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January 24, 2009

Movie Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* David Chute is surprised to find himself lovin' the most recent "X-Files" movie.

* Steve Sailer does a great job of nailing and evoking Baz Luhrman's talent.

* Film director Danny Boyle tells Anne Thompson that he likes limits.

* Dennis Cozzalio writes a definitive history of the drive-in. Dennis maintains a wonderful and very personal movieblog here.

* Ramesh compares "Gran Torino" to "Diary of a Country Priest" and makes it sound plausible.

* An excellent interview with nature-doc legend David Attenborough. Attenborough deserves far more appreciation as a filmmaker than he has received, IMHO. I've found many of his shows really thrilling.

* MBlowhard Rewind: I rhapsodized about Spy Mom Carla Gugino.



posted by Michael at January 24, 2009


Its even better. gtan torino was robbed.

Posted by: Ramesh on January 24, 2009 9:54 AM

And on Anne's Toronto interview with Boyle, DV shooting is exhilarating and , with some basic editing skills , can produce wonderful films, but when you want to distribute them, you still need spend a shitload of money transferring to celluloid. you also need to have it on film to transfer to DVD (I've never fully understood why) , and the costs to do that are as expensive as shooting on film in the first place.

This makes DV shooting just a big studio method of cutting costs from lower costs from outtakes, rather than a way to shoot inexpensive independant films

Posted by: Ramesh on January 24, 2009 11:11 AM

I thought Gran Torino was awful. (Michael, did you see it?) The dialogue is awkward and unconvincing and the acting of the two Asian teenage leads is high-school play level. I'm amazed at the praise that is being heaped on this movie.

Posted by: green mamba on January 24, 2009 3:37 PM

Haven't been to a theater to see a new movie in a couple of years now. I think, anyway. Did I go see something? Hmmm. Anyway, nope, haven't caught up with "Gran Torino." Don't generally think much of the movies Clint directs, though I like him as a screen presence. They seem basic, inexpressive, and unenergized in a non-compelling way to me. But maybe that's my shortcoming.

Hey, has anyone seen "The Wrestler"? I'm dimly playing with the idea of going to a theater for that one. Marisa Tomei on a big screen -- yumyum.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 24, 2009 3:57 PM

Watch the Nazi movie. at least you get to see kate winslet's bare butt.


Posted by: Ramesh on January 24, 2009 6:38 PM

Yes, lots of good Winslet nakedness in "The Reader"--its primary point of interest.

I loved all of the Attenborough interview, thanks, but best was his pithy answer to the question of why nature programs continue to fascinate even as the rest of TV has changed dramatically:

"One is that animals, when they appear on your screen, have a number of qualities that are unique to them. They're not trying to sell you anything and they're not telling you lies. They are unpredictable. They are very often new. They're extraordinarily beautiful. They're dramatic. And they share something with us, which is life. What more do you want from your television?"

Posted by: Steve on January 25, 2009 2:01 AM

Maybe the Academy ought to create an award, if not for "Best Nudity," then "Best Butt." That'd certainly make me more likely to watch the ceremony.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 25, 2009 11:40 AM

if they created an award for best nudity AT the ceremony (and the red carpet) I'd be much more inclined to cancel all appointments....for

Posted by: Ramesh on January 25, 2009 12:20 PM

"Maybe the Academy ought to create an award, if not for "Best Nudity," then "Best Butt." That'd certainly make me more likely to watch the ceremony."

They should award the first trophy retroactively to Carla for "Sin City," and then retire it.

Posted by: David C on January 25, 2009 7:48 PM

Great to see a fine actress like Winslet being so uninhibited in front of the camera. But what's the deal with Angelina? No good nakedness from her recently.

Posted by: Steve on January 25, 2009 9:53 PM

stretch marks?

Posted by: Ramesh on January 26, 2009 12:20 AM

Baz Luhrman does represent a movement away from prevailing, and damaging, cinematic fashion. The mock naturalism of modern movies (relieved by fatiguing action sequences or by Sean Penn attempting to eat the set and the rest of the cast)'s just not working.

Consider what now passes for a major thriller: after a couple of hours of listening to smouldery actors grunt and mumble, you are granted a massive explosion, with the main mumbler walking away sporting his best Gotterdammerung expression and whatever-it-is conflagrating in the backgound. Deep and meaningless. Hollywood today.

Luhrman's value has been well summed up by Sailer. However, the big disadvantage of Luhrman is the absence of talent. Beyond his energy and innovatory resolve, there is nothing. The flicker-editing can only cover it up for so long.

The much loved medium of film needs salvaging. When you look at the few good minutes in No Country For Old Men, you realise that there was a chance for Monster-Cowboy-Suspense flick for the ages. Instead, you end up with neo-post-deconstructionist Oscar-fodder.

Conservative values aren't the answer. I have a problem with the search for the Great Conservative Movie. From the dreary and dirty snuff-movie, Passion of the Christ, to The Dark Knight, so over-wrought and badly's just more modern Hollywood bloat. Conservative doesn't help. The industry has been full of leftists forever, and many of those leftists were part of great movies.

Indie isn't the answer. Indie is film-school, it's pre-Hollywood, Hollywood that can't afford the bloat yet. But call some terrible infant a genius and give him a huge budget...

So where do we go to find what's missing? Where do we see tighter plotting and satisfying resolutions. Simpler editing, clarity in dialogue and scenario? Where are the budgets big but tight? Where is there still a kind of studio system?

Television, silly! Of course, it's mostly crap. But when it's good, it sets the example for its big-brother industry. Whether it's one of the better episodes of Burn Notice or 24, or if it's a solid TV movie recycling some affordable aging stars...TV enforces the standards and has the disciplines which Hollywood has lost.

As for artistic freedoms etc, if movies can learn some urgent lessons from the best of the Box, there may be less in the way of effects and "design" - but more of that thing we crave as much as a good yarn: beauty. The cinematography of the Third Man and My Darling Clementine are superb examples of a visual art that flourished in a tyrannically controlled industry centred on immediate popularity and fast financial return.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on January 26, 2009 7:45 AM

Kudos to Chute for praising the X-Files movie. I recently watched it and enjoyed it quite a bit.

But first a complaint: I thought the movie was structurally rather botched. Despite being intrigued by the plot, I found myself frustrated by it on more than one occasion. (It doesn't really accelerate like it should. As a horror-thriller, it feels hesitant.) But there's so much to like here in terms of sensibility, character, and approach that I can hardly complain.

Carter shows real courageousness in jettisoning the alien "mythology" that bogged down the show and the first movie and instead sticks with what always made the X-Files tick: Mulder and Scully (with a good bit of the macabre thrown in). Their relationship, which has always been romantic-comic in nature, is picked up in middle age, and it's mulled over in ways both concrete and abstract. The movie asks questions like: What brings people together? How do we keep ourselves going every day? Can anything we do in the present make up for the past? Is it possible to be both human and alone?

The snowy, expansive landscapes and the terrific lighting underscore this questioning, desolate mood, and the main subplots effectively accentuate the theme of people trying to come to terms with both themselves and one another.

In short, there's a lot of abyss-gazing going on in this little genre movie, and a lot of heart-rending. It seems to me one of the more pointed movies about aging and relationships I've seen recently.

Posted by: Ron on January 26, 2009 9:38 AM

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