Tuesday found me at the Denver Public Library introducing and discussing Michael Curtiz’s proto-melodrama Mildred Pierce. Lost in most discussions of Joan Crawford’s career is this essential truth that she was a top box-office draw for decades, not for being a bitch, but for being magnetic, beautiful, and a gifted actor. Her turn in Mildred Pierce, for instance, is indicated by a great deal of subtlety and quiet; a scene where she witnesses her monstrous daughter objectified by a bunch of sailors in a night club is devastating and mostly because Crawford has allowed us insight into how her character has been wounded (and perhaps Crawford herself) by the same kind of destructive male gaze. When best pal Ida (Eve Arden) comments on a lascivious glance with “Sheesh, leave me something, I’ll catch cold!” – some of the cultural brutality of the picture floats clean into focus. With over 160 films under his belt, I find myself admiring Curtiz’s work on this one more than other, more revered, pictures on which he functioned mainly as a kind of place-marker. What I’m saying is that it’s better than Casablanca.
Because the film is longish, there wasn’t much time for discussion afterwards, limited as we are by the library’s closing time. A shame, and something to think about when programming series. This week saw, too, the launch of the library’s “Cinema Club” with a screening of Edward Scissorhands.
This coming week: Dark Victory at the DPL, Run Lola Run at Lone Tree, and Leon: The Professional at Douglas County, plus the second film in the “Cinema Club” three-film-then-discussion series, P.T. Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love.
Watched a fabbo giallo on DVD for review called Strip Nude for your Killer: an exploitation flick that combines elements of Peeping Tom with Blow-Up with some weird Italian soft-porn flick, reminding that the fringe is often where you find the strongest statements about the things that matter. Taken with Mildred Pierce and, to an extent, the mendacity of When a Stranger Calls 2006, the theme of the day seems to be social awareness. In a year where Crash and Brokeback Mountain are in a neck-to-neck (man-on-man?) race to win the industry’s most-coveted self-congratulation – my question is what are the best films about social issues?
Let me start the debate with Romero’s landmark Civil Rights piece: Night of the Living Dead.
The last screen capture of this cycle presents Jack S. with the chance to win if none of the other four previous winners can tie it at the finish line. They've all been easy as I wrestle with a good capture program and no time lately - tougher next time, I promise:
Meanwhile, tons of new material at the mothersite with Alex's excellent Sundance coverage continuing, side-by-side with a nice Top Ten Internet Flicks piece while the crew works on Iviews Issue 7. Also, Travis takes on Alex Cox's Repo Man.
For Lee and Jack S. to decide the winner of capture-contest #3:
Hot off the Presses (2.7)
Here's the new Harrison Ford, Firewall, with whether or not I'll make the Final Destination 3 screening before this weekend still up in the air. Alex's Sundance coverage continues with Into Great Silence plus I do the honors on Burton's Big Fish on DVD again.
Hot off the Presses (2.8)
Scheduling conflict is going to shut me out of a screening of Steve Martin's long-awaited (by someone, I'm sure) Pink Panther update, I'm afraid, (and still don't know if I can juggle/rush to get a screening of Final Destination 3 under my belt this week) but here's Alex reporting on Tanuj Chopra's Punching at the Sun from Sundance, and me going on about Heidi Klum's "Project Runway Season One". Want to mention that Alex's review of A Darkness Swallowed is an example of why a lot of us are fans of his in the first place: humane and humble, and a reminder of how to do it right.