Welcome all once again to the gentle shambles that is the Instant Queue Movie Club. Upon finally, belatedly watching last week’s film. ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’, I instantly realized I should’ve watched it in theaters. Between the haloing, color glitches, frame jumps, moire effect and general compression, all that is crappy about streaming video was made glaringly obvious by the film’s deep, saturated blacks, slow movement in long-held still images, and lots of slightly moving leaves and grass.
Technical limitations aside, I was also perplexed by the story in a way that most likely speaks to cultural limitations. I get his son turned into a monkey ghost, really I do, even though as I type this the very thought of typing ‘I get his son turned into a monkey ghost’ seems screamingly ridiculous. But what of the end of the movie? Did the film crew just have an impromptu photo shoot with some soldiers, or was that the son’s ultimate fate, and if so, why? Or was that a past life of Boonmee, who mentioned in passing his regret at killing communists? Was the story of the princess and the fish a past life or just a larger cultural reference I’m missing completely? And why did the monk see himself at the end? Did they even go to karaoke?
None of which diminished my enjoyment of the natural beauty captured at leisurely pace, or the supernatural depicted in a frank and straightforward manner. If anything, questions are better than a solid ‘yep, that was a thing that happened there, alright’ reaction. It means the filmmaker trusted the audience to fill in their own gaps.
Since I’m still exuding so much mental effort over last week’s film and setting this up a mere day ahead of time, it seems only fair that this week’s film be a no-brainer. Something to enjoy even while inebriated, or perhaps while making a sandwich or crocheting; something where you can enjoy the company, but that doesn’t demand your total attention. That’s why this week’s movie is Mystery Science Theater 3000′s ‘Werewolf’, a personal favorite and an excellent example of the general stupidity that is MST3K. I’ll spare everyone the essay for now and go into why I so adore watching puppets watch a movie next week.
When I say Film Forum is one of my favorite theaters in the city, I should probably be more specific. I love the programming, but could do without the cramped seats, lack of cupholders, and ridiculously cranky patrons. Yesterday marked the third time in as many viewings I nearly saw a septuagenarian fight break out over people pushing in the aisles.
The films are worth it- this time around it was a double-feature of ‘The Phantom Lady’, a noir so strange it borders on the absurd, and ‘Cat People’, the good one, not the 80′s one. The former was introduced by none other than James Ellroy, writer of ‘The Black Dahlia’, who praised the film and the genre with bawdy slang.
I wish I could find a transcript of the movie somewhere-there were so many strange exchanges and unintentionally hilarious conversations. The best may have been the police officer’s back and forth with the convicted man’s best friend, who, unbeknownst to him, is really the killer. As the officer goes on about how the killer’s clearly a ‘paranoiac’, the best friend/killer keeps staring at his murderous hands, talking in a near-monotone about how perhaps the killer’s really not such a bad guy after all; maybe he’s just a misunderstood genius. Again, this is a film where a silly hat is the key to getting a man off death row. Certain parts put symbolism above story and logic, such as the scene where a hot-to-trot drummer takes the heroine to a closet with a jazz band already playing, jumps on in, and proceeds to have a very Freudian drum solo.
‘Cat People’ is a more moody and somber film, but its dated gender politics cracked the audience up, prompting another cranky patron to yell “We’re trying to watch the movie!!!” So are we, guy. Calm down. Half the fun of watching older movies with a wider audience is enjoying the discrepancy between what was taken for granted then and what’s assumed now.
The opening of Harold Lloyd’s ‘Speedy’, seen earlier at Film Forum, drove the audience to distraction. While Lloyd and his girl laughed as they were thrown from spinning wooden platforms into metal walls, rode rollercoasters with no straps or harnesses, and….went down a hill riding metal horses(honestly I have no idea what that ride was about; it’s primary purpose looked like a cheery form of electrocution), the audience couldn’t focus on their charming romance and kept flipping out.
A fan of ‘Dellamorte Dellamore’, I was surprised to find the director Michele Soavi recently released his second theatrical work. Called ‘Arrivederci Amore Ciao’, it seems the opposite in terms of character and style, with a more realistic approach and a main character we never really get to know. More can be read here, at Twitch Films.
I haven’t seen his ‘La Chiesa’, though I do love the Goblin song.
This Sunday Anthology Film Archives is showing a series of classic experimental shorts from the 1920′s, including ‘Ballet Mecanique’ and Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Entre’Acte’. The idea of ‘classic’ experimental shorts seems sort of paradoxical; then again anything once considered edgy becomes absorbed by mainstream culture in time. It is much like a shard stuck in the body; harmful effects are quickly neutralized by the larger organism’s quick response of cushioning and coating, and in many cases absorbing. For the squeamish I can assure you no pus is involved in these films. If anyone cares to join the screening’s at 5:30pm.
Also at Anthology, on Wed. June 13 is a screening of the Mick Travis trilogy. The most well-known of the three films is ‘…If’, starring a young Malcom McDowell in the role that landed him that of Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Plotwise, there’s not too much going on. A number of boys attend a boarding school where older students lord over the younger, archaic rituals are performed with little meaning, and those supposedly in charge are completely distanced from their actual situation. Basically, a regular school, with all the dullness and weirdness entailing. McDowell’s character Mick wants to break free of this, and it’s arguable whether he actually manges to do so by the film’s controversial end.
Finally, for all those who missed seeing The Valerie Project at Anthology, shame on you! It was a heady and lovely journey through a girl’s imagination as she comes of age. Fortunately you’ll have a chance to redeem yourselves come June 16th, when the project returns home to Philadelphia at The International House. Should you miss it again they’ve a MOMA show in the works, but by then all the arty-arts will have scooped the tickets and will yammer about various bits of symbolism throughout until you jam their blackberry (still on, of course) down their throats. So do yourselves a favor and scoot down to Philly for some cheesesteaks, water ice, and outstanding live musical performance and screening.
1. Movies You’ve Seen Recently: The Scorpion King. I let the TNT network do the thinking for me that night. Also Zodiac, which I saw with an audience clearly expecting ‘Se7en’. As we left, one dude looked at his girlfriend and said “I feel like kicking my own ass for watching this shit for 3 hours.”
2. Movies You’re Looking Forward To?: Hot Fuzz. I’ve been tracking this one since it was a mere twinkle in the director’s eye, right up to last month’s English premire with a double billing of ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys 2′. Also, now that I know of its existence, National Treasure 2: The Search For Lincoln’s Gold. Seriously, Nick Cage and the gang set out to find the real motives behind Lincoln’s assasination.
Back in college there was a class where everyone pitched their script ideas and the rest of us would offer suggestions or comments. It was usually an exercise in futility as the stories were either unsalvageably bad or the student wouldn’t take an ounce of criticism as his idea was perfection and we mongoloids couldn’t understand his brilliant vision. However, this one seriously red-headed kid whose name (of course) I can’t remember pitched a story about this woman Mary Todd Lincoln thought Abe was having an affair with. In a very ‘Crying Game’ move it turns out the woman Lincoln falls for was actually John Wilkes Boothe and there were whole subplots about espionage and subterfuge and deeply felt romance. Everyone else thought it was a comedy but this kid was deadly earnest. I thought it would’ve been great.
3. Favorite “Bad Marriage” Movie?
‘Bad Marriage’ is a category now? I feel like I’m compelled to answer ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe’ even though I never saw it. Divorce, Italian Style was pretty charming, but the whole point was that he didn’t really have a bad marriage, he just wanted out.
4. Favorite Terminal Disease Film?
5. Favorite Film that Tells a Story Backwards or Messes with the Timeline?:
I enjoyed Primer; they didn’t make time travel some obvious gimmick or special effect, and it felt like what time travel would look like to a person experiencing it in the real world.
6. Favorite Sam Peckinpah Movie?
I’m going to say The Wild Bunch because that’s the only one of his I’ve seen all the way through.
7. Favorite Orson Welles Film?
I’m not answering this until I see everything the man’s done.
8. Least Favorite Movie That’s in Love with Itself?:
Crash. They had ‘I’m coming to a realization’ theme music.
9. Strangest Masturbation Scene in a Film?
There are normal ones?
10. Favorite Vampire-Themed Film?
Whoever wrote these questions had a 3rd grader’s grasp of the English language. I’ll go with Dracula, Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, because it’s vampire-themed ballet with an actual vampire in it.
11. Favorite “One Night Stand” Film?
This is not a category of film. All I can think of is Barbarella. She seemed to love them and leave them a few times.
13. Favorite Campy 60′s Film?
That 2001: A Space Oddyssey was a real hoot.
14. What Country, Other than America, Do You think Has Produced the Best Films?: Germany‘s got the edge because of its wonderful Impressionist period…France has co-produced some of my favorite films, and I am partial to directors like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Patrice Leconte…plus they help bank David Lynch. Yeah, I guess it’s France. I still hate Godard though.
15. What movie star that at one point was bankable (not now but at least one point) do you think is an indisputable bad actor?
I cannot fathom the appeal of Meg Ryan. Especially that brief period where she attempted ‘dramatic’ roles. Actually, same goes for Sandra Bullock. How do these women tug on America’s heartstrings? I’ve felt more kindly towards Ms. Ryan since that blowfish stung her face.
16. Best Delivery of Bad Dialogue:
Dammit, Matt already slam-dunked this one. Ah well.
17. Favorite Western?: The Misfits. It’s so hard to bear though, like you’re watching the genre die. And you’re actually watching Clark Gable die; that movie pretty much did him in.
18. Favorite Film Noir Chicks?:
I’m partial to Barbara Stanwyck in ‘Double Indemnity’, but for pure bitchy evil I’ll go with Jane Greer in ‘Out of the Past’. She is stone-cold.
19. Pick a Genuinely Great Film from a Director that Critics Usually Laugh At:
‘Savage’ Steve Holland’s Better Off Dead. Most critics lump it in with the plethora of crap comedies shoved out in the 80′s, but this one’s got everything that made them great- silly animation, dark humor, stereotypes, John Cusack, highschools…I will say the same for Weird Science. While John Hughes is acknowledged, most critics don’t think too highly of his work.
20. Favorite Case of Alcoholism in a Movie: The Big Lebowski‘s choice of White Russians is a brave move forward for Hollywood perceptions of liquors.
21. Favorite Movie on Slavery (besides ROOTS):
22. Favorite Man VS. Machine Sci-Fi Flick?:
Is this a joke? Terminator 2. Except there’s not a man in sight. It’s woman vs. Terminator vs. T-1000 vs. kid. As Axle would say, suck on that.
23. Favorite Non-Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western?:
Django. Between the dragging coffin and the happily gratuitous muddy catfight, ‘Django’ is big on pain and low on plot in the best way possible. Plus it has a great non-Morricone score. ‘Djangooooo!’
24. Favorite Mad Scientist Movie?
If you made a list of best Mad Scientists I wonder how many times Jeff Goldblum’s name would pop up? I’ll go with Re-Animator because the mad scientist steals the show, even from the standard topless chick in danger and ‘hunky’ lead. Dr. West is completely focused on getting results.
25. Favorite “Scream Queen”
26. Marilyn Monroe Vs. Jayne Mansfield?:
How about James Dean vs. Montgomery Clift?
27. Favorite Film with a Religious Nut?:
If Aguirre were a religious zealot and not about manifest destiny I’d say ‘Aguirre, Wrath of God’. But I suppose I’ll stick with Carrie. Nothing says ‘I love Jesus’ like “Pimples are the Lord’s way of chastising you.”
28. Favorite Film about a Person Looking for a New Start?: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Splinter works to create a new life for himself and goes from beloved pet to benevolent father figure.
29. Favorite Film Sensitive to Improving Women’s Status in Society?
Again, Terminator 2. You can’t just sit around waiting for your future-soldier to come back and bust you out of the laughing academy, you have to steal that paper clip and do it yourself! Look at the first ‘Terminator’-she goes from meek waitress to efficient(except for the breakdowns) killing machine! If that’s not an improvement I don’t know what is. Plus, the machines show us a future where all are equally terminable.
30. Favorite “Dramatic Courtroom Speech” in a Moive
The end of Pauly Shore’s Jury Duty is a moving tribute to the common man’s overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of so many abstract ideals. His humor is an attempt to bring a sense of the concrete and real to himself and those around him.
“If a small taco is a taquito, then a small judge… must be a Judge Ito!”
31. Favorite movie about a hit man?
Gross Pointe Blank, because it’s pretty much Lloyd Dobbler using his martial arts skills to deadly effect.
34. Mainstream Network Television Show that is Actually Awesome?:
I enjoy The Office, and liked Arrested Development before it was cancelled. I haven’t gotten full verification they’re Actually Awesome, though.
35. Upcoming remake that you are actually extremely excited about?
Citizen Kane II: Slay Ride.
36. Best performance in a single episode of a TV series? (post-2000, excluding guest stars)
Screw excluding guest stars. Dave Matthews(yes, of the Dave Matthews Band) playing the special-est piano savant on ‘House’. The urge to describe all his symptoms as the result of ‘he eats too much, he drinks too much!’ was far too stupid to resist.
37. Best overall performance in a TV series (post-2000, excluding guest stars)
It’s a toss-up between Will Arnett as Gob and Tony Hale as Buster on Arrested Development.
Buster: You mean, you can wear stripper clothes when you’re not stripping?
G.O.B.: You tell me.
38. Best “channeling” of someone else’s performance by an actor or actress?
The brave men and women of the Academy of Motion Pictures who reenacted ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as an interpretive dance for the Oscars.
39. Favorite Robert Mitchum performance?
He was great in Night of the Hunter and ‘Out of the Past’, though he was downright creepy in ‘Cape Fear’.
40. Favorite STAR TREK villain?
KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!! Actually I’ll go with the hippies who hijacked the Enterprise and jammed with Spock.
41. Best mockumentary?
It’s a toss-up between Spinal Tap and The Martha Stewart Story.
42. Favorites: Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee?
Christopher Lee’s outdistanced everyone in sheer output. What is he up to, 340 films?
43. Best performance of a sexually repressed servant of God?
Ted Haggard. Good on you man, you’ve been ‘cured’.
44. Most depressing cinematic experience?
Fluke. Never for the love of God let your children watch this movie. Three teenage girls weeping at this needlessly cruel and indifferent film, and we were merely screening it to see if it was suitable for a 4th grade class.
45. Most well-made exploitation film?
It’s not really a film, but that episode of ’90210′ where Donna loses her virginity. Her father specially directed that one, and it was replete with dream imagery straight out of ‘November Rain’.
46. Favorite Shakespearean film?
A toss-up between Much Ado About Nothing, with special appearances by Keeanu Reeves and Michael Keeton, and Polanski’s Macbeth.
The former would seem to have nothing on the extremely intense latter, but keep in mind it’s Keeanu Reeves attempting lines like: “I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace, in this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.” Whoa.
Actually wait, I take both of those back, I think my favorite version of ‘Macbeth’ was one starring Ian McKellan and Judi Dench. Everything was stark black and white save for the blood, costumes, props, lighting and camera moves were kept near-minimal, and yet it was an extremely compelling version.
47. Favorite performance by a teenage girl in a film?
I have to concur with Matt that the lass playing Valerie in Valerie and Her Week of Wonders did an outstanding job. I enjoyed the performance of both girls in Ginger Snaps, though the younger sister did an especially good job. Nuts to movies like ‘Thirteen’, where teenage girls are pictured as drug-addled raving lunatics, even if they are sometimes.
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