A few days after Rashomon, we took a whole class to the Alamo for this one, all of our first times seeing it. A version of Macbeth that is plenty enjoyable on its own, through its great atmosphere and unique variations on the story, and even more so after reading about some of the design elements and historical context.

From Stephen Prince’s Criterion essay:

Noh shows up everywhere in Throne of Blood, making the project a real fusion of cinema and theater… Noh elements include the music (that assertive flute, for example), the bare sets, and especially the stylized performances by Mifune and Isuzu Yamada … Actors in Noh use masks, and while Kurosawa doesn’t do anything so blatantly artificial here, he does have Mifune and Yamada model facial expressions that resemble popular Noh masks (a strategy he extended in Yamada’s makeup) … Kurosawa strips all the psychology out of Macbeth and gives us a film whose characters are Noh types and where emotions — the province of character in the drama of the West — are formally embodied in landscape and weather. The bleached skies, the fog, the barren plains, and characters going adrift against and within these spaces — this is where the emotion of the film resides … Kurosawa wants us to grasp the lesson, to see the folly of human behavior, rather than to identify or empathize with the characters.

Toshiro Mifune’s ninth Kurosawa film, with Isuzu Yamada (landlady of The Lower Depths) as his Lady, and Minoru Chiaki (the priest in Rashomon, also Hidden Fortress and The Face of Another) as his friend-turned-rival. The three witches are replaced by a single spinning-wheel ghost, with a neat single take when the spirit house vanishes while the warriors (and camera) are distracted.

Search Party season 1 (2016)

Awful young NY woman, with too much money and not enough responsibilities, gets obsessed with finding a former classmate gone missing, whom she never even knew or liked very much. I read MZ Seitz’s review (“The condition of believing oneself sensitive while feeling very little has rarely been examined with such exactness”), realized it stars Alia Shawkat, and set to watching immediately. I keep seeing Shawkat in tiny roles (Night Moves, Damsels in Distress, 20th Century Women) so the star turn here is appreciated.

Dory is joined by weak-willed boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds, a cop on Stranger Things) and self-obsessed friends Portia (Meredith Hagner of Hits) and Elliott (John Early). They get help/hindrance from crazy person Rosie Perez, the missing girl’s ex Griffin Newman (Vinyl) and private investigator Ron Livingston (Office Space), crashing the missing girl’s vigil, a wedding and a Parker Posey-led cult on their way to the ridiculous truth.


Metalocalypse seasons 3 & 4,
and The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera (2009-2013)

Two more seasons of fun and violence and ridiculous humor, leading to the musical masterpiece that is The Doomstar Requiem.


Archer season 5 (2014)

The gang loses their spy agency but gains a large shipment of cocaine, which they spend all season trying to unload. Sterling Archer is a father. I’m not crying, you are.


Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe

Things have gotten more grim and less funny, but I appreciate Brooker sticking with it.


Twelfth Night (2017, Simon Godwin)

Not television or movies, but we watched a really nice filmed National Theatre broadcast with a rotating set, and Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing) as Malvolia, greatly tormented in the second half.

Sometimes a movie feels less like a cohesive work to be taken on its own merit than something to be picked apart. As a version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest it’s pretty okay, not as consistent or intelligible as the version we saw at the fountain in Piedmont Park, but more intelligible than Prospero’s Books was on VHS. Helen Mirren is wonderful as Prospera, the set design is marvelous and the rest is hit or miss. Too much flailing about before green screens, and I could’ve done without the song. Personnel in decreasing order of goodness:

– Tom Conti as the Richard Jenkins-looking companion of the king

– Alan Cumming and Chris Cooper (I kept thinking he was Sean Bean or some other lord of the rings) as the king’s men, incompetently plotting against him.

– Alfred Molina as the king’s drunken butler

– Ben Whishaw as the sprite Ariel

– Djimon “Digimon” Hounsou as the monster Caliban

– David Strathairn as Shipwrecked King Alonso

– Felicity Jones and Reeve Carney as the Young Lovers (the king’s son and Prospera’s daughter)

– the extras in the shipwreck scene

– Russell Brand as Molina’s companion – he was tolerable for a long time, longer than one would expect, but finally doesn’t belong in this movie or anywhere else.

Lavishly-staged theater performance reworked for the cinema, the cameras onstage with the actors. Beautiful, worth the extra cost of whatever HD special-event screening this was. My favorite Puck (Kathryn Hunter, a countess in one of my favorite scenes of Orlando, which we just happily rewatched in HD), but Katy prefers Stanley Tucci. Duke Theseus was apparently not played by Matt Berry of Darkplace, though it looked like him. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto (Argo, Wolf of Wall Street).

Taymor:

We shot four performances live, with four cameras in different locations surrounding the play, and then for four days we could go onstage and do more single-camera setups: hand-held, Steadicam. The audience was invited; they were watching a movie being made, and that’s where we could get intimate.

It has been a while since I watched some Orson Welles.
And hey, the voices are in sync, so we’re off to an unusually good start.

“Give me the spare men and spare me the great ones.”

While King Gielgud is off ruling the country, his son Prince Hal fucks around, drinking and robbing and having fun with his low-life friends including Falstaff, an overweight self-obsessed clown played by Welles. Falstaff was apparently a running secondary character in three overlong Shakespeare plays, here stitched together to make him the main player, the royalty drama becoming the background story. A good Welles movie, with fun editing, grotesque close-ups and nice compositions.

I’m not too good with the timelines of English kings, but this is the early 1400’s, Henry IV (Gielgud) having recently killed Richard II. Of course the true heir Mortimer has been locked up somewhere else, as is always the case (at least in Shakespeare), and his friends plot the current king’s overthrow. Hal returns to his dad the king and joins in a victorious fight against the Mortimerists (not their real name), personally killing their leader, which cowardly braggart Falstaff attempts to take credit for.

Falstaff thinks this is all in fun, that his group will be friends forever, and when Henry dies and Hal becomes King Henry V, Falstaff is overjoyed, thinking he’ll become rich beyond belief, but instead is banished from the court by the newly serious Hal, returning home to die (offscreen) of grief. I was amazed that Welles wouldn’t give himself a big, talky death scene, but I suppose he wasn’t adding new dialogue to the Shakespeare.

King Gielgud:

King Falstaff:

King Hal:

Ebert says the battle scene is “edited quickly, to give a sense of confusion and violence — providing an ironic backdrop for the frightened Falstaff himself, running from tree to tree to hide from the combatants” in the comically large and round armor Welles has made for himself. Being a Shakespeare drama about kings and thieves, there’s not much screen time for women, but Margaret Rutherford (Blithe Spirit) runs the pub/inn and Jeanne Moreau (just after Diary of a Chambermaid) plays a friend/prostitute. This played at Cannes alongside Dr. Zhivago, The Nun, The Round-Up and Seconds.

W. Johnson in Film Quarterly:

The vastness of the film’s spaces serve to deepen the sense of nostalgia. The tavern, for example, is enlarged beyond probability in much the same way that a childhood haunt is enlarged in one’s memory: this is how Falstaff, the perpetual child, would remember it. Similarly, the wide horizons of the film’s outdoor scenes (actually shot in Spain) evoke the spacious, innocent Olde Englande that Falstaff imagined he lived in. Naturalistic settings would have called attention to the costumes, the archaic language, the theatrical structure of the scenes, everything except what’s really important – the characters and their changing world. Welles’s exaggerations give the film its human perspective.

As portrayed by Shakespeare, Falstaff is not only lazy, gluttonous, cowardly, lecherous, dishonest and the rest but also a great innocent. He is devoid of malice or calculation; no matter what is done to him, he remains open and trusting. He lives in a dream world where there are no politicians or policemen or pedagogues; and when Hal destroys that world by rejecting him, he does not adjust to reality but dies.


The Fountain of Youth (1958)

Welles himself calls it “a wacky little romance” in his intro, which seems both accurate and too humble. It’s a jokey little story with a predictable twist ending, but the way its told and shown is thrilling.

Glamorous actress Joi Lansing marries scientist Dan Tobin “the gland man,” but leaves him for tennis champ Rick Jason. The gland man has his revenge, claims to have discovered a 200-year youth serum, gives them a single dose and lets them fight over it.

Orson interrupts the action and talks over it, blocking the picture with his body and voicing the characters himself. Instead of editing he’ll use sudden lighting changes. It’s all a charming trick.

Rosenbaum calls it the only completed film besides Citizen Kane “over which Welles had final and complete artistic control” which “even begin to qualify as Hollywood products,” as opposed to his independent works.

Since so little has been said about this cool little movie, I’m going to overquote from an article in his book on Welles:

In The Fountain of Youth, Welles’s first television pilot – an adaptation of John Collier’s short story Youth From Vienna that begins as an essay on the subject of narcissism – the dialectic is given a new pattern. For once, the narrating Welles persona is intermittently visible as well as audible; he begins the show, in effect, as a slide show lecturer, and reappears periodically to remind us of his privileged position. … By speaking for the characters as well as about them – literally lip-synching Joi Lansing, Dan Tobin, and Rick Jason, his three stars, at certain junctures to mock their roles as puppets – his moral fallibility (that is to say, his narcissism) becomes identified with theirs, and the implicit nastiness of Welles’s amused, glacial detachment consciously boomerangs.


Too Much Johnson (1938)

JR: “The only copy of the film was lost in a fire .. in August 1970.”

Apparently not! I watched Scott Simmon’s new 34-minute edit. Three sections, to be screened between acts at a Mercury Theater play. Mostly they are goofy chase scenes. In the first (and longest), mustache villain Edgar Barrier (Journey Into Fear, Macbeth) chases Joseph Cotten (The Third Man / Ambersons / Kane star) across city rooftops over a girl. In the second, they board a ship bound for Cuba, continuing the chase, and in the third they’re both chased around the island by Howard Smith. It probably would’ve worked better in context.

Simmon:

It feels to me as if Welles and the Mercury theater were working toward some reenactment of a history of American film up to that point: Silent film comedy interspersed with 1930s screwball stage dialogue. In any case, the revised play, in its tightest last revision, has a spirit far from the Gillette original — with rapid-fire exchanges in place of relatively longer speeches.

Romeo/Juliet musical from ballet choreographer Robbins (who directed the Broadway version) and Hollywood’s own Wise, who shared the best director oscar. The movie won ten oscars total, and with its reputation still pretty huge, I thought I’d love it more than I did. In ‘scope and full of color, glad we held out for a high-def version at least.

Puerto Rican girl Maria (Natalie Wood, actually of Russian ancestry but whatever Hollywood) is in love with whitey Tony (Richard Beymer). But she hangs with the PR Sharks, and Tony co-founded the Whitey Jets, and the groups’ leaders (Marie’s brother Bernardo and Tony’s BFF Riff) die in a turf fight. PR Chino loves Maria, reveals that Tony killed her brother. Jets nearly rape messenger-of-peace Anita, who then lies and says Maria has been killed by Chino, who really kills Tony when he runs suicidally into the streets. Maria actually lives, Chino goes to jail and everyone is sad. Most of the songs were quite good though, and the dancing was all great.

Wood was a few years past Rebel Without a Cause and The Searchers, and Beymer would play Ben Horne in Twin Peaks. Riff had been a child star (Russ/Rusty Tamblyn), played the lead in George Pal’s Tom Thumb. Anita was Rita Moreno, star of The Electric Company through the 1970’s. Bernardo was George Chakiris, one of the dancing dudes who likes the Young Girls of Rochefort. Outdoor scenes were filmed not on massive sets but in a crumbling, condemned neighborhood of NYC. Wise followed up with a romance where Robert Mitchum plays a Nebraska lawyer.

Delicate drama mostly shot in shallow-focus close-ups – so delicate that it has pretty much flown right out of my head. I remember some actors rehearsing Shakespeare, a girl with a pirate video delivery service, chance meetings and a dream sequence. And I remember really, really liking it. Katy did not.

Quintin has a great Cinema Scope article about the Argentinean writer/director:

The films take Shakesperean promiscuity to the limit: in the end any actor can play any character—including sex changes—as if all the bodies, the names, and all of Shakespeare’s and Piñeiro’s characters are impossible to distinguish. In Viola, María Villar plays a character named Viola who—in principle—has nothing to do with theatre. But then she meets a girl who is acting in a production of Twelfth Night who asks Viola to be her replacement. In the second act of Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario, but in the play within the film he is called Bassanio, a character from The Merchant of Venice. Any multi-talented member of this magic sect can act, write, or even play music, as is clearly shown at the end of Viola. These endless confusions and exchanges continue on and on in the film. Piñeiro has declared that he doesn’t want to make the kind of film where characters’ paths intersect due to the cleverness of the script, but rather one that allows people to live as they want or as they can. But, in that way, all of these individualists living like monads, trying to succeed in love and art, end up mixing into a symbolic orgy, where film and theatre, men and women, music and literature, work and leisure, dating and talking, are molded into a single entity.

Poor crouched Richard (Olivier) sees his brother Edward become king of England, resolves to do something about it. Before Richard in line to the throne is his brother Clarence (John Gielgud), whom he imprisons in the tower and then has assassin Michael Gough (The Horse’s Mouth) murder, then basically guilts the sitting king (Cedric Hardwicke of Suspicion) to his death thinking he’d ordered his own son killed. In the midst of these plots, Richard finds time to relentlessly chase and finally marry the Prince of Wales’s widow Anne (Claire Bloom, Hera in Clash of the Titans), who then mostly disappears from the movie. Next in line: Richard’s young nephew Edward V (Paul Clunes, 12 at the time, a TV writer/producer in the 1980’s), whom Richard cajoles into the tower and has killed. Richard’s cousin Buckingham (prominently-schnozzed Ralph Richardson of The Holly and the Ivy) helps him gain favor to be crowned king, then flees when he finds out about all the murdering, but is soon captured (and murdered) within the span of a single scene. All this murder reminds me of Kind Hearts and Coronets. Finally we break out of the castle, snooze through a talky dream sequence then get a nice battlefield scene vs. golden-wigged Henry (Stanley Baker of Losey’s Eva and Accident) and balding traitor Lord Stanley (Laurence Naismith, Fezziwig in Albert Finney’s Scrooge).

A. Taubin on Olivier: “The echo of Hitler in his vocal delivery was deliberate; the atmosphere of paranoia and the violence and rampant betrayals attendant on Richard’s rise to power struck a nerve. . . Olivier gives us a murderous, fanatical protagonist, legendary in history and all too familiar in the modern world.”

Written in the 1590’s and set in the 1480’s. Alexander Korda’s final production, shot by Otto Heller (Peeping Tom). In adapting from the play, Olivier cut half the women’s parts and borrowed scenes from Henry VI. This is known as one of the best-ever Shakespeare adaptations. It wouldn’t make my top five, though I admit the costumes are mighty colorful and elegant. It’s mostly dudes speaking inscrutably on expansive sets – long and hard to follow and no fun.

Whedon’s crew hangs at his house with minimal set dressing and does b/w Shakespeare.

Katy and I liked it.

Dr. “Whiskey” Saunders of Dollhouse plays Emma Thompson, and Alyson Hannigan’s husband plays her arch-rival/love-interest Kenneth Branagh. The great Fran Kranz is young, lovestruck Claudio, best buds with Reed Diamond (Dollhouse head of security). Dr. Simon of Firefly/Serenity is fine as villain Keanu Reeves, but not even secret weapon Nathan Fillion can live up to the mighty Michael Keaton in the 1990’s version.