Back on the horse with public screenings of Glory Road, Last Holiday, and Tristan & Isolde. Seat-kicker in the last one, raucous cheering in the first two, and sort of a general sense that things are only as they always have always been with the fresh offerings for any New Year – that it’s an act of extreme optimism to think that things will change after just one down year at the box office (one already equivocated to death by pundits to the point that there’s not a point anymore) – so the question of whether any portion of the status quo has been shaken by Michael Bay’s first non-blockbuster sort of lies there pathetic in the weak light of too much proximity. We’ll know more in a couple of years if we get there.
Netflix is a generous mistress, though, offering all three Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels in one glorious red-envelope (Asian-friendly!) fan in my mailbox this week. Ah so, as they say, and so I’ll blog ‘em in the next couple of days. Also watched Kenji Mizoguchi’s beautiful Ugetsu, Brian DePalma getting all mutie on our asses with The Fury, and Anne Hathaway in all her topless glory (ditto Bijou Phillips, but that’s so 2001) in the genuinely dreadful wigger morality play, Havoc.
Mid-week, I sat down with the radiant Natasha Richardson for a nice chat about legacies of film and family: her voice is Kathleen Turner-smoky and her bearing is regal and self-confident. She had interesting things to say about Woody’s Match Point. Her husband, Liam Neeson, was in-state at the same time as she was, but hours away in the mountains, doing a little wilderness retreat under the radar, as it were. He’s excellent in Breakfast on Pluto.
Traveled ninety minutes into the mountains to an elevation of about 8,200 ft. to moderate non-profit Vail Symposium’s David Cronenberg mini-festival, screening Dead Ringers and Spider on Friday and a pristine 35mm print of A History of Violence as the closer on Saturday. The resonances of the first two films on the third are varied and obvious, not the least of which the actors playing multiple roles (and fascinating to trace the nature of that duality through the three films from literal to existential to societal). This my fourth look at A History of Violence and the assembled audience still pointed out things for me to chew on. The best of which the frozen clock tower in the middle of Millbrook, and the idea that all the citizens therein are complicit in the illusion of a Rockwellian amber – one disturbed first by the appearance of the real bad guys before the suddenly chastened schoolyard bullies who are, after all, just playing out roles that they’ve agreed, with that society, to enact into eternity.
Echoes of Vonnegut’s Timequake: shot back in time and forced to relive the last couple of decades, powerless to change a thing, and eventually – as Kirkegaard theorized once upon a time – getting really comfortable with that tacit acceptance of re-enacting a known past we can never change. If you see Cronenberg as an alien anthropologist (and many did, some noting the “E” and “T” decorative cubes on a shelf in the Stall household: “Edie” and “Tom”, of course, but there you have it), dealing in this film with a collection of genre clichés and techniques to expose the lizard brain squatting in the middle of every person’s better intentions - History might be his most mechanized picture. Cronenberg’s Modern Times. It gets better, like all of his work, every time you see it. By the second time through, already, History feels like it’s half the length of the first time – the apprehension of the first trip replaced by the exhilaration of its unerringly sure hand in subsequent passes.
There’s nothing more rewarding than unraveling the concerns and techniques of a brilliant director with a group of smart, courageous people, who know enough about the possibility of the movies to eschew all the other entertainment options available to them up there – and to immerse themselves in three of Cronenberg’s late masterpieces. It’s not an easy ride, and I’ve got nothing but admiration and gratefulness for their participation. Highlight of a fantastic couple of nights at the movies? The director of the Vilar Center, the beautiful venue where we show the films, asked me “what’s next?” Bless his heart, I think I already know.
If you haven’t read them, here are our two interviews with Mr. C. One. And, two.
Appeared on a local Comcast television show live to talk about Cronenberg and being a film critic in the ’06 on Saturday morning. Went well, so I’m told.
And speaking of The Brood, Brangelina is pregnant. I mention this not because it’s a scoop, but because I’m hoping the spawn will bless me with its ridiculously beatific visage, freeing me of all sin and giving me the gift, however briefly, of breath smelling like a brick of gently mulled honey-wine. Is it too much to hope that Angie’s dad Jon somehow impregnates his beard, Diana Ross, with another Skywalker?
Anybody investigate the “Book of Daniel”?
or Oprah’s non-Franzen folly: A Million Little Pieces? Is there a scarier media pundit than Oprah, by the way? It seems only right to me that her company’s name is “Harpo”, not for the Marx Bros. connection, but for the idea that in turning her name into a palindrome, she’s managed to make herself this ourobosian leviathan, coiling back into herself into a self-sufficient, endlessly-renourishing and regenerating eternity. Case-in-point a Christmas episode, an annual tradition apparently, wherein she shows people what all her celebrity friends bought her. I wonder if you get a foldout wish-list in the December issue of her magazine so that you can, if you desire, mortgage your house and buy La O a little something for the bungalow. Oprah’s Book Club = 4th sign of the Apocalypse (Dr. Phil is #5). We’re up to, like, six now, right?
Here’s wishing you the fortune not to be accused of a crime that Oprah can arbitrarily, and self-righteously in her position as Midwest-appointed godhead, ruin your life for on national TV.
And speaking of which, finally getting around to Freakonomics this week.
Here’s this week’s capture:
Bill provides DVD errata on In Her Shoes and Travis unearths the recent past in one a glut of white perspective'd South Africa guilt pics occurring simultaneously in the late ‘80s: A Dry White Season.