Where to Invade Next (2015, Michael Moore)

Moore goes to other countries to pick and choose great social/political/economic ideas that the USA oughtta steal. Some powerful ideas in there – Katy and I liked it.

I already can’t remember the full list of countries/ideas, so let’s see if I can put together a list from web sources…

Italy: plenty of paid vacation time and family leave
France: healthy school lunches
Finland: successful education system eliminating homework and standardized testing
Slovenia: free college even for non-residents
Germany: recognition of the country’s past sins
Norway: reasonable prison system
Portugal: treating drug use as a health-care issue, training cops to respect human dignity
Tunisia: constitutional equal rights for women
Iceland: sending the corrupt bankers to prison

Okay, I stole the whole list from G. Cheshire’s review at rogerebert.com:

In my view, it’s one of the most genuinely, and valuably, patriotic films any American has ever made … As he investigates one potentially useful idea after another, Moore keeps discovering that many originated in the U.S. Thus he’s not stealing from foreigners but reclaiming remedies that once belonged to us.

D. Ehrlich was not as impressed:

Moore has forgotten how to be funny. His docs used to be genuinely hilarious. Still, this gains power in its final movements, especially when it hits upon the idea that change is both the responsibility and the *power* of the people.

Show Me a Hero (2015, Paul Haggis)

Six years in the life of Yonkers NY, surrounding the building of court-ordered low-income housing for black/hispanic residents in the white parts of town. Lots of scenes in city council meetings and offices, places which don’t necessarily make for great TV viewing, and of course the local bars where David Simon characters always meet to make the real decisions.

The less-engaging side of the series is about local politics with Nick (Oscar “Llewyn Davis” Isaac, who had an epic 2015) as our protagonist. He’s the title hero, though his investment in desegregating Yonkers seems a far distant second to his self-centered political aspirations, which take off when he becomes an unlikely young mayor, swept into office (replacing Jim Belushi) to fight the desegregation, but finding himself having to defend it. Sure, Nick has morals, but his “doing the right thing” is meant to keep the city from going bankrupt from federal fines, not to bravely and singlehandedly defeat racism. And though he turned out to be the mayor the town needed at that particular time, he’s quickly run out of office by arrogant bastard Alfred Molina, and Nick’s political dreams turn to despair, feeling that he’d won a great victory, but a victory the angry residents would never recognize.

The rest of the show follows prospective residents of the new townhomes, detailing their individual lives and travails. Among the indifferentiated mob of white residents who show up to town hall meetings screaming about their property values is Mary (Catherine Keener), who’s representative of the gradual acceptance of the new housing. When the houses finally go up and families move in, Mary is coerced (by Clarke Peters, Det. Lester Freamon) to join a committee to meet with the residents and help them adjust – and help their bitter white neighbors adjust as well.

Mary before/after:

“We’re not prejudiced. Anyone is welcome to live in my neighborhood if they have the money.”

Most of the future residents we follow are women in trouble. Doreen (Natalie Paul)’s man is a drug dealer with asthma – and we know what happens to movie characters with asthma, so soon she’s a single mom, hooked on the crack. Norma (LaTanya “wife of Samuel L.” Jackson) was a nurse until she loses her sight due to diabetes, is helped out by her son Brother Mouzone. Carmen (Ilfenesh Hadera, currently on the Paul Giamatti show Billions) is from Dominican Republic, tries going back there but can’t make ends meet in either country. Billie (Dominique Fishback, soon appearing with D’Angelo Barksdale in another period New York David Simon miniseries, The Deuce) gets pregnant (a bunch of times) by petty criminal (later major criminal) John (Jeff Lima of Half Nelson), who spends half the show in prison.

Meanwhile, Nick will do anything to get back into office, including getting his wife (Carla Quevedo) fired and turning on his oldest council friend Winona Ryder. But he’s not exactly beloved around Yonkers, having sided with the federal enemy. The quiet unsung heroes here are the smart federal specialists (housing experts Peter Riegert and Clarke Peters, and judge Bob Balaban) manipulating a belligerent town towards social change.

Molina don’t give a shit:

Some awful hair and suits, gradually getting more tolerable as the horrors of the 1980’s fade away. Lots of Bruce Springsteen and a good Steve Earle tune used as theme song. Sadly, only one use of the word “mook”. Movies often start at the end (I have a starts-at-the-end tag on the blog), but this one repeats its suicidal-Nick-in-the-cemetery finale at the beginning AND in the middle.

Mostly this got deservedly great reviews, though the Haggis-haters at Slant tore it apart (I’ll agree with the line “Keener dons ridiculous old-lady drag”). Presumably they didn’t tear up, as I did, at the final episode: the joy and terror felt by the new residents about their neighborhood, Nick’s strangled cry for help before heading to the cemetery, the horrified look Winona Ryder gives Nick’s widow at the funeral, and the thaw in hostilities between new neighbors represented by Poodle Lady (played by the director’s ex-wife).

Poodle Lady:

Rock Docs and Concerts, part 1

In the early days of DVD I gobbled up documentaries on my favorite bands. But eventually every single band gets a documentary, and most are gonna be blandly depressing handheld tour docs, so I stopped watching them, but after the great Breadcrumb Trail I’ve got more hope for the genre. Rounded up some promising docs, but not willing to devote serious time to these, so the plan is to half-watch ’em on the laptop while working on the other computer – along with all the concert videos I download and never watch (because I only play audio shows at work).

Since the rock docs are usually composed of awful handheld footage and interviews, they need to be rated on different merits than regular movies. I’m looking for information and emotional connection to my favorite artists – and don’t forget to play that music that all the interviewees are raving about.


Luna: Tell Me Do You Miss Me (2006)

Learned:
– Dean is not a fan of touring.
– The band members have mild disagreements in the studio.
– They refer to the worst part of any tour as “the Omaha”
– Poignancy of this “final tour” breakup doc is diminished now that they’re back together.

Visually: 3 out of 10
Musically: 7 (lot of good concert footage, and more on the DVD extras)
Information: 3
Emotion: 3 (that’s probably true of their songs, too)
Mood: melancholy

I’ve recently seen Dean in Noah Baumbach movies. Britta voices a couple of stop-motion shows and sang in the 1980’s cartoon Jem. And of course Luna reunited last year. Director Matthew Buzzell has made bunches of short docs, many of them music-related, and a comedy feature with Chris Parnell. Editor Jacob Bricca cut Lost in La Mancha.


Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (2010)

We see them arranging “In an Operetta” (2004 album) and recording “Distortion” (2008 album), so this took a while to make. Always nice to spent time in Merritt’s company – overall a good portrait.

Visual: 7
Music: 7
Information: 5
Emotion: 3

One producer/director, Kerthy Fix, released a doc on Le Tigre the same year, now works on detestable reality TV shows.


Revenge of the Mekons (2013)

“Every critic loves the mekons, but unfortunately [critics] get free records.”

As a Mekons-fan-come-lately (got into them around 2004’s “Punk Rock”) I had plenty to learn about the group, especially info on pre-2000’s band members, and what happened between the early singles and the move to America. But besides its educational value, this was kinda a great movie, full of so many brilliant photographs, and one of my favorite-ever scenes in a music doc: following the song “Afar & Forlorn” from inspiration to writing to rehearsal to recording to concert performance. A thing of beauty, that.

From any description the Mekons sound like one of the most important bands of our time – contrast this with their utter commercial failure, and the hilarious, self-deprecating remarks of Langford and company. Key quote by Jonathan Franzen: “If you feel like the inheritor of a very embattled critical stance while the rest of the world is going over to the dark side, they’re the band for you. And I say that not because they give you hope of ever winning the battle, but they teach you how to be gracious and amusing losers.”

Not sure if other band docs have post-credits stinger scenes, but I couldn’t cut off “Orpheus”, so made it to this one. “We seem to have lost all our clothes!”

Visual: 8
Music: 6
Information: 8
Emotion: 5

Director Joe Angio also made a Melvin Van Peebles doc. From NY Times: “He had originally planned to profile Yo La Tengo. He courted the band for around 18 months. ‘They never said no, but more importantly, they never said yes.'”


Put Blood in the Music (1989)

The first of many John Zorn programs I’ve found. Sonic Youth’s greenscreen “Addicted to Love” video seems to have inspired the look of this doc. Interviewees have been pasted over scraps of New York footage, turning what’s usually the most visually boring part of a rock doc into its most interesting.

It’s hard to cover John Zorn in a half hour, and the doc wastes precious time with an overlong montage about how New York’s diversity influences its genre-hopping music scene, so we get people talking about Zorn’s different fascinating projects without playing enough music from them. The second part (or third, if we’re counting the NYC montage) covers Sonic Youth, including a nice discussion with John Cale.

Director/editor Charles Atlas recently worked with Antony and the Johnsons, also made docs on artist William Kentridge and fashion designer Leigh Bowery, and worked on a series called Art in the Twenty-First Century. I think that’s him anyway… there’s also a band called Charles Atlas, who did a split single with Alan Sparhawk.

Visual: 9
Music: 4
Information: 5
Emotion: 1

Zorn in shades:

Ranaldo in shades:

Disembodied interviewee:


The Fantomas Melvins Big Band – Kentish Town Forum, London 1st May 2006

Official video (complete with wacky editing and effects) of a tremendous show… Melvins plus Mike Patton and his crew, a grand experiment in tension and release.


The Sadies at Pickathon 2014


Neko Case on Austin City Limits 2013


Parquet Courts at Glastonbury 2014


Perfume Genius at Glastonbury 2015


And most wonderfully, FFS at Glastonbury 2015

Inventory: R1K/TSP/CRIT (10th Blogniversary)

I’ve already mentioned (numerous times) my love for film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s writing and his lists of favorite films, including the big top-1000 list published in his “Essential Cinema” book. I hope to watch all of these, but probably never will.

There’s also the top-1000 list at They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?, compiled from thousands of other lists (including Rosenbaum’s). I hope to watch all of these (except Warhol’s Empire), and maybe someday I will.

There’s also the Criterion Collection, which I’ve been following since the early days of DVD, steadily releasing a series of great-looking films. I hope to watch all of these, but never will, since they keep putting out new ones.

Any movie that appears on all three of these lists is obviously a must-see… and as of Shoah, which I watched over the past few weeks, I think I’ve seen everything in this triple-list intersection. So for today, the tenth anniversary of the movie journal, I’m rounding up the R1K/TSP/CRIT meta-list.

The sixty unlinked ones were last seen in the dark days before the blog started. I probably won’t keep this list updated, since the TSP list changes annually and Criterion releases new stuff all the time. So I’d have to add In a Lonely Place in a few weeks, and Alice in the Cities a month later, and it’s hard to keep track.

This movie blog is months older than (public, non-academic) Facebook and only a few weeks younger than Twitter. But unlike those sites, I don’t think this one has any readers… it’s hard to tell since I disabled comments. So nobody is gonna congratulate me. But I’m pleased with myself! Here’s to another ten years. And if you’re reading: most of these are really good movies. You should check them out.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1976, Chantal Akerman)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955, Robert Aldrich)
Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson)
L’Avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni)
L’Eclisse (1962, Michelangelo Antonioni)
Red Desert (1964, Michelangelo Antonioni)
Sawdust and Tinsel (1953, Ingmar Bergman)
Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
The Last Emperor (1987, Bernardo Bertolucci)
The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971, Stan Brakhage)
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945, Robert Bresson)
A Man Escaped (1956, Robert Bresson)
Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Bresson)
Mouchette (1967, Robert Bresson)
Rosetta (1999, Dardenne bros.)
Viridiana (1961, Luis Buñuel)
The Exterminating Angel (1962, Luis Buñuel)
Belle de Jour (1967, Luis Buñuel)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, Luis Buñuel)
Phantom of Liberty (1974, Luis Buñuel)
That Obscure Object of Desire (1977, Luis Buñuel)
Children of Paradise (1945, Marcel Carné)
Shadows (1959, John Cassavetes)
Faces (1968, John Cassavetes)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavetes)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976, John Cassavetes)
Love Streams (1984, John Cassavetes)
The Kid (1921, Charles Chaplin)
The Gold Rush (1925, Charles Chaplin)
City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
Modern Times (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Great Dictator (1940, Charles Chaplin)
Monsieur Verdoux (1947, Charles Chaplin)
Limelight (1952, Charles Chaplin)
Daisies (1966, Vera Chytilová)
Wages of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Beauty and the Beast (1946, Jean Cocteau)
Orpheus (1949, Jean Cocteau)
Videodrome (1983, David Cronenberg)
Y tu mamá también (2001, Alfonso Cuarón)
The Long Day Closes (1992, Terence Davies)
Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)
Umberto D. (1952, Vittorio De Sica)
Lola (1961, Jacques Demy)
The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967, Jacques Demy)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Vampyr (1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Day of Wrath (1943, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Ordet (1955, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Gertrud (1964, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Alexander Nevsky (1938, Sergei Eisenstein)
Ivan the Terrible 1 (1945, Sergei Eisenstein)
Ivan the Terrible 2 (1958, Sergei Eisenstein)
(1963, Federico Fellini)
Nanook of the North (1922, Robert Flaherty)
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939, John Ford)
My Darling Clementine (1946, John Ford)
All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse)
Blood of the Beast (1949, Georges Franju)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962, John Frankenheimer)
Pickup on South Street (1953, Samuel Fuller)
Shock Corridor (1963, Samuel Fuller)
Breathless (1960, Jean-Luc Godard)
Contempt (1963, Jean-Luc Godard)
Band of Outsiders (1964, Jean-Luc Godard)
Alphaville (1965, Jean-Luc Godard)
Masculine Feminine (1965, Jean-Luc Godard)
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1966, Jean-Luc Godard)
Weekend (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)
Only Angels Have Wings (1939, Howard Hawks)
Safe (1995, Todd Haynes)
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971, Monte Hellman)
The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock)
The Lady Vanishes (1938, Alfred Hitchcock)
Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock)
Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock)
Stranger Than Paradise (1983, Jim Jarmusch)
Down by Law (1986, Jim Jarmusch)
In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-Wai)
Close Up (1990, Abbas Kiarostami)
Taste of Cherry (1997, Abbas Kiarostami)
Three Colors: Red (1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Killing, The (1956, Stanley Kubrick)
Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
Spartacus (1960, Stanley Kubrick)
Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa)
M (1931, Fritz Lang)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933, Fritz Lang)
Shoah (1985, Claude Lanzmann)
Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)
Brief Encounter (1944, David Lean)
Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964, Richard Lester)
Trouble in Paradise (1932, Ernst Lubitsch)
Twelve Angry Men (1957, Sidney Lumet)
Eraserhead (1977, David Lynch)
Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch)
The Sweet Smell of Success (1957, Alexander Mackendrick)
W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971, Dusan Makavejev)
Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick)
The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick)
Touki Bouki (1973, Djibril Diop Mambety)
La Jetée (1962, Chris Marker)
Sans Soleil (1983, Chris Marker)
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937, Leo McCarey)
Army in the Shadows (1969, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Life of Oharu (1952, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Madame de… (1952, Max Ophüls)
Lola Montès (1955, Max Ophüls)
In the Realm of the Senses (1976, Nagisa Oshima)
I Was Born, But… (1932, Yasujiro Ozu)
Late Spring (1949, Yasujiro Ozu)
Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Roman Polanski)
The Thief of Bagdad (1940, Michael Powell)
Peeping Tom (1960, Michael Powell)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959, Otto Preminger)
A Canterbury Tale (1944, Pressburger & Powell)
I Know Where I’m Going! (1945, Pressburger & Powell)
The Red Shoes (1948, Pressburger & Powell)
Bigger Than Life (1956, Nicholas Ray)
Pather Panchali (1955, Satyajit Ray)
Aparajito (1957, Satyajit Ray)
The World of Apu (1959, Satyajit Ray)
The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932, Jean Renoir)
Grand Illusion (1937, Jean Renoir)
La Bete Humaine (1938, Jean Renoir)
Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
Golden Coach, The (1953, Jean Renoir)
Night and Fog (1955, Alain Resnais)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959, Alain Resnais)
Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)
Walkabout (1971, Nicolas Roeg)
My Night at Maud’s (1969, Eric Rohmer)
Paisan (1946, Roberto Rossellini)
Germany Year Zero (1948, Roberto Rossellini)
Stromboli (1949, Roberto Rossellini)
Europa 51 (1952, Roberto Rossellini)
The Rise of Louis XIV (1966, Roberto Rossellini)
Chronicle of a Summer (1961, Jean & Edgar Morin Rouch)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941, Preston Sturges)
The Palm Beach Story (1942, Preston Sturges)
Andrei Rublev (1969, Andrei Tarkovsky)
Solaris (1972, Andrei Tarkovsky)
M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953, Jacques Tati)
Mon Oncle (1958, Jacques Tati)
Play Time (1967, Jacques Tati)
The 400 Blows (1959, Francois Truffaut)
Shoot the Piano Player (1960, Francois Truffaut)
My Own Private Idaho (1991, Gus Van Sant)
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961, Agnès Varda)
Vagabond (1985, Agnès Varda)
Gilda (1946, Charles Vidor)
Zero for Conduct (1933, Jean Vigo)
L’Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo)
Senso (1954, Luchino Visconti)
The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)
Docks of New York (1928, Josef von Sternberg)
The Scarlet Empress (1934, Josef von Sternberg)
Ashes and Diamonds (1958, Andrzej Wajda)
F For Fake (1974, Orson Welles)
Ace in the Hole (1951, Billy Wilder)
A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang)
Yi Yi (2000, Edward Yang)
Crumb (1994, Terry Zwigoff)

Shoah (1985, Claude Lanzmann)

Don’t know how Lanzmann did these interviews with such an even temper and tone. Must have taken a great deal of restraint in the town where locals joyfully admitted making throat-slitting gestures at passing trains full of camp-bound Jews, or when interviewing a German doctor in charge of the starving Polish ghetto. My most recent cinematic response to nazis was Inglorious Basterds, and it’s hard to focus on the facts and details here without imagining escape/revenge fantasies.

Auschwitz-Birkenau:

Lanzmann rarely edits an interview, doesn’t use tricks to seamlessly cut out pauses or repetitions. I didn’t deal with the enormity of the film all at once – instead, having just finished Show Me a Hero, I treated this like another miniseries, watching in 60 to 120-minute increments, which made its relentless death-camp horrors easier to take – or maybe not, since I spent more consecutive days thinking about them. The length and focus of the movie seemed on point, but by the time we got to hour eight, talking to people who scheduled the “special” trains who claimed no knowledge of what made them special, I thought okay, this is a bit long.

A phrase caught my attention, upsettingly familiar-sounding this year: the Jews of the ghetto were “forced not only to build a wall, but to pay for it.”

I haven’t got enough documentary history (or holocaust scholarship) to know how this movie changed things, but I noticed a few unique details. In some documentaries the interview subject will get emotional, tear up, and the camera will zoom into to their faces and I’ll think “this is a bit crass.” The same thing happens here, the camera zooming in, Lanzmann patiently urging his crying subject to continue, and it never seems exploitative – interviewer and subject are on the same moral side, and when Lanzmann tells them that it’s important to continue, you’re with him.

Some interviews are recorded with covert videocameras (which, in the late 1970s, were not very covert) broadcasting to a van outside. Per wiki, “during one interview, the covert recording was discovered and Lanzmann was physically attacked. He was hospitalized for a month and charged by the authorities with unauthorized use of the German airwaves.”

Lanzmann shot hundreds of hours of footage and has edited four more feature-length films from them so far. Filmed in part by William Lubtchansky, who was doing great work with Rivette and Godard and Varda and de Gregorio and Straub/Huillet and Truffaut around the same time. Won lots of raves and awards – no oscar nomination, but Lanzmann is now an academy member and was apparently a fan of Son of Saul last year.

Per Kent Jones, Shoah was “the Hebrew word for catastrophe or destruction, which had been in use among some Jews since the early forties.”

Jones on the structure:

The film would consist only of testimonies and new footage shot at the sites where organized killing had taken place, and of images shot where the people on camera were living at the time of filming; there would be no experts making grand theoretical summations; … with two exceptions, the people on camera would be either perpetrators, victims, or bystanders (to borrow the categories established by Hilberg); the film would restrict its focus to the systematic annihilation of the European Jews; and it would be a work of cinema as opposed to an audiovisual historical summation.

By situating his film in the present and creating conditions that allowed us to see that it was coexistent with the past, by questioning his subjects about concrete details only, by creating an atmosphere of quietly urgent attention, by constructing a form that left the impression of multiple possible beginnings and endings, Lanzmann achieved something that was not only unprecedented but was, and is, an astonishment: he returned the Shoah to the civilized world that had disowned it.

Gilda (1946, Charles Vidor)

“I would destroy myself to take you down with me”

Glenn Ford (this is the anonymous-looking 1940’s Glenn Ford, not the superior 1950’s version from the Fritz Lang movies) is a grifter turned semi-respectable once hired by illegal casino owner George Macready (Paths of Glory, The Big Clock) with the unlikely character name of Ballin Mundson. Buncha noir-lite character development and plot setup ensues, while I’m on seat’s edge waiting for someone – anyone – to ask Gilda if she’s decent, then finally it happens and the movie comes to life.

So I guess Glenn and Gilda dated for years before it all fell apart, and now Glenn’s hiding out in Buenos Aires and his boss goes on vacation and comes back married to Gilda. Because of this movie’s noir reputation I assumed there’d be some femme fatale reveal in which she’s plotting a convoluted revenge scenario, but nope, just a massive movie coincidence – not to say the movie isn’t still convoluted. Glenn and George take turns toying with Gilda and she marries Glenn after George fakes his own death via plane crash. George briefly returns, only to be dispatched by bathroom attendant “Uncle Pio” (actor Steven Geray was Hungarian but hey, any foreigner will do), and we get an anti-Casablanca ending as Glenn belatedly decides he still likes Gilda.

Gilda serenades Uncle Pio:

All this plot is diverting, but Rita Hayworth’s beauty and attitude are the main attraction. I wonder if Gilda’s the only 1940’s female character to marry two men, cheat on both of them repeatedly, and still get a happy ending. Her hit song from the movie “Put the Blame on Mame” (which was pried into the tagline for this movie, confusing those of us who’d never heard the song and thought it a stupid catchphrase) is about a hot-kissin’ hard-dancin’ woman, and Dave Kehr notes it “has been known to provoke impure thoughts”. Maybe Rita even charmed the censors… or maybe they demanded different kinds of changes. Buenos Aires is crowded with corrupt officials, murderous businessmen and sinister Germans – I can’t tell if the fact that nazis and their collaborators hid out in Argentina after WWII was well-known when this film was written. Of course nazis are never mentioned, and in typical Hollywood style, Mundson controls a “tungsten cartel” instead of anything unsavory.

Played the first Cannes Film Festival alongside Brief Encounter, Rome Open City, Notorious, The Lost Weekend and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. I mainly knew this film as the inspiration for Laura Harring’s character’s name in Mulholland Dr and the excerpt in Shawshank Redemption. Vidor had recently made the not-as-good Rita movie Cover Girl. Shot by Rudoplh Maté (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Foreign Correspondent), one of his last before retiring.

Devil is a Woman masked carnival:

S. O’Malley:

Gilda is a pawn between two men who seem more interested in each other than her … There’s Ballin’s phallic cane/sword named his “little friend”; at one point, Ballin says, “Wait for me here, Johnny. I’ll need both my little friends tonight” … The ending, with Johnny and Gilda exiting together, is a holdover from the days of the cathartic “The End” of musicals, but it leaves an uneasy impression, similar to the final scene in Notorious. In neither ending does it feel like “love has triumphed.” It’s more like a criminal getaway.

Shorts watched early 2016

I’ve been watching more shorts lately and posting then in thematic batches by director (Len Lye, Emile Cohl) and collection (Disney, Oscar-nominated) and time period (The Movies Begin, 1920’s & 1930’s). Here are some miscellaneous shorts that didn’t get their own thematic post.


False Aging (2008 Lewis Klahr)

Cut-out animation with a recurring yellow bird and a comic-book Adam & Eve. Looks charmingly handmade. Generally slow and dreamy but sometimes the objects flicker maniacally.

I think it’s about drugs. Soundtrack: clips from Valley of the Dolls, a Jefferson Airplane song, and John Cale reading Andy Warhol’s journals.

Klahr was ranked a top-five experimental filmmaker of the 2000’s by Film Comment, and is on the cover of this month’s Cinema Scope. “Klahr’s films construct archetypal narratives and mood trances out of the middle-class utopia we promised ourselves and never got” – M. Atkinson.


Lend/Flight (1973, Rein Raamat)

An ode to flight. Tiny red person rides some dandelion floof through the clouds, performs acrobatics up there, then comes plummetting down upon reaching the atmosphere’s edge. A series of new ideas for flying machines based on existing objects are proposed, scored by a groovy rock song, until finally a plane (and a rocket) is built, based instead on natural flying creatures. I love the color scheme and the multi-layered sky.

Raamat is known as the father of Estonian animation, founded his own animation studio in 1971. Writer Paul-Eerik Rummo was a poet who later became Minister of Culture. Music composer Rein Rannap is best known for judging Estonian Idol.


The Apple (1969, Kurt Weiler)

Whoa, this is amazing. Lively puppet stop-motion telling an anti-greed/ignorance parable – art vs. science vs. the state vs. religion – with rhyming (in German) narration. Kinda hard to explain, but involves rival scientists competing for attentions of the ruler, and trying not to get thrown in jail or burned at the stake for their ideas.

Oops:

One guy invents the drug “hormosexulin” which increases egg production from friendly bulbil creatures, and the ruler goes nuts with it, injects his henchmen, who also start laying eggs. Sometimes reminds me of Jirí Trnka’s The Hand, like when a traumatic scaffold collapse provokes genuinely disturbing cries of pain.

Placid Bulbil interrupts scientist face-off:


Riley’s First Date (2015, Josh Cooley)

Inside Out spinoff short, in which snotnosed boy (with Flea inside his head) comes to pick up Riley, sitting with her increasingly angry father while she gets ready. Mainly focused on the parents’ emotions, which according to one of the Inside Out reviews I read was the feature’s weak point, throwing out all the movie’s Riley-emotion lessons for easy retro-sitcom gender jokes. And there’s more of that here, but it’s still fun. Cooley has been in Pixar credits since The Incredibles, and taking over a spinoff short means he’s probably being groomed to codirect an upcoming feature sequel… yep, there’s his name on Toy Story 4.


Porter Springs 3 (1977, Henry Hills)

Distant trees swaying in the breeze for a minute… then what looks like a circular pan from the center of a lake sped up a hundred times. Then the trees, calmer, then the lake, crazier. If I’d known it was gonna be silent I’d have picked my own John Zorn track.


Gotham (1990, Henry Hills)

Shots of modern NYC mixed with clips from cop shows and set to a cartoony jazz track, awesome.


Goa Lawah (1992, Henry Hills)

Bats! A cave full of squeaking bats! They squabble when they get too close together while sleeping – just like our birds, who somehow didn’t respond to me playing four minutes of bat noises.


In an earlier post I reductively described actionism and watched Kurt Kren’s Leda and the Swan and Silver Action Brus. Checking out a few more from the Action Films disc.

6/64 Mama und Papa (Kurt Kren)

Hurling food and paint and dirt all over a naked woman, then Kren edits it all to pieces with no sound. He’s doing something wrong, because every time there’s an edit (so, 1-10 times per second) we see tape marks at the bottom of frame.


9/64 O Tannenbaum (Kurt Kren)

Naked man under a Christmas tree, naked woman in a shower, covered in food and paint and dirt. I’m sensing a pattern here. “Action” is by Otto Mühl in both films, and both feature men humping women with a balloon full of feathers between them.


16/67 20. September (Kurt Kren)

Remember Brus? Now he’s pissing and shitting in close-up, and now I realize why I didn’t watch the rest of this DVD last time I started it. Jesus, Kren. No screenshot for this one.


Hardwood Process (1996, David Gatten)

Flickering textures, crossfaded. Some Brakhagey slow/fast pattern-shifting. Some photographed action, slowed or sped, some filmstrip hacking. Texture fetish. Each section its own rhythm and style, separated with title cards:
“Day 203 – several hours in the library reading the history of”
“Day 296 – coming to terms with a new vocabulary, slowly”

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941, Alfred Hitchcock)

Curious to know what hardcore Hitch-heads think about this halfway-decent marital comedy, coming in the wake of Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent… but not curious enough to look it up, cuz I got things to do.

Carole Lombard (Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey) asks husband Robert Montgomery (only seen him in The Divorcee) if he’d marry her again and he says no, so when a government clerk shows up and says their marrage was never legal, she kicks him out, gets a job, and starts dating Gene Raymond (Ex-Lady). Through a bunch of contrivances I can’t clearly remember, the Smiths end up back together, because it’s 1941 and any other ending would literally be illegal.

Screenwriter Norman Krasna is a regular at our house: Let’s Make Love, Indiscreet, White Christmas, The Devil and Miss Jones, Fury. I could take or leave the movie, but I think I like Carole Lombard lots, and would consider holding a Lombard Festival to confirm this.

British Animation Classics Vol. 2

Cafe Bar (1974, Alison De Vere)

Imaginative – couple sitting at a cafe table create and remove disguises, fight dinosaurs and minotaurs, turn into The Red Baron, trek across each other’s heads and ski down each other’s fronts. Looks like this was the first of a few essential animated films De Vere made.


Manipulation (1991, Daniel Greaves)

Covered this before in an Oscar-winning shorts roundup, but rewatching with much nicer picture quality. Generic dude is drawn by animator then discarded, but the dude becomes sentient, plays with drops of ink, worries about his 2D nature. Animator torments the dude for a while until he explodes with rage, becoming freed from his paper prison. It’s fully wonderful. Looks like Greaves put out a new short, Mr. Plastimime, since last time I watched this, playing last year’s Edinburgh fest.


Little Wolf (1992, An Vrombaut)

The littlest wolf in a sheep-hunting wolf parade gets himself stuck on the moon. The others try to get him down while the sheep interferes. I especially liked the “doyyng-doyyng” sound effects. The director is Belgian, has lately been making animated kids’ TV series. According to her website, she likes giraffes very much.


Oozat (1992, Darren Walsh)

I love stop-motion with human actors. Here they’ve got replaceable facemasks with different expressions. Dude meets some guys, drinks with them at the pub, shows a different face to the lady sitting next to him, eventually mixing up his faces. I think Walsh is the creator of Angry Kid, the red-haired Aardman stop-motion hooligan I used to see… somewhere. MTV? Cartoon Network? And he worked on a Black Mirror episode I haven’t watched yet.


Deadsy (1990, David Anderson)

I think Deadsy was a disturbed young man who became a rock star then a transsexual, his story told through beat-poem narration and a mishmash of animation techniques. Not my favorite. Writer/narrator Russell Hoban was a prolific sci-fi and childrens book author… not sure what happened to Anderson.


The Sandman (1991, Paul Berry)

Timburtonian stop-motion. Kid goes to bed and a moon-faced birdman stalks into his room and steals his eyeballs to feed to baby birdmen. Cool and creepy. Based on a tale of Hoffmann. You wouldn’t think this story had been adapted for film ten times, but according to IMDB you would be wrong. Oscar-nominated the year Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase won. Unsurprisingly, Berry was later an animator on The Nightmare Before Christmas.