October 16, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Relatively light screening week this last week coupled with my not having a Tuesday night speaking gig at the Denver Public Library for the first time in a month left me with a little spare time to head out for a discussion of Vertigo at the Starz Filmcenter, facilitated by my friend Tom Delapa of the Boulder Weekly and the Denver Art Museum. Found the experience to be mostly frustrating, I have to admit, with a lot of folks testing the waters for the first time and liking the temperature, to be sure, but resetting the conversation at the beginning, I fear. I like, lately, to think of Vertigo as three problems with Midge: the problem of her glasses, the problem of her order, and the problem of her painting. I think if you look close enough at that Barbara Bel Geddes girl Friday, you hold in your hands the keys to one of Hitchcock’s most enigmatic works. This week is Psycho. I think I’m going to stay home. It’s not that there isn’t still profit from tapping that vein – just that public discussions of Hitchcock seem to me now to be a little retrograde if I’m not moderating them. (Not suggesting that my discussions are less basic, just that when I’m talking, I’m doing something.) All things being equal, though, better to have an opportunity like this in a central location in our little two horse town than not. Starting my Ghost Story series with Jack Clayton’s The Innocents this coming Saturday at 1:00pm at the Gilpin County Public Library: it’s free with free coffee, pop, and popcorn; just 45 minutes outside of downtown.

I did see Capote, however, at an industry-only screening, and found myself sort of fascinated by the way that P.S. Hoffman seems trapped in his body the same way that Capote was trapped in his persona. There’s a real live boy in there and, a lot like Charles Laughton from a film generation or two ago, he’s leading man material crammed into the body and mug of a character actor. I’ve read him bristling a few times at being described as “chubby” – I think it hurts him more than you’d think to be thought of as an “ugly” guy when it seems clear that he’s gifted enough (unlike, say, Paul Giamatti who I still don’t get), to be something really special. When Capote makes a speech (a manipulative one) in the film that people often judge him by his appearance and come to the wrong conclusions – I had a hard time separating the actor from the ghost. Ditto his brief (too brief) turn as sainted critic Lester Bangs: dealing with similar identity/appearance issues. We talk a lot in “chick flicks” about the appearance of women (the gorgeous Toni Collette has made a cottage industry out of being “ugly” in them), but we don’t spend enough time I think with the extent that the male ego is attached to attractivity. It’s certainly not as important for a man to be gorgeous as, say, rich and influential – but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a moment in Ocean’s 11 where I didn’t look at Pitt and Clooney in their awesome suits and have a neon-hued reminder of just how cruel – and sharp – is the ol’ pecking order. Anyway – there’s a lot of pain in P.S. Hoffman’s performance and I think I’m leaning towards a positive review of Capote because of it. The film itself is suspect from the start.

Progress on my DVD queue involves me crawling through old “X-Files” episodes at a pace so slow that I fear my aversion is showing. It’s not just straight seasons of the hoary old show, but Chris Carter’s new “Mythology” box sets that cut out the good stuff to focus on the stuff that just doesn’t make any goddamn sense. “Colonization,” “Black Oil” – the very things that turned people off the thing – that have made the show the one-term cautionary tale applied to stuff like “Lost” (and after three episodes of Season Two, I’ve made a vow not to go back to the island until the gala series finale) – is making the going rougher still. I remember as a kid making up dramas a lot like this: breathless, lying on my side with a jump-rope as a climbing cord, imagining all manner of intrigue and illogical scenarios while invisible girls wept pitiful tears at my plight and my awful courage. Nothing wrong with prepubescent passion plays. Nothing, that is, until they become the overarching master-plot of a beloved television series. All would be well if its failure were the end of it – but here come these box sets that give it another go. Frustrating and bordering on offensive that Carter would even try to pull this shit again.

Screening this week, too, of Martin Campbell’s The Legend of Zorro - a sequel to a film that I honestly can’t remember anything about except that there might have been a scene where Antonio Banderas semi-undresses Catherine Zeta Jones with a sword. Watching the new one unfold, it comes clear that it's everything that you’d expect a PG-rated action film to be, complete with oodles and oodles of slow-motion “consequence” shots where the bad guys are shown to be all right despite terrible falls from great heights or calamitous explosions. (I refer to them as "A-Team" shots, to put not too fine a point on it.) All the mayhem, none of the violent loss of life and grieving families – that is until the conclusion where a pair of villains are dispatched in extraordinarily gruesome ways and an entire battalion of Confederate soldiers is dispatched by a guy with a bottle of nitro in his pants. This doesn’t appear to count, of course, and the audience responded to the sadism with brio and bonhomie. A trio of good guys who are killed in cold blood by the baddies early on which I guess excuses the sociopathic actions of the heroes in the final reel. The whole thing, hate to say, seems to be a remake of Once Upon a Time in the West. Can’t say I hated the flick, though, because I think that “already weary of it, sight unseen” is the more accurate term.

Also took in Joe Wright’s surprisingly good Pride and Prejudice (which is also sort of surprisingly cruel, and again with no real consequences, but then when did I become the old maid?) – and saw Charlize Theron and Niki Caro’s North Country which is just not very good. Full of mixed signals and the kind of happy horseshit that passes as activism nowadays, who knew that Norma Rae was so good? The best part is how the same kind of macho bullshit that torments our heroic girl miners is used against an evil witness for the defense, begging the question of when it is, exactly, that being a bully and questioning someone’s sexuality is good, and when is it bad. It takes a complicated issue and makes it the martyrdom of St. Theron (her character has no flaws, as far as I can tell, making this “woman’s” film about the redemption of four men)– people who play in Oscar pools, here are two shoo-ins for Best Actress nominations (Theron and Knightley, the latter of whom has already gotten Roger Ebert’s magic thumb) this year – as well as another two strong contenders for Best Picture consideration. Mind you, I’m not saying they deserve it, just that they smell like the kind of film that gets attention this time of year. It’s a movie directed by a woman from a book by two women – but the screenplay adaptation was written by a dude. Better than the directed by, written by, adapted from a book by dudes ratio of women’s pic The Hours, but no great shakes in any event. What movies this year were directed by American women, anyway?
Watched Jan Svankmajer’s astonishing Alice back-to-back with the Dennis Potter-scripted Dreamchild - the former only available in a full-frame, dubbed DVD and the latter out of print in any format – played in conjunction (Henson’s Creature Shop provided beasties for Dreamchild) the two form a grand double bill. Svankmajer, Czech stop-motion animator extraordinaire (the inspiration for the work of The Brothers Quay amongst others), fashions from Carrol’s twisted tale a surreal exercise over-interested in scissors and writing desks. My dreams afterwards were dark, grotesque things. Really an amazing film and required viewing especially now that we’ve been primed by Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit. It goes places, does Alice, that you wish it wouldn’t. A prime example of what happens when archetype is accessed through an intimate understanding of source material and the perverse machinations of the lizard brain. A sequence with the caterpillar imagined as a room full of holes created by ravenously burrowing, phallic worms – and our Alice carefully taking off her shoes before entering – is nightmare territory and one of the only true evocations of the displacing surreality of Carroll’s prose and prosody. Dreamchild on the other hand, is a wonderful portal to Potter’s own pop surrealism that finds the nostalgia in Carroll’s pedophilic reveries. What is pedophilia on one level but an appreciation of ephemera? There’s menace in Dreamchild’s pitch black whimsy – the script, it goes without saying, is above reproach. Ian Holm, by the way, is the perfect Dodgson.
I’m interested as hell in Wes Craven’s announced adaptation of the terrifying Alice computer game – anyone hip to the progress of the project?

Caught a dollar-theater showing of The Dukes of Hazzard, I thought I’d mention apropos to nothing. It’s just about as good or bad as you’d expect but, surprisingly, it didn’t herald to me the end of human civilization – just another shot across the bow at white southern males. Again, the key emotion while I was watching it was an almost total disinterest coupled with no little impatience. Sort of like getting caught in a conversation with someone with whom you have no interest in having a conversation. Meant to go out and catch a civilian show of The Fog 2005, but by the end of the weekend, realized that if I just waited another week, I could probably catch it for $2.00 down the street.

Finished reading Pete Dexter’s fabulous Train - one of the best of its kind that I’ve read since James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential - a dark, gritty, patios-filthy noir that sings of dirty-Faulkner and the only good book Walter Moseley ever wrote. A line: “She was pitiful in a way, but not in a way that Norah pitied.” captures a lot of the joy of the novel. It’s written from the point of view of an African-American caddy with a green thumb and a friend in a punch-drunk, blind boxer named Plural – taken under the care for a time by an enigmatic cop named Packard and his new wife Norah. Deceptively simple and without anything like a plot, the book is instead a startling piece of historical sociology and by its open-ended ending, I was left with this feeling that I’d been somewhere. I was sorry to see it end. On my bedside table now, Joe R. Lansdale’s The Bottoms.

Here’s this week’s (week 4) mystery capture - it's a relatively easy one so hurry, hurry:

(The contest so far embroiled in a four way tie between Ian, The Captain, Asokan, and Earnest)

On the shuffle:

Afghan Whigs - If I Were Going
Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
Cat Stevens - Here Comes My Baby
Ruby - Hoops
The Fiery Furnaces - Bird Brain
Ani DiFranco - Untouchable Face
Sidney Bechet - Blue Horizon
The Smiths - There is a Light that Never Goes Out
Broken Social Scene - Our Faces Split the Coast in Half
Sonic Youth - Stalker
Cat Power - Back of Your Head
Sparklehorse - Sea of Teeth
Beck - Cold Brains
Simon & Garfunkel - America
Tanya Donelly - Life Is But A Dream
Cocteau Twins - Cherry-Coloured Funk
Kronos Quartet - Already It Is Dark
Stevie Wonder - Blame it on the Sun
Bad Religion - No Control
Tom Waits - Yesterday Is Here
The Cure - Fascination Street


New reviews:
Dario Argento's Trauma and The Card Player
Hellraiser: Hellbound, Boogeyman (1980), Return of the Boogeyman, The Fallen Ones
Stay and Doom
Dreamer
North Country
Capote

157 comments:

shrug said...

Badlands?

shrug said...

I might have had something useful to say in addition to my stab at screen-capture glory, but I sort of skimmed straight to the end to eyeball it before reading the rest of the post.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA - Badlands it is.

Five-way tie. I'm thinking the first to two probably wins the pie - three more captures to go.

Just so's y'all know - I'll try to get Trench updates posted around midnight EST every Sunday.

Shrug - I
The Captain - I
Asokan - I
Earnest - I
Ian - I

shrug said...

Go.. me.

Having actually read the damn thing in it's entirety now I can say that I was introduced to Badlands and Alice by the very same person, an instructor who also turned me onto Dead Man. Years later my then-girlfriend and I would attend a showing of Little Otik with her and her husband which, to me, seemed significantly less resonant than Alice. I maintained hopes, and got what felt like random grotesquery used to no particular end. But my fellow movie-goers seemed to like it which made me wonder if I wasn't missing something afterwards.

"All the mayhem, none of the violent loss of life" seems to sum up something I've been complaining about to anyone who will listen for ages. A film can show nigh-limitless violence and be considered potentially appropriate for children so long as they don't show the consequences of it. (Hooray for PG-13.) I'm beginning to honestly think that “consequence” shots ala A History of Violence should be necessary to get less than an R, not something that immediately brings you up to R or NC-17 territory. "Hey kids, here's what would likely happen if you really punched Billy thirteen times in the nose."

Now please, imagine I said that a little better.

Scott said...

I think that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the DeNiro of his generation. Meaning, whenever I see DeNiro in a flick, I'm rarely,if ever, reminded of his past peformances. (There are exceptions, of course -- his turn in THE FAN resembling Rupert Pumpkin in THE KING OF COMEDY being one.) I'm instantly accepting this character as a new, authentic creation. Hoffman strikes me the same way. When watching MAGNOLIA, he's a good, sweet dude; when watching RIPLEY, he's sleazy and conniving and a little bit scary; when watching FLAWLESS, he's a flamboyant, pained drag queen. Like DeNiro, Hoffman also seems to play gentle and meek as well as he plays angry and disturbing. (I like the DeNiro of TRUE CONFESSIONS and MAD DOG AND GLORY as well as the DeNiro of CAPE FEAR, and the Hoffman of ALONG CAME POLLY is as watchable as the Hoffman of RIPLEY -- if a bit more amiable.)

I guess I mean that with many actors you simply watch the same persona glide from movie to movie, but with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performances you get the sense of a life being lived for the first time in front of you; you don't find ghosts of his other filmic selves getting in the way.

Walter_Chaw said...

No - I think you did great with the last bit - with you on the importance of consequences to violence. What makes fairy tales unexpurgated as powerful as they are, after all. Now, if you'd be so kind as to clarify for me (and only if you're so inclined) the bit about your then-girlfriend, you, and her husband. . .

Walter_Chaw said...

Interesting take on Hoffman - for me, though, there's this constant in his characters (and he bristled at this suggestion pretty violently) of men afraid that their ambitions would be betrayed by the limitations of their appearance - that they'd be underestimated at best and scorned at worst. His work in Love Liza and then Owning Mahowney are ones for the ages - but I'm still trying to puzzle out Red Dragon.

shrug said...

"Years later my then-girlfriend and I would attend a showing of Little Otik with said instructor and said instructor's husband which, to me, seemed significantly less resonant than Alice. "

It will get closer and closer to making proper sense with every revision.

There was also a fifth with us. Another young lady who replied to my assertion that The Matrix had a sound structure and sure was pretty great when I was seventeen but seemed insanely boring upon repeat viewings because no one was saying anything too interesting for the majority of its running time with "Yeah, but if you think of it as a comic book it's perfect."

My only response to which was whipping out entirely unreasonable sentences.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Can't agree with you more on Phillip Seymore. Loved him since the first time i saw him beating up the steering wheel in boogie nights. But....

You don't like Paul Giamatti ?? I love the fucker. Wasn't too impressed with American Splendor until I saw it again. But Sideways, that one scene during Virginia Madison's monologue, his face had a subtle expression as if that's the first time he had heard her speak those much-rehearsed words. Really got sold on the guy right then and there.

I can see though why you wouldn't like him. Especially in American Splendor, he looked hell-bent to act pathetic. But Sideways more than cleaned the slate for me.

Bill C said...

[stream of consciousness]'fraid that line of dialogue didn't do much for me, a guy who's particularly susceptible to demonstrations of male insecurity, because it felt like part and parcel of the movie's agenda to tick off Capote's documented neuroses one by one. (Hell, Robert De Niro moved me more in the idiotic Mary Shelley's Frankenstein when the blind man asks him why he has no friends and he replies, "Because I am so very ugly. And they are so very...beautiful.") I mean, I guess you could argue that he wished Perry Smith would overtly fetishize him in return, but that's run-of-the-mill narcissism--he goes home to Bruce Greenwood, fer cryin' out loud! You can tell it's a movie whose money is not where its mouth is because Truman's dating a hunk and their relationship is totally chaste; am I the only one who not only prefers In Cold Blood (see below), but also finds it less repressed as queer cinema?

Mostly, of course, I dislike Capote because it steals the gravity (to borrow one of my favourite of Walter's turns-of-phrase) of In Cold Blood, easily the saddest and most chilling procedural of the pre-Seven era. (John Forsythe's take on Alvin Dewey, particularly that searing final speech about the Smith/Hickock executions meaning fuck-all in the grand scheme of things, is clearly an inspiration for Somerset and the way Morgan Freeman played him.) Bennett Miller seems like a good director until you realize you're just having a particularly vivid deja vu. To give the last word to Armond White (who also draws the comparison between Laughton and Hoffman, but in the pejorative sense): "If Hoffman and screenwriter Dan Futterman were really interested in exploring the diminutive literary prodigy and social gadabout, they wouldn't have submerged character-study beneath the sensationalism of the Clutter family murders that Truman Capote chronicled in "In Cold Blood" (not his most representative book, just the most exploitable)."

Ah well, at least I ain't alone on Elizabethtown.[/stream of consciousness]

Anonymous said...

Phillip Seymour Hoffman - one of my favorite actors. He manages to be consistently watchable and charismatic, even in stuff like Along Came Polly.

Walter_Chaw said...

Ah shit - White talks about Laughton? Having a hell of a time writing about this one, have to admit - now I feel like I have to drop that thread. Watched In Cold Blood again immediately following as well as giving the book another go-through and there's really no comparison of course to either - both pieces are essentially dissections of Capote already making this film dead weight. Maybe exploitation.

The only thing I can say against Brooks' film is that the Quincy Jones score is a little oppressive for two or three scenes in the first half hour - and that's it. It's a devastating watch - Capote seems lost in it. I even like To Kill a Mockingbird better. The danger of essaying genius is that very seldom do geniuses do the essaying.

I like that line because it's a lie told to a little girl - and I like it because it seems transparent for PSH and his journey from obscurity to selling out semi-consistently - but then Greenwood, even Keener as the ultimate morality (how superfluous is her final word on the whole thing? - fucking terrible). . . all points well-taken. The film is a parade of opportunities missed. The filmmakers seem uncertain of their points and so take pains to restate their thesis and unearth their subtext. I've graded a lot of papers just like this - kids who don't know what they're talking about and so talk about it at length. The press kit takes pains to underscore how much they trusted PSH to provide nuance and yet they undermine his performance every step along the way.

A lot of snickering is spared people in the film who either don't know Capote's queer or are shocked by it - but by the end, seems like the only people squeamish about it are the players who, frankly, treat his gayness like an episode of "Will & Grace". By the time it's over, it still seems open to interpretation. Like a parlor trick - or a bad smell in an elevator.

Hope you won't read my sympathy for PSH's performance as an endorsement for the film - the film's only ever been suspect - but I'm having a hard time putting PSH down here as just another cunning imitation. Nor is it channeling, come to think of it - I think it's actually autobiographical.

But, anyway, yeah Elizabethtown. Someone should slap his mother.

Anonymous said...

Walter,

Appropos of nothing, as you say, but I'm wondering if you have any opinion on Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman. Caught bits and pieces of it tonight and seem to have a vague notion that you introduced it at the Denver Public Library once upon a time.

Anonymous said...

Ya know... I probably just should have e-mailed you that question. Sorry, folks.

Walter_Chaw said...

By the by:

Giamatti I always think of as a personality instead of an actor - he never strikes me as authentic. I hear what you're saying about him in Sideways - that four-person party scene in particular is a nice one - but I feel like he's just doing what he's always doing and I wasn't convinced he was that character in that moment. That's not very clear, I guess. More of a gut thing than something I can really define. When you accidentally stumble across Cinderella Man someday - you'll see what I mean.

I find Eat Drink Man Woman to be an interesting film in the sense that we know where Ang Lee went from there (to Jane Austen then Rick Moody then Crouching Tiger then the Incredible Hulk) - here in this early little trifle, you see him breaking out different Hollywood eras to serve as trademarks for each of the daughters. Ravishing and technically accomplished if the story is sort of "meh" in the final wash. Worth a look, though, for sure - especially for the auteurists out there.

Alex Jackson said...

Bill should have quoted White's second and last paragraph on the film:

Hoffman's entire performance is on his knees (begging), utilizing his perpetual albino aura. Not just a new Dustin Hoffman, he's our Charles Laughton doing more acting than others would dare and more than is necessary. Director Bennett Miller closes in on every tic (even Catherine Keener's humdrum turn as Capote's beard among the Midwestern rubes). Capote won't be complete until Hoffman makes his Oscar season rounds, burnishing the shameless display. Blame Roger Ebert (Hoffman's next role?) for overpraising Monster. Now all SAG's a madhouse.

ROFLMAO. What a bitch!

Can't say that I had any feelings one way or the other toward Capote until I saw the trailer before Grizzly Man. I'm not sure if the PSH performance is good or bad but it sure as hell looks interesting.

I actually saw Alice not too long ago. It was very good, interesting in how it's "surreal" in a way that is parallel but completely different to the surrealness of Cronenberg or Lynch or Clive Barker etc. where it is all necrophilia chic; all about juices and sex and meat.

When the rabbit in Alice has sawdust coming out of his seams and he keeps eating it back up with a spoon-- it's not really gross. I'm not quite sure what that is.

Jack_Sommersby said...

complete with oodles and oodles of slow-motion “consequence” shots where the bad guys are shown to be all right despite terrible falls from great heights or calamitous explosions. (I refer to them as "A-Team" shots, to put not too fine a point on it.)

Ah, yes, memories! My brother and I would laugh our asses off as Hannibal & Co. would shoot down the villain's helicopter and he and his henchmen would stumble out of the wreckage practically unscathed (not even a broken leg!). Still, I wouldn't mind George Peppard's "I love it when a plan comes together." serving as the ringer on a cellphone or doorbell.

Concerning Giamatti, while I like him better than you, Walter, you seem to take the same kind of exception to him that I do to Jeremy Davies -- who, unlike Giamatti, can't act his way out of a wet paper bag and whose continued employment baffles me. And the thing is, since both of these guys are mostly associated with indepedent films, whenever you criticize one, you'll get these automatic huff-and-puffs from this certain brand of film lovers who'll blindly idolize any damn actor as long as they're active in the independent-film scene (though I'm not grouping those who've defended Giamatti in this forum in with them; their defenses come off as genuine). I was ragging on Davies, and this guy responded, "You're insane!"; I asked why I was insane, and he said, "Davies kicks ass!"; I asked why he "kicked ass", and he didn't have anything specific to reply back with. Pathetic.

Concerning In Cold Blood, I dug the book but thought the film way overdirected and too artily shot.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Funny enough, I don't mind Jeremy Dvies much either. Infact I thought he was pretty darn good in "Spanking the Monkey" (Pretty under-rated movie too, uncomfortable as it may be).

Talking of actors we hate. How about Kirsten Dunst, Sam L. Jackson, Gene Hackman just to throw a few names in. I'm sure there's countless others I'm leavin' out of this prestigious list.

Bill C said...

I love Spanking the Monkey, but I have a feeling you could plug any young actor into the lead and arrive at pretty much the same results. The only time I've come close to admiring Davies since is in Saving Private Ryan, where he seems to have been cast primarily for his resemblance to E.T.'s Henry Thomas.

Actors who are like nails on a chalkboard to me: Hope Davis; Kieran Culkin; Michael Pitt; Lauren Graham; Gabriel Mann; Lindsay Lohan; the list goes on... For most of those, though, it's probably a problem of typecasting.

Lee said...

Saw "Alice" recently as well. It made me very uncomfortable, particularly those moments Alex was talking about when rabbit eats the saw dust that escapes from his body. I was also unnerved by the scene with the mad hatter and the march hare. Fascinating stuff, for sure. Did you see the short on the DVD involving all the body parts molding together? Great surreal stuff.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Bill, out of the list you mentioned, Michael Pitt is the only one I like. Don't care much for rest of them. Hope Davis sucks donkey balls.

Seattle Jeff said...

Hold the presses!

Stallone has gotten a deal for Rocky 6!!

Woooooo!!!!

Seattle Jeff said...

or is it "Stop the presses!"?

I was just so excited.

I wonder if the sixth film will be able to maintain the momentum of the fifth installment.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Difference between Rocky 1 and Rocky 2 is the difference between 70s and the 80s, Me thinks.

Chad Evan said...

The original Rocky is no great shakes, but it's a good underdog uplift sports movie. Then they had to go and ruin it with the ridiculous sequels (although I must admit I watch 3 every time it comes on TV just to laugh at the awesome Mr. T.) There is just no fucking way Rocky could ever beat Apollo Creed; the strength of the first is that it understands this, and so is just a tribute to good ol' American stubborness. I still get all a-tingle when Rocky goes the distance against Creed; when he actually beats Creed (or the big Russian or whomever,) I just laugh.

Scott said...

I still say there's great potential in ROCKY BALBOA, as the new film is to be called. (Although the series has admittedly become like the poster of the ancient oriental man under the banner ROCKY VIIIIIII that is featured as a sight gag in AIRPLANE II -- and that came out in '82!) If Stallone can milk what it's like to be a former champion pushing sixty, there's the possibility of real pathos there.

Then again, Canadian film critic Jay Scott, in his review of ROCKY V (which was positive), basically said that ROCKY films preach to the converted. If you've drunk the Jim Jones juice that Stallone is dishing out, then you will follow the story whereever it goes and appreciate the subtleties and revel in the cliches. I guzzled that juice as a kid, so I'm hooked. Provides a link to my pre-adolescent self.

(Oh, and I'll be interested to see how Stallone's evolved as a director. ROCKY II is better directed than the original, I say. And I still say that with ROCKY IV Stallone was doing Michael Bay before Michael Bay did it. I won't um, mention STAYING ALIVE...)

And Gene Hackman, overrated? The man is a god...

Bill C said...

I get flack for this all the time, but I think Rocky III is a legitimately good picture, and in fact the best of the five. The series is really a memoir in progress for Stallone, and in Rocky III we find him musing on fame in a way that's really interesting: he finds he's maintained popularity by making easy choices, and so he's having a crisis of conscience. I know its homoeroticism is good for a chuckle, as is Mr. T, but even at that I think Clubber Lang is a pretty tantalizing construct; I'd love to see a version of the film told from his point-of-view, because he's got something to prove, y'know? Unlike Rocky fighting Apollo, who's assimilated and civilized to the point of his race really being a non-issue, this is true black on white violence. And Burgess Meredith's death-bed utterance is incredible: "I love you Rocky. It hurts me." It's the worst slug Rocky ever took.

The Captain said...

Off topic, but I just saw Night Watch.

Holy shit.

What a fucking abysmal movie.

Scott said...

I still say ROCKY II is perhaps the finest, simply because each character is willing to sacrifice what they love most to satisfy the other. Mickey wants nothing more than for Rocky to kick the shit out of Creed, but Rocky, preoccupied by Adrian's sickness, is in no mood to train, so Mickey says: "If you want to blow it, hell, I'll blow it with you", and stays by the Rock's side all through his vigil. Once Adrian and the kid are okay, Rocky offers to stop fighting and try something else to satisfy Adrian. Adrian doesn't want her husband to box, but she knows that it makes him who he is, so she tells him to "win". Each character gives up their own personal needs to fulfill the needs of the other. It's trite and soap-operaish and so human and simple in its grace that it works, goddamnit, and gets to me every time I watch it.

Alex Jackson said...

Only Rocky I saw was the first one. Good movie actually, it has a sense of humor and likable characters. But better than Taxi Driver? Or even Network? What the fuck?

Seattle Jeff said...

Wow.

I wasn't really serious about my Rocky enthusiasm. I was just being sarcastic.

I had no idea it would lead to this.

Jack_Sommersby said...

I'm suing FFF for emotional duress: Walter just lambasted and carved more than a few new orifices in one of my favorite '80s horror films, [b]The Boogeyman[/b].

(weeps uncontrollably)

Bill C said...

Ah, the healing power of Rocky Balboa; I think there's probably a Rocky movie for everybody. For the record, I think Network is hugely overrated (the thing just crumbles into a satiric void after the great "mad as hell" speech), but yeah, Rocky sure ain't better than Taxi Driver. Did you know that Stallone was the first actor since Orson Welles nominated for writing and acting in the same year?

James Allen said...

Re: Rocky

I think Tim Curry was quite good in... huh? Oh, not that Rocky-

Rocky was a nice film, it doesn't rank up with the best films of the 70's, but that's not a bad thing. What I always appreciated was the ending. People talk about the "Rocky formula," but seem to forget he lost the damn fight (the cliche came into it's own in subsequent films, which all required Rocky to win in the end.)

A similar point was put on The Bad News Bears, winning the Big Game wasn't necessary.

Seattle Jeff said...

Bill-

We really, really disagree on Network.

Though i'm handling it in a more manly fashion than Jack up there.

Jack_Sommersby said...

I dislike Network even more than you do, Bill, and found Paddy Chayefsky's 1971 The Hospital much, much better, with a much, much better lead performance by George C. Scott than Finch gave.

As for Rocky, I have to go with Bill, also: III is the best of the lot. And I think V is as underrated as I is overrated, with IV an MTV-style-shot disgrace.

Bill C said...

Alas, you won't get much of a fight from me, Jeff: I'm completely sympathetic with a positive take on Network; it's an adventurous flick. (I, too, prefer The Hospital--and Altered States, for that matter.) Hoping there's a Special Edition DVD at some point, as that should motivate us to finally review the darn thing.

Rocky IV is so ridiculous. It actually seems like a satire at this point, a spoof of all things '80s a la The Wedding Singer. Remember Rocky's robot butler?

Jack_Sommersby said...

Yes, unfortunately the robot butler is still in my memory. Sheesh, some of my high-school buds cut class just to see the first showing on opening day -- though not a whole hell of a lot, if any, to the best of my recollection, did the same to take in the asinine arm-wrestling Over the Top two years later.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

There was a point to Rocky 1. It was story of a loser who knew he wasn't good enough, who knew he didn't have talent or discipline required to cut it. He was a bum. Then he got a chance to fight someone who did and he thought "Maybe I'm not good enough to beat him, but fuck me, he'll have to kill me to keep me down" It was story of a defeated warrior who had nothing to loose. At the end, he's standing. Not because he found his hidden talent, but because he didn't even consider defeat as an option. So when people tell me that it was a sports underdog movie, I'm a bit surprised 'coz I never saw it that way. Story could've been set in roman times where the lead was a gladiator and it won't have made a difference. The guy's a classic anti-hero archetype. It was just interesting for me to see somewhat of a european sensibility added to it in the first movie.

However, they made a sequel and they made him win in it. That to me is like Mel Gibson making a sequel "Passion of the Christ" (Tagline: This time it's personal. Summary: Jesus goes on a bloody rampage destroying the roman empire and killing the Jews.). It defeats the whole point of the first movie and so do the other sequels. Rocky 2 was indication of the 80s studio sensibility of squeezing out every last penny that you could. Stallone sold his soul and became biggest movie star in the world for it.

Another vote in favor of Network being higly over-rated. Completely agree with Bill on it. Never really made an impression on me. Always thought "All the Presiden't Men" was a btter film in terms of display of journalism. I know Walter is not a big Oppie fan but I love "The Paper", I've seen it 20 times all 2'o clock at night on T.V. They show that movie alot.

p.s. Academy seemed to think that ROcky was a better film than Taxi Driver. That's why they gave it the best picture oscar over it. But then again, who can take them seriously ? They gave Kramer vs. Kramer an oscar over Apocalypse Now. And this was during the 70s !

Alex Jackson said...

I like the key of movie that Network is in, which in my mind, is of the same breed as Dogville and Crash: the characters not speaking for themselves but as a mouthpiece for the screenwriter. I love that shit, I just love it. No trying to defend yourself with objectivity, it's just direct and full frontal.

I think that it's a considerably more interesting movie than Rocky, but I'll at least concede that it hasn't held the test of time nearly as well.

I'll also concede that Taxi Driver is not only a considerably more interesting movie than Rocky, but it has also held the test of time better than Network. And so there you go, it's the best of both.

Not too interested in Rocky 2 and Rocky 5; but Rocky 3 and Rocky 4, for better and for worse, sound fascinating. Rocky's robot butler? Consider my curiosity officially sparked.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Kramer vs. Kramer was a better film than Apocalypse Now. The former, while not particularly original, was deft and emotionally resonant; while the former, while fairly original and fabulously textured, had absolutely no emotional core. Which would I choose to watch? Apocalypse; but I couldn't honestly say it's the better film. Then again, 1979 wasn't exactly a stellar year for Best Picture nominees: All That Jazz (dazzingly entertaining in many parts but fatally self-indulgent); Breaking Away (a good film, nothing more); and Norma Rae (very good without being excellent). For my money, Alien was far and away the best damn film of that year.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Yeah... I guess it really just boils down to different taste. There is an artificiality to characters being a mouthpeice for the screenwriter that really turns me off. Stealing from you, I prefer "secular" films. To me, watching something by Hitchcock, Kubrick or even Speilberg is like watching something gorgeous and dead at the same time. There are no accidents or "mistakes" as Harmony Korine calls them. The idea of "play 'em like piano" is reprehensible to me and probably the biggest enemy of cinema. Art like energy, for me, can neither be created or destroyed, it can only be shared. There is an amount of vanity and ego involved in making anything from "Crash" to "2001- A Space Odyssey". Mostly this vanity is sanctioned as artist's expression, but I find something "deeply" superficial about it. What it really comes down to is that I don't like being manipulated, I don't like when Camera goes all over the place (other than say when Scorsese does it in Taxi Driver or Bringing out the dead. There always are exceptions) and I don't like when all characters speak like screenwriter's "mouthpeices". What I do like is when I'm not even an element of consideration in film-maker's mind, maybe that is an indication of my voyeuristic tendencis but whatever it maybe I like it when I can watch a film that doesn't feel like it's a film, but life's images captured on celluloid. I just find more escape in "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" than I do in... say, "Clockwork Orange".

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I don't think we can fairly debate Apocalypse Now, it being my favorite film of all time. But your claim that it has "absolutely no emotional core" is appalling to me. Maybe not for you, but I have seen the film almost 25-30 times and I cry like "some grandmother" every time Col. Kurtz dies in the film. I think all give-and-take, he is tied with Barry Egan in "punch-drunk love" as my favorite character in film of all time.

"Kramer vs. Kramer" is a good film but comparing it to "Apocalypse Now" for me is sacriligeous.

Scott said...

I don't think any more adventurous exploration of the human psyche has been made since APOCALYPSE NOW. No other film has dealt with themes as big, as mad, as human as that film. Watching the rerelease a few years back, watching Duvall's "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" scene, I remember thinking: This is one of the most perfect scenes in the history of cinema. Duvall's wistful, romantic appreciation for the killing effects of war seems to sum up not only the schizophrenia of the Vietnam experience for Americans but also the way in which humans will seek to find, NEED to find beauty in even the most horrific acts. Such a simple scene, but one that resonates on all kinds of philosophical and filmic levels. A genius film tha gets deeper and denser every time I see it. (And since I've been living in Cambodia for the past two years, it seems even more apt and insightful about man's darkness.) I don't think it will be equalled any time soon.

And I still kinda sorta like ROCKY IV. It's the ROCKY mythos raised to the level of a cartoon, which is what it had become. Stallone recognized that, allowing Rocky to attain the mythic, super-hero status that the country was longing for at that time. ROCKY V popped the bubble and brought Rocky back to his roots because such rah-rah Commie baiting was no longer fashionable in 1990, but in '85, like it or not, Stallone tapped into the zeitgeist in his own outlandish way.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Just wanted to add to me reponse to Alex, that when I say "life's images captured on celluloid", I don't mean that I only like watching films made by Dradenne Brothers or Alan Clarke or Verite for that matter. In fact it's the opposite, with "life" I mean to encompass inner and outer landscapes. An artist can get as creative as they want in whatever genre, but it's the naturalistic, "secularist" style that I find most interesting. I like to see the puppets not the puppeteer. It just goes to another level when puppets have no strings.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Well, to me, Brando's acting is really hammy as Kurtz; the character comes off more as a concept than a fully-realized human being. And what of Willard? What emotional progression does he go through during the course of the film? His journey through the "heart of darkness" hardly blackens his soul, because he's already a trained assassin; when he coldly executes that wounded Vietnamese woman on the boat, it's hardly indicative of a newly-acquired darkness and more a logical extension of his before-the-journey self. I'm not averring that Now is a bad film -- it's got lots of standout sequences unlike any seen before or after -- but I still feel its possessive of a hollow core, no matter how many times I see it.

And, hey Kramer and Apocalypse are two totally different films. I can understand that the small-scale Kramer may seem a fly speck to Apocalypse's big-scale self, but in terms of character and story and focus it takes pretty big leaps over Apocalypse. (The only thing I really dislike about Kramer is that damn Streep-gives-the-kid-back ending. Whenever I think of it, I always want to shout to Dustin Hoffman's character: "Have her pay you back the $15,000 you had to spend on that marriage lawyer, ya doofus!")

Scott said...

I think that 'hollow core'at the centre of APOCALYPSE NOW is what makes the film genius. It doesn't follow the conventional rules of a 'hero's progression'; it meanders and wanders and is filled with the empty alleyways of our own psyches. It's got its fair share of detractors, I know, but boy does that film haunt me with its images and sounds and overall tone...

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think you have very generic outlook on "Apocalypse Now", you don't need to have a "black" soul to be a trained assassin. He's a soldier, someone who has been trained in violence for defense of his country. The whole film is about how futlie it is to seperate "good" and "bad" violence 'coz at the end of the day, you're killing people which is against the most basic rule over which all religions, laws and philosphies are based upon "Do unto others...". The film is about the toll that the idea of "good" violence takes on human heart and it is as much about Vietnam as it is about any event of violence in history. When he returns back to Ohio before the film begins, he is still brainwashed to believe that all hineous acts that he commited were for a "good" purpose but the toll that they took on his soul are irreversible. So he goes back to Vietnam "...because you don't find out who the fuck you are working in some factory in Ohio". So your claim that his killing of that Vietnamese girl is a "logical extension" of his previous self, in my opinion, is bullshit. In the beginning, he is in an existential crisis ( "Someday this war's gonna end. That'd be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren't looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I'd been back there, and I knew that it just didn't exist anymore." )because of the conflicting ideas of "what he knows as truth" and "what he is brainwashed to believe". This seen when he says "How many people had I already killed? There was those six that I know about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time it was an American and an officer. That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did." By the end , he figures out when he swims through the BS that he has been made to believe, as he says "They were gonna make me a major for this, and I wasn't even in their fuckin' army anymore."

So to say that he didn't go through a journey through darkness of his own heart makes no sense to me. Because this change in him is brought bout as much by Kurtz as by the journey itself. When he just meets Kurtz, he still holds on to the idea that somehow his violence is justified. When Kurtz asks him "Are you an assassin" , he answers "I'm a soldier" to which Kurtz responds "You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill." And all through this Dennis Hopper acts as the medium between them, he says things Kurtz would say to Willard, but doesn't care to say.

But the film is much much more complex in it's exploration of the really essential themes that encompass the "darkness of human heart". Just to add another layer on it, Kurtz believes that war and violence are essential to human existence, they are our primordal nature as animals. What gripes him is this hypocrisy to seperate "good" and "bad" violence. What makes U.S. the guardian of morality ? What makes them so much better than Nazis when they dropped an H-bomb killing countless lives ? Why don't movies made on that get 10 oscars which holocaust movies do. Kurtz doesn't fight the violence inside him ("You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us." ), he just wants to know what makes the Generals in NaTrang "morally" better.

I can just go on and on and on. I can write a motherfuckin' book on thios movie, but whatever man. You like Kramer vs. Kramer and I like Apocaluypse Now, that's just the way it fucking is.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

A lot of rambling on in the earlier post but I hope you guys can make out what I'm trying to say.

Alex Jackson said...

You might get along famously with Jack, Hollow Man, the Apocalypse Now thing withstanding.

I had gone through a period where I was thinking that Jack was simply contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but then I realized that he has simply developed without the auteur worship that is typical of most film fans. He understands that directors are important and all that and in fact likes Altman and occasionally a little De Palma or Cronenberg; but he stopped short of collecting their trading cards.

After I understood that, I could comprehend his disdain for Kubrick, Spielberg, Welles, and a good deal of the films that I hold dear and could actually begin to appreciate him.

A film festival of Jack Sommersby selections would be worthwhile viewing.

I really love Kramer vs. Kramer by the way. I guess I like Apocalypse Now more in that I would rather read a book about it, write a book about it, or sit through three discs of extras on it. But it seems to be one of those things where I love the one I'm with while I'm watching it.

There is some superb stuff in Kramer vs. Kramer. Very sparse economic style, that chocolate donut scene is one my all-time favorite cinematic moments. The
Academy got lucky with that one.

Now what about The English Patient winning over Fargo? There's a classic bit of injustice that I can get behind. And I haven't seen How Green is My Valley and so I can't complain about that winning over Citizen Kane; but Mrs. Minever winning over The Magnificent Ambersons is enough to get the blood boiling.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I was reading my post again. I guess I got a little personal and condescending in there, didn't mean to. I'm sure Jack has some good reasons to believe what he does. I just get a little too passionate and defensive when it comes to "Apocalypse Now", it being so personal to me. I was just thinking, by the way, that Terrence Malick and Francis Ford coppola are two filmmakers I know that constantly try and deal with the really big themes. Someone like Altman, whose work delightful as it maybe, deals more with subtelty of human behaviour. It's the bravaura of Coppola (in 70s) that I'm really inspired by, the need to deal with hardest and most essential themes. Anyways, gotta go get dinner. Will carry on the conversation

Chad Evan said...

Yeah, Coppola in the '70s was about as good as any director has ever been, in my opinion--his decline since then is one of the true Hollywood tragedies. It seems that Apocalypse Now really did something to him (and H-man, I don't see how you square your preference for secular cinema with your love for Coppola, whose very bravura and Ahab-like hubris strike me as very religious in terms of Alex's binary division of filmmakers (my own system is puppeteers, i.e. Polanski and Welles, vs. jazz-band leaders like Altman and Huston.)I guess we have different ways of seeing the film.)His post-Apocalypse work, to a film, is visually stunning and ultimately unsatisfying. I'm holding out hope for the upcoming Youth Without Youth, though.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I see what you're saying about contradiction of what I was trying to express. The thing about Coppola is that despite his immense self-indulgence, he gives you elbow room to make your own judgements.

With filmmakers like Hitchcock and Kubrick, I feel stifled by the constant bombardment of preaching. I do, as a rule think that it is essential for artists of any kind to get their dicks out of the way for something real to grow.

You see any of the Coppola's early works, and you see that despite the self-indulgence, the tone is fairly naturalistic and characters feel real. Then see something made by Kubrick or Hitchcock, and characters feel like cariacatures, puppets created for narcissistic pleasure. The enviornment they are surrounded by always feel artificial and constructed. I really... just don't like the artsy-fartsy shit. I like to see things and people that are "real". That is probably the bottom line.

Film-makers like Scorsese, Malick and Herzog are also self-indulgent but in a way I like, I guess, just like Coppola. They don't let the self-indulgence get to a point where it becomes narcissism.

You know what it is, it's the perfection that ticks me off. You see anything by Kubrick and everything is controlled from color and pattern of the carpet to artificallity of expression on the face. That irritates me. I feel like running out of the theatre. It all just feels so.... manipulative.

Anonymous said...

Bill: the kicker is that somehow, Rocky IV has become a sort of cult "second-favorite" Rocky movie. I'll talk to more people who inexplicably love Rocky IV over the other three sequels. I'm not exactly sure how that happened. Probably ironically, but I don't know. And the robot butler that served juice or something was ridonculous.

Bill C said...

Oh there's definitely some ironic attachment going on there. (Children of the '80s, too, seem particularly susceptible to blind nostalgia. (See: The Goonies.)) The only upside is that there are a few interesting examples of montage in Rocky IV, like the "Living in America" sequence, to potentially elevate the conversation beyond cultish pseudo-praise. And, of course, the movie is fascinating as propaganda.

Chad Evan said...

H-man:
See, I find the operatic air of Coppola's work to be every bit as stylized and self-concious as Hitchcock's expressionist nightmares or Kubrick's perfectionist tableaux (and as for that, I think the sequence in Godfather part II in which young Vito stalks Don Fanucci to be possibly the most perfectly directed set-piece I've ever seen.) The Conversation has a certain naturalistic tone to it, but it also strikes me as very Hitchcockian, what with the voyeuristic theme and surrealist dream sequence. Guess we just see the directors in different ways (which may have something to do with that elbow room you talked about vis-a-vis Coppola.) Me, I love all three of them, and join Alex in celebrating the religious cinema; much as I love a good band leader, when it comes to directors I'll take the puppeteers every time.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I have to see Conversation again. I saw it a few years ago, so I'm not sure about it (I think I was 17-18, still in in my film obsession infancy). My favorite film-makers are Malick, Jarmusch, Herzog, van Sant, DG Green, Lynne Ramsay, Altman, Wenders, Morris, Wong kar Wai, Kim Ki-duk, Kitano and Hou Hsiao-hsien (I'm sure I'm missing a few). Mostly people you would consider jazz band leaders (I'm not sure how that classification works but I think I got the zest of the idea).

However, there are few exception to the rule, people like Scorsese, Coppola, P.T. Anderson and few others who depite that element of artificiality, I really love. However that artificiality is fairly naturalistic so it's easy to give 'em a pass.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think Rocky 4 has to be my biggest guilty pleasure. I love to see it and hate it both at the same time. I think I love it more than other sequels but is just as stupid as any of them. When those Russians start screaming "Rocky ! Rocky !" .... hahaha. Oh that's priceless. I can't believe how it's impact is so visceral and moronic at the same time.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Hollow,

Appreciated your detailed refutation of my [b]Apocalypse[/b] criticisms. Have taken them under consideration, and I'm glad you expressed the passion you did for that film. And you also nailed my chief criticism of Kubrick.

As for Coppola, I don't think his flawed but fabulously entertaining [b]The Cotton Club[/b] gets nearly enough love.

Jack_Sommersby said...

(Whoops! Gotta watch using [] tags when <> are the correct ones.)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I started watching Cotton Club once but turned it off 'coz I found it boring. I wanna see it again, maybe I was wrong. It is incredible that despite my love for Coppola, I haven't seen most of his post-Apocalypse work. One film I really wanna see is "You're a big boy now". People tell me it's great.

Seattle Jeff said...

Speaking of Elia Kazan, I just picked up A Face In The Crowd with a gift certificate. WHEEEE!!

Ok, ok, I was off topic, but it's my birthday tomorrow, so I get some slack too.

Mathau is great in this film, plus you've got Patricia Neal.

And Andy Griffith is fantastic. No. Seriously, he is.

You can now return to your Kramer vs. Kurtz debate.

And Alex: I've seen "How Green Was My Valley" and I think Kane is a slightly better film. Just slightly. But then again, my family is Welsh.

Bill C said...

A Face in the Crowd's a terrific picture--Network before there was Network. Almost everything in that Controversial Classics box set is gold.

The majority of Coppola's post-Apocalypse output sucks. The light went out in him; I finally saw The Outsiders the other day (the only Coppola I had never crossed paths with), and the problem is it's a movie about Greasers made by a dyed-in-the-wool Soc. Beyond that, it's like a movie about Martians made by a Venusian; you just can't relate to any of it, unless you're highly susceptible to cute boys playing dress up.

Diane Lane, though: hotchie-motchie then, hotchie-motchie now.

Seattle Jeff said...

Bill-

You mean you didn't enjoy Jack??

I think Copolla's financial debt helped ruin him as well.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I like Rainmaker. Good movie. Coppola was in debt till after this movie. makes sense why he didn't make anything after that. I was so hoping Coppola would put one out of the park with Megalopolis, but it didn't work out. i still hope he'll make it some day. It is supposed to be loosely based on Ayn Rand's "Fountainhead", one of a dozen books I've read in my life (other than school books ofcourse). i didn't think it was bad when I read it long ago, don't know how i would feel about it now, but the premise certainly has great potential. Has anyone seen any of pre-Godfather films Coppola made ?

trivia: Jason Schwartzman is Coppola's Nephew.

Bill C said...

The other thing that happened is he developed this bizarre Wizard of Oz complex: apparently scarred by not being able to control the proverbial weather on Apocalypse Now, he started directing everything from inside "the Silverfish," a giant trailer equipped with a bank of monitors that spy on the set and an intercom that allows him to bark voice-of-God pronouncements at cast and crew from inside the hi-tech Winnebago. I don't actually think Coppola's a megalomaniac--I just think he wants to be seen as one. Either way, you can see his movies becoming increasingly depersonalized.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

i think depersonalization can be attributed to his debt. I so think he's a megalomaniac though. But at the end he prevailed, be it his films or his winery.

Seattle Jeff said...

I've seen You're a Big Boy Now and The Rain People.

I'd say both were good. Not great, but good. (Insightful!)

Jack_Sommersby said...

Coppola would put one out of the park with Megalopolis, but it didn't work out. i still hope he'll make it some day. It is supposed to be loosely based on Ayn Rand's "Fountainhead"

Heh! The Fountainhead is actually what Michael Cimino and MGM were set to make right after Ciimino's The Deer Hunter, but Cimino convinced the studio to back a long-ago-written screenplay instead, The Johnson County War, which, for those privy, turned into the studio-bankrupting Heaven's Gate. Bet ex-MGM-exec Stephen Bach, who wrote Final Cut (the tell-it-all behind the making of Gate), involuntarily cringes whenever the Ayn Rand's name comes up!

As for post-Apocalypse Coppola, aside from Cotton Club, only The Rainmaker (a film that proved, like Altman did with The Gingerbread Man, that he could handle a genre piece with grace) I'd recommend. Dracula and Jack were flat-out catastrophes, Tucker: The Man and His Dream was slick but soulless, his segment in New York Stories was dull, Godfather III was entertaining for half its 3 hours but was overly-convoluted, and only the first-rate performances in Gardens of Stone are what I remember with regard.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Sophia Coppola ruined Godfather 3, not that it was going to be a masterpeice without her. I just wish Coppola would've left Godfather series alone after 2. They are considered by many, including me, as seminal peices of film art of 20th century. The third one, though not entirely bad, is like someone coming up with a lightbulb after creating moon.

Bill C said...

I think a bigger drawback than Sofia's presence is Robert Duvall's absence. (And where is the logic in 'replacing' Duvall with...George Hamilton?) Duvall wanted the same amount of money as Pacino and Coppola wouldn't fight for him, which is a shame, because the script that featured Tom Hagen was on the level of the first film, and would've probably spared Godfather III from becoming a laughingstock. Extracting Hagen from the script caused an irrevocable domino effect, focusing all our attention on another miscast actor.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Yeah, but, Bill, while I have as much respect for Duvall as an actor as Pacino, Pacino was actually a box-office draw at the time and his was the lead role as opposed to Duvall's supporting one. Nah, if I were in charge of the studio I'd have done the same thing. Besides, suppose the studio did agree to give Duvall the same amount, would anyone bet so much as a stick of chewing gum that Pacino would have then demanded a higher salary because of the reasons I stated above? I wouldn't.

I mean, this reminds me of Vilmos Zsigmond, the greatest cinematographer of all time, demanding that his name be placed in all ads for Bonfire of the Vanities, no matter big or small. When he threatened to take his name off the film if the studio didn't heed, the studio said, "See ya.", and Zsigmond relented. Duvall should have relented, too.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Correction:

"would anyone bet so much as a stick of chewing gum that Pacino wouldn't have then demanded a higher salary because of the reasons I stated above?"

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

If I remember correctly from a duvall interview, he asked for half the money pacino did, not same. I may be wrong though. i do agree that Vilmos Zsigmond is greatest cinematographer of all time just for that fact that he worked on McCabe & Mrs. Miller and all the other early Altman like Long Goodbye. Funny enough, he escaped from then Czechosolvakia with another great cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs. I think Chris Doyle is very close # 2 to Vilmos.

Jack_Sommersby said...

DePalma's Blow Out remains by favorite Zsigmond-photographed film. Wolfgang Petersen's Shattered, Laszlo Kovacs' best. Coincidentally, both are currently photographing Torn from the Flag, a documentary about "The significant global effects of the Hungarian revolution of 1956."

Oh, and my choice for best-photographed documentary: Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line.

Bill C said...

I think you might be right about that, H-Man (the half-salary); I can never keep the specifics straight. Still feel, though, that the studio should've worked harder on negotations for the sake of another shot at the title. Next to Star Trek and Tom Snooze (both of which have since self-destructed, of course), The Godfather their pride and joy.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Days of Heaven are two best photgraphed films in history, me thinks.

Bill C said...

My fave DP of the moment, btw, is Harris Savides. Of all-time? I'm just not sure I have one; seems like a lot of my faves (Zsigmond, Storaro, Gordon Willis) have floundered in the new age.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Harris Savides's work was spectacular in Elephant.

Jack_Sommersby said...

seems like a lot of my faves (Zsigmond, Storaro, Gordon Willis) have floundered in the new age.

Well, regarding Zsigmond, in the new decade he's been working with directors without the greatest visual senses (Irvin Winkler, Life is a House; Kevin Smith, Jersey Girl; Woody Allen, Melinda and Melinda -- and, yes, I know Allen's Manhattan is that exception; I re-watched it the other day and am still in awe at the widescreen/B&W photography by Willis). In fact, the last film that Zsigmond photographed that I admired was 1996's The Ghost and the Darkness. Of course, neither the script nor the director needs to be good for the cinematographer to do a good job (Zsigmond's solid work in Mark Rydell's The River and Intersection is worth noting -- though I didn't care much for the look Zsigmond gave Rydell's The Rose, not that the material had much visual potential, in the first place), but when Zsigmond's working with Altman or DePalma, you can definitely see an upgrade in his quality (I can't wait to see how the De Palma/Zsigmond teamwork in The Black Dahlia plays out, even though I still cringe at the mere thought of Josh Harnett as its lead actor).

As for Savides, I liked his work in Heaven's Prisoners, and even more in Fincher's career-best The Game -- it's great that they're working together again in Zodiac.

Walter_Chaw said...

Ah, jesus, Savides work lately is astonishing. One of my all-timers is James Wong Howe - but of course he didn't have the chance to fade away like so many of his contemporaries. Great night of Val Lewton horror flicks on TCM tonight.

The Conversation, I think I say a lot, is my favorite film of all time. I watch it at least once a year.

Coppola's 70s (the Godfather flicks, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now) are for me as amazing a run as any a director's ever had. Just the arrogance to try them - even One from the Heart has that whiff of astonishing hubris (and the Tom Waits/Crystal Gayle sdtk is awesome) that so few pictures have anymore. Succeed or fail, he did it spectacularly.

I still like the first half hour of his Dracula, by the by. Not a big fan of Jack, though, goes without saying.

Kramer V. Kramer pretty underestimated but pretty pocket, too, I think.

The idea of ventriloquism in the movies is interesting because for me one of the first auteurs that swims to mind guilty of it is Terrence Malick. Rather than the bandmaster analogy - I look to this idea of the "sublime" - that moment in any work of art that it "breathes": that it's marked as a living beast full of complexity, lust, nobility, and, above all things, Mystery.

Saw Stay the other day, inspiring this mini-muse. Here's a tricky flick driven by a smart guy that is about absolutely nothing. A big giant wank indicated by a lack of courage and, for all the klaxons and whistles, a crucial lack of imagination. One image salvages the picture from the scrapheap - for what it's worth.

Did get to interview Ira Sachs for his 40 Shades of Blue, though. Interesting guy, fabulous flick. H-Man (and others, of course), this one might be right up your alley.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Not surprised about Say, being that cinematographer-turned-director Andrzej Bartkowiak has never done a film worth a damn. (I'd loved to have seen Sidney Lumet's face back in the '80s, when Bartkowiak was his choice cameraman, if told of the dreadful action pics this guy would be directing in the new millenium.) And True Believer's Wesley Strick co-wrote this!? Egad. Also sorry that The Rock is in this, since I enjoyed The Rundown quite a lot.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Will see 40 Shades of blue, if it opens here in toronto.

Maybe our understanding of 'mouthpeices" is different, but when I think of this concept, I think of people like David Mamet, not malick. Ofcourse, all film-makers have a need to express something, other wise they won't be making films. I was reading a wong kar-wai interview where he said "If I could talk, I won't be making films". People like Kubrick (in terms of visuals) and Mamet (in dialogues) have this need to control everything that exists in their films and characters act like puppets, their self-indulgence for me crosses the line into narcissism. However I never find that with malick, i can see what you're saying about him as I'm especially reminded of the scene in Days of Heaven where linda manz's character talks about god and hell, but there is something about the treatment of it that balances out that phenomenon. The naturallistic style mixed with the simplicity of dialogues, the idea that most profound things can be said in the most rudimentary and inarticulate manner, removes the element of vanity. Throughout any of Malick's work, I never feel like he is shoving something down my throat or manipulating enviornment his characters are surrounded by so that I can get his philosphy. He puts it out there in a simple, reductivist, unpretentious form and asks you to make your own decisions. His characters as a result never feel fake or unreal, unlike say characer of Alex in Clockwork Orange.

There may be many film-makers that i would call ventrioloquist, Malick doesn't happen to be one of them. David Gordon Green, however does have a tendency to do that, when writing dialogues like "He seeks infinity. Doctor says his brain isn't ready for it". the dialogue feels clearly written by someone of higher intelligence. I'm hard pressed to find something Terrence Malick wrote that sounded like that.

Scott said...

I think all of us folks on the filmic sidelines are way, way too hard on some of the masters of the form. Who among us does our best work after the age of 40 or 50? A guy like Coppola -- who brought us THE GODFATHER films and THE CONVERSATION and APOCALYPSE NOW -- does not need to keep creating masterpieces until he is 95 or else he is considered a has-been. Film is a converge of many finanical and artistic forces, massively collaborative,unendingly complex. It is not akin to a writer sitting before a blank piece of paper and no longer having the goods. The fact that Coppola managed to put together a winning streak such as he did, for as long as he did, should be applauded. Every artist has his time, and that was his time. He nailed it, period. It seems to me a particulary American obsession -- one must achieve and achieve and achieve, and once the quality starts to lag, cries of 'sell-out' and 'has-been' begin. These filmmakers are genuine artists who had their time in the sun, and the sun set. Not that I'm saying anyone here is doing this, but I hear genuinely great filmmakers being slagged all the time for having 'lost it', and I think deriding them for not being what they were is futile and illogical: they were what they were, once, and they were great.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

It is funny that just before i was reading your review of "stay" I read about "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", a film I've never heard of before, which happens to be Mike Figgis's favorite film. Strange coincidence.

For those who wanna read the article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2003/02/15/bffmof15.xml

Walter_Chaw said...

I'm with you, H-Man - I think that all of Malick's characters speak with one voice, but I don't mind it. As DGG said about him - you never feel as though he's trying to impress you. Feeling a little queasy about the New World trailer, have to say. Farrell just makes me want to sick up.

You can rent Ira Sachs' first film Delta from Netflix - not my favorite, but you can see the Fassbinder in the guy's background. His new one reminds me a lot more of Rohmer - but it's apparently a remake of sorts of a Satyajit Ray flick called Charulata. Never seen it, I fear - woefully ignorant of Ray's films: they're still so hard to see.

Have you seen Tim Blake Nelson's Eye of God and Kansas?

Bill C said...

That New World trailer sets off a lot of alarms. It's the first time a Malick film has looked...ephemeral? I can't rememeber a single image from that 2-minute nugget in any detail.

Walter_Chaw said...

Scott:
Thing for me about your comments - and I tend to want to agree with you - is that the reason that something like Jack failed didn't have a lot to do with its technique. I know someone mentioned it already, but his films post-peak all look great (technically-speaking) but fail in the heart-test.

I think Bill's thought about fighting harder for Duvall is in that spirit (and here I am speaking for him out of school - slap me down if I'm not in the ballpark); that whatever you think about whatever the demands were of the talent involved, you'd have had to shove bamboo shunts under his nails in the '70s to get him to shoot one minute less much less give over final decisions on casting based on finance.

The thought about Coppola's debts being the final crippling blow to his creativity might be eloquently expanded into the Rocky discussion of the difference between the first and the second films being a microcosm of what happened between the 70s Zoetrope and the 80s Rainmaker.

What I'm saying is that there's more than just a loss of "touch" to some of the old masters - there's most definitely an element of laziness and ease. The Thin Red Line, for instance, was - what - fifteen years after Days of Heaven? Not a hint of compromise in it. He waited, the bastard, for the right project. If it's just a matter of a Godard or a Chabrol, declining with age - well, that's what it is and I don't think a lot of people are all that rough about it - but when you make Jack, you're on slippery ground for an "aging" defense. Well. . . unless you're drinking out of a twisty-straw and arguing with pancakes.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah - that's a thing - Malick never before this 2-minute reel has struck me as trying to be mystical. Now it's Man Called Horse + 1492. Uh oh.

Ah well, been wrong before and often - hope this is one of those times. I'm more willing to bank, in any case, that the dimwits in charge of marketing don't know how to pimp that ride.

Anonymous said...

No one remembers Peggy Sue Got Married.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller is one of the WORST photographed pictures I've ever seen, in my opinion. It looks, literally, like shit. I suppose you can make the case that that's the point, but seriously, everything in that movie looks soft, brown and unattractive.

--Kim

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I was reading a Tarrantino interview where he said he doesn't want to make films after 50 because he doesn't wanna make "old-man" movies. that really stuck with me because it sounds so true. other than a few exceptions like say Malick like Walter pointed out, most film-makers seem to loose the fire in their belly with age. Look at Scorsese for example, see "Taxi Driver" and there is a scene where deniro is almost begging Cybill Sheperd to take him back on phone. And the camera moves away. even when I saw it for the first time, I felt that. Even if i wasn't smart enough to put my finger on what exactly he was trying to do, I felt it. same with the scene where antacid is bubbling in the glass of water. You don't need to be an academic to know what to feel at that moment. It was that fire that gave birth to that camera movement. Now look at something like "Goodfellas" or "casino" where despite camera going all over the fucking place, there is not one movement that is as insipired as the ones I pointed out in "Taxi Driver". Just hollow, intellectualized style. He may have become the most cerebral of filmmakers when he broke down the helicopter scene with Ray Liotta and maybe no one in the world could have shot that scene better than him, but what's the purpose ? There is no insight into the inner landscape of the character. Just vacant stylization of a good story. I think that is what Tarantino meant with not wanting to make "old-man" movies. A lot of people liked Aviator. I did too. But if you ask me if i would put it in my top 10 for last year ? Not even close. I have seen Taxi Dtiver 20 times probably, and yet even as I tell you about it, I wanna see it again. there is nothing in Aviator that makes me wanna go see it again. It may be a perfect film, but it sure as shit doesn't knock me the fuck out like Taxi Driver. Why ? Because it scims the surface without really digging in. Now he just makes the "old-man" movies.

What I have come to realize is that without Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese wouldn't have become what he is today. all his great work has come from Schrader's writing. be it Taxi Driver, Bringing out the dead, raging Bull, or Last Temptation of Christ.

So Scott, I see your point but I also find it highly unfortunate that what you are saying is the case.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

ps. Why Colin Ferrel ? Why ? Why? Why ?

I agree with Bill. The trailer left no impression on me. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that he probably wasn't in control of the editing of it. But my hopes are still high. I'm still optimistic that we will see another great Malick and side of Colin Ferrel that we have never seen before.

"McCabe and Mrs. Miller is one of the WORST photographed pictures I've ever seen"... nothing to say about that, other than, it is an astonishingly over-looked fact that we all have our own seperate finger-prints.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.p.s Never seen anything by Tim Blake Nelson. But I'm noting it down as we speak.

Scott said...

Good points, Walter. I think I just get irritated sometimes by the pedestal on which we put artists on, holding them to a higher degree than we may even hold ourselves. Do we sometimes do work that we don't want to do for cash? Yes. Do we sometimes get in debt that must be paid by doing day-work that is not our finest hour? Sure. Filmmakers are no different. We would like them all to be touched a divine grace, but they do what they have to do, sometimes. And sometimes they do lose heart. I guess you're right about that. But the flipside is, the hopeful thing is, sometimes they can get it back, too. I think that's the thing that keeps drawing us back to the theatre, that allows us to get our hopes up, that enables us to still hold people we've never met in higher regard than members of our own family -- the realization that they may, THIS time, against all odds, knock one out of the park. Cinema belongs to the naive and the idealists.

Seattle Jeff said...

Good points Scott.

A lot of that reasoning is why my philosophy is not to get worked up when I see Tim Robbins in crap. I figure he does it just so he can finance what he really wants to do.

Clooney and Soderbergh both confess to that strategy.

Bill C said...

H-Man, you gotta see Nelson's Eye of God. It's one of about 10 movies I always shove down people's throats, just a masterpiece.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think there is a way in which as a filmmaker, one can still stay true to their vision without comprimising. That is if you do it like Jarmusch. You make small films which make their money back. DGG is doing the same thing. It ofcourse doesn't work if you're a megalomaniac like Coppola or perfectionist like Cimino. The point is people like Scorsese, Coppola want to make hollywood films because that's how they started. They started as hot shots and it doesn't sit well with them if they don't obtain past glory. However, people who have come out in last 20 years realize that there is no way really visionary, uncomprimised works can play in 3000 theatres, they make peace with the fact and then it doesn't matter any more. ofcourse you need European money for that, film-makers in asian cinema have lived off it for years. If you are ready to accept that you are probably not gonna make a lot of money and that your movie will never open at # 1 on BO, and if you are truely original, then there is no reason you can not survive without comprimising your vision. But if you act financially irresponsible and increase your budget by 10-fold like Coppola did in apocalypse now or tear down the whole block of set 'coz the distance of Alley way between the buildings like Cimino did, then you are gonna get in debt and not make films you wanna make for next 20 years. That is just the way it is. Any artist who wants to make films has to make peace with this fact or perish like Coppola did. You don't make Jack because you've ran out of talent, or sunset or whatever the fuck, you do it because at once upon a time you acted like a stupid asshole. There is no way something like Apocalypse Now will ever be made again, it costed 32 mil then, now it would cost about 100 mil which no one will come up with to give to you. that is why people like Terry Gilliam struggle.

You don't have to be a junkie to be a rockstar.

Walter_Chaw said...

Speaking of Gilliam. . .

I heard that Tideland is unreleasable.

Wonder what happened. Anyone seen it?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

That is the other film I really wanted to see after "The New World" this year. Not a big fan of Gilliam but damn if that film didn't look interesting.

Rachel said...

Walter-

Apropos of nothing (I need a free hour to go through this thread), I thought you'd enjoy this.:)

Seattle Jeff said...

Hollow Man -

Point granted. However, I think that you may be ignoring the fact that the challenge is to get an uncompromised film into 3000 theaters. It may be a pipe dream. But a dream nonetheless.

I think of Aaron McGruder (sp?) of Boondocks fame. He gets asked why he runs his strip in "white" newspapers. His response is "It runs in the The New York Times and The Washington Post. Duh!" And I don't think he compromises. That's the pipe dream.

I think it's valid to have that pipe dream.

Who goes to see a Jarmusch film? (In the states anyway) Me? You ? How relevant is that?

I wish Schitzopolis had gotten wide distribution!

Nate said...

Some pretty amazing and uncompromised films have seen wide release in recent years - Eternal Sunshine, Birth, Solaris, Huckabees (arguable, but I love it), Hero, Eyes Wide Shut, Kill Bill, Fight Club, even Batman Begins to some extent. Not many, of course, but enough to keep my hopes up. 2005 has been particularly bad, and I think we're all reeling from that - it's just one disappointment after another, it seems.

Nate said...

Addendum: Kill Bill was compromised by the fact that it had to be split in two (a pretty major compromise at that), but the production itself seems unhindered by studio-mandated alterations. I'm looking forward to a 4-hour re-edit of the whole thing.

Walter_Chaw said...

Something interesting that the director Ira Sachs said to someone else was that he wasn't interested in mythologizing the '70s, or complaining about cultural evolutions, but rather about discovering how to deal with the sea changes and adapt to the new environment. I think that's an interesting tactic. He's started a group called "Dependent Directors" or something like that - I asked him about it today. Hope to get the interview transcribed before the caffeine wears off tonight.

Nate's point is well-taken, here, in that I think that there are actually a surprising number of films that make it to the theaters (maybe not 3000 screens, but that dubious honor is reserved for maybe - what - a couple dozen films a year? I don't know the stats. Stat people?) in relatively wide release that seem to have gotten there sans much interference. Something like A History of Violence for instance, to take a film from this year, didn't open in the arthouses out here - but in the mainstream cineplexes. Sure it got studio funding and all, but I know for a fact that Cronenberg's contract stipulates final cut.

The sad thing is that I suspect that the films that are the most tampered with are projects like Doom which, with almost no hope of transcending the video game tag - get meddled with to the point of distraction by producers squeamish about alienating the only audience that will realistically go to a film based on a FPS. Films like Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice or Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, on the otherhand, I like to think are mainly the fault (or to the credit of) the creator's vision. Truth is, a lot of great films (like Junebug for instance, or 40 Shades of Blue) are created independent of interference and then sold after solid Sundance showings to distributors (Sony Classics and Wellspring) that, as far as I know, didn't ask them to make cuts before they started flashing negatives.

The one exception I'll take to Nate's comment is more a nitpick in that I think that the version of Hero shown in the U.S. has been nip/tucked here and there - ditto Kung Fu Hustle. I can't verify it, but the way that Asian cinema is treated for distribution in the U.S. is markedly different than other foreign product.

And Rachel:
err. . . what the hell is that link? Should I be flattered or should I buy that shotgun I've been eyeing at WalMart?

S-Jeff:
I love "Boondocks". I think he hates Cuba Gooding Jr. and, brother, that's good enough for me-yo.

Nate said...

I stupidly forgot A History of Violence, which I agree is an amazing film (and had the audience I saw it with cheering and clapping for all the wrong reasons - but if it makes its money back...whatever). I remember now your issue with Hero; I'd love to see the uncut version. I keep forgetting that the Weinsteins are the fucking devil.

Alex Jackson said...

I hate to admit that I was so narcissistic as to look, but look at this! It's a girl! Hopefully one that wasn't referring to black stand-up comedian Alex Jackson or the actor who played Vince in Gog.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"Eternal Sunshine, Birth, Solaris, Huckabees (arguable, but I love it), Hero, Eyes Wide Shut, Kill Bill, Fight Club, even Batman Begins." ... all these films are great, in some way or other, but how many of them have the level of ambiguity that was there in the 70s. Not many films have balls to end the way Sideways ended last year. And this number is still very little.It's not that good films don't get made any more, it's the fact that auteurs don't have the same pull as they did in the 70s. there is barely a few new american auteurs and they hardly get released in a big way. Half the films you pointed out are pop-art, art just the same, but pop art. Nobody can say Tarantino is any less of an auteur as the next guy, but he does have the advantage of playing in the same ballfeild as other hollywood stuff. On the other hand, consider something like Undertow.

Alex Jackson said...

Okay one more. Just to put those searches in perspective: look at this.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I was just reading Travis and Bill's bios, you guys went to York ? i never knew. I do to.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

i was just thinking, let's talk about which film you guys consider as the most under-rated ?

My vote goes for : All the pretty horses.

Nate said...

I despise All The Pretty Horses, but I blame the studio. I imagine the 3-hour version was at least coherent.

I think House of Sand and Fog was woefully underrated, particularly by Walter. That's the newest film to enter in my personal top 10 of all time; I find it unbearably crushing in the best possible way - a masterful tragedy.

Bill C said...

Yeah, Travis and I were in York's film program. We both started out in Production, but he switched to Theory while I stayed behind in Production, and by night we slayed vampires. We graduated with BFAs, which I like to say is a "Bachelor in Fuck-All."

I do miss the campus a bit, though. All those pretty goth girls.

Anyhoo, I think Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World recaptures some of that '70s ambiguity, if a little self-consciously. Even Zwigoff's Crumb has an ineffable '70s vibe. Too bad about Bad Santa, but then again, that was another notch on the Weinstein bedpost of shame.

Read an interview with Matt Damon where he said they saw the 3-hour rough cut of All the Pretty Horses and couldn't believe they'd actually achieved their goal of making a masterpiece. Then the Miramax weed-whacker was powered up. Unfortunately, Daniel Lanois' score for the 3-hour version is tangled up in litigation, precluding the DVD release of Billy Bob's director's cut.

Underrated: Waking the Dead.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I'm afraid I agree with Wlater when it comes to House of sand and fog. It is a crafty story in the sense that you really can't takes sides in the film. However, that is where lies it's biggest fault. It is so intent on making everyone a victim, instead of gaining complexity, it looses it. At the end it's just a melodrama and for perfect articulation of how I feel about melodramas, I'll refer to Walter review of Cinedrella man

"Of the many ways that you can read the ending of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, the one I like is the suggestion that the artist will disappear when the masses decide to gratify themselves at the trough of empty spectacles and popular melodramas that do nothing to feed the soul. "

I think that's probably my favorite Chaw quote. i use it all the time.


I found "all the pretty horse coherent enough. However, like you said, I would like to see the director's cut of it. I heard everyone involved with the film wanted the running time to be 3h15m. I think the essence of it is more than caught in the 2 hours though. I haven't read the source material, so people's criticism that it's not as good as the book doesn't affect me anyway.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

That brings up another good point , am I alone in my love for "All the real horses" ? I think it's one of the best movies in last few years, so is documentary "DiG!". Did someone see that one ? Another under-rated movie.

Bill C said...

All the Real Horses? Is that the one where Paul Schneider falls in love with Mr. Ed? (Played by Penelope Cruz, natch.)

Nate said...

It is a crafty story in the sense that you really can't takes sides in the film. However, that is where lies it's biggest fault. It is so intent on making everyone a victim, instead of gaining complexity...

I just totally disagree. None of them are victims; they're all anti-heroes in a way, guilty of major sins and yet likeable on some level because everything they do is defensible, though simultaneously wrong and closed-minded. I could go on, but I won't.

I agree about DiG!, though - great documentary (better than either band's music, certainly).

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Haha - btw What in the good name of god do you have against Penolpe Cruz ? And yes, people do read your captions under the pics.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"guilty of major sins" ? What was Jennifer Connely's sin ? Not paying her bill. And what was Ben Kingsley's sin ? Not giving the house back that he had bought fair and square ? That's what I'm talking about. The film is pyramid made out of deck of cards. You take one element away and it falls apart. The whole shebang is clever and glib. There are no surprises. The ending is more of a tag-on than a logical conclusion. Halfway through i knew someone was going to die at the end. How convinient was it to kill Ben Kingsely's son ? I'm just surprised it didn't win more oscars.

Rich said...

Re: Stay and Doom

Hard to expect much from Doom based on that Bartkowiak guy's directing history (all three of his previous features star DMX...).

I think the cast and crew info just below the titles in the reviews are backwards, though, with Doom's info under Stay and vice-versa.

Chad Evan said...

Not necessarilly underrated, but definitely under-appreciated: John Huston's Fat City, which got what Raymond Carver was aiming for years before the latter made his name.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Love Fat City. I think the scene where the boxer who looses to Stacy Keach on his comeback, walks into the dark is one of the most graceful scenes in cinema history.

Alex Jackson said...

Top Ten Underrated Movies (in alphabetical order.

Alice in the Cities (1974, Wenders) reminds me that I should watch more Wenders. I think it may be my favorite film of his. Spellbinding.

Arabian Nights (1974, Pasolini) is every bit as good as Gospel According to St. Matthew and Salo: 120 Days of Sodom. Love the minimalist special effects.

The Blair Witch Project (1999, Sanchez and Myrick) is my pick for the one movie that I want to rescue from the backlash. Internet hokum aside, the film affected me so deeply that I probably overly quickly dismissed M. Night's The Sixth Sense as being a product from a bygone age. Few films have been as cold, hollow, and despairaging as this one. It legitimizes the comforts of the Kubrick/Hitchcock absolutist aesthetic by removing it entirely.

Children of the Corn (1984, Kiersch) is a film that I desperately wish had had a quick rewrite; but I find it to be, on the whole, more frank, more disturbing, and much sleazier than the better regarded Deliverance.

Christiane F. (1981, Edel) was a big thing at the time, but seems to have been more or less forgotten. That's too bad. It's an after-school special, but an artfully done one, brutal enough in it's details to counter the breeziness of it's happy ending.

The Dark Backward (1991, Rifkin) is finally coming out on DVD soon. Not sure if FFC is going to get a screener, but I don't think so. Know that it contains the consumate Bill Paxton performance. I can't watch him in anything without thinking about this movie.

Die Hard with a Vengence (1995, McTiernan) is dumb as fucking Paris and Nicky; but who cares? This is the most pleasurable pure movie I have seen since, well, the original Die Hard.

Maelstrom (2001, Villeneuve)- I've seen compared to Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, but I like this better. I always though of it as being more like Magnolia, but this is really in a lower key. I wish that Roger Ebert could have seen it, it might have been known then.

Pennies from Heaven (1981, Ross) can always use some love. I think that people get scared off by it because it's so acrid and inhuman. I often hold it up as proof that it wasn't Jaws and Star Wars that destroyed the cinema, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. This is an epic of black nihilism the likes of which we would not see again until George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and Von Trier's "Dogville".

Finally, there's A Perfect Candidate (1996, Cutler and Van Taylor) which hasn't dated a tad. I love following elections and this may be the ulitmate election movie, brutally funny and tragically human, this fucker needs a DVD release pronto.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"It legitimizes the comforts of the Kubrick/Hitchcock absolutist aesthetic by removing it entirely."
Illustrate please.

I love it too. Affected me deeply. i had never seen anything like it when I saw it in India and I thought it was true ! I had nightmares over that one. Saw it again the other day. Still brilliant. People discard it because it make 140 mil.

Die Hard with Venegance is highly under-rated ! I love the first one too. Just such a guilty visceral pleasure.

My favorite Wenders is Paris, Texas. Probably in my top 10 of all time. Saw Amrican Friend, now that's a critique of anything Hitchcock's ouevre if I ever saw one. Stil can't make sense out of it. Probably one of the most enigmatic films I have ever seen.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

(Man I hate the fact that there is no way of editing posts after. Maybe I should start doing it before I post it, but I'm too impatient for that.)

Alex Jackson said...

Well, Kubrick's films seem to prove that there is a God. And his name is Kubrick. You know, great Art as we have traditionally thought about it suggests that there is order to the universe, that there is somebody up there pulling all the strings. And there is something comforting about it.

There is no auteur, of course, in The Blair Witch Project and it ties that lack of auteurship into this harshly atheistic view that our hopes, dreams, regrets, fear, and anger will simply dissipate into the cold black void.

Anonymous said...

I really tried to see what you see in Children of the Corn, Alex. I didn't get there.

--Kim

Scott said...

Most underrated? Gotta be THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS. Godard by way of Bert and Ernie, Fellini by way of the Muppets, Kubrick by way of the Cabbage Patch Kids. That, and MY NAME IS BRUCE.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Interesting Alex. However there is a lot of great art that points the other way. About sense of hopelessness and solitude in absence of any form of structure. The only underline order being chaos, as per say. I would point to Herzog and even Korine for that matter. Wouldn't you agree ? When I say Herzog, I point to his work in films like "Even dwarfs started small" and "Stroszek". Dennis Hopper is another guy that comes to mind. Existential Nihlists are the ones I'm pointing to.

But Von Trier, Malick and Kubrick are the type of filmmakers that support your argument, ofcourse.

Bill C said...

We actually got the entire batch of Sony horrors (I believe I passed one or two along to you, Alex) *except* The Dark Backward, which is frustrating. Big props for that underrated list, with the possible exception of Children of the Corn (it's been so long that I don't trust my negative impression of it); Alice in the Cities is actually my fave Wenders, but there are huge gaps in what I've seen of his '70s work.

Scott, have you read Alex's Garbage Pail Kids review here at FFC? It's a beaut.

Seattle Jeff said...

I think Mac and Me is seriously underrated.

And don't even get me started on the Chaw review. Dude didn't even appreciate the comic angles of the wheelchair bound tyke falling down a cliff.

And the dance number at McDonald's.

That film covers all the bases.

Dave Gibson said...

Heaven’s Gate is one of the most underrated films in recent memory. Though the film often wavers into self-indulgence, there are visual passages in that film that rival the best work of Coppola and Malick. Much like “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” this is a grimy Western that cannot be appreciated properly on video. Though Cimino was probably a spoiled brat (like Coppola wasn’t?) and certainly not as good as many of his contemporaries--I think he took it on the chin as scapegoat for Hollywood’s waning interest in bankrolling the auteurs and one of the first instances when a film was reviewed for it’s perceived financial failure (or success) rather than its content. “Carny” is another little gem from the same era that seems to have eluded most people as well as “The Stunt Man”, which has been lauded in small circles, but mostly forgotten in the stampede to canonize Scorsese and Altman.

Walter_Chaw said...

Great list, Alex.

On your recommendation a couple of years ago, I went on a bender and watched seven Children of the Corn flicks consecutively. The "dirty" POV of the first flick is, indeed, affecting and I'll say for it that since watching it, I've been a lot more sensitive to it in every film that uses it since then. Floating POVs (the ones not connected to a logical "user") are a fascinating topic for me now post CotC. That being said, and not to rain too heavily on that topic - yeah, the overall just didn't do it for me. It is still, though, one of the best CotC flicks - I think CotC III: Urban Harvest with special effects by the great Screaming Mad George is still the best of the crop.

Alice in the Cities slays me dead.

Stunt Man is one of my all-timers as well. I'll confess something though - this weird myopia of mine that makes it hard for me to identify films that've been "overlooked." I think it about it a lot, but I'm no good at categorizing pictures like that. I'm not surprised that few have seen something like Alice in the Cities - but I'm sort of pole-axed that people haven't seen The Stunt Man or Fat City. I presented The Conversation at the Denver Film Festival a few years back and did a quick, hands-up poll of who had and had not seen it and a good 95% of the audience had not. Ditto when Rafelson was in town and they screened Five Easy Pieces - I think the ratio that time was something like 2 had and the rest (180 or so) had not.

I don't think it's from elitism that I'm surprised by that, but rather from naivetee. Could be I'm just mule stupid.

Films recently that I don't think got much of a chance to get an audience, though, include things like Trouble Every Day of course, and even mainstream releases like Birth and, this year, the Walter Salles version of Dark Water. Time of the Wolf is fabbo, too - as is Denis' Friday Night.

Lemme take a stab with some older films: Miracle Mile from the 80s is one of my favorites - a lot of it's dated badly, but Anthony Edwards is in his finest everyman hour here. Talk about a modern Jimmy Stewart. With almost no tweaking, I can see Miracle Mile as the great lost Frank Capra flick - particularly in its scenes of good, ordinary folk, turned brutish on a dime by, of all things, a phone call. Early shot of blood on some eggs, over easy, is haunting - as is the Tangerine Dream score.

It was recently released on DVD in a pan-and-scan only edition. We didn't get a review copy in any case: the rationale was that why should they promote a title that wasn't going to sell anyway. That's some tricky thinkin' right there, ladies and gents.

Adore The American Friend - but I also love recent Wenders like The End of Violence (ah, that one has "underrated" written all over it) and Million Dollar Hotel.

Seconds, the Frankenheimer flick, is one that I try to bring up as often as possible in polite conversation (seems like few have heard of it) - and Abel Ferrara's The Funeral featuring Christopher Walken in a rare starring role. The Funeral, by the way, has a lot to do with the way that FFC looks the way it does today. I think the first conversation that Bill and I ever had was over a mutual admiration for that picture.

I still like Monument Ave., by the way, the film that decided me for certain that Denis Leary was the man to play John Constantine should the Hellraiser comic ever be made into a flick. That Keanu Reeves was tabbed instead makes me tired, right in that spot where my head meets my shoulder.

I love Jacob's Ladder and Angel Heart - can't think of one without the other. Both examples, strangely enough, of marginal filmmakers hitting it out of the ballpark with existential crisis thrillers. I wonder if marginal filmmakers don't have more than the quota of metaphysical angst.

I think not enough people talk about Altered States and not enough people know about Night Moves. If you love Stunt Man, it behooves you to see Night Moves - brothers from another mothers.

Good chat.

Walter_Chaw said...

How about Sayles' Lone Star and Men with Guns?

Walter_Chaw said...

Oh - and Friedkin's Sorcerer.

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter,

You act like Mac and Me doen't even belong in the conversation.

I'm crushed.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA -

Oh yeah - Jeff, have you seen it? I mean, seriously, it's something that every grown person should see at least once in their life. Super Size Me didn't get me to forego the once-monthly or so trip for a Big-Mac and mcFries, but Mac and Me's put me off the Golden Arches for good.

Evil.

Dave Gibson said...

"Sorcerer" yes! I think that one was needlessly bashed in the waning seventies--probably because of Friedkin's ego, combined with his temerity in daring to remake "The Wages of Fear". "The End of Violence" should have gone on my earlier list--perhaps I'm a sucker for dystopian visions of Industrial L.A. (witness my stubborn refusal to find fault with Mann's "Heat") but, that one has stayed with me.

Don't get me started on "Night of the Comet"....

Seattle Jeff said...

Line up Mac and Me with The Postman and Battlefield Earth, sprinkle with a little MST3k (preferrably Pod People) and have yourself a great evening.

Walter_Chaw said...

Post-apocalyptic valley girls? Like, totally, what's not to like?

Seattle Jeff said...

A buddy and I used to have "Bad Movie Nights"...Mac and Me was one of the classics...however, in all truth, watching the Costner and Travolta flicks back-to-back almost destroyed us and forever put an end to "Bad Movie Night"

Seattle Jeff said...

I'd love to see an Alien vs. Predator type film, but instead it would be Trumpy from POd People battling Mac.

Walter_Chaw said...

God - one of the best times I've ever had watching a movie was howling at The Postman with my wife a couple of years ago. (Broken up with an intermissions, of course.) In the middle of all the snark, though, I realized that I actually admired the hell out of Costner for being so earnest that he didn't care (or know) how foolish he was looking.

I like Costner - he means what he says even if what he says isn't usually all that revelatory.

Seattle Jeff said...

And Tom Petty was so good in it!

Seattle Jeff said...

And Tom Petty was so good in it!

Walter_Chaw said...

By the way, wanted to toss in my .02 about Blair Witch Project: love it. Desexualizes its very attractive lead Heather Donahue (in a horror film, no less) somehow while presenting one of the most hopeless, nihilistic film experiences in the last decade. A stark commentary about our dependence on technology, as well - a techno-horror film a couple of years before 9/11 made it (and its ubiquity in J-Horror) the flavor of the millennium. Prescient in a lot of ways, almost by dint of its execution - for the backlash to it to be so extreme, it speaks a little of its effectiveness, methinks.

Bill C said...

In the spirit of auteurism:

UNDERRATED SCORSESE - Kundun, Bringing Out the Dead

UNDERRATED ROMERO - Day of the Dead

UNDERRATED TIM BURTON - Batman Returns

UNDERRATED DePALMA - The Fury (I've really warmed to it over the years)

UNDERRATED EASTWOOD - A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County

UNDERRATED CASSAVETES - Love Streams

UNDERRATED JOHN HUGHES - Uncle Buck

UNDERRATED HITCHCOCK - The Wrong Man

UNDERRATED KIESLOWSKI - White (Blanc)

Alex Jackson said...

Uncle Buck is pretty good, and I think that Bringing out the Dead is better than Goodfellas. I really deeply love that movie.

White didn't strike me as any better or worse than the other two films in the trilogy. And I liked the scene where Julie Delpy climaxes over the phone while her cuckolded husband listens on.

Rich said...

Completely agree about Day of the Dead, Bill. I think it's the best of the four.

Any talk of Romero's Dead series always seems to remind me of the supreme disappointment I felt at Land of the Dead. Not only did I find its message muddled, but it really failed to provide me with any thrills. Every time a zombie would appear from nowhere (often in enclosed buildings with limited hiding spaces) without making a sound I just felt like Romero had forgotten what was scary about the zombies.

In terms of its messages, I'd just about had it when that kid with the skateboard and the headphones was devoured. I mean, I realize the character was meant as something of a symbol, but the fact that the scene was so poorly executed and the character was so unimportant to the plot really just made the use of him as a symbol seem kind of obvious and cheap.

It was, as Walter said, lame.

Bill C said...

Yeah, the whole film feels shockingly hasty given the 20 years that transpired between sequels. Actually reminds me a lot of Godfather III in that regard.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

i have always had a tossup between my favorite scorsese between taxi driver and bringing out the dead. One changed my life, and the other, well, changed my life too. But both films most definetly feature in my top 10 of all time. I think Nicholas Cage is the most suitable guy to play any kafkaesque character. just has that vermin look with big bulging eyes. deNiro on the other hand is like a grizzly, just waiting/hoping for someone to fuck with the cubs. I'm not a fan of everything scorsese's ouvre but these two are arguably best films of their decade.

Chad Evan said...

Bringing Out the Dead is a very good flick, but Goodfellas it ain't. The latter has been the victim of a backlash of late, probably because it's so popular, but I stand by it as one of the key American films of the 1990s. And, for good or ill, where would Tarantino be without Goodfellas?

Nate said...

Freddy Got Fingered is really underrated, and borderline brilliant. Seriously.

Bill C said...

Yeah, that movie's got chutzpah. Also a big, big fan of Abandon, a nasty little gem that got unfairly lumped in with the new teen-horror cycle.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"Bringing out the dead" can have "Godfellas" for breakfast any day of the week and shit out "Casino"

Chad Evan said...

I'll grant you Casino, but Goodfellas is a dead brilliant black comedy and as incisive a study of machismo as one could find. As I said, I like Bringing Out the Dead, but I reckon it would find Goodfellas to be a sight more chewy than it expected. Mean Streets is better than either, though.

tim r said...

Caught your post asking about Tideland, which I saw in Toronto. Unreleasable, for sure, but less for quality reasons than subject matter - pedophilic frissons and fun with dried corpses. A pretty oppressive watch, but far from a terrible movie - check out the Hoberman review, which gives it a fair shake. I actually think it rips a few things off The Reflecting Skin, that weird 1990 Philip Ridley Texas vampire movie, if anyone's seen it. This one will probably get whispered about in years to come as a film maudit, a fate unlikely to befall The Brothers Grimm, anyway...

Some more underrated picks: Titus, Michael Mann's The Keep, and the brilliantly perverse Babe: Pig in the City, which should be an NC-17.