Well, hello there...
In past blog entries, I’ve developed an “Editor’s Note” that charmingly apologizes for my lack of consistency. I always felt it was like a comb over, hiding the transparency of what wasn’t there to begin with.
I’m not going to do that this time. Let’s just directly acknowledge my short comings: I haven’t posted a blog entry since (I believe) early April. I haven’t felt like it, and there’s no other reason.
So what have I been doing?
- There’s this odd process of applying for jobs that I experience daily now. I feel like I’m either playing Russian Roulette or pitching a fit for my mother in the middle of the local grocery store. You hit the send button, or the apply banner, and your cover letter/resume vaporizes into nothingness. Where does it go? Who does what with it? I feel like Jonathan Pryce in Brazil. My identity has been erased, if it ever existed in the first place.
- I stopped watching the obscene amount of movies, and started reading deep and ponderous books. This has been part of my dreaded “Self Evaluation” project, in which I try to pin point all my many neuroses'. How’s it going? I don’t know. I’ll tell you when the answer magically appears. (If you’re interested in what I’ve read specifically, I’ll happily e-mail you a list.)
- I had a bizarre “crisis of faith,” in which I wondered if I even liked movies any more. There are so many hours of my life invested in...what, exactly? The hours spent actively involved in a life changing film have become equal to the ones spent waiting for the credits to roll. To quote Peggy Lee, I’ve often asked: “Is that all there is?”
- Some other things I did: I found myself out in L.A. on the set of a reality TV show (which I got onto through nebulous connections). I don’t want to go too far into this, other than it seriously threw me through a loop. Every person was making a living in the film industry...but doing this? There’s a point where my morals will never be able to be coerced by my check book. I went and visited my best friend from college out in Las Vegas, Nevada. Instead of hitting the strip, we ended up chanting with some monks in a Buddhist temple. I started and stopped about five different writing projects...mostly as a way of avoiding the one I’m almost done with.
- These above bullets are just symptoms of a larger problem. I’m trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing in this dung heap of human existence. That’s a difficult process, and it leaves little time for blogging.
That being said...
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I love movies. This blog was never started as a way of garnering Diablo Cody type success. This was my Confession Booth: I ranted and raved about this fixation that I’ve had since (almost) birth.
Through thick and then, the Playground has kept me sane. It’s now time to regain that sanity.
Now, I’m sure you don’t care about any of that, you’re here for film reviews.
Okay, here are some interesting movies I’ve watched lately. Consider all of these strong recommendations:
God Bless America (2011) (satire, man and teenager kill people who “deserve it”) I am so torn on this movie. It has some very real satirical bite. There are two very good performances. There is a genuine filmmaking voice here, and yet I feel like some of the potential got lost somewhere. The movie stopped being a “movie,” and started being a polemic. I agree with many of the points, but what did I take from it in the end? Despite the fact that I think it’s inherently flawed, God Bless America still asks some tough questions about our culture that are worth considering.
Days of Heaven (1978) (Terrence Malick, meditation on childhood) This is almost a perfect movie. The stuff that makes it perfect is beyond my realm of writing in a short paragraph like this. The story was a little mundane, but this is not about plot. It’s about the visual poetry and emotion conveyed. I remember being captivated by this movie as a kid. I was wondering if they placed something over the camera (the concept of a “filmmaker” hadn’t dawned on me yet). What else can I say? It’s a classic.
The Masque of Red Death (1964) (Corman does Poe, Vincent Price) I can’t believe Roger Corman made this movie. Everything is premeditated, and all the ingredients (cinematography, set design, acting) don’t scream “cheap” but carefully considered. Corman gets unfairly dismissed for what he created, which is the “B” movie industry as we know it. That doesn’t mean that his movies didn’t have inherent quality. Would you rather suffer through Citizen Kane again, or watch The Wild Angels?
Meshes in the Afternoon (1943 experimental film) In the bullets above, I neglected to mention that I also started studying the Underground Film movement. This is a cornerstone piece of art, made by dancer and Voodoo High Priestess Maya Deren. Every image in this movie was carefully considered. There is a definite emotional affect at the end. Sure, it goes on too long. Still, you can’t mock it in the way it is easy to mock most avant garde films. There is something deep going on here.
Charley Varrick (1973) (Walter Matthau as a stunt pilot turned bank robber) Don Siegel time, and this is now my favorite one of his movies. This had all the qualities of a good crime novel. The characters were given time to live fully on screen. There were odd details that were included, and scenes that played out unexpectedly. I praise the script, but the director also applied just the right amount of restraint. Joe Don Baker picks up the movie and puts it in his pocket as an amoral, yet moralistic cop.
Bagdad Cafe (1987) (German woman ends up in Desert) I long avoided this film because it seemed too “important.” That was a complete misjudgment, as there is something here for everyone to like. The fascinating thing about Bagdad Cafe was that it was not plotted at all. There was no way to map it along a conventional three act structure. The characters drive the story, and the action unfolded on whatever random decision they made. I feel like saying it was “charming” is somehow selling it short. Still, there is a logic and chemistry this movie has that is all its own.
Viva La Muerte (1971) (Spanish surreal movie about boy with dead revolutionary father) What was this exactly? It’s hard to say: there were moments of penetrating insight. This is how a young boy’s primordial psyche would work. This reminded me of a dark cousin of Tree of Life. However, I felt like the filmmaker ran out of ideas after the hour point. Then he just piled on the shock value. Does that cancel out the raw power of the rest of the work? Unfortunately, it does. That said, every fan of “disturbing” cinema needs to see this at least once. It makes Eraserhead look like “It’s a Small World.”
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) (doc about the Beatle who discovered mysticism) The hardest thing to do when making a documentary about a non-living subject is to give you a sense of that person. You don’t have them around to interview. This does that in a very masterful way, by assembling the people that knew George Harrison best. The interviews are artfully cut together in a nice cinematic fashion. The four hours went by relatively quickly, because it was so engrossing.
Jimmy and Judy (2006) (couple on the run, told in first person camera) Where the hell has this movie been? It seems to have predated the recent rash of “found footage” flicks we’ve had lately. The viewer gets implicated in the action of the characters. There are troubling ramifications in this lovers on the run story that The Last Exorcism can’t touch. This worked (for me) almost flawlessly. The first person device didn’t feel gimmicky, quite the opposite. It led to some truly powerful acting. There were also many uncomfortable moments that felt positively real. This was a difficult thing to execute, but it was well done.
The Hired Hand (1971) (Peter Fonda’s directorial debut western) This one really hit for me: something about the pacing, the muted emotion, and the authenticity. The script was very poetic, but Fonda’s direction was also dead on. He let the story develop at its own pace, and was big on painterly composition. I loved it.
So what to make of this?
I’m back! At least for now...
Once a week, promise.