Monday, April 26, 2010


I've been pretty busy lately, and sadly, not watching a lot of movies. Luckily, about a week into May I'll be back on a normalish schedule, at least until July. This summer for the blog I think I'm going to do something different, maybe get a reference point from where I can watch a lot of different types of films. Like a "top 100" or something. So you can look forward to that when I start, probably in like 2 weeks or so.

I did have a disastrous Redbox incident a couple of weekends ago, when we were looking for some "bad, fun" horror. What we got:

"Dude. What if Jumanji was a horror film?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ride the High Country

Ride the High Country, 1962
Dir: Sam Peckinpah

This is rightfully considered a landmark in the western genre, but that doesn’t exactly make it the masterpiece that many hype it up to be. More than anything, it is just a simple, almost mindless joy to watch. It’s a harmless type of fun to see Randolph Scott in his very last performance as well as to see Warren Oates in one of his earliest. It’s nice to see the end of one generation of western aesthetics collide with a new generation. This is, after all, technically the last “classic western” and everything that has come after has been labeled revisionist, or modern, or something to that effect. My personal enjoyment of this film does come with some context. It helps a great deal to not only be familiar with the film’s cast, but to also be a big fan of it. I know I've slagged Joel McCrea in the past, but I think that just had to do with the roles he was given, particularly in the stinker Come and Get It (1936). He's really great here as Stephen Judd, and Scott is just as good. At first, it took awhile to get use to seeing Scott play a character that was so self-conscious of his age. In all of the Boetticher films I’ve seen with him, he seemed to hide that a great deal, appearing experienced, but not enough to be an old fogey. Here, though, he and McCrea are made out to be exactly that. Eventually, though, it becomes quite easy to get use to as it turns out, as Scott is essentially playing the exact same character he’s ever played except now he’s completely tired of his career. Seem familiar? Well, I suppose that definitely works in this film's favor. There isn’t a particularly strong feeling that Scott himself is going to throw in the towel after this performance, but there are a few subtle hints that help give his character some complexity. Joel McCrea has a few similar moments, but the third “hero” (if you can call him that), played by Ron Starr, seems to be put in simply to give a young guy for the oldies to shake their heads and roll their eyes at. Other than that, though, Peckinpah is very much focused on pushing the plot forward. Thankfully, though, there are a few legitmately amazing moments. A good example would be pretty much every sequence with Warren Oates, but the wedding sequence seems to take the cake, at least in my opinion. It definitely has a great sense of kinetic energy that seems to welcome in the new generation of western filmmakers, while still paying its due to the originals. I suppose that’s what this is, overall. Peckinpah obviously wasn’t as concious of what a landmark his film would be when he made, but the viewer does, and personally, I think that helps the film’s case.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rebel Without a Cause

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955
Dir: Nicholas Ray

Melodrama, in it's way, can be used for a lot of things, and here it's certainly used to good effect. Everything's really hammy, but that's because the entire movie is taking potshots at the American way of life in the 50s. I mean, this basically invented American teen culture. Even so, it's hard for me to say that a film is fantastic if it's so over the top in it acting and score, though again, the music is perfect for the pulpy melodrama that this is. Ray's direction is pretty eye-popping, with a gigantic color palette that is ambitious and impressive. It's really hard to talk about the acting, because to my eye, it's grating. Not terrible, but obvious in its over-the-topness. It's done on purpose, so it's wrong to call it a mistake. James Dean can actually be really funny sometimes, which was a pleasant surprise. I love the story, the direction and even the way it plays out. There's even a 19 year old Dennis Hopper in the Kids gang. But it's just on the wrong end of the spectrum for me. For a film that is being so ambitious, and not to mention risque, about culture and sexuality, this is the place go.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

While I was watching the new one, I was thinking about the original 1981 version (and basically anything else I could think of that wasn't on the screen) and realized that I only had only one vague recollection of it. And that is of Harry Hamlin galumphing out Medusa's temple and holding up her head to no one in particular, like he needs someones approval. So I watched it again. And yeah, all the primitive stop-motion stuff is kinda charming but not so bad it's ridiculous in any way (almost). It's something as a kid that I'm sure you can get really attached to, but for me it just wasn't that big a deal. But I can say that I enjoyed it a million times more than the new one.

Clash of the Titans, 2010
Dir: Louis Leterrier

Why is Sam Worthigton given a fucking monologue in this? Is there a more wooden actor ever? How can you not know that making him the protagonist in your film is going to absolutely wreck any kind of dialogue you want to introduce, given the fact that he demands all of the viewers attention whenever he is on screen (yo dudes, trailer for Russel Crowe's "Robin Hood" was before this, looks epic). Is the acting in this actually worse than in the original? Is it possible to make the action in this any more boring, considering the resources they have? What's up with the low horn sounds in these movies whenever something "huge" or "epic" is about to happen? Why is Ralph Fiennes using the same voice that he uses for Voldemort? Why is Pegasus black? Why are the secondary gods given no screen time in this? Are they certain that they wouldn't possibly be any more interesting than giant fucking scorpions? Wait, are those guys djinn? So, they're genies? In fucking Greece?!?! Who the shit wrote this? And why isn't there more of this in it, considering that you have Gemma Arterton in your movie? I mean, am I wrong?


"We'll tell you your secrets. But please, just stop talking!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comanche Station

Comanche Station, 1960
Dir: Budd Boetticher

There isn't a whole lot to talk about here besides the fact that everyone is on top of their game here. Boetticher's big, sweeping canvas is still fantastic and just amazing to watch. There's a lot of elements from his other films that have been sucked into this, especially 7 Men From Now, so much so that sometimes it can feel uncanny, but it really doesn't take away anything from the films as stand alone pieces. It doesn't help to watch them in order, like I have, but again, it really doesn't bother me that they are so similar. It's genre cinema after all, and there is a certain expectation that needs to be fulfilled, which of course this does.

Comanche Station takes the set-up of Ride Lonesome, escorting someone across the West, and pairs it with the building tensions of Seven Men From Now, where outsiders/"friends" start to tag along in hopes for some of their own spoils. Randolf Scott just flat out knows how to be a Western protagonist. It's just a fact. No bullshit, no nonsense, "I'm a quicker gun than you, deal with it." Nancy Gates played the rescued wife that Scott is rescuing from Comanche captivity, and her relationship with Scott is typical of all the relationships that he has with females. There's a reward out for Nancy's return to her family, so obviously, in Boetticher's macho world, the men find it kind of pathetic that a man wouldn't go after his wife if she'd been captured by Indians. Ben Lane (Claude Akins) is the leader of this chorus, as he also has semi-charming ways to say how "handomse" Nancy is while bad-mouthing her supposedly cowardly husband. This gets Nancy to thinking, and she asks the one man who hasn't said a word on the subject so far, "If-if you had a woman taken by the Comanche and-and you got her back... how would you feel knowing?" "If I loved her, it wouldn't matter." "Wouldn't it?" " No ma'am, it wouldn't matter at all." Burt Kennedy still straight nailin' scripts.

Under Lane, who is clearly the sympathetic villain, there are two of his lackeys, Dobie (Richard Rust) and Frank (Skip Homier). They get fleshed out the same kind of way that the two underlings do in The Tall T, except here I think I can be even more sympathetic to their plight. They don't just talk about their dreams. In fact, they kind of have a Rosencrantz and Guildernstern conversations on what it's like to be a lackey, and there is a strong sense that neither of these two will ever "amount to something," even if they wanted to. It's a pretty brilliant scene, not only for those characters, but a statement on that particular role in all Westerns, which are usually just throwaways.

I had a great time watching all these films. They are a proof that you can do more with less, especially in genre cinema, and that minimalism is a great way of not getting yourself bogged down in a lot of nonsense. A great leading man, a great director and a great script: what more could you want when watching this type of film?


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Small Change

L'argent de poche (Small Change), 1976
Dir: Francois Truffaut

It's been a while with Truffaut, but this was on Long Wait on Netflix and I really didn't care to skip ahead, being that it was the perfect time for a break. Even given that, I think without a doubt that this is the best Truffaut that I've seen since 400 Blows. Everything about this film just made me smile.

Truffaut was clearly influenced for this film by the crop of French filmmakers that were making names for themselves in the early 70s by making very personal, cinema-verite style films (Maurice Pialat, Jean Eustache). But, even in doing so, he managed to make a film that feels achingly Truffaut (straddling a line that's kind of polite, kind of daring, but always just right) while being a breath of fresh air in his oeuvre. Maybe I'm just really excited by this because I took a break, but it really expresses a lot about what I try to look for. There basically is no plot. Just kids being kids. Doing nice things. Dumb things. Smart things. Nasty things. It's a free-wheeling aspect that I would never expect from Truffaut (even if he was more experimental when he first started), but it works. Sometimes, kids really do the craziest things.

The poor kid's got it bad.

Take home Gregory for me.

I think your mom is really pretty.

Chicken fights!

I'm Gregory. Do you like my cat?

He's stupid. I want to push him out the window.

My parents locked me in. Thanks for the food in a basket!

Squirt milk in his face!

I wish I wasn't alone, here at the carnival. Or maybe I do...

Patrick can't get the girls in the theater.

But he gets the important one in the end...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Bashing the Old World

It's by coincidence that I've see these two film so close together, but there's a reasonable enough connection to review them together in that they are trying to do the same thing in the end: trash European aristocratic society.

The Earrings of Madame de..., 1953
Dir: Max Ophüls

I think that this does an alright job of bashing stuffy Eruo nobles and how ridiculous they are, but reading other stuff it seems it's supposed to be some sort of feminist film and that makes no fucking sense to me. There's something in there about false opulence, but I don't really care. So there are some costume balls (so sumptuous) and a female lead, is that it? Even so, the Madame (Danielle Darrieux) is such a prissy liar and unlikable character that it's hard to believe feminists were all about this film. Charles Boyer as her army General husband is decent, and Vittorio de Sica as her Baron lover is really great, but that's probably because of his own experience making really great films. In the end though, you know that the General is gonna find out, and you know that shit is gonna go down. And yes, Madame, it's all your fault. You should cry. I don't feel bad for you. Is that what it's all about, that upper-society and having it too easy made everyone this way? What is feminist about bashing that? That it's a man's world and she was playing two dudes for fools? Over fucking earrings? That might work if she weren't the biggest idiot in the film. As for Ophuls, I wish he made movies about other stuff. His technical wizardry and composed film-making is mind-boggling. Like Orson Welles good. Watching the film for film-making sake is probably worth it. The number of dolly shots is off-the-chats. Just don't blame me if you start getting really ticked off about what's actually happening in the movie as opposed to what makes it up.


Kind Hearts and Coronets, 1949
Dir: Robert Hamer

An Ealing Studio classic, I found myself enjoying this because, despite it being incredibly stuffy black, English humor, it hits the nail on the head a lot of this time, "Even my lamented master, the great Mr. Benny himself, never had the privilege of hanging a duke. What a finale to a lifetime in the public service!" That's a hangman. The film revolves around Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), a man descended through the female line of the D'Ascoyne family. When his mother, a D'Ascoyne, marries an Italian opera singer, they disinherit her, and when she dies, they refuse to allow her to be buried in the family crypt. This is the final straw for Louis, who vows revenge, taking out all members of the D'Ascoyne family so he can become the Duke himself (female line members can). Playing every member of the D'Ascoyne family is Alec Guinness, from the shy, photographer Henry D'Ascoyne to elderly, feeble Reverend Lord Henry D'Ascoyne ("The Reverend Lord Henry was not one of those new-fangled parsons who carry the principles of their vocation uncomfortably into private life.") The film is full of biting zingers that will probably go over Joe Blows head, but if your waiting for it you'll find they're actually really funny. Take for example, after killing his cousin, young Ascoyne D'Ascoyne (great name), along with his mistress, Louis muses, "I was sorry about the girl, but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably, during the weekend, already undergone a fate worse than death." This film relies a little too heavily on voice-over to be perfect for me, but a lot of that is Louis' biting humor, so it's forgivable. This forgiveness includes the two great ironies of the film, which is why Louis ends up in jail (hint: it's not for murdering anyone he actually killed) and that he really does start to become a D'Ascoyne in the end. I guess I just liked this more because it's funny, and I'm all about that. Satire: it works a lot of the time.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine, 2010 (or 1986?)
Dir: Whogivesashit

In the history of all the movies on this planet that really shouldn't exist, I'm happy to say that Hot Tub Time Machine at least doesn't take itself seriously, even by today's comic standards. It can, at points, fall into the "this movie need to be going somewhere" nonsense (You guys are friends that that drifted apart. I get it. Who cares.) that hinders so much low-brow tripe, slowing it down to a point where you wonder exactly why you paid money to see it because there is no debauchery going on, but luckily it picks itself up enough times to keep you howling. It blends the ski shack/school party movies with the best of whatever is coming out nowadays. I'm not sure if it has enough in it to be a "classic," but it pretty much is all that I was expecting a retardfest called Hot Tub Time Machine to be.