Daily notes 2014-Q3
Currently watching: The Dark Half
Currently watching: Demon Seed
Currently watching: Husbands
I guess the one nice thing about Cassavetes, perhaps the best thing (and the quality lamely emulated by mumblecorits), is his total lack of pretense. It makes me think of Heath Ledger’s Joker and his line: “Oh, and the know the thing about chaos..? It’s fair.” (among the more insightful quips J. Nolan has produced) The terror of total freedom is accompanied by a frantic lucidity. Arguably, it’s a correct universe – but it’ll drive you raving mad.
Just started: The Unknown Known
Errol Morris is of course talented, but I was never explicitly drawn to him. Then I saw him on Bill Maher and witnessed his peculiar cadence and sense of humor, and feel it explained a great deal. He’s one of those men whose work I respect yet whose personality is such that I will never take him as seriously as he’d like.
First offense is listening to Danny Elfman trying to emulate Philip Glass, but that is Morris’s fault. I really cannot stand scoring like this in documentaries, or anywhere; “Objection: leading!” You think your shit don’t stink, Morris?“Belief in the inevitability of conflict can become one of its main causes.” Hm. Maybe Errol’s winning me back. Man – I hate to say it but the very access this film provides makes it important, regardless of aesthetic missteps. It’s like an automatic 4/5. Damn.
Currently watching: Le Week-End
a few thoughts on Silicon Valley
A very charming show with plenty of intelligence. I’ve heard about these transports. And now that I’m seeing one, well, obviously, I’d like it.Erlich driving a point home.Co-creators and producers…I miss you.
a few thoughts on Mad Men
As fond as I am of Mad Men, I always strongly wished that the season premiers and finales would contain a higher level of writing and directing, and I’m really using Six Feet Under as the bar. You know what I’m talking about – really, each episode directed by Alan Ball was easily discernible from the others, showed a great deal more maturity with the medium, always featured major dramatic performances, etc – in a word, “pivoting on emotional cathexes.” Smart TV. Mad Men’s premieres and finales feel identical to every other episode; the show has always been extremely formulaic (this is why I once commented that watching it sometimes feels like being in a vacuum).
Now that I think about it, Mad Men is actually a bit more literary in that sense. Outside of some general soundtrack cues which exude that chauvanistic high rise American adventure in commerce kinda feel, the show is almost entirely without affect, and any impact the viewer feels is probably served by the narrative’s construction alone – leaving the actors to carry a great deal of weight. Admirable and tough to pull off. Mad Men has continually reached a high bar, and proven it’s incapable of greatness – just the best TV has to offer. Like an olympic gymnast who reaches the uppermost pinnacle of her talent, and never scores above an 8.9 or something. I’m going to blame the casting – lots of highly talented actors, none of whom (including Hamm) are bright shining stars. No Kevin Spacey, no Gabriel Byrne, no central powerhouse of talent; a socialist network of overachievers. On the bright side, they keep a healthy sense of humor. We won’t see anything we haven’t seen before, we’ll see a fine cover of some hits.I really love that Don is passionate about cinema – from the horse’s mouth, “I see everything.” We all know well that if there was ever a time to be addicted to the cinema, it was the 1960s. And characters very frequently end up in the cinema. Hm – at first I was merely going to make this note, but now I find myself searching for every noted instance in Mad Men that takes place in the cinema. A few notable ones immediately come to mind… the most notable being Don and Lane’s New Years Date to Godzilla (s04e03, “The Good News”), just one of peaking season 4’s great episodes.Don’s shock as the end credits glacially signify the grim end to Planet of the Apes (s06e04, “The Flood”). And Don likes it so much they stay for an immediate second viewing. That’s a cinephile.
Ten year old Bobby Draper: “..Jesus..”Pete actually flirting with Joan – and this is after enthusiastically prostituting her to Jaguar. Pete is one of the strangest characters on television, and is mercilessly brutal with others who act the way he does. The poor guy has been frustrated for so long he’s been warped.Peggy’s Ted Chaough sexual fantasy.Masters of the Universe.Poor Ken Congrove’s Detroit nightmare. The show paints a number of car guys as scum, and I must say that my professional experience serves to enhance that prejudice (limo services & auto bodies).So bizarre. And now that I think about it, this means that both of Pete’s parents died in highly tragic circumstances: dad in a plane crash, mom seduced and thrown overboard at sea..
Don uses this familiar face in his personally designed ad for the fur store where he works.
Rizzo’s first appearance, showing his KKK film to Clara and Megan.The inclusion of Ms. Ida Blankenship is perhaps the most solidly strong choice the writers ever made.An extremely rare tender moment between Betty and Henry; most of their relationship witnessed by the viewer consists almost solely of her acting out and his justifiable indigence over it. In truth I’ve come to quite like Betty Francis, she provides lots of irreverent comic relief.This is rather like a painting.
a few final thoughts on Mad Men (casting)
And just look how far Peggy’s come (s02e02).
I find this line to be perhaps brilliant (I don’t use that word lightly!), and love that it comes from Glen: “Mom got married and now I’m supposed to live with him.” Who doesn’t love Glen? – besides Betty, whose rancor is disseminated with ubiquity.
Currently watching: Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie’s got a winner!
They figured it out, this is how you make the midwest exciting: you burn it down!P for perfect casting. I forgot this film had so much humor!Isn’t this supposed to be, like, the 30s? Burgers and fries in the car? Perhaps America does have a culture after all.Ell oh ell. That’s one miracle of lighting, wouldn’t you say?American gothic. To be honest it really bugs me that Beatty was thirty when they shot this. While the film works very well, seeing an actual angst-ridden, out of control 24 year old would be so much more fascinating – another Gary Oldman/Tim Roth/James McAvoy type role.
Currently watching: 4:44: Last Day on Earth
Another Wisconsiner in the big city. I swear to god I don’t know if I can ever get NYC out of my blood, it’s an endless intoxicating tease. May sound silly for a person to say who’s only visited half a dozen times, but it’s true.
The film itself? Very competent, like Abel. First: Abel is great with minutiae, but I find it impossible to believe that 18 hours before the world ends, this is what NYC looks like. No… looting? Smoke? Excessive noise? I’m really glad there’s no reason to dislike Willem Dafoe.As for the ozone depletion and the mentions of Al Gore, I can only hope that Ferrara isn’t force feeding us – but I strongly suspect I’d be disappointed.Again. You’re telling me that six hours before the world ends, in the center of the universe… no noise? No throngs? No chaos, not even a little bit? Have you forgotten, Abel, about the destitute in this country? You think they wouldn’t be in the streets? Everywhere?There it is: the most memorable and impressive thing photographed in the film. The image that’ll stick with you. I think that’s probably exactly how I’d look if this happened to me. Also it’s funny how much of the film is filled with “clips” – times really have changed. Now we’re all 100% susceptible.
Currently watching: Nymph()maniac Volume 1
Dashes of Greenaway! The film’s brilliant literary montage is reminding me how far I’ve strayed. I’ve never made any bones about my high opinion of Trier’s talent, and I typically enjoy him very much.
Just started: Life Itself
Starting right out in highly familiar territory: the State/Lake el platform in the center of the loop, pointing at the wonderful Gene Siskel Film Center (best cinema in Chicago).Siskel, you dog.
Just watched: Snowpiercer
Happy to report it’s a first-rate sci-fi film, in the lateral neighborhood of Children of Men – which places Bong Joon-Ho next door to Alfonso Cuaron. Excellent. One needn’t even be enthusiastic about the film to admire it. Tilda be mine.
Our Wizard of Oz is again Christof… while Harris is always welcome, his casting feels to me like the sort of halcyon idea which springs unbidden to mind and throws back your head with its rightness, only to stop you from thinking about it twice; obviously your hardened dogmatic mogul will be Ed Harris, just like your lizardy corrupt veteran cop will be Ray Liotta. Regardless, who doesn’t relish these theatrical dystopian mega-reveals?