I did manage a screening of Akeelah and the Bee last week, a film that I won't review because of a conflict of interest that I have with the Starbucks corporation (and their employment of someone near and dear to me), and so all I can say is that unless things change, I won’t be able to put it on my bottom ten for this year. Think: more WWII Asian stereotypes from the fine distributors of Crash and the terms “looking like Rosie Greer” and “unfortunate echoes of What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and let’s leave it at that.
Did a fruitful Q&A of Spider with an extremely receptive audience at tiny Gilpin County Public Library and will do another with the same film at the comparably-sized Lone Tree Public Library this Friday. Spider has become one of my favorite speaking gigs – not just for its complexity and spare beauty, but because every time I show it, it becomes someone’s favorite movie. It’s also a lot less controversial than History of Violence: a picture that I’m finding it hard to show because of exhibitor squeamishness. Wenders says something about titles that are too programmatic and damned if he doesn’t make a fine point.
Later this month will find me speaking after a screening of Grave of the Fireflies while a local rotary club has asked me to keynote one of their monthly meetings next month. The Vail Symposium, under a new director, has called asking for ideas for a summer series and the Beaver Creek Film Festival is looking to expand with me along for the ride in some capacity. What’s that smartass Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times.
The DPL cinema club series is currently in the midst of screenings for Classic Westerns: Stagecoach, The Ox-Bow Incident, and Ride the High Country (discussion later this month, too) – and I’m continuing to get nice feedback for the Vail Fest’s panel – all in all, an overwhelming, exhausting, draining few days.
Apologies for the brevity and in-eloquence of this week’s post – got about an ounce of reserves left before it’s just fumes to the horizon.
Reading a remarkable collection of interviews done by the AFI and George Stevens, Jr., by the way - one that includes an invaluable chat with James Wong Howe: one of my favorite cinematographers of all time. There just aren't enough interviews with cinematographers. Currently reading the King Vidor and am mesmerized by his description of the tracking shot up the stairs in his The Crowd and how it paralleled, unconsciously, a bad memory of his from childhood.
It calls up the question of what your fave individual shot sequences are in film: whether or not they live in films of any relative value. My happiest Wong Howe moment is the grape-stomping scene during the bacchanal of Seconds' California fandango and the image it conjures of the conservative shutterbug, climbing in that vat with Rock Hudson and a few naked hippie chicks - I was saddened to learn that he and Frankenheimer had a falling out late in both of their careers. Odd one that comes to mind is Jackie Brown in the parking lot right after DeNiro kills Fonda: the sound editing in there is nigh orgasmic.