

I absolutely loved it.

Granted, the Antonioni on crack comment was a very lazy way to try to describe the film. She said that after reading the first line of the email, she laughed out loud. And maybe it's because I had just recently watched Antonioni's L'eclisse, and still digesting it that I was seeing themes similar to that film in Mann's Miami Vice.

I started looking around on the internet for reviews and to see if anyone else actually liked this movie as much as me. I found many lukewarm reviews. But, over at Criterion Forum there was an 11 page thread with people actively and for the most part, intellegently discussing the film. And then, I was blown away by this fantastic essay on the film at Senses of Cinema. One money quote from there...

Miami Vice is above all a great film on the human condition in a time of flux. Everything progresses at top speed (the meetings, the love affairs, the reversals, the cars) but essentially nothing really moves forward. The general rumour of flux absorbs every modification of this flux, and dismisses events and characters with a noise from deep bottom. A trail of blood on the roadway (the suicide of the snitch, Alonzo (John Hawkes)), an echo on a radar or the noise of fingers snapping, are but nothing more than a short-lived imbalance of the global system. Whence the extraordinary and (paradoxical) inertia produced by a narrative so smitten with rapidity, as well as in the linking of sequences and shots, as in the execution of actions. The points of view become confused, the shots fall like unhooked links, but the general signal finishes by sweeping it along in the events that make it up. It traffics, it pulls, it circulates: Miami Vice is the point of flux against man’s point of view.

I don't know what I was searching for, when I scoured the net for likeminded admiration for Miami Vice. I've yet to figure out, honestly, if it was validation for my feelings of the film easily being one of the 5 best of last year in my mind. Or, maybe it was just hoping that the film somewhere got the recognition, that I am sure in my mind that it deserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thank You, Rabo Karabekian.

I had an email from a friend earlier this am, letting me know that Kurt Vonnegut had died. Many others will write more eloquently on the subject, than me. I am just sorta speechless right now. Kurt Vonnegut has been one of my favorite authors since college. How it took me so long to get into him I will never know.

A friend, John Ownens, the one kid at my small Christian college who had a Joy Division and Bauhaus t-shirt lent me Breakfast of Champions. From then I was hooked. I mean in that book he showed me what an asshole looked like. I would have no idea if it wasn't for his illustration. And now I know.

After that I read Bluebeard and remember crying. I remember my senior quote in my college yearbook was attributed to Rabo Karabekian.

I remember reading Mother Night one extremely stormy afternoon in my apartment. I remember for some reason I had Massive Attack's Mezzanine cd playing. I remember I was certain the world was coming to an end, or at least my apartment was getting smaller.

When I moved to Indianapolis, I remember searching out Indianapolis streets and street corners from some of his books. Vonnegut lived in New York at the end of his life, but, I think there are few of those in Indy whom have read his books that don't in a way consider him ours. Not in a selfish sense, but just in a sense of civic pride. And moreso than that, probably gratitude.

I'm not an enormous fan of short stories. But I gobbled up short stories by Vonnegut and J.D Salanger. There is a short story by Vonnegut that to this day remains possibly my favorite short story ever. In my mix tape making days I remember very badly wanting to make a tape for a girl and label one side "through leaves" and the other side "over bridges." I still want to make that tape. I just need to find that girl. I hope she has a cassette player still. She will.

That story was A Long Walk To Forever. Take the time to read it if you haven't already. If you have read it before, read it again.

Thank you, Kurt Vonnegut.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Surprises, a move to Norwalk, CT.

So, first post here in thtee weeks. That is disciourging. But stuff has just been extremely busy recently and been full of surprises. The main surprise came a few weeks back when I got a call from an old friend who advised me to put in an application at a museum in Norwalk, CT. He mentioned that with my resume, I'd immediately be one of teh top candidates. So I took his advice. Next thing I knew, travel arrangements were being made for a trip out theer for an interview. Shortly afterwards, I recieved and offer. And now after much deliberation and thought, I will be moving to Norwalk, CT on April 30. It's rather crazy.

I was talking to a friend on the phone on Easter. She said, "Kristin told me you were moving to CT. I couldn't believe it. I said, Scot is the most Indianapolis person I know and he's not even from here." That was a strange thing to hear. But flattering at the same time. To friends in this city and friends outside of the city I have been a huge advocate or campaigner for Indianapolis. I love the city. I love the way of life that can be had living in this city. I am not more than 10 minutes from the center of downtown and have cheaper rent than should be legally allowed for the city. I am just 25 steps from my favorite bar ever. But most of all, I just have been really fortunate and really blessed to have met the people that I have met in Indianapolis. Through several different jobs, my church, and numerous connections of friend's friends I have been surrounded by a community that is really hard to leave behind.

At the end of the day however, it came down to the fact that I have an exciting opportunity to move ahead professionally in a way that just wasn't happening for me in Indianapolis. Beyond that, the friends that I have been blessed with here will not change. I know that I am still gonna be in contact with them, even if the dynamic does change a bit due to distance. If things fall completely apart in Norwalk I could always move back to Indianapolis and have very little fear of coming straight back into the community that I am leaving behind here.

So, Norwalk? Where the hell is it? What the hell is it. Norwalk, according to wikipedia, is the 6th largest city in Connecticut. According to the city slogan, it is "The Right Place, The Right Time." It is a "bedroom community" of New York City, just about 45-50 minutes outside the city. Virtually every resturaunt that I walked by was Zagat rated, so I imagine there are good eats to be had. Norwalk is bordered by Long Island Sound, so I will actually see water again. And beyond all that, it is just 2 1/2 hours away from the rest of my family in South Jersey which is also a plus.

Granted the cost of living is of course much higher out there than in Indianapolis. And given the quick nature of the move I will be living my first few months very much on a shoestring budget while attempting to pay back some loans I have taken from my parents for security deposit for the apartment and other moving costs. But once I get beyond that, I am very much excited to be so close to New York City and possibly spend a Sunday afternoon taking the train into catch a show at Film Forum or maybe even go to MOMA and see all 15 1/2 hours of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz. These are opportunities that I am very excited about. And yes, I know that I will miss Fassbinder at the MOMA, but I also know that other events are sure to come that will be very exciting.

So it's into the last 3-4 weeks in Indianapolis, now. And I must say I am not looking forward to the goodbyes. It's all bittersweet, to be sure. There is excitement, sure, and nervousness as well. But all the same, I just hope to make the best of my last few weeks here, and with help from my friends I don't think that will be too hard of a problem.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Director Draft

There are a few things that I am obsessed with. Movies, soccer, and Philadelphia Phillies baseball. That's more or less the list. I visit mesage boards on each of those three a few times a day to read up on rumors, news, and other peoples opinions. In a beautiful twist of fate the soccer message board I visit also has it's fair share of cinephiles. I would say over the past year or so, some of the more interesting suggestions and conversations I have had on film have come from a soccer message board.

Last year around this time on that board we held a "Movie Draft." I posted a little bit about it here, and included my final ten round roster. A year on many of those picks would be different. In part because of the films that were brought to my attention by other posters in the movie draft.

This year, many of the same guys are participating in an arranged directors draft. 16 people, 10 rounds. That would be 160 directors. That's plenty of directors, but that is the point, I guess. I look forward to learning about more directors to check out, to add to a Netflix queue that is already spiraling out of control.

We are into the third round right now. Being the tenth pick, I was unable to pick what would have been my first pick, Jean-Luc Godard. But that's okay. The #1 drafter chose him and in a later post mentioned he had to pick him #1, because he knew I would snatch him up if he didn't. The picks so far have been somewhat predctable, all directors that have been cannonized already. But some have gone higher than expected like Terrence Malick at 6 which I applaud as I was actually considering him as a first round sleeper with my #10 pick. But, even with 160 picks, several of us acknowledge that there will be many great directors left of the list.

Perhaps, I will continue to update this post as I fill out a roster of draftees. So far, I consider myself lucky to have gotten not only two greats, but two of my very favorites at picks 10 and 20.

Round 1. Robert Bresson
Round 2. Yasijuro Ozu
Round 3. Nicholas Ray
Round 4. Robert Wise
Round 5. Wim Wenders
Round 6. Otto Preminger
Round 7. David Gordon Green
Round 8. Jaques Tourneur
Round 9. Edgar G. Ulmer
Round 10. Ed Wood

Monday, March 19, 2007


Is it possible that Otto Preminger is one of the more neglected or looked over great directors. Maybe I am just not reading the right texts but i never hear him mentioned in the same breath as other greats from his era. But when you look at a body of work that includes, Anatomy of a Murder, Angel Face, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Laura it's hard to not recognize him as one of the very best.

Last night I watched Laura for the first time and absolutely loved it. In the opening scene you have the voiceover of Clifton Webb playing the despicable Waldo Lydecker. The camera follows Dana Andrews gaze around the apartment as Lydecker makes mention of a clock that will become much more important in the closing scenes of the movie. As I watcehd this opening scene I was already riveted I found myself wondering why the camera paused to focus on specific areas of the apartement and tried to keep it all in my mind for later in the film. Our first meeting with Lydecker is while his in the bathtub and as he reads his alibi for the night in which Laura was murdered. Within 3 minutes I already had a profound dislike for Lydecker and was ready to sit in and hope that he was the guilty one. Both Clifton Webb and Preminger did their job, perfectly.

Dana Andrews is the investigator on the case, Mark McPherson. And while it seems foolish and a bit unbelievable that he allows Lydecker to trail him around as he visits other suspects, it soon becomes evident that McPherson is smarter than this whole lot, even the very arrogent Lydecker. Our first introduction to Laura is in a painting. She is shown, immortalized in a painting above a fireplace. The painting hovers like a spirit, hovers over the apartment and McPherson even begins to fall under its spell, one night passing out on a chair underneath the painting after a few too many scotches.

We eventually get to know Laura more through flashbacks of bothe Lydecker and Shelby Carpenter, played in my opinion to perfection by Vincent Price. But, as McPherson is passed out under the chair Laura shows up. She has not been murdered. She was the intended victim surely, but she is still alive. And now McPherson's investigation has to take a turn.

Gene Tierney is beautiful, seductive, and a bit caniving as Laura. And while its not hard to see why Carpenter, Lydecker, and McPherson all fall in love with her, one can't help but see her as a femme fatale. You see her string along all these men and while you see her as lovely and wonderful, you also know that she will do whatever she needs to take care of herself and little white lies along that way don't matter so much. She allows all three men to maintain their obsession with her, and it will end badly fo someone.

Preminger here didn't make a dark and seedy film noir. But other noir sensibilities are here in spades. In a wonderfully tight 90 minutes, obsession is the main story here. I find myself definitely wanting to view more of Preminger's classics after this.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A different March Madness

Stuff just ahsn't seemd to slow down for me at all. Too much work. Too much stuff on the periphery of work, possibilities of more or new work. I just haven't had tome to sit back and relax and watch movies, and take them in. In the past week I have watched The Passion of Joan of Arc and Battleship Potemkin. Somehow two silents come up in my netflix queue right after one another. I will say that I enjoyed The Passion of Joan of Arc much more this time than when I first saw it, some 7 years ago, likely a little bit drunk in college. As for Battleship Potemkin some scenes will forever stick in my mind, but the overall impact fell short of what I was hoping for.

And over the next few weeks due to travel I will not get a chance to watch as much as I would like. Though, I will bring my portable DVD player on the plane, no doubt, and maybe watch some extra features from Criterion DVD's that I haven't gotten to yet. But then, there is also sporting events this weekend, that will hold most of my interest. And, while I have entered three seperate NCAA polls, due to Villanova and Indiana's discourging draws, I don't have much hope for my teams succeeding.

This weekend will be more about the beginning of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in Melbourne, Austrailia. I can't wait. Saturday night at 930 I will be at Otto's place taking in the race with him and Frampton as geeked as can be. Here are 6 quick storylines that have me so excited about this season.

1. It's the first season sans Michael Schumacher since I have followed the sport. Schumacher won 7 World Driver Championships. The past two seasons he was beaten by Fernando Alonso. However, there was little to no doubt he was at the very least amongst the top 3 drivers in the world at his time of retitrement. Every season started with Schumacher as a if not THE favorite for the title this season the title race is much more open, in part due to the other storylines here.

2. Fernado Alonso, after winning two straight titles at Renault has bolted to McClaren. This seemed like a good move when it wasannounced before last season that Fernando was spending his final season at Renault. Renault's future in the sport seemed uncertain and McClaren was a major player in the title race in 2005. Then in 2006 Macca failed to win a single race. Renault won the Constructors title (in very large part due to Alonso) and reaffirmed their commitment to stay in Formula 1. Drivers usually take a while to become acclimated to a team. How quickly Alonso acclimates himself to the McClaren team will determine what factor he plays in the championship this year.

3. Ferrari has two championship contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. A year ago to have stated that Massa would be a championship contender in 2007 would have been met with hearty laughter. But, he came on at the end of last season, he has probably the fastest car in the grid under him and a years experience with the team last year. Kimi is arguably the greater talent, but his work ethic is questioned, he needs to acclimate himself with the team like Alonso at McClaren, and some such as myself see his history of engine failures as partly due to Kimi overdriving the car. Kimi was a favorite to win the title last year, and didn't win a single race. One would think he needs to get a jump on Massa at Ferrari or else you could see him become a second priority as the team pushes Massa towards the title.

4. We have 3 rookies in great cars driving for top teams. Lewis Hamilton at McClaren, Heikki Kovalainen at Renualt, and Robert Kubica at the suddenly very quick BMW Sauber team. Any of these guys have the potential to win races. While they might not have the consistency to win the title, they very much may nip some points of their teamates. Kubica and Kovalainen especially may even outscore their teamates by the end of the season. Hamilton has a much tougher order with the champion as his teamate.

5. My team of choice for the past several years, Renault, looks to be in trouble. Giancarlo Fisichella, as much as I wish him to be, is likely not a viable number one driver or champion contender. After two consecutive years of running at the front, with a chance to win every race, they will be fighting for podium spots all season. It's not gonna be pretty, it's gonna take some getting used to. But, as I said before Kovalainen may be the real deal and does have potential to win races.

6. Finally, one of the great names in Grand Prix racing, Williams F1 had an abysmal season last year. The FW29 car has looked faster than some anticipated in preseason testing. I would like to see them at least fight their way back to respectabilty. However, I am less than impressed with their choice of Alex Wurz as a second driver to Nico Rosberg. It's just not a very inspiring choice in my mind. However, for some reason the sport is more fun when a "private" team such as Williams succeeds.

Each driver and each team has multiple storylines, but those are just the ones I look forward to following the most. I can't wait to start racing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


So there has been a ridiculous lack of posts lately. For once this has to do with me being exceptionally busy. The past 10 days have been filled mostly with 12-13 hour days at the museum as we switched to a new ticketing software. Ridiculous. But that should be dying down this week.

In the meantime, I turned 30. Much like New Years Eve a holdiday that is always preceeded for me by an extremely busy week of work I was too tired to plan any real large party of anty sorts. So, it was a very low key weekend. This actually was really nice. Low key weekends are terrific when you are getting old.

I did run about 3 and a half miles sunday morning. That made me wish I got a Segway for my birthday. I did follow that up with a nice breakfast at Three Sisters Cafe As far as gifts go, my parents were very generous as usual. I also got Spirit of the Beehive which I am thrilled about, Nelly Furtado's newest cd which for some reason I love, and fittingly a glorious televised 3-0 triumph by the Columbus Crew. What a fitting scoreline.

To finish up the weekend I watched the wonderful documentary Tell Me Do you Miss Me with friends as we mourned the end of Luna but got excited to see Dean and Britta at the Music Mill next Tuesday, which will be my actual celebration.

Not a bad weekend at all. Now hopefully work and life can go back to normal.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

RIP John Vuikovich

Some guys just transcend sports in a city. For baseball in Philadelphia and for Phillies fans, it was a career .160 something hitter. 31 of his 59 years were spent with the Phillies in some capacity. I don't really know what else to say. RIP John

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Innocence Mission still makes beautiful music.

My birthday is this Sunday, March 11.

There are very few things I will be getting for myself, because I am not very rich these days. But one thing I will get is the new cd by The Innocence Mission. There are very few bands out there that have the capability to make me so optimistic just by the sound and lyrics of their music. I am a natural cynic, in my faith, in my relationships, in every area. Something about Don Peris' lyrics and wavering guitar meshing with the voice of Karen makes me think that everything will be okay. Even in songs about love or loss, ground where I usually tend to wallow, I find something entirely different when I listen to The Innocence Mission. A favorite album of theirs for me has to be Glow. I've tried, but am unable to do anything other than completely slow down when I here the opening guitar line of That Was Another Country. Everything else just stops.

The new album, We Walked in Song will be released March 13. here is an mp3 of a track of the new album Listen, learn, and love.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


It's been lucky days for me. By coincidence shortly after vieweing a Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse in the comfort of my home far too late at night; I stumbled over to The House Next Door and came upon a post on Antonioni by Ryland Walker Knight (yes, you should click on that link and read it). His post struck me for it's candor. It also made me think back to my own into to Antonioni.

He wrote, For a long time I thought I didn’t get Antonioni. I rejected what I saw—a cool, detached intellectualism—as stuffy pretentiousness. I knew something was happening in L’avventura but I couldn’t articulate my anxious distaste. Also, I was bored. So I let it sit, somewhere behind something else in the recesses I don’t dip into every day and went on enjoying Godard, devouring the French director’s 1960s major works to the point that Antonioni wasn’t even a part of my filmic landscape." It's weird. This struck me because if there was a film that turned me entirely onto a world of cinema that I had yet to explore it was Godard's Band of Outsiders. After that I needed to see every Godard. And then anything remotely connected to the French New Wave. During that run I fell in love with Godard's Contempt. To this day, it may reamain my favorite film. I heard references to Antonioni while listening to the commentary, so, L'Avventurra made it's way to the Netflix queue. I was astounded.

Even on a 19 inch televison I was so taken by the images. The pace of the film was slow, I could not relate to the high class nature of the characters, yet I was completely transfixed. A friend called me halfway through it. I told her I was watching a movie but would be glad to start it over of she joined me. So I rewatched from the begging and was still astounded. Close to 5 hours were spent that night watching the film, if you include the parts of the commentary we watched. What was it about these seemingly cold higher class characters that was drawing me in so much? Sure I wished I had the money to sail off to a private island, but if I did so I don't think it would be with them for company. While the madison scene in Band of Outsiders is a scene I would go back to far more often than any of Antonioni's scenes (perhaps for my own sanity?) I couldn't help but be intrigued and try to figure out what it was about Antonioni's films that made me so curious. Yet, at the same time, it's not exactly a film that screams, "Invite over the friends, it's Saturday night! Let's watch a movie!"

Fast forward months later, I come home from working two jobs. It's 1130 at night. I wish I was tired, but I am not. In the Netflix envelope is L'Eclisse I notice the two hour running time, think twice about putting it in, but put it in anyway. I could always finish it tomorrow. But minutes in, I am again hooked. As Knight mentioned, "And how does it open? Monica Vitti, queen of anxious mugging, rejects her life indoors and walks outside, down into town. I was hooked. Still, as a colleague said, we must admit the film is “freakishly boring” in stretches, if brilliant. It’s how we navigate that boredom that defines our experience..."

Beginning to end two hours felt like 30 minutes to me. Even the boring scenes, a scene at the stock market that may drag on too long with no real advance in the story, I was riveted by the visuals. I was taken by the choreagraphy of the stock brokers. I anxiously awaited Vittoria (Monica Vitti's) arrival to the market to see where the story would go from here.

In the second half of the film again, I found myself confused as to why I was spending so much time with these characters. Like in L'Avventurra I found myself thinking that they were cold. There were moments where the characters gave themselves over to happiness or joy. But these moments never seemed to last longer than just moments. I alternated between pity for the characters, and something short of, but not quite disdain. I thought for a long time that the repression of joy for these characters was self imposed. But as the film went on there was a feeling that it wasn't self imposed. These characters would feel joy fleetingly, but in the long run they were likely doomed. This joy would never be longer than just those moments. Even if they gave all their effort (and who's to say they weren't?) there were limitations on them by something larger.

Both L'Avventura and L'Eclisse are grouped together by film scholars, and I believe Antonioni himself, as part of an Ennui Trilogy. I have not seen the other film is this trilogy, La Notte, or any other Antonioni film for that matter. Still after seeing only these two films I find myself in awe of Antonioni and his stories. Yet, I find myself not wanting to love his films. It almost seems to me that to love L'Avventura or L'Eclisse one would need to share that doomed world view of the protaganists, and if not the protoganists, cause sometimes they don't seem to even realize it, then at least that doomed world view of the camera. It's a world view that I don't want to entirely share. While I can look at the last seven minutes or so of L'Eclisse (though to be fair i should maybe say the entire film) as some of the most invigorating and thought provoking film making that I have seen, I find myself not wanting to love it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Quick Link

A few weeks back I noticed that their was going to be a Kieslowski blogathon over at Quiet Bubble. I had every intention on writing on my favorite Kieslowski film No End but sadly, times have been hectic and March ahs creeped up on me far quicker than I anticipated.

But, the show does go on, so go visit the Krzysztof Kieslowski Blogathon at Quiet Bubble and read people more well better spoken than I talk about one of my favorite directors.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The poster to Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia shown here is just great. Was one man's life worth one million dollars and the death of 21 men? it lets you know that from the start you are going to get into something that is a bit outlandish, and probably very bloody. But, for me, somehow, this was the first Peckinpah that I have seen I did not know what I was getting into to.

The first scene didn't prepare me for any of this either. A girl is sitting at the edge of the lake. Ducks, swans, and geese are swimming in the water and she is silent. Eventually her silence is broken by a man coming up and saying her father wants to see her immediately. And then another man saying the same. She is forcefully brought to her fathers mansion where she is stripped and then asked by her father numerous times while undergoing pain who the man was that left her pregnant and heartbroken. Through tears she eventually tells him, Alfredo Garcia. Her father then places a one million dollar bounty on Alfredo Garcia's head. From there we see the doors of the mansion close and bodyguards and ruffians go in search of Alfredo Garcia.

The main character here though is Benny played by Warren Oates. He is workingas a piano player in a bar, and some bodyguards for El Jefe eventually pay teh ba a visit. Benny knows of Alfredo Garcia and figures there may be some money in this for him. He figures this job will be even easier once he learns that Alfredo is already dead. He just needs to find the grave and take the head back to these bodyguards. He then can get the cash he has earned and leave the piano playing bar scene.

Benny is not particularly a likeable character. He comes across as almost a misogynist at times. he is travelling with a prostiute, Elita, who last saw Alfredo a few weeks back. There are tender moments between the two of them. At one point where the film really grabbed a hold of me they were having a picnic together, talking marriage. This however was broken up by some ruffians and a rape. Benny was needed to come to the rescue, and even as he did, the moments of tenderness from their picnic were far gone. For every tender moment between Benny and Elita there were several of shouting or violence. They talked, or rather benny talked of how the money would be their escape. Elita talked of how it was aough just to be near Benny. But much like Benny's tender times seemed questionable in their motives, Elita too only seemed to be tender in false hope of calming Benny down. It was hard not to get the feeling that they both knew that they were just playing out teh string and nobody would come out of this okay.

And this was just the stars, or heroes. These were the people we were supposed to be rooting for. These were the least unsavory of the entire cast. Peckipah put together a cast of entirely unbeautiful people, in an unbeautiful place, performing far less than beautiful deeds for nobody other than themselves and said, this is what you will watch.

The night before I watched Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia I watched De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves. These are two entirely different ends of the spectrum. I can see myself looking back years from now on the relationship between the father and son in De Sica's film. It appealed to a sense of justice within me. And people making the wrong choices, for the right reasons. It posed questions within me and those questions will stay with me for a long time. The story lends itself to that. And then ther is Peckinpah's film here. I will remember numerous scenes from this film. The slow motion violence. I will remember my conflicted feelings. I will wonder to myself, just how misogynistic was this film really. And I will definitely remember Benny's decsent into madness. And now I find myself wondering about Benny's choices, and if he had any other real choices. And whether his reasons were right or wrong at all. I find myself on reflection liking the movie a whole lot more than I thought I did while watching it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Iraq in Fragments Presentation TONIGHT at Key Cinemas

Before I start anything let me just address the lack of posts. Nothing is more exciting than installing new software at teh job and creating cheat sheets and user manuals for the staff. Alt+Print Screen. Right click. Paste. Text. Repeat. This has been my life for the past two weeks. And will be for the next three. It's less than satisfying. But life goes on.

In the meantime I get to miss what looks to be a fantastic local event down at Key Cinemas this evening. Tonight only following the 7pm showing of Iraq in Fragments, John Clark, local scholar, and Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institue will be leading a discussion on the United States involvement in Iraq.

These are teh kind of events and kind of films that make Key Cinemas such a valuable part of Indianapolis. Granted I have not seen Iraq in Fragments due to my current work schedule. But I regret missing this chance. It was nomininated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, but really never stood a chance against An Inconvienient Truth and Al Gore regardless of how good a film it was.

Hopefully this event tonight gets a decent turnout and if anyone makes it please stop back and tell me how it went.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Denison Witmer tonight @ the Underground

Life has been exceptionally busy recently. I mean I only have had time to watch one movie in the past 5 days. That doesn't seem fair. And obviously I haven't written much on here in days.


I do feel the need to mention, for the cats in Indianapolis tonight, a friend is playing a show at The Underground which is located at 16th and Deleware at the Harrison Center for the Arts. His name is Denison Witmer. His music has been more or less on rotation for me for the past 3 years. The show is only $8 and starts at 8pm.

To hear a good bit of Denison yourself, check out Denison's Birtday celebration website where 30 songs of his were re-recorded and donations for the songs are being put towards charity.

Hopefully, I'll see someone I know out there. I've had a haircut and gotten new glasses since I've seen most you last, so I look fantastic. That's a bonus, above and beyond the music.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


"He went looking for love, but fate threw him a Detour to revelry...violence...mystery! So reads the tag line on the poster to the right for the film, Detour In Detour I found just about everything I love about the old noir genre. I find myself wishing now that I didn't send back the Netflix envelope this morning, so I could watch it again.

Tom Neal plays Al Roberts a down in the dumps musician who sets out to hitchike across the country to get to his girl, Sue, who left New York to become a celebrity in Los Angeles. Along the way he hitches a ride with Charles Haskell Jr. Shortly after though, Haskell dies and he decides to carry on with his car. He then picks up Vera (Ann Savage) and as luck would have it, she hitched a ride with Haskell earlier, so she uses Haskell's death as a way to use Al for her own ends.

The story is completely over the top unbelievable, yes. Al acts as our narrator from a stool in a diner as he recounts the story up to the point where we finally catch up. He even tells us, "If this was fiction, you'd find this completely unbelievable." But it's real life for Al. And you have the classic noir themes of fate looming large to kick our protaginists ass at any point. Al even alludes to this numerous times throughout the film. "That's life, whatever you do fate sticks out a foot to trip you up."

While shot almost entirely on the road, director Edward Ulmer brings us into a noir midset and setting. Whether it's a cut back to Al on the stool of the diner in the dark his face lit to show despair, or a pouring rain as Al attempts to figure out what to do with Haskell's body. And, then there is Vera. Ann Savage plays Vera so over the top it becomes impossible not to root for Al, even when you know he will be doomed. She's not a femme fatale in the normal noir way. She doesn't exactly oooze sensuality, but she does have the power over Al, and will do what it takes to keep him from getting to his girl.

Detour is only 67 minutes, and it feels even shorter than that. It just flies by. However, the only transfer available, at least through Netflix is terrible. Awful sound, it doesn't look to be a very clean print either. I find myself torn. I'd like to see it restored, and maybe be in a set like the excellently presented Warner Classic Noirs box sets. But, at the same time, the horrible transfer gives this B grade noir from 1945 a certain feel of authenticity.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In the midst of a Blizzard, a glimmer of hope...

It ought to be documented that pitchers and Catchers for the Philadelphia Phillies had their first workout today, in Clearwater, Florida.

Spring training. Hope and Love, and God and Destiny and Faith Rewarded.

And inspite of 100 years of mostly failure, I sit here believing the Phillies could very well be the team to beat in the National League this year.

Hell, Jimmy Rollins said so.

Man on Fire

After sitting awestruck and patiently watching two great Ozu films, I completely changed gears while hunkered down in the midst of our one blizzard for the season and watched Tony Scott's Man on Fire. While watching it, not only was I pleasantly suprised that it was not terrible, but I actually found myself moved and on the edge of my seat nearly the whole time.

Denzel Washington plays Creasy. He's an ex-everything; military, bodyguard, undercover operative, and his friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) persuades him to take a job as the bodyguard of a child in Mexico City. Creasy is a heavy drinker who has more or less calloused himself to everything. But, through this new found relationship with the child he will learn to open up again and live and love. It's formulaic as can be, but it's apparently based on a true story. And the movie would surely fall apart as straight to video schlock or a made for Spike TV movie if not so well moved along by Tony Scott, and if not for teh unlikely chemistry between Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington.

The film uses slow motion, subtitles on screen (sometimes even when spoken the dialogue is spoken in English), and many quick cuts to give it a unique look and pace. During the time when Creasy and Pita (Dakota Fanning) are on screen together, there are none of these effects. The camera lingers long enough to see Fanning's reaction, and Washingtons as Creasy's wall's begin to be taken down.

Outside of some flashbacks Creasy has while drinking, it's only after Pita is kidnapped under Creasy's watch that Scott turns up the style and the second half of the film seems almost completely different from the first. It's now become a revenge and action picture, but one where there is a vested interest in the characters.

There are scenes in this second half that I almost felt guilty for liking. In his mission Creasy has no issues with torture. This is not normally my kind of film but I found myself so drawn in by Creasy's character in the first half I found myself rooting and watching through scenes I would normally turn off. Yes, it's your formulaic action movie, but it looks fantastic and Washington's performance elevate it enough to be more enjoyable that just that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Early Summer

The main feeling I had taken away after any viewing of Yasijuro Ozu's movies is, I wish there was a way to bottle up his sincerity and give it to today's younger film makers. Before the weekend I had only seen Tokyo Story, Late Spring, and Good Morning. Over the weekend I viewed Early Summer and that feeling was just reinforced.

Early Spring tells the story of Noriko, a 28 year old girl who still lives with her family. She is getting to the age where her family is starting to become concerned and wants her to marry. Just when it seems that Noriko is to be set up with a man who has nearly her whole family's approval, she choses goes in an entirely different direction and choses to marry a childhood friend without first consulting her family. While the family's wishes for Noriko to be married have been met, there is also a feeling of betrayal as she has now made her decision without her family's knowledge.

In the essay that comes with the Criterion Collection release, David Bordwell talks of Ozu's ensamble casts, and compares them to some of today's films. Amores Perros and Traffic are mentioned and surely one could throw last year's best picture winner, Crash and this years best picture nominee, Babel in there as well. These films seem to go to great length to show how chance and fate interlock us all together. It could be said that another one of my favorite directors, Kieslowski, also was obsessed with this theme. But the most recent of these films seem to fall under the weight of their own self importance, politicking, and grandstanding.

Most the films I have seen of Ozu's are set in post war Japan. And in these films there is a constant theme of conflict between generations. These conflicts are not violent. They are just shifts in thinking though. In the films of Ozu however, there is no pretense whatsoever. When a member of the older generation sighs to another that they should not wish for too much, it isn't a posturing for an Oscar, or a commentary on the disparity of wealth between America and the third world. Instead, it's a reflection on the changing times in the family's life, and it's said with a thankfulness for the joy that the family has already brought. It's honesty and sincerity like this that make a family photo, or a father peeling peeling an apple alone, so much more poignant than the multilayered finales of todays films.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Three observations upon re-watching Birth

Over the past two weeks I tried to introduce Jonathan Glazer's Birth to a film viewing group. I thought to myself that it would receive mixed reviews. There are people I know who absolutely have loved it. And there are those who I have tried to introduce it to that have hated it. There's been very little in between. But, I could not have expected the almost unanimous harsh reaction from members of the group I have introduced it to. And while some of the criticism was juvenile, "Nicole Kidman looks like an elf." some of the criticism made me more aware when I sat down to re-watch it. There was talk especially of the characters being unlikable, using Kubrick style direction as nothing more than an homage, and the plot being unbelievable at best absurdist at worst.

I remember being moved tremendously the first time I saw this film. I have watched it a few times since and was still moved. When it came time to watch it again I was wary that I might find enormous plot holes, that I would not care for the characters. When I watched it again though last night I was just as moved as I was when I had seen it before. I still have the feeling that this may be one of my favorite American films of the past 5 years, at least.

Here are three things I carried away most after this viewing.

1. The opening scene setting the stage for the entire film. The screen is black as we hear the professor speak. He talks of reincarnation. He says, if a bird showed up on his windowsill claiming to be his dead wife he'd "want to believe it." but he's a man of science and he could not. What follows is a beautiful shot of the professor running through the snow in Central Park. For 3-4 minutes we are either tracking behind and following, or ahead and moving away from the jogger. We never see his face, but we assume he is the man whom we heard speaking. When the man collapses under an overpass of sorts it does bring to mind a womb. We have the title card of Birth and we see a newborn baby.

It's easy to dismiss a film such as this. The idea of reincarnation is often to much for some who consider themselves learned to wrap their head around. A common reaction of viewers after seeing this film has been, "He didn't believe in reincarnation!Why should we believe or care about Sean!" One moment that sticks out to me that gets lost in that was the sincerity with which he mentions, when the screen is black, he'd want to believe the bird. He'd want to, but he's a man of science. To me that is a very key moment and truly gets into the mystery of memory and of the heart that the movie delves into from their on out.

Beyond that moment of course is the fact that we never see Sean clearly in these opening minutes. Much more could be written here on the intersection of memory and identity, but for me as a viewer, that was key to my viewing experience and giving myself over to the film.

2. The performance of Nicole Kidman. I enjoy Nicole Kidman as an actress. Some of her choices in roles puzzle me (Bewitched?) but there hasn't been any film I walked away from thinking she made it worse. And there are some, in my mind she where she was integral to the success of the film (Eyes Wide Shut for instance). I am not sure she has ever been better than she was here. Some find the wealth and the coldness of the film and characters extremely off-putting. During the first 25 minutes of the film, to the opera scene (more on that soon) Kidman is warm and spectacular. She shows to be possibly the warmest member of that family at dinner, and is walking around a party all smiles as Joseph announces the engagement. It is after she sees Sean faint, and at the Opera and afterwards where we see her character take a twist. This performance could have been a disaster, it isn't easy material. But Kidman pulls it off. The coldness that some complain about is nothing but a reserved temperment, necessary to be shown in that social stratus. Beyond that you see her torn. You see the respect she has for Joseph, and you see the love she had/has for Sean. It can be seen and felt. It's tearing her apart, and it tore me apart as a viewer as well. No matter how many Bewitcheds Kidman does, this is the role I will always remember her in.

3. The Kubrick-esque closeups. Were they art for arts sake or did they serve to move the story along? The bouncing ball scene is reminiscent of The Shining. The spanking, Barry Lyndon. The tracking shots throughout some hallways, perhaps reminded some of Eyes Wide Shut. And those closeups on the faces. To me, these all served the story. I will focus on the close up of Anna at the Opera and one of Joseph though as they are key.

It's clear even to me that the seen with Kidman at the opera, was the very start of Anna's transformation, the moment where she begins to believe that Sean may in fact even be who he says he was. And as the camera stays on her face for close to three minutes and her face reacts perfectly to the musical queues, it's only when Joseph touches her a few times in that sequence that she is absolutely shaken out of her thoughts.

Go back, not even 10 minutes in the movie you have Joseph refer to little Shaun as "your husband" after he speaks with him on the phone. This was the first moment Joseph or any of the characters said "your husband" while referring to Sean if I am correct. Then look at the confrontation in the hall way when Anna asks Sean to stop, "I can't." "You're hurting me" she says, he still says he won't stop. As they are leaving Anna, but not Joseph, turns around to see Sean faint or collapse, much in the same fashion her husband did before death in the opening scenes. In the elevator ride down, Joseph says good job, and Anna is silent and shaken. What she has seen has already transformed her and the opera scene is visual manifestation of that.

And then there was the moment we saw Joseph lose his mind and transform. What's interesting about the spanking scene is that moments before you have Joseph in an apartment alone except for the realtor, and embarrassed as he has been stood up. This was already during a full day in which Anna had spent with Sean. An idea that Joseph could not have been to keen on. But out of respect for Anna's wishes he allows this. Now, Anna has stood him up at the house viewing. We go from Anna on the phone at a playground telling Sean's mom that she wants Sean at the rehearsal, that it would be good for him to hear the music. After this we go back to Joseph, the scene is not as long as Anna's in the opera, but it is a similar scene. We are looking in on his face and we zoom in on it through the window, and we see his face change and contort with the music as well. He has been stood up and humiliated by his fiance and it's hitting him that this has gone to far. Joseph's transformation began there and then was fully manifested in the spanking scene.

Both moments used extreme closeups of the characters faces, reminding some viewers of Kubrick, but it was more than a nod to Kubrick. Both moved the story along so well.

There is so much more I can say about this movie, but I will tip a hat to three writings that really enhanced appreciation for this film. First, Jim Emerson at Scanners talking about the Bunel influence on this film. Next we have Dennis at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule giving more justice to the opening minutes than I ever could. And finally, Robert at 24 Lies a Second giving one of the most indepth essays on the film one could hope for.

IMOCA Projected Series to Continue @ Radio Radio

Here comes more great news from the always good people at Radio Radio and IMOCA.

The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) is pleased to present Projected, a series of highly-regarded contemporary films rarely seen in Indianapolis. These cutting-edge movies will be shown at Radio Radio, 1119 Prospect Street in Fountain Square. The series will begin Thursday, February 8, 2007 and take place every other Thursday continuing through May 10, 2007. The cost of admission is $5 per film or $20 for all film screenings. Attendees must be 21 years or older to enter Radio Radio

Here is the web page for Projected showing the schedule of films. It all starts tonight with my very own second favorite Woody Allen film, Everyone Says I Love You at 730pm.

I was able to get down to Radio Radio for about half of the films last series that IMOCA showed down there. Tufty and Roni were cordial hosts as always, the bar was open, and there was good company to be had and good films to be seeen.

Sadly, it doesn't look like I will be able to make the first two films, but hope to get down there for the rest of them. If you have a chance, please go down and support this series. It should prove to be worth your time.

USA 2 - Mexico 0 . Again!

The United States Soccer Team has once again beaten Mexico 2-0. The latest win was yesterday evening in Glendale, AZ before 63,000 fans. It is a decent estimate that of the 63,000 fans that maybe 65% of them were cheering for Mexico, in the good ole USofA. That's fine with me. If Mexican fans want to pay all this money to see their team lose, it's just more money in US Soccer's bank. Thanks guys!

Three Things I liked about the game

1. Jimmy Conrad. I have liked this guy in MLS for a long time. I remember he had a very poor game in one of the lead up matches to the World Cup, and my ex-girlfriend said, "I never want to see Jimmy Conrad in a US uniform again." I told her to calm down and stated how he'd been the most consistent defender in MLS for a few years now. He played fantastic last night, even if you don't count the goal. It's great to see him play like this. While I am not sure he will be the go to guy in 3 years at the World Cup, he will be very valuable in qualifying.

2. Tim Howard. After some shakiness in the first 10-15 minutes he seemed to own the box. I never got the impression that Mexcico would score.

3. The US resolve and calm over the last 20 minutes. When Sanchez had three out and out forwards on the field for Mexico, and many of the USA players were getting their first taste of this rivalry, the US looked like the calmer veteran team. They patiently waited for the counter attack, and did not get drawn into ths slam dance that Mexican players always invite us to after they go down a goal and frustration takes hold.

And one thing I really did not like about the game

1. The refusal of Mexican players to shake hands again after the defeat. It's become a tradition of sorts where after a defeat the Mexican players will walk of the field defiantly. While, this is something that is common in some fiercer Eastern European rivalries such as Croatia vs Serbia, their has not been any ethnic clensing recently between the USA and Mexico. Only 2 or 3 US players remained on the team from the last time these two teams met. There is two brand new coaches. One would have hoped, or at least imagined that these circumstances would allow for some sportsmanship after the game, but the Mexican team had other ideas. It was a classless move. It's a rivalry, yes, and a very heated one. Still...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Current Read : David Mamet - Bambi vs Godzilla

While unloading some books at Barnes and Noble a few nights back, a hideous neon cover appeared at the top of the box. I noticed the name David Mamet and decided to look a bit further. Mamet has writetn a more than his fair share of plays and screen plays that have made the silver screen. And while I liked some more than others, I at least have always found the dialogue thoughtful so I decided to pick up a copy of Bambi vs Godzilla

I've only read about 40 pages into the book, but expect to be finished it in rather short time. Mamet tackles his topics in brief 8-10 page chapters or sections, and does not waste any words. He is tackling subjects far and wide throughout Hollywood.

Dark Comedy and Politics - Perhaps the success of Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 is due to its excellence not as a documentary but as a comedy. A comedy is teh form in which the unsayable is said, and that, thus, breaks the corrosive cycle of repression.

Victims and Villains - The film The Sum of All Fears discreetly brings the world to the brink of disaster because the Israelis have thoughtlessly misplaced one of their nuclear bombs...I predict a growth of the Jew as monster in the next few years' films. Well, why not? Bedoya and Huston inagurated a few years of the vicious Mexican...Jeremy Kemp et al made the British accent the tocsin of evil effectively for quite a while. So I shall naively opine that perhaps turnabout is fair play and it is merely the Jews' turn in the barrell.

Mamet, born into a Jewish family himself, has a lot to say about the Jewish role in Hollywood, at least in this first 40 pages. And he pulls no punches making it at times uncomfortable and eye opening. Perhaps, it's only that way for me because it is simply stuff I had not thought about before.

In a brief chapter titled An American Tragedy Mamet discusses the films The Jazz Singer and The Jolson Story. He uses them to discuss a tight little problem in American films where "the whites teach the blacks how to play jazz" and where "Gregory Peck, a Christian, impersonates a Jew (The Gentlemans Agreement 1947) and lectures his Jewish secretary on her lack of racial pride."

There are planty more moments just in the first 40 pages where Mamet makes ya sit back, pause, and think. And really, that's what I would expect from Mamet in my experiences watching his screenplays on film. I'm hoping the rest of the book lives up to the first 40 pages.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tony Takatani

This movie shoulda been a slam dunk for me. It had all the elements in place. It's based on a short story by one of my favorite authors. The story itself was intriguing. It's set in modern day Japan. The visuals all look great. Yet I hated it.

Tony Takatani tells the story of a man who had lived an ordinary and lonely life. He was extremely proficient at mechanical drawings, but he never really understood the abstract. It could be said, probably that he was an empirical thinker and thus had never fallen in love either.In the beginning of the film we learn his family situation, and that is supposed to give us a brief background on the man that we meet at age 40 something after the opening credits. To move the story along Tony eventually sees a woman and falls in love. The love affair unfortunately ends tragically after Tony attempts to confront her on her addiction to purhasing clothes, something that was mentioned all the way back at the beginning of the relationship. After the tragic ending Tony deals with his memories in a unique way, and the ending of the story is even interesting. Still, I was gritting my teeth through this.

In the first five minutes of the film, before opening credits, when we are getting background on Tony's childhood there is a voice-over narration. This did not seem out of the ordinary for me. But it did become impossibly grating when the voice-over narration continued throughout the 75 minute film. There were unique storytelling devices like the characters on screen finishing the sentences of the narrator, which only amplified my frustration. It almost felt demeaning to me. As if I, the viewer, needed my hand held and walked through the story to understand what was going on. From what I understand this sort of narration is what turned people off to Little Children when it came out in theaters last year. I have not seen the film, but I can imagine why that would be grating now after watching this last night.

There are numerous literary adaptations of great stories where this sort of device is not used. Haruki Murakami is an author that seems to always throw his characters into an existential crisis of some sort, so maybe it's possible that the screenwriter here felt that the nararator was needed to explain these moments. My biggest frustration was the film was so beautifully shot and paced, that it wasn't needed. The pauses, the city landscapes, the isolation and the mise en scene that Ichikawa created here got the story across without the need of these voice overs. I said to my roomate, it almost could have even worked as a silent film. Though, that was likely overstated due to my frustration.

Should another Murakami story be adapted for the screen I will likely see it, but this first experience didn't hold up to expectations.

Friday, February 02, 2007


The story of Howard Hughes and his meddling with films at RKO Pictures is legendary. Many very good films were made though in the time that Hughes was in charge and some stars were born. Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum were two key RKO players and they teamed up in Macao.

Like many of the films made at RKO during that time Macao had an interesting backstory. One that included Robert Mitchum and director Josef von Sternberg butting heads to the point where von Sternberg was removed from the picture, and Nicolas Ray was brought in to finish and re-shoot scenes for the picture. Josef still gets the dirceting credit, and Nicolas Ray's name is nowhere to be seen on the opening credits. Many who are more familiar with the work of both directors will go back to this film and analyze which director shot which scene. Until I see more of both of their works, my efforts at this would be futile.

Macao is an entertaining, if very frustrating film. Much like anither RKO Mitchum/Russell pic, His Kind of Woman it's a noirish film shot almost entirely in a sunny locale. Jane Russell's Julie get's a job singing at a nightclub owned by Vince Halloran (played by Brad Dexter). Halloran is a bigshot criminal in Macao and makes money at his casino and by selling stolen jewels in Hong Kong. Halloran thinks that Nick Cochran (Mitchum) is a undercover cop out to expose him. Halloran and Cochran both have eyes for Julie. Halloran has the money and power, Mitchum is just a loner on the run from a crime he committed in America.

At only 82 minutes the film moves very briskly. Mitchum and Russell have some very snappy dialogue as can be expected. Russell, as in His Kind of Woman is a perfect lady to put aside Mitchum here. In both body proportions and wit she stands up as Mitchum's equal and their chemistry is undeniable. But, my goodness, has Gloria Grahame ever been more unerutilized. Grahame plays Margie, Halloran's mistress and aside from one crack at Mitchum and a scene in the casino has nothing to work with. It's a shame as she is definitely an actress that deserves better. There are solid performances all around in this film, and I have yet to see a performance from Mitchum in this era that did not entertain me, but overall the film never quite reaches the level that other RKO pics from that era did. Though it is watchable and entertaining, it never seems to be a classic.

On the DVD though there is a great commentary track from film noir expert Eddie Muller, and screenwriter Stanley Rubin. For me this was more entertaining even than the movie. Muller's admiration for Runin is evident throughout the commentary, and vice versa. They may even spend more time talking about RKO and other films and actors of the era as they do talking about Macao. It's a highly informative and entertaining gossip session of a past era. I laughed out loud numerous times throughout.

More on Macao can be found here at the always terrific Noir of the Week.