Purple Noon (1959, Rene Clement)

I watched The Talented Mr. Ripley on video 15 years ago and don’t remember it awfully well, but still, as soon as Freddy appears in this movie (Bill Kearns, short-haired American with a bad french accent) I am disappointed that he’s not Phil Seymour Hoffman. The Fire Within star Maurice Ronet as the rich asshole is no Jude Law either, but I’m a fan of his fiancee Marge (Marie Laforet) and of course Alain Delon. Delon is the primary reason to even shoot a Mr. Ripley film, with his perfect, blank face. It’s a good thriller, Ripley getting to keep his murdered friend’s money and lifestyle as long as he keeps cruising Europe as Greenleaf did without running into any actual friends (sorry, Freddy). I expect Ripley to escape, because there’s a whole series of novels, but when he sells his (Greenleaf’s) boat, it’s lifted out of the water for inspection and Greenleaf’s body is found attached to the anchor line. Author Patricia Highsmith reportedly called this “a terrible concession to so-called public morality.” Watched in HD, but looked soft – I think the Hulu streaming and heavy film grain don’t get along so well.

G. O’Brien:

When it first came out in America, Purple Noon was like an advertisement for a life of luxurious sensuality, with hints of La dolce vita–style decadence and New Wave–style modishness, pristinely opulent hotel rooms and lobbies, and large helpings of sand and sun. The passage of time has only accentuated that allure, since the Italy we sample here in such generous detail is a vanished tourist’s dream, underpopulated and unpolluted, a paradise for footloose Americans: the seaport waterfronts teeming with fresh-caught fish, the bodies bronzed from long and carefree afternoons in the sun, the luscious blues and greens of a sea made for open-ended yachting excursions.

Timbuktu (2014, Abderrahmane Sissako)

Took a van trip to Filmstreams and watched with Katy’s class. Set in Mali but shot in Mauritania, Sissako continues in his style of portraying a central character conflict (a murder over a dead cow) while frequently cutting away to daily life and smaller events in the surrounding town. In this case, the daily life segments involve their own, larger conflict: an invasion of the town by militant islamists attempting to impose their own laws. Inevitably these things collide as the invaders’ court decides to execute the herder who killed a fisherman, as well as the herder’s wife and another guy who seems to have simply given her a ride.

Promo screenshots stolen from Film Comment:

Wonders and horrors abound. An adulterous couple is buried then stoned to death. A Rooster Lady does inexplicable things. The local imam engages the invaders in futile discussion. Music and soccer and smoking are outlawed and punished with whippings, though the invaders are shown to be hypocrites in many of these cases, enjoying the same past times on the sly. Sissako makes them seem absurd, and could’ve made a comedy with some of the same material (a man is ordered to shorten his pants so he removes them; a jihadist can’t get through his propaganda video), but their frequent, meaningless acts of violence maintain an air of menace. As in Bamako he stages a song as an act of rebellion.

The movie keeps returning to the doomed herder and his beautiful family. Despite the repression and crime of the jihadists, it’s the herder Kidane’s murder of a fisherman who killed his prize cow which is shot as a cosmic event, ending with surely the greatest wide shot of the year as Kidane runs across the waist-deep water leaving a trail of silt, the mortally wounded fisherman struggling to his feet on the other side.

Cinematographer Sofian El Fani shot Blue is the Warmest Color, which had a very different look. The only actor I think I’ve seen before is Fatoumata Diawara, a star of Genesis, as the lashed singer pictured above.

G. Kenny:

The really killing thing about all the conflict that tears this place and its people apart is how calm everyone is about it. Nobody raises his or her voices; nobody raises a hand in impulsive anger. Violence, when it occurs, is done in a very deliberate way. The jihadists need to conduct themselves “properly,” as this conveys their rectitude. But their stance only barely disguises their old-fashioned bullying. The treatment of women in particular is just misogyny with unconvincing window dressing. The jihadist who wants the young woman in marriage expects no argument; the girl is his right. And the fact that he asks for her politely, in the logic he lays out, only underscores his alleged right. It doesn’t matter anyway; if he is refused, he calmly states, “I’ll come again in a bad way.”

P. Labuza:

There is a critique here, and it is the failure of jidhadism as a cultural translator. This comes in literal form, as numerous scenes feature the jihadis having to work through translators to make their demands. … Numerous sequences feature characters simply trying to explain their point of view to one another, but the sides clearly aren’t listening. When one man confesses his deepest and most personal want to the jihadi leader, the leader asks his translator to stop. He knows that in order to continue his fight, he cannot listen. These jihadis only see prey.

The Secret of Kells (2009, Tomm Moore)

Based on the poster I thought it was a Bug’s Life legend, but no that’s a human ghost girl hiding behind leaves. No-fun ol’ Abbot (Brendan Gleeson) thinks only about defending the town of Kells from viking invaders, but his nephew Brendan would rather follow the illustrator Aidan who comes to town hoping to complete a treasured book. Brendan gets help in the forest from the fairy Aisling, gathering berries for ink and a magnifying crystal from a cave creature (for drawing fine detail) and feathers from a goose’s butt. Turns out the Abbot’s defense plans weren’t all that, and the town gets sacked and nearly everyone dies, but Brendan completes the book, and so Irish culture lives on, I suppose. After a rewatch of Once, this was #2 in our Ireland Films Series.

Terrific design and compositions in this movie – some of it presumably based on Irish art and the real Book of Kells. Similar in ways to The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a simple/ancient folk tale animated with a singular style, and with one breathless centerpiece scene. In this one, it’s Aisling’s song, when she gives Aidan’s cat the power to retrieve a key to free the imprisoned Brendan. The real Book is an illustrated bible, but the movie avoids (almost?) any talk of bibles or religion, despite taking place in an abbey.

Also watched a 2001 short called Pitch n Putt with Beckett and Joyce, in which a tempermental, foul-mouthed, eyepatched James Joyce attempts to play mini-golf with an unresponsive Sam Beckett. Made Katy laugh, therefore good short.

Cinderella (2015, Kenneth Branagh)

Part of Disney’s ongoing live-action-remake series. This one adds nothing to the Cinderella story, fails to update or improve it in any way, has no seeming artistic reason to exist. But gee, it’s pretty.

From the director of Thor and writer of Antz, starring cousin Rose from Downton, with Daisy as one wicked stepsister, Cate Blanchett the wicked stepmother, Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech) the king, Helena Bonham Carter the fairy godmother, Rob Brydon as a painter and a voice actor from the Castlevania games as the prince.

Ouch from Dissolve:

The film just touts, with sparkly but plodding repetition, the outsized, eventual rewards for being a sweet, brave dishrag that causes no trouble and makes no waves. … Asked why she stays on in such a horrible household, she explains that she’s doing it to respect her parents’ memory. By intepreting “be kind” as “be passive,” she teaches herself to be happy with physical and emotional abuse, to accept it as the norm, as the price of respecting her dead family. It’s a grotesque message, presented with perverse cheer, through a character who’s more idealized martyr than relatable hero.

Opened with a short called Frozen Fever, in which all your favorite Frozen characters smile almost nonstop, sing a song, catch a cold and celebrate a birthday. Didn’t hold a candle to Partysaurus Rex.

High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann)

Striking-looking square, b/w western with loads of great close-ups. Gary Cooper plays a cop on his last day on the job before retirement… and just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in! Years earlier the town had come together to defeat an outlaw and his gang – today, the gang returns, rides through town to meet the outlaw, who has been released from jail and is obviously aiming for revenge. But now that the town has been peaceful for a while, nobody feels compelled to fight. Anyone with a personal stake in the matter (sentencing judge Otto Kruger and love interest/hotelier Katy Jurado) skips town and everyone else backs down from helping Gary, leaving him to face the killers alone. Actually, Gary’s anti-violence quaker wife Grace Kelly (married to him earlier that day) helps out. Gary and Grace finish off the bastards then drive away from the ungrateful town.

IMDB: “This film was intended as an allegory .. for the failure of Hollywood people to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

A character named Sam Fuller who’s a huge coward, has his wife pretend he’s not home when the sheriff comes to the door. Wonder how the real Fuller felt about this. The only interview I can find where he mentions the film, he just complains about the ending, “where the heavy grabs the girl and holds her in front of him, putting the hero in a hell of an embarrassing situation. Always, at the last minute, she pushes him away, and the hero kills him. I don’t like that in any Western. It doesn’t make sense.” Fuller would correct this ending in his Forty Guns a few years later, where given the same situation the hero shoots the girl.

Written by Carl Foreman, blacklisted by the time the movie came out. Being one of the most beloved westerns, it earned a 2000 Tom Skerritt/Michael Madsen remake and a couple of 1980 TV sequels with Henry Fonda and David Carradine. Gary Cooper won an oscar, lost best picture to The Greatest Show On Earth and director to John Ford. The movie has a nice opening credits theme song, but it didn’t keep “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” from remaining stuck in my head.

The Ghost Writer (2010, Roman Polanski)

“Can’t talk – some peace protestors are trying to kill me.”

Kinda silly and obvious as a thriller, but well acted and assembled so you enjoy the ride at least. And man does Ewan McGregor ever blow it, when he finally gets evidence that the prime minister’s wife Rosemary Cross has been pulling the strings all along as an undercover CIA agent, what does he do? He tells her that he knows. He tells her! So she has him killed, end of movie. It’s too bad I watched Dollhouse before this, because I saw her as a schemer all along.

Mouseover to see McGregor’s reaction to the PM’s memoirs:

McGregor is taking over the PM’s memoirs from the previous ghost writer who died mysteriously last week on the ferry to PM Pierce Brosnan’s U.S. island hideaway. All is quiet until allegations of torture and other war crimes come out and the press mobs the island, and during the distraction McGregor starts digging up the dirt his predecessor had left clues about. Kim Cattrall is the PM’s assistant, Tom Wilkinson a friend/rival/neighbor, and Eli Wallach an old man who feeds Ewan clues.

This film’s attention to detail is impressive – they’ve noted how the news tends to misspell basic words:


It would be easy to overstate the appeal of The Ghost Writer just as, I imagine, it will be easy for some to dismiss it. But the pleasures of a well-directed movie should never be underestimated. The image of Mr. Brosnan abruptly leaning toward the camera like a man possessed is worth a dozen Oscar-nominated performances. And the way, when Lang chats with the Ghost — his arms and legs open, a drink in hand, as if he were hitting on a woman — shows how an actor and his director can sum up an entire personality with a single pose.

Nightbreed (1990, Clive Barker)

Hetero White Male Boone has been having bad dreams, getting calls from psychiatrist David Cronenberg, who is secretly giving his patients hallucinogens. Then a bagface knifes some kid’s parents. Boone’s girlfriend Lori does karaoke at a club. Crazy Boone goes to hospital, where he meets a cheery longhair who scalps himself. All this leads Boone to Midian, underground dwelling of monsters, whose prophet he will become, to the consternation of their gill-cheeked leader Doug Bradley. But there’s trouble before Boone can take his place as prophecised hero, because either he or Cronenberg (who works nights as the psychotic bagface murderer) leads the humans to the monster pit, and a redneck army destroys the pit, driving the monsters away.

Barker creates a fantastic bunch of characters (everyone except Boone) but maybe it’s best he stopped directing. The newly restored director’s cut doesn’t change how creaky and graceless everything is. Everyone talks like they’re in a movie, one guy even screams “nooooooo!” But I hadn’t seen this since the VHS days, was worth revisiting. Maybe I’ll see if I can find the comics.

Cinematographer Robin Vidgeon had shot the first two Hellraiser movies with Clive. Whole companies are credited with the foul crimes committed against movies: “20th Century Fox drastically cut this film at the last minute prior to its theatrical release,” and everywhere it’s Fox this and Fox that. I’d like to see the individuals listed more often, IMDB credits for specific studio execs who sunk the movies.

Girlhood (2014, Céline Sciamma)

Marieme is having trouble at home (lives with her abusive older brother) and in school until she joins a group of slightly older friends who change her identity, give her the nickname Vic for victory. Seems like things are getting better as Marieme starts asserting herself, has fun, gets into fights, falls for boys, and maybe the movie won’t end with the inevitable lower-class doom, but alas. At least she doesn’t become an actual prostitute when she leaves school, she only rooms with a prostitute as she works for the local drug boss. Ends with maybe a glimmer of ambiguous hope. But along the way, the movie is mostly a joy, sensitively and beautifully shot, with terrific actors.

Television watched early 2015

Recently I have watched a lot of television.

Very little of it was watched on a real television.

Over The Garden Wall (2014, Patrick McHale)

Oh, this was wonderful. Fairy-tale voyage of Wirt (Elijah Wood) and his little half-brother Gregory (Collin Dean), with Beatrice the bluebird (Melanie Lynskey of Heavenly Creatures, Matt Damon’s wife in The Informant) and other voices by John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd and Tim Curry. They’re stalked by The Beast and a soul-collecting woodsman through a land called The Unknown, but in the last episodes this is all revealed to be unconscious fantasies as the boys are in real-life danger. Nice animation and use of music. Hopefully the show lives on… a quick look at twitter shows that it probably will.

Brass Eye (1997/2001)

Christopher Morris’s self-serious news-magazine show, a series of episodes about made-up current-affairs crises, accompanied by the kind of insane, over-the-top graphics familiar from The Day Today. For instance, here’s a 3D graph of the Man vs. Animal evil continuum paradox:

Frequent appearances by Mark Heap (Brian in Spaced). Morris interviews actual semi-celebrities and politicians about his fake issues, getting them to take stands against things with obviously humorous names.

Error I caught, which only someone in British television could make: Morris mentions “Dennis Potter in Blue Velvet

Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe and Weekly Wipe season 3

I wish it was all about news and politics, less about TV shows and advertisements since I don’t care about those. And I wish the Wipe annual specials didn’t cannibalize the previous year’s TV series, and those didn’t cannibalize themselves in their sixth episodes, and that the special and series were more spaced-out throughout the year, but hell, I love all the Brooker shows I can get.

Parks and Recreations seasons 5-6

Leslie’s time on city council (with Jon Glaser as Councilman Jamm) goes poorly and she’s eventually recalled. Pawnee and Eagleton merge. Ann and Chris move away together so they can leave the show (Rashida Jones is in a Patrick Wilson movie and a TV series written by Steve Carell, Rob Lowe’s in a Burt Reynolds movie and an apocalypse series). Andy gets a temporary job out of town so he can shoot Guardians of the Galaxy. Jerry gets his name changed to Larry and joins Donna in the opening titles for the first time. April has more responsibility, Tom loses his rent-a-swag business to Henry Winkler and opens a restaurant, Ron marries Lucy Lawless and becomes a stepdad. Ben and Leslie are married and she’s pregnant with triplets. Flash-forward three years??

Girls season 2 (2013)

Predictably, Jessa’s marriage with Chris O’Dowd (I didn’t recognize him last time because of the weird American accent he’s doing) doesn’t work out. Hannah and Adam have a pretty bad breakup (911 is called) and she dates Patrick Wilson for a while. Shoshanna is sorta with Ray, Marnie’s career is falling apart and she’s crushing on her ex Charlie, and Hannah is having a breakdown. It’s a very dark season, but also astoundingly funny and still one of the best shows ever.

Watched some of the extras, learned that one of my favorite jokes – DJ team Andrew Andrew – is actually a real thing. Oh, New York. Also, Jon Glaser is in every show I watch. Including him, I count about fourteen new familiar faces (“celebrity cameos” doesn’t sound right), pretty good for only ten episodes.

I’ve been missing Human Giant. I see Aziz every night on Parks & Recreation, and Matt Walsh is on Veep, so I checked out Rob Heubel’s and Paul Scheer’s latest shows, which both happen to be parodies of shows Katy watches.

Childrens Hospital season 1 (2008)

Sort of Grey’s Anatomy love-affair hospital show with Heubel, Rob Corddry as a clown, Rob’s brother Nate, Megan Mullally (Tammy 2 in Parks & Rec), Ken Marino, Lake Bell (In a World) and Erinn Hayes. Guests: Nick Offerman, Jason Sudeikis and David Wain.

NTSF:SD:SUV:: season 1 (2011)

More memorable and addictive than Childrens Hospital, maybe because it had twice as many episodes and an exxxtreeeme theme song (DIIEEEEGOOOO), a cop procedural parody starring Paul Scheer, June Raphael (Burning Love), Brandon Johnson, eyepatched chief Kate “Captain Janeway” Mulgrew, loser Martin Starr and ugly nerd Rebecca Romijn.

Guest villains: JK Simmons, John Cho, Rich Fulcher, Adam Scott, Tony Hale, Lorenzo Lamas, Jeff Goldblum, Jerry O’Connell, Wilmer Valderrama, Robert Picardo, Matt Walsh and Julian Sands

IT Crowd seasons 1-2 (2006-07)

I’d watched and not loved the first episode a couple times, but Fumi didn’t steer me wrong with Mighty Boosh, and I have unconditional love for Richard Ayoade so I finally gave in and watched more. After a few minutes you can ignore the awful laugh track and the show gets good.

Ayoade stars with Chris O’Dowd (Girls, The Boat That Rocked) and Katherine Parkinson (new Maggie Gyllenhaal show The Honorable Woman), and unexpectedly to me, Chris Morris of Brass Eye, though he suicides after eight episodes and is replaced by Matt Berry of Darkplace & Boosh. Also pleasantly surprising: Noel Fielding of the Boosh as Richmond, the secret third I.T. guy who is normally hidden behind a closed red door.

Written by Graham Linehan (Big Train, Black Books) with codirectors Barbara Wiltshire (10 O’Clock Live) and Ben Fuller (That Mitchell and Webb Look)

Bob’s Burgers season 1 (2011)

Terrific, filler for the Simpsons-shaped hole in my life.
Although hopefully later seasons are less obsessed with butts and pooping.

Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal, of course. Dan Mitnz (a writer on Important Things, Human Giant, Lucky Louie) is Tina and John Roberts is Linda. Regular roles for Ron Lynch and Sam Seder (Fenton in Home Movies), appearances by Jon Glaser, Todd Barry, Amy Sedaris, Brendon Small, Paul F. Tompkins, Steve Agee, Kevin Kline, Jay Johnston, Jack McBrayer, Tim & Eric, Robert Ben Garant, Jerry Minor, Brian Posehn, Sarah and Laura Silverman.

Also watched Louis CK’s new special, Live at the Comedy Store. Good stuff, and I enjoyed the few minutes by opened Jay London – gotta see if he’s got his own special. And rewatched Spaced with the commentary tracks, now that I’ve finally found software that can read those infernal DVDs.