Daily notes 2010-08

New viewings this month:
The Killer Inside Me
Repo Men
The Last Exorcism
The Dunwich Horror
Cinderella Man
End of Days
The House of the Devil
A Beautiful Mind
The Browning Version (1951)
The Red Shoes

Currently watching: The Killer Inside Me
Brutal. Shaping up to be best of 2010.

Currently watching: Repo Men
And to think, there was a side of Law we hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately it’s the Oldboy side.

Just watched: The Last Exorcism
Dispiriting. The film, shot in psuedo-documentary, starts with some real potential. There was a hearty, genuine laugh right near the start! I thought to myself, “How pleasantly surprising. Well cast, the writing is perfectly passable, great locale.” Then half the movie was over and nothing had happened… then things happened, a few little things, followed by very loud sudden bursts of sound. The camerawork was atrocious during every moment we’d like to see, on purpose, but hell, people who post amateur YouTube videos turn in better work than this. When the film ended – when I had hoped it would’ve just been getting warmed up – the full house audience groaned as one. I walked out past a middle-aged man who muttered, “Well that was a waste of fucking money.” I was quite surprised that with the good start this film had, it just kept getting worse. It had a free ticket, and it blew it. Perhaps one of the film’s greatest hindrances was the score which came in (without explanation into a “documentary”) during every potentially scary moment and simply wrang the life out of it. Yet another film for teenagers. I regret my participation.

Currently watching: The Dunwich Horror
Following an absurd opening credit sequence we find ourselves at some university – no doubt Miskatonic – where Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) lingers at the entrance to get his good look at The Necronomicon, occult treasure of the Miskatonic library. So far it contains some of the best adapted Lovecraft I’ve seen – I realize that isn’t saying much. Dean Stockwell is doing an outstanding job, here seen raptly speaking aloud the text of the Necronomicon. The next frame contains the best version I’ve seen of a person reading from the unholy tome – the book looks great, and yes, those are the hands of the person reading such a book. I am sorry to report, though, that you’ll notice the placement of Wilbur’s hands is incorrect between the shots.

First fly lured into Wilbur’s web. Notice the wardrobe colors seem to match each side of the frame…

I think now would be an apt time to share my Lovecraft list:

1 1987 Hellraiser
2 2005 The Call of Cthulhu
3 1992 The Resurrected
4 1970 The Dunwich Horror
5 1963 The Haunted Palace
6 1994 In the Mouth of Madness
7 1965 Die, Monster, Die!
8 1986 From Beyond
9 1985 Re-Animator
10 2001 Dagon
11 1987 The Curse
12 2007 Cthulhu
13 2005 Dreams in the Witch House

Hellraiser isn’t technically a Lovecraft film, but come on – we all know it would not exist without HPL. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society did a swell job with The Call of Cthulhu, as much so as their retro-nonsense thing would allow, which was only so far. The Haunted Palace briefly skimmed over The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and really only works because of Price, but has some fun moments. And from here down on the list, no more quality is to be found, just variations of failure. 2007’s Cthulhu was shudderingly awful, absolute amateur dogshit. But it isn’t possible to get worse than Dreams in the Witch-House.

More good stuff.. The added elements of carnality, not found in the original story, actually fit in quite well.

Currently watching: The Duellists
Very enjoyable. Early Ridley Scott impresses. And, to me, seems to be a transparent facsimile of Barry Lyndon.

Currently watching: Cinderella Man

I kinda really like it! With the exception of the existence of Braddock’s wife and the utterly superficial “Oh the poor Poor Man” tripe (all among the oldest cliches), it’s a very pleasing, well-made Hollywood boxing film! Max Baer vs Jimmy Braddock. Yea! Though I will say that I definitely noticed the amount of times Ron Howard used in-scene camera flash-bulbs to highlight pivotal hits during fight sequences – an overabundant rhythm not at all unlike the amount of times lightning claps into scenes in horror films.

Craig Bierko’s comically villainous performance pleased me very much, watching him grow from spoiled, mock play-fighting to childish fury (very much, actually, like a Nintendo Punch-Out! boxer) at the mere fact that he has to bother expelling effort against Braddock. Overtly theatrical characters can be quite risky. This one I didn’t mind.

Watched: Bugsy. It’s pretty much fine, but 10 Oscar nominations?? Hell.

Currently watching: End of Days
So Gabriel Byrne was in two Christian Apocalypse films in 1999… must say I can see why.

Currently watching: Stigmata
Strange. Shot like the frenetic bullshit of Tony Scott. It has a real pulse to it, and it’s singular if nothing else. Maybe like a conventional Gaspar Noe. Or a really shallow experimental film. The dark, twisted everyday life is a refreshing noir trope.

Currently watching: The House of the Devil
Very competent.

Make the knife the centerpiece of every movement. Points!

Started, got bored, skimmed through Hellraiser 2: Hellbound. Interesting specimen and example of squandered ambition.

Currently watching: A Beautiful Mind

Re-watching: The Usual Suspects

Starting a process of spilling out my thoughts – and publishing them. I have no idea where this is going. This contains any notes I’d like to post, including my thoughts, however brief or extensive, on films I’m currently watching.

The Browning Version
Anthony Asquith

Oh man. Ravaged. Such gorgeous black and white photography.

Thelma Schoonmaker
Holy shit. If you’ve watched 1000 Scorsese films, you probably recognize the name Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor who’s been working with Scorsese for most of his career. I just learned that her extended name is Thelma Schoonmaker Powell. Yes, that Powell. Married to him from 84-90, when he died. Also, she studied Russian at Cornell under Nabokov. She’s won three Oscars for editing on Scorsese’s films (Raging Bull, Aviator, Departed) and been nominated three more times, and has been heralded in her field on extensive other occasions. Christ almighty.

The Red Shoes
Powell & Pressburger

Finally got to it. Ecstasy!

Body Snatching
In the past few days I’ve watched every Body Snatcher film (there are only five). My results:

1 1993 Body Snatchers
2 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
3 1994 The Puppet Masters
4 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
5 2007 The Invasion

Contentious, perhaps.
2007 – Nobody will argue that the most recent iteration is the least effectual.
1978 – 78’s has its moments, but has an odor of 70’s schlock that some find amusing, but I do not… the feeling reminds me of The Stepword Wives, which I found to be a sophomoric failure. Also Veronica Cartwright’s character has more success than any character at existing emotionless among the tainted throng. It’s completely unebelieveable to me that Veronica Cartwright would be so much as capable of taking out the trash, let alone navigating an apocalypse, without breaking into histrionics at every turn.
1994 – Rather forgotten film, unfortunately. What I liked most was the relative intelligence at play (I had just come off the coattails of 2007’s Invasion, an exercise in pretension). As soon as the film starts, we’re on equal par with a very capable and smart covert government team, and the pace rises and doesn’t slacken as soon as we’re out of the gates. The production value seems high and we’re treated to what I consider to be that gorgeous, super-wide 90’s cinematography (John Carpenter and his DP Gary Kibbe were good with this). But this cinematography is better still in our next entry.
1993 – Much more of a slow, strange mood piece than anything. It can be argued that Ferrara’s strangeness doesn’t have anything to do with the strangeness at play within the story – and maybe that’s true – but it worked for me. Characters placed distinctly off-center, heavy use of sepia tones, long drawls of tone and image, human frames frequently cut off or truncated for no discernable reason… I think there’s a great deal of originality at play here, and a very welcome pervsion of the original Pod People scenario. Interestingly the alien, special effecty parts of the film are barely touched on and we’re treated to much more of a “Who Goes There?” feel. And I cannot help but reel at Meg Tilly’s delectable performance at a climactic moment… The only thing the film lacked was Kevin McCarthy, but Forest Whittaker’s cameo fills that void excellently.

The Body Snatching story seems endlessly repeatable. I watched these because I found myself longing to watch a film in which a situation gradually, gradually and inexorably spiralled out of control, piece by piece.

Currently watching: Trouble Every Day
This, to me, is the pivotal frame of the film, and my favorite in terms of composition. I like to think of this as a “portrait shot,” and given the film’s alternate title “Gargoyle,” it’s clearly relevant. Gallo looks like Edgar Allen Poe! Such a delectable misanthrope!<a