Daily notes 2010-10

Watched this month:
The Hunt for Red October
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Oliver Twist
Au hasard Balthazar
Heaven Can Wait
The Road
The Last King of Scotland
The Omen (2006)
The Omen (1976)
Damien: The Omen II
Omen III: The Final Conflict
Benny & Joon
Summer Hours
Bad Lieutenant
The Social Network
127 Hours
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo
Never Let Me Go
Touching the Void
A Somewhat Gentle Man
Women Without Men
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Blood Work
Cold Weather
No One Knows About Persian Cats
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Re-watched: Lake of Fire
Best film of 2006? The only time I’ve seriously considered the other side of the issue. Examines every side of the issue I can think of, and the presence of noted intellectuals certainty helps its credibility. My only real concern is the fact that Tony Kaye previously made American History X. Guess nobody’s perfect. But he’s obsessed with “hate,” obviously, and I can see why. There’s some pretty heavy drama in there. I can’t help but feel a bit like a stooge in saying this, however, since the film has a clear bias and is certainly manipulate on many fronts. But it isn’t without a certain level of respect… just enough, say, as the fundamentalists deserve. More important that we are reminded of their actions so they won’t be allowed to continue. Did I say that? Wrong country to say that in. Back to big cities, back to big cities…

Currently watching: The Hunt for Red October

And how nice to see a young Stellan, a snarler from birth.

And Alec Baldwin’s career taking roles that involved acting and not just irony was short-lived.

Re-watching: The Thin Red Line
I could go on about how much I like the film, but instead I’ll say this: my chief grievance is that I cannot imagine a war in which so many soldiers – or in this case, all of them – are absolutely terrified of being involved and are completely jaded. It’s the 1940’s, where’s the patriotism? Where’s the idiotic blind loyalty, the power rushes? I imagine war to be a bit more like I saw it in Full Metal Jacket, or even The Hurt Locker: simply dangerous, inane, absurd, idiotic, filled with aimless idle patches, and populated mostly by soldiers who do not ask questions. Terrence Malick – by definition, for the most part – asks questions, and has made a film concerned mostly with the asking. And so I find The Thin Red Line to be something of a fantasy war film, an idealistic one. I also find it difficult to believe that a character like the one Jim Cavaziel plays would exist in any army at all. How could somebody so complacent and loving kill so many enemy soldiers? I can imagine him being patriotic in a very fundamental way, connected to and influencing the society he’s a part of, but the absurdity he rushes into it too transparent for him to just stroll and smile in the down time.

Of course, it’s about brotherhood, and why would I want to knock that?

Currently watching: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
These guys are just masters. Delightful from the get-go. “The war starts at midnight!” Say, this Livesay chap simply radiates gravitas. He’s like a force of nature. Just look at that. The posture of his face alone is unmatched since Alexander Nevsky! Arms akimbo with his cheeks!

Watched: Z
Loved it. Feels terribly “now” for 1969. Lots of fun! The momentum it builds never ebbs! Having a very difficult time deciding which I like better for 1969, Z or They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? It’s really little more than a lively prodecural – except that the procedural aspect takes on the greatest implications I’ve yet seen. Found myself thinking of Zodiac at numerous times during the film. Costa-Gavras’s ability to balance so many facets of a complicated equation, and with such accuracy, impressed me very much. When the letter Z flies into the screen at the film’s end and the saccharine score pulses loudly, it’s like a knockout punch and a victory lap (I feel the same way about the first moment of Barry Lyndon, with the saraband’s first heavy beats thumping like fists into an unsuspecting stomach. “Prepare yourself for the perfect period piece!”)

Watched: Chararde
I’ve been without a computer, so a very quick update (I’m paying for this computer time..). Watched Charade last night and found it to be an insipid studio affair. Maybe it was new at the time, and I suppose that counts for something, but it hasn’t aged well at all. Hepburn doesn’t do much but mouth off, playing a grown up Holly Golighty, and falls madly in love with Grant for his similar behavior. Also, the bygone days of cinema are certainly over as its quite rare these days to watch a 34 year old model of perfection fall for a 59 year old creaker – even if he is Cary Grant. I was pleased to see a very young James Coburn.

I keep trying to watch 2008’s A Christmas Tale, but what can I say, more important things just keep coming up. Maybe I’ll have it finished by 2018.

Roman Polanski
Also watched Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist and rewatched The Pianist. He’s an exceptional filmmaker of straight, generally adapted material. He’s absolutely matter-of-fact – as such, I think those dream sequences in Rosemary’s Baby are among the lamest things he’s attempted (along with the entirety of Le Locataire). I’m being harsh again, he really stands above so many. Oliver Twist was very enjoyable, but cost $60 million!!!! Who would’ve invested? Who would’ve cared? Bafflement.

Rewatching The Pianist was particularly poignant, though. For some idiotic reason, I never regarded the film very highly, just found it to be yet another successfully sad holocaust film. Let’s forget that that opinion existed. This time around I realized that the film is a wrenching, luscious exercise. Knowing a bit about how films are actually made makes watching Polanski infinitely more satisfying, and affirms how modest the man is. His films never concern themselves with anything but pure story – Polanski lives and dies by STORY alone, and I adore that. In fact – now that I think about it, The Pianist is my favorite film of 2002. Definitely better than Irreversible (no fucking contest there), more cogent/realized than the intriguing but somewhat inane Demonlover, and even better than the dynamic and creative Adaptation. Definitely. I’m embarrassed for not realizing it sooner.

I’ve been critical of Polanski a lot. For the record: I am critical of him in a way that a teacher is hardest on his most promising student. Polanski stands out among myriad filmmakers who like to think they pay attention to detail. Polanski cares more than anybody who works within a studio system. Keep making films! Don’t die! His efforts in Ghost Writer, however, did demonstrate that while he is the perfect director to adapt straight literary material, he does not always set his sights particularly high. Ghost Writer’s source material is Grisham-level, and while that’s fine, it ain’t the Dickens. The Pianist is about Survival. It’s absolutely meticulous and successful, awful and painful and amazing. Not perfecto, though… Polanski’s taste leaves something to be desired… and this is perhaps most notable in the piece of music that Brody plays near the end of the film while the Nazi officer listens on. It’s exactly what Polanski would choose – a virtuoso feat of technical artistry, containing some emotion in the right places, but diluted or overwhelmed by the attention to the technical. I found myself longing for a piece of pure melancholy and beauty.

Oh – and my god does Adrien Brody have a nose. Brody is very fortunate, and very talented. He’s worked with some wonderful directors so far, but this role was an immense stroke of fortune. He was exceptional, and everybody in the world saw him. Amazing luck for such a young talent. The rest of his career is taken care of.

Currently watching: Lord Jim

Currently watching: The Road
Hard to finish since I know I’m spoiling the book, since the film was received with an alarmingly low level of interest, and since I have mixed feelings on Hillicoat. But it’s just fine so far.

Re-watching: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
Blue and green and everything works out if you’re honest. That’s the film. Look – blue water that looks green! But seriously. Psych. types.

I love that this guy is thought of as the attractive, sought after one. He’s such a dopey soap-opera type, like a puppy you want to reward for being adorable.

Though mon amie’s l’ami bears a striking resemblance to Luke Skywalker.

I find I’m liking the film much more this time around. Rohmer’s level of care is touching. Very interested in seeing 2007’s Romance of Astrea and Celadon.

Oh dear. I just noticed how similar it is to Ozu.

Still watching: The Last King of Scotland
Now it’s getting interesting…

Tripped out. Is strongly reminiscent of a sequence in Jacob’s Ladder.

It’s a psychological thriller which is subtextually an opportunistic smear. Way to go, Forest. We’ve always believed in you.

Currently watching: Au Hasard Balthazar
Uh oh. Can already feel myself falling for this ass. Beyond Bunuel, I haven’t seen many filmmakers show the animal perspective all too often. Refreshing yet immediately jarring.

This movie is nigh-perfect.

Currently watching: The Last King of Scotland
Is James McAvoy actually interesting? I can’t quite tell. But I like seeing Gillian Anderson and obviously Forest, nailing it.

Also watched three Omen films and the 2006 remake, which is a complete waste of time. The original film is the only one with a shred of interest, and even that is forced. It’s a shame the sequels are bombs, the story could’ve been just delectable, the fulfillment of an ancient evil prophecy, the rise of the Antichrist to major political power. But I think the main problem is that each film ends up equaling little more than a series of Final-Destination-esque accidental deaths, WAY shortchanging its own potential. The writer, Seltzer, lucked in with the idea and squandered it. Like so many others.

Currently watching: Bad Lieutenant
I recall Duckman once ranted, “Eeyuck!! I haven’t been this disgusted since the last Harvey Keitel nude scene!” So this is what he meant.

Pardon me for saying so, but I think I like Abel Ferrara.

Even if this stuff is largely idiotic. Fucking New Yorkers and their fucking Christian allegories.

And Harvey Keitel sure can moan.

Currently watching: The Astronaut’s Wife
Hm. Depp just told Theron that the thought of her cunt kept him warm in the cold blackness of outer space. And at this current moment, yes, the poor softcore porn soundtrack has kicked in – with some bizarre satanic subcurrent. Maybe now I’m understanding why this is a forgotten film. And to think, these two actors are so talented..

Hm… and now Theron is having her unborn child x-rayed… OK. Now I see it. She’s Mia Farrow, and this is Rosemary’s Baby. Just look at her!

Put a pram on her nose and you’ve got yourself a film.

Though Johnny Depp is a far more interesting husband than John Cassavetes. Especially as this very strange butch yet sensitive Floridian astronaut.

Re-watching: In Treatment, Season 1
Well! Just realized that Laura is Melissa George… better known to us all as Camilla Rhodes! Lynch’s mysterious blonde was too gorgeous for words, I should’ve anticipated it.

Just watched: The Social Network
It’s so nice to watch Fincher. Reasurring, in a way, though Ben Button was still his least watchable by far. This is the best I’ve seen out of Jesse Eisenberg – sure was strange how he kinda vanished for the 2nd half of the film – and from Justin Timberlake, whom I’ve never minded. So Facebook was predicated on exclusivity, motivated by petty revenge, and designed for sex gossip. Zuckerberg must’ve been terrified when he heard about this film. I thought it ended 30 minutes too early.

Re-watching: Prime Suspect 3
Note to self: shoot chamber dramas with telescopic lenses.

Currently watching: Bronson
The rise of Tom Hardy. Should’ve seen this one last year at the festival. I’ve learned my lesson.

I’m sensing a new category of films that this and Chopper inhabit.

Currently watching: Touching the Void

Been busy. Unfortunately had a few false starts at the festival. Watched Peru’s October (2010) and admittedly walked out with perhaps 5 minutes of the film left to me. It was perfectly proficient and not really bad at all, but when I realized (perhaps halfway through) that things were progressing at an alarmingly slow rate, I understood that the film would never exceed a certain lowness of consequence. It’s like an even slower Aki Kaurismäki.

I started watching Romania’s Katalin Varga (2009), and it was shaping up to be incredible! But I had to leave after about 30 minutes and carried a lot of regret along with that act. Personal reasons.

And now I’ve just started 2010’s Peacock, which already looks like it will be quite average.

I also walked out a third film that was playing at the film festival, on Friday evening, but I won’t mention it. What else? I’ll be writing reviews for No One Knows About Persian Cats and Cold Weather, both of which I enjoyed. Aaron Katz, if you can hear me, I think we could have an interesting little talk. Your film bears striking resemblances to my film… which will be created any day now. Metropolis is the greatest film ever. And also just finished Clint Eastwood’s hugely forgettable Blood Work, interesting only because it treads the heels of Mystic River. One year he’s totally inconsequential, the next year he couldn’t be more consequential. Flakes!

I stand corrected. Cillian Murphy is just wonderful. Amazing, actually.

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