Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)

I watched the 90-minute export version this time (with translated czech titles?). The main problem I usually have with Sunrise is that it’s too long for the Lambchop double-album I like to play with it, and the main problem with the 90-minute version is that it’s too short for the Lambchop album. Somebody needs to cut a version of Sunrise that is exactly the right length for the Lambchop album! Next time I’ll try the French DVD that has ‘em pre-synched so I can see how they did it.
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The marriage-threatening amoral woman from the city, Margaret Livingston, apparently specialized in broken-marriage films in the silent era, appearing in films named Married Alive, After Marriage, Wandering Husbands, Divorce and Alimony.
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Male lead George O’Brien worked regularly with John Ford and after 1932 exclusively appeared in Westerns, ending his career with Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn in ’64. I think I like him better than Charles Farrell.
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Janet Gaynor won the first best actress oscar for this along with Seventh Heaven and Street Angel, would be nominated again in the sound era (A Star Is Born, 1937) and then retire.
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The city:
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Pig in the city:
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Boat rescue:
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Sunrise:
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Seventh Heaven (1927, Frank Borzage)

Charles Farrell is Chico, an athiest who works in the Paris sewers (I’m not sure what he does down there – looks like he’s doing his laundry, or fishing rags from the water) and dreams of being a mighty street washer up on the surface. Janet Gaynor lives with her abusive sister, possibly both as prostitutes. As usual for the beginning of a Borzage movie, Something Good happens to the guy (he’s given a better job) while Something Bad happens to the girl (a rich uncle comes to take them in, asks if they’ve been “clean” and Janet answers no, so relatives leave and Janet’s sister tries to kill her). Chico saves her but gets himself in a pickle with a cop… he says she’s his wife, so now the cop will come by Chico’s house tomorrow to verify the story.

Standing in the gutter, looking at the stars:
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What to do!? If you said “why doesn’t Janet stay at his house for a day” then you’re as smart as the screenwriter. Chico lives on the seventh floor, whose set is actually seven stories high, as noted by the outrageous vertical tracking shot following the pair up the stairs. There’s some business about who’s sleeping where and some talk about God, work, fear of heights and whether Chico is a very remarkable man (he is), and the next day he buys her a wedding dress.

A very remarkable man:
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I don’t know how long afterwards (a day? a year?), war breaks out, and it breaks out in a hurry – Chico has about an hour to report to duty. The war lasts a few years, he and his street-washin’ buddy flamethrow some dudes, the local cabbie is roped into a huge cab-driven troop movement (which actually happened, and which Borzage recreated with either an awful lot of cars or a clever model).

Papa Boul and what’s left of his cab:
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Chico is feared dead, so Janet’s admirer back home (not a slimy villain or anything, just a suave dude who likes her) is making his move when Chico bursts in, alive but blind and believing in God, for a happy-ish ending (he’s still blind).

Chuck on the stairwell:
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The story doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a gorgeous movie. The street set (which looks familiarly like the one from Street Angel) and the apartment are wonderful, and the war is remarkably shot (dig the silhouette-soldier who attacks Chico).

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Farrell and Gaynor are as good as in their other movies (well, maybe Gaynor has less to do here), and Gladys Brockwell (dead two years later after a car crash) shines as Gaynor’s whip-bearing sister. Simone Simon and James Stewart starred in a sound remake ten years later, which is not quite as highly regarded.

Gladys Brockwell:
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Greetings (1968, Brian De Palma)

Features the upbeat pop title song. Obviously that’s why Snake Eyes had a title song – wasn’t some weird emulation of the James Bond franchise, it’s how De Palma has always made movies. I don’t remember any songs from Redacted, but I’m looking forward to Cyndi Lauper’s hit number “Casualties of War.”

A mildly Godardian 60’s-spirited anti-establishment comedy, full of proto-De Palma moments (split-screen, voyeurism, explicit reference to Antonioni’s Blow-Up, the book below). Not much attempt at continuity, more of a series of sketches about three guys.
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Paul (Jonathan Warden, who never acted again) stays awake for three days to become enough of a nervous wreck to fail his army draft exams, then goes on a bunch of blind dates (introduced by title cards).
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Lloyd (80’s horror staple Gerrit Graham) spends the whole movie obsessing over the Kennedy assassination.
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Jon (Robert De Niro, later of Brazil) is a voyeur, always peeping at people through windows and cameras. He fails to get out of the draft, and in the final scene he’s with a news camera crew trying to get a Vietnamese village woman to strip as if there isn’t a war going on around him.
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Does not seem like the kind of movie that would’ve inspired a sequel, but it did just that.

Wikipedia:

De Palma’s most significant features from this decade are Greetings (1968) and Hi, Mom! (1970). Both films star Robert De Niro and espouse a Leftist revolutionary viewpoint common to their era. … “Greetings” is about three New Yorkers dealing with draft. The film is often considered the first to deal explicitly with the draft. The film is noteworthy for its use of various experimental techniques to convey its narrative in ultimately unconventional ways. Footage will be sped up, rapid cutting will distance the audience from the narrative, and it is difficult to discern with whom the audience must ultimately align.

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J. Fox:

The characters’ dialogue is loose and improvisatory, but the overall effect is that of a play that’s been “opened out.” De Palma keeps restlessly inserting jump-cuts and changing scenery to provide interest, but it’s a very talky movie, and his camera is frequently stationary.

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K. Uhlich:

No surprise then that De Niro’s Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) character has his roots in Jon Rubin, the protagonist of Greetings and Hi, Mom!. Initially a supporting player in the former (running around carefree as he and his two friends dodge the Vietnam draft) he comes front-and-center in the latter as the voyeuristic purveyor of “peep art”, the failure of which drives him to commit a terrorist act. Greetings plants the seeds of Rubin’s discontent in its best scene, a bravura real-time take in which the budding voyeur, as an off-camera voice, instructs a girl to take off her clothes. Funny and horrifying in equal measure, the fact that neither De Palma nor De Niro flinch from the sight before them speaks to the sequence’s great satirical punch. You laugh, but it sticks in your throat. You’re forced to consider two or more simultaneous responses, which is exactly what the best satire should do. And then the director and the actor take you further in a climactic scene with Rubin now in Vietnam instructing a Vietcong girl to strip for a news camera, thus conflating collective and personal voyeurism into the same sordid ball of wax.

Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003, Joe Dante)

I was expecting that this would be very bad, and was hoping to find a few inspired moments or some cool animation to pick out of the wreckage, but then I liked the whole movie so now I don’t know what to write. I don’t get why Brendan Fraser has to be in every single live/animation hybrid flick, but he and Jenna Elfman were just fine in this. Lotta jokes at the expense of movie studios, the Warner Brothers (played by Don & Dan Stanton from Terminator 2 and Gremlins 2), Brendan Fraser, product placement and movie conventions.

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Timothy Dalton plays the star of a suspiciously James-Bond-like franchise, and is just-fired studio security guard Fraser’s father. Fraser heads to Vegas with also-just-fired Daffy Duck while studio exec Elfman in league with Bugs looks for them. Note Dick Miller as Fraser’s security coworker.
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Tim Dalton turns out to be an actual spy, working against the evil Acme corporation (headed by Steve Martin, who is acting strangely Mike Myers-like in this screenshot.
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Good to see Joan Cusack as a secret government scientist (not to mention Robbie the Robot).
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Roger Corman cameos, believably enough, as a film director.
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Kevin McCarthy reprises his Body Snatchers role – in black and white!
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Of course the plot is a thin excuse for a thousand gags and highlight scenes for every major Looney Tunes character. Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote work for Acme, Tweety and Sylvester are Fraser’s neighbors, Marvin Martian is captive in Cusack’s lab, Pepe Le Pew appears in a sidetrack to Paris (where there are Jerry Lewis movie posters all over). Super fun movie… I’m actually so impressed that this was so good, after I’d heard everywhere what a failure it was. Even Dante seems to be making excuses for it in recent interviews (I’m guessing the terrible Scooby/Shaggy cameo is one of the last-minute studio changes he complains about).

Some highlights: a split-screen phone call where the screen effect smashes Daffy:
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And a romp through famous paintings at the Louvre… here’s Elmer as Munch’s The Scream:
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Turns out the movie wasn’t as universally hated as I’d thought. According to Slate, writer and director were fed up with the studio by the time the movie came out, and neither them nor any of the stars participated in the DVD extras. The NY Times and AV Club sure disliked it, but good reviews were posted by J. Rosenbaum (“I had a ball”) and G. Kenny (“comedy of the year”). After reading a couple appreciations I am anxious to rewatch and look for some of the hundreds of gags I missed. I guess it comes down to how much fun you’re willing to have with it. For instance, some reviewers cringed at Steve Martin trying to be funny again, and called him out as a fraud (as if he’s Robert De Niro in Rocky & Bullwinkle), while others bothered to notice that Martin completely succeeded… David Edelstein:

Steve Martin, moreover, is a miracle. Determined not to be upstaged by his flamboyant Warner costars, he has concocted a “supertwit” that is at times at least their equal. His red hair parted in the middle, he staggers around the set in sneakers and an ill-fitting suit, jerking his torso, windmilling his arms—stopping his gyrations only to saunter up to one of several repulsed women, convinced that he is catnip to the ladies. This is the old Steve Martin, the whirligig genius of The Jerk (1979), The Man With Two Brains (1983), and All of Me (1984). To see him this way after at least a decade of domesticated dreck is to love all the more the liberating influence of Warner Bros. cartoons.

The Boat That Rocked (2009, Richard Curtis)

A movie about the perfect 1960’s, where nothing bad happens. Less realistic even than Love Actually and yet based on the mildly-true story of the pirate-radio boats that served London the hottest rock records which the BBC was too uptight to play. The uptight BBC is represented by villainous bureaucrat Kenneth Branagh (and villain-in-training Jack Davenport, who is given a missed opportunity for redemption at the end).
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The boat is populated by a bunch of DJs and a mixed-up naive kid designed to lead us through all this anarchy (as if we needed him). From left to right:
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Captain Bill Nighy
The kid
Rhys Darby of Flight of the Conchords
I think that’s Tom Wisdom of 300
Thick Kevin
Nick Frost
some dude with about two lines
stoned Bob (secretly our kid’s missing father): Ralph Brown of Withnail & I, Alien 3
possibly Philip Seymour Hoffman (head missing)

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And dramatically featuring: Rhys Ifans! Of Elizabeth 2! He shows up and brings faux-discord to the ship. Oh, and Emma Thompson has a scene as the kid’s mom. Most impressive was the inclusion of sixty classic rock songs, which must’ve accounted for half the film’s budget. Thought it was pretty good, light, funny. Katy was disappointed that it wasn’t Julie and Julia, and called it a boy movie.

The Wire season 2 (2003)

Returning directors Ed Bianchi (now working on an alternate-reality King David miniseries), Steve Shill (whose Beyonce movie did pretty well) and Timothy Van Patten (of Master Ninja) are joined by Elodie Keene (two TV movies starring Linda Hamilton), Thomas J. Wright (Millennium, Firefly, a Hulk Hogan movie), Daniel Attias (Stephen King’s Silver Bullet), Rob Bailey (CSI), Ernest R. Dickerson (The V Word, Juice, cinematographer on Do The Right Thing) and series co-creator/producer Robert F. Colesberry (also first a.d. on Warhol’s Bad) who died six months after season two ended.

I briefly mentioned why I’d give a crap about TV episodes’ directors in my season one write-up – I started watching the show after reading an online fight over it. An auteurist extremist (heh) watched one late-season episode and wrote a tirade accusing the episode’s director (not the writer, not the series creator) of being homophobic and called the show “the most awful racist drek I have seen in years.” My favorite part: “The show, like a lot of current American TV, has deliberately bad exposition. This is designed to make you watch all 54 previous hours of the series, so you can figure out what the heck is going on.” This started a hundred-message discussion culminating in the dramatic exit of the list’s founder, and got me interested enough to finally watch the show which everyone but those two guys were passionately defending.

The Dead this season: D’Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.) moved on to The Machinist and Brad Anderson’s Fear Itself episode and some new Patrick Swayze show. Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer) was in Flags of Our Fathers, Broken Flowers, starred in Anderson’s Sounds Like, and is in a new vampire show. Stolen-goods warehouser George Glekas (Teddy Cañez) shows up in Law & Order from time to time. People who probably won’t be back (serving long prison terms or witness-protection): Nick Sobotka (Pablo “Liev’s brother” Schreiber) was in J. Demme’s Manchurian Candidate remake and Stuart Gordon’s Fear Itself episode (and should consider being Ben Affleck’s stand-in if he runs out of work). Ziggy Sobotka (James Ransone) was in Inside Man and Generation Kill. Dealer White Mike (Brook Yeaton) is actually The Wire’s props guy who worked with John Waters back in the day. Greek drug man Eton (Lev Gorn) played a dealer in Keane with at least two other Wire actors, and russian muscle guy Serge (Chris Ashworth) was 25th-billed in Terminator: Salvation.

I’d be here all week if I attempted a plot description. Season 2 was slow going at the start, pulling the team back together, but it got rolling towards a great/depressing ending, which should lead naturally right into another season. I wonder if there was no guarantee of a second season after #1, but after #2 a third was a sure thing.

Night On Earth (1991, Jim Jarmusch)

Opening titles: we hear a nice Tom Waits song (the soundtrack is great overall) and see “JVC PRESENTS.” Didn’t JVC used to make blank tapes? The kind that weren’t even as good as Maxell?

Five segments in five cities. Has cute parts, and I guess it’s part of the greater Jarmusch body of work or whatever, but also kinda feels like something that could’ve safely stayed in 1991 (or maybe ’93; it was ahead of its time). What’s funny is that it doesn’t seem like the kind of movie that should get easily dated (except through the usual – fashions, cars, mobile phones – only period pieces are immune to those) but it has this early 90’s aura about it, like Smoke or a Hal Hartley movie, which I don’t see in Dead Man or Down By Law or Mystery Train. Maybe it’s just Winona Ryder. Anyway this remains my least favorite Jarmusch picture, though I did enjoy it overall. If you could break it up Coffee & Cigarettes-style, it’d be nice to lead from New York straight into Helsinki, and maybe add Rome every third or fourth viewing.

LA: Winona Ryder is a midget phonebook-sitting wannabe-mechanic driving fancypants cellphone-calling casting agent Gena Rowlands home from the airport. Gena’s client is looking for a tough young girl, an unknown, so predictably she propositions Winona, who turns Gena down. Jim says it’s the first movie Gena agreed to do after John Cassavetes died. I never made it past this segment when I first tried to watch Night On Earth a decade ago… pixie Winona is too hard to take as a street tough.

NY: East German Armin Mueller-Stahl (same year he did Soderbergh’s Kafka) is new to New York and cab driving, so passenger Giancarlo Esposito takes over, picking up sister-in-law Rosie Perez for a miniature Do The Right Thing reunion, wide-eyed Armin taking it all in.

Paris: Isaach De Bankolé (stolen from Claire Denis) kicks out some diplomats, picks up a blind girl (Beatrice Dalle, star of Time of the Wolf, also a Claire Denis regular) and asks her a bunch of dunderheaded questions.

Rome: Roberto Benigni picks up a priest, drives like a madman (but there’s no traffic so it’s cool) visits a couple transvestites, and tells horribly perverted stories until the priest dies after dropping his meds on the floor and Roberto quietly unloads him on a park bench.

Helsinki: Cabbie picks up three guys from a hard night on the town. Of course all four of them have been in Kaurismaki films (one of the passengers played Polonius in Hamlet Goes Business. They tell their drunk friend’s hard luck story and the cabbie replies with his own hard luck story. Way to end your movie on a dead baby tale there, Jim.

Nice color cinematography by Frederick Elmes (a Lynch regular who later shot Broken Flowers) – not seen here cuz it was a rental and I forgot to get screen shots.

Detective Story (2007, Takashi Miike)

Opens with reclusive white bearded artist Yuki Aoyama making Hellraiser-inspired artworks which will pop up throughout the movie. Then we’ve gotta introduce our mismatched couple: two next-door neighbors named Raita. R. Kazama (Kazuya Nakayama, Izo himself) is a detective who, despite some slapstick scenes and his retro wardrobe, is no Maiku Hama. R. Takashima (Kuroudo Maki of Kitano’s Brother) is an upright office worker who doesn’t really want to know his imposing neighbor. Tak is the straight man who gets pulled into an investigation, contributing his mad hacker skills and acting as a center for the film (I don’t know why the more fun detective Kaz couldn’t have been our center). Tak never unpacks after moving in – I can’t figure if he’s joking when he tells Kaz that he won’t stay long since moving is his hobby.

Detective Raita:
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Salaryman Raita:
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Our detective’s employees are young dude Masakuni (who turns out to be the bad guy; spoiler alert) and Girl Whose Name I Didn’t Catch (played by Harumi Inoue of Miike’s Graveyard of Honor and star of Freeze Me). The mystery involves girls showing up horribly killed with some new agey earth-wind-fire metaphor business, each missing a different internal organ. The one thing they’ve all got in common: they insulted famous artist Aoyama in front of detective Masakuni, who is not only the artist’s secret son but has killed the artist and taken his place using blood and organs mixed with his paint.

Art:
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Artist:
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Before all that comes to light, we have to sidetrack into a giant Silence of the Lambs ripoff, with detective Kaz visiting a horribly burned isolation-cell prisoner whom he once locked up, asking the prisoner for psychological advice.

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Miike tries to keep it fun – jump-cuts all over, two (two!) peeing jokes and a hilarious final line (“My fingers grew back!”) and Koji Endo contributes nice saxy music. Supposedly everyone knew this would be a bad, throwaway Miike movie because it was produced by the guy behind the reputably poor Silver and Family… but he also wrote Big Bang Love so how bad could the guy be? This seemed about on par with One Missed Call – throwaway, yes, but not outright bad… a fun genre flick with no higher calling.

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Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnès Varda)

The liner notes say that Cleo’s real-time progression through Paris is very accurate, and that the only cheat is that the 90-minute film wasn’t titled Cleo from 5 to 6:30. This was more documentary-like than I’d remembered. Somehow I’d turned it into a Godard film in my mind (possibly because of his appearance in the film-within, or maybe because I saw Breathless the same week), but it’s really quite naturalistic, the long travel segments in buses and cars reminding me more of Rivette than Godard.

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Katy actually liked it – the first French movie she has liked in a year and a half (Amelie doesn’t count). She was especially happy about the guy Cleo ends up with at the end – an army guy on leave about to return to Algeria. They share a sense of foreboding in the park. He listens to her (unlike Cleo’s rushed boyfriend who visits her apartment) and accompanies her to the hospital, where her diagnosis is not so serious. Katy thinks the two of them will meet again, or at least that he will write.

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I haven’t seen Cleo (Corinne Marchand) in anything else, though she’s in Demy’s Lola. I loved the scene where her composer (Michel Legrand!) and lyricist come to her apartment to try out some new songs – Cleo sings one and gets lost in a close-up.

Trapped inside the song (where the nights are so long):
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Shut up, Michel Legrand:
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Cleo’s maid Dominique Davray had small parts in Any Number Can Win and Casque d’or, and her nude model friend Dorothée Blank is still acting today, appearing in Resnais’ new Wild Grass. Her boyfriend/lover José Luis de Villalonga was in Malle’s The Lovers. Varda (along with Antonioni with L’Eclisse and Bunuel with The Exterminating Angel) lost the golden palm to a Brazilian realist movie about a sick donkey.

Cleo with maid in awesome apartment:
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Dorothée Blank’s backside:
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Cleo with Villalonga:
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