just one little story that pretty much sums him up, it seems…
just one little story that pretty much sums him up, it seems…
growing up in the 70s and wanting to tell visual stories, how could you not get enraptured by the style of these two gentlemen?… Lucas and Spielberg defined what being a filmmaker should be when I entered film school in the early 90s yet disappointingly failed to renew their ownership of the medium in the past decade or more. I have often theorized that they simply do not seem to care enough, what with all the success, accolades, bank accounts and yes men, about the stories they are telling, that it is very hard to be enraptured in the stories of others when no longer in congress with those “others.”
but that is when these two short-form programs fell on my lap this weekend and reminded me of the history, passion and intelligence that made them who they were. if only they would watch to remind themselves not what or why but of how curious they seemed to be, then perhaps they might take a break to again find the sparks on display here. sparks that flew a few days go, the unmistakable sign that a fire still burns and needs some harnessing.
of note in the Lucas video, Coppola’s “the kid has wasted his life attitude” and the wonderful dynamic between producers willard huyck and gloria katz.
you go, michael, you go…
of course, it is possible that the good people at warner bros are tricking us but the family angle of this trailer is making me tingly all over… this looks incredible to me.
hey, nerds, you’ve heard of that almost mythical french behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the empire strikes back that only aired on dutch television, right? right. well, it’s finally on youtube and i figured that the day america goes to shit would be perfect timing to embed on here for your viewing pleasure as we feel our country burn outside our windows. stream while you still can! and then, RUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!!
what i mean by that salacious and bound-to-be controversial post title sure to send the taste police to my door is that i’m actully going to be out all day
running errands working and i wanted to leave you with something that would satiate you for long enough to forget my lack of inane daily updates about our crazy, crazy world. and i found such treasure in luis bunuel’s 1967 masterpiece “belle de jour.” yes, the whole thing. as much as it awoke in me and my pants feelings heretofore unknown when it screened on television a bit too early for comfort during my pre-teenhood in france, it shall keep you busy during your lunch hour and more, if you’re lucky. so, in the words of another icon, lie back, get comfortable and here’s catherine deneuve in a role you’ll not soon forget…
for a while i have been looking for some just and eloquent way to express my disconcerted opinion about the tenuous relationship between violence in art and violence in life that some people are trying to make the argument for in the aftermath, and continuing disasters, that are senseless shootings of innocent people. turns out, stanley kubrick had already perfectly articulated such feelings in an interview with noted french critic michel ciment at the time of the release of “a clockwork orange.” because of course. you can read the full interview here but i excerpted the relevant passage for your convenience:
“There has always been violence in art. There is violence in the Bible, violence in Homer, violence in Shakespeare, and many psychiatrists believe that it serves as a catharsis rather than a model. I think the question of whether there has been an increase in screen violence and, if so, what effect this has had, is to a very great extent a media-defined issue. I know there are well-intentioned people who sincerely believe that films and TV contribute to violence, but almost all of the official studies of this question have concluded that there is no evidence to support this view. At the same time, I think the media tend to exploit the issue because it allows them to display and discuss the so-called harmful things from a lofty position of moral superiority.
But the people who commit violent crime are not ordinary people who are transformed into vicious thugs by the wrong diet of films or TV. Rather, it is a fact that violent crime is invariably committed by people with a long record of anti-social behaviour, or by the unexpected blossoming of a psychopath who is described afterward as having been ‘…such a nice, quiet boy,’ but whose entire life, it is later realized, has been leading him inexorably to the terrible moment, and who would have found the final ostensible reason for his action if not in one thing then in another. In both instances immensely complicated social, economic and psychological forces are involved in the individual’s criminal behaviour.
The simplistic notion that films and TV can transform an otherwise innocent and good person into a criminal has strong overtones of the Salem witch trials. This notion is further encouraged by the criminals and their lawyers who hope for mitigation through this excuse. I am also surprised at the extremely illogical distinction that is so often drawn between harmful violence and the so-called harmless violence of, say, “Tom and Jerry” cartoons or James Bond movies, where often sadistic violence is presented as unadulterated fun. I hasten to say, I don’t think that they contribute to violence either. Films and TV are also convenient whipping boys for politicians because they allow them to look away from the social and economic causes of crime, about which they are either unwilling or unable to do anything.”
that last point about the difference between “harmful violence and the so-called harmless violence” is what gets me the most as the line seems to me as thin as carpaccio. so used are we to “everyday violence” that we wouldn’t dream of blaming it, would we? only the new and improved violence should be considered for censorship, that of gaspard noé (nsfw) or the used (nsfw) fitting the bill nicely when that of volkswagen or disney are too common to be anything but accepted and acceptable. shall we then eliminate it all? keep it all albeit overseen by a select few who guard the rest of us from exposure to “the hard stuff?” and if so, who?… there are no satisfying answers to these questions, only the study of the past and opinions of the students of that past. per mr. kubrick, i conclude what they do, that the argument is mere distraction.
have as peaceful a week as possible.
the trailer for the new terrence malick trick of magic is probably the only thing that could make me feel good this morning…
on 12.10.12, we were invited to the ziegfeld theater to get the first glimpse of the musical that i have been waiting for since i was 11 years old. in september 1980, i was there, on the wooden plank seating of the sports arena that played the first-ever version of the show, slated to run for 2 months and no more. as the show ended and tears ran down my cheeks for reasons i did not, at the time, altogether grasp, i knew i did not quite understand everything i had just seen. rather i knew how i felt and let my imagination take over from there. last night, i realized that what i had imagined then, director tom hooper, show creators alain boublil and claude-michel schönberg and the cast and crew of this literally showstopping fim, put on the screen for me to see.
tonight is a night i have been waiting for for a looong time, the premiere of the movie les misérables, the unhindered-by-stage version of the world’s longest-running musical and one that has meant a lot in my life.
a national hero in france, victor hugo, upon whose work the musical is based, stroke a chord of meaning when i was just a child and in age to understand no more than half the meaning of not only the better known “notre dame de paris” or “les mis,” as he never called it, but also “les chatiments” or “mon fils” as part of a credit list unimaginable today in terms of consistent quality and output.
having been at the premiere of the french show in 1980, when i was 11, i have adopted the show’s songs, lyrics and message as my own and have felt a duty to follow its trajectory through the ages. tonight is the grand unveiling of its latest incarnation at the ziegfeld theater in new york city and i will be posting as many pictures as i can on this forum, provided i can type through the tears… have a wonderful week!
there’s something you learn early on in spielberg, kuchner and day-lewis’ lincoln, which is that whichever of those three gave the camera operator his orders wanted nothing to do with its central character unless it was in profile or silouhette. mr. spielberg, the man seemingly given most of the talking points at catered television interviews, can keep telling us that he did not wish for this lincoln person to be deified but rather brought down to earth for a procedural story that would have us understand the man and let go of the legend but if so, why almost exclusively film him in profile or silouhette, sometimes even bathed in sun flares and linen drapes? i don’t know but somebody’s lying…
incredibly, and to syd field‘s great surprise i’m sure, the tale that unfolds, and a true one at that, relates to us a hinge moment in history, taking such incredible delight in reveling in the mechanics of the door opener that we, the paying public, cannot consider anything other than fascinating, a peek into the halls of power, a peep though the door of american politics. the story indeed is a good, perhaps even a great one. so how come the movie is such a letdown? how can the man who thrilled us so with aliens, progroms and grails bore us so with amendment legisla… oh, riiiight. that’s it, isn’t it? as good as this movie should have been for dialogue hounds, sorkin-groupies or political history buffs, i don’t think this was spielberg’s movie to make. it might have been a gem in the hands of a director for whom long spoken scenes are exciting action sequences, not someone who lets their writers “take care of it” in order to mind the actors and lenses. a mamet, a brannagh, perhaps even a couple of coens might have handled this material with glee and not merely as an opportunity to do “important” work. because that’s how it felt. much like amistad or war horse before it, the beard seems intent on filling his résumé with films that his grownup children will be proud to one day take on school tours once he is too old to travel but that display so little of the exhuberance and care he fashioned quite a successful career from. and i do not say that simply because i miss the child-like wonder of e.t. or sense of adventure of raiders, i actually see the same wonder and adventure in the color purple and schindler’s list. yet, none to be found in this latest festival of yawns.
i will grant that tommy lee jones scene a pass, it made me weep as it will you, but a great moment, and evidently not even a great story, does a great movie make. and i am truly sorry about that because i really wanted to love it, to admire it, to tell others about it. but i can’t. i vote nay on lincoln.
it is monday morning and it is hard to tear myself away from the international trailer for ‘les mis.’ above all, it is the art direction that they seem to have nailed and i can wait to smell the dirty streets of 19th century paris…
“he’s just making it up as he goes along…”
this is what lancaster dodd’s seemingly bored son (jessie plemons) asks freddie quell (joaquin phoenix) to realize about his own father (philip seymour hoffman) but i am tempted to affirm the same for masterful director paul thomas anderson. not taking any due and deserved praise away from his craft of course, rather simply attempting to learn the lesson i believe his latest film is attempting to teach us, that we are indeed all making it up as we go along. a worthy lesson, as if there ever was any other.
the film itself an overstatement of understatement, especially when contrasted with the already gilded trailer of steven spielberg’s lincoln, unwisely playing as a presumed historical companion, we are treated throughout to no more than a handful of actual “scenes,” sandwiched between “images” realistically presenting post world war america while never showing off the effort it must have taken to construct. no, the meat of these two and a half hours really cooks between the two men whose names on the call sheet every morning must have induced its share of nerves for the other actors sharing the screen that day. joaquin phoenix’s pain, visible in every pore, seen in a story told mostly in close-ups, became our pain, the audience’s pain, my pain as we were all taken from moment to moment in scenes blissfully interminable, showing the indubitable multiplicity of man just as lancaster dodd (seymour hoffman) tries to convince himself, his new protege and us that we are not animals, proving in the process quite the opposite.
as soon as freddie violently slaps himself three times for not yet being able to correctly abide by his new master’s command in his first “processing” session, we know we are in for therapy of our own. the director, bearing witness to his actors’ emotional cacophony does not try to sway us to one way or another of the moral values animating his protagonists, he knows, and makes abundantly clear, that that conversation is moot, at least as much as the story’s connection with scientology. that is not the point. the point is for us to realize that human and nature are two words that go together for a reason, two words that complete each other, two words that are correctly embodied by the fool and mistakenly taken apart by the learned. yes, we are animals and proud of it! able to both give in and suppress, allow and forbid, assist and punish at different times, depending on context, mood and, apparently, blood alcohol level. our storytellers seem to want us to understand that freddie and lancaster may in fact two facets of one person, of every person, whether ambitious or not, irreconcilable, destined and, above all, lonely.
that is what stayed with me after the credits rolled on an opus i will not likely forget, as much for its directorial restraint as for its interpretive abandon. it seems to me that after there will be blood, p.t.a. is longing for meaningful content above all and to become a champion of humanity on screen, whether it is comfortable for us audiences or not and probably one of the reasons why he might feel ready to tackle pynchon next. making it up as he goes along… we should all be so fearless.