Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And they had Jazzercise!


Were the eighties the worst decade for movies in... decades? The twenties saw the silents reach their apex, the thirties bore the fruits of a perfected studio system that ran well into the early fifties while the fifties themselves began to see Hollywood facing increasing competition from abroad until the sixties, which saw such an amazing output of quality work from Europe and Asia that it put the words "foreign film" in the vocabulary of even non-cinephiles which led right into the seventies which saw a Renaissance in American film.

And then came the eighties.

Nobody talks about the eighties. According to legend or myth, something is supposed to have happened that turned the eighties movies to mush. That something is usually some combination of Star Wars, an improved economy, yuppies, Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority, Clara Peller, Walter Mondale, Jheri curl, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, MTV, Pac-Man and Jazzercise. Definitely Jazzercise.

So anyway, somehow, the theory goes, all these factors led to filmmakers deciding in unison that they would no longer make great movies. It didn't matter if the filmmaker in question was a great one, because of one or all of the factors above, their art would suffer regardless. And how can it not be true? So many cinephiles say it's true it has to be, right? I mean, so many people say it, people like... um... well, okay, people like me. If you're looking for one of the all time "eighties movies suck" offenders look no further than this blog. I've spouted this cinephile party line for years to the point where it's damn-near a mantra. But is it true? That's up to you I suppose since decreeing a decades worth of artistic output to be either "good" or "bad" is so completely cemented in the land of subjectivity that I couldn't possibly provide the right answer for anyone. For me, however, I can only ask another question: How can the arbitrary cordoning off of years into decades possibly affect the quality work of separate individual artists making films within that given period of time? To answer my question I went to movie sites like IMDB and Netflix and put together a list from a randomly chosen year, 1983. This list contains 30 movies that could reasonably be ranked in someone's top ten at the end of the year. Not mine necessarily (I can't even stomach some of these titles) but someone's list. Here it is:

Betrayal
Danton
El Norte
Fanny and Alexander
Local Hero
Return of the Jedi
Risky Business
Say Amen, Somebody
Scarface
Silkwood
Star 80
Terms of Endearment
Testament
Draughtsman's Contract
The Dresser
The Right Stuff
The Year of Living Dangerously
WarGames
Angelo My Love
Frances
Gorky Park
Rumble Fish
Th Dead Zone
The Grey Fox
Trading Places
Under Fire
Yentl
Christmas Story
Koyaanisqatsi
King of Comedy


That's a pretty good top thirty. The last one on the list is purposeful placement because that's probably the one I would give the top award too although Tender Mercies, Local Hero, The Right Stuff, The Draughtsman's Contract (released in the States in 1983 but made in 1982) and Fanny and Alexander could easily take it as well. So what's the problem with the eighties? If you go through the other years of that decade you can, as I found, compile similar lists. So is it the bad movies of the eighties? Is that the problem? Is it Porkys, Baby... The Secret of the Lost Legend, Stroker Ace and all those Police Academy movies? Maybe that's it. Maybe it's because the Stallone/Norris/Schwarzenegger action movies started in the eighties and people associate that kind of mindless violence with the total film output of that decade. Or maybe directors like Ron Howard started making movies that felt too slick, too assembly line. Oh no, wait, I mean MTV started making videos that produced directors who then made movies that were too slick. No, no wait, now I remember, it was Robert Zemeckis. It was his fault.

Ah hell, if you try, you can probably use anything as proof that the movies of the eighties sucked. The only thing you can't use as proof are the movies themselves. The second you start listing the bad stuff anyone else can start listing the bad stuff from any other decade to counter it. Which means you're left with the good stuff, and the good stuff from the eighties can hold its own with the good stuff from just about any other decade because let's face it, directors like Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch didn't exactly slouch off during that decade.

The fact is, the movies of the eighties aren't nearly as bad as they've been made out to be, or at least not as bad as I've made them out to be. As I revisit several and look forward to revisiting several more in the coming months I realize it was a pretty good decade for movies after all. So let's cut the eighties some slack, huh? They had their share of dreck but they also had, as evidenced by 1983 alone, some pretty solid fare as well. Where's the beef? It's in the movies, the good ones, and as it turns out, there were quite a few in that decade. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out my Rubik's Cube before my Jazzercise class begins.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jack and Jackie


Jack Webb and Jackie Loughery tie the knot on June 24th, 1958. Jackie is primarily known in beauty pageant circles (the kind Bill and Fox follow breathlessly) as the first Miss USA winner ever in 1952. Also, according to one of the most exemplary Wikipedia biographies I have ever read, she is also a woman. Really, treat yourself. Jack is primarily known for Dragnet of course.

In the photo above they appear to be celebrating their marriage but in reality they are celebrating Cinema Styles 300th banner, and who wouldn't? They're also celebrating Flickhead's Claude Chabrol Blogathon, the upcoming Ed Wood blogathon (no word yet on when the Ed Howard blogathon will take place) and I am assuming, the history of icing. Have a great holiday weekend everyone!*


_________________________

*For goodness sake though, eat your pudding responsibly. Also, don't forget to eat your meat. You remember what happens if you don't eat your meat, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Watch the Great Illusion Drown


It is tempting when writing about a film called The Bridesmaid to go with the easy post title of "Always a Bridesmaid" or "Never a Bride" or some other quick and easy take on that old saying. But when reviewing a film by Claude Chabrol why go with the obvious? In a piece on Chabrol in The New Yorker Terrence Rafferty accurately wrote (specifically of The Bridesmaid but it could apply to any number of his films) that Chabrol's film doesn't thrill but instead prefers "to unsettle, to disorient, to unnerve and to create the sort of apprehension that cannot finally be resolved." The Bridesmaid isn't a roller coaster ride. It doesn't hurtle down the tracks to a foregone conclusion. It creeps and crawls and finally surrenders to the impulses of madness.

It is also tempting to provide a plot summary for The Bridesmaid, to pull the reader into the twist and turns of the plot without revealing the ending, but then, what would that do? In a film that fools the viewer into believing it is a thriller before revealing itself to be an examination of two shared madnesses, one psychotic and the other obsessive, the plot summary would fool the reader as well. It would lead the reader down the path of misdirection in an attempt to lure them into watching it knowing that a film that does not provide the traditional payoff sometimes needs misdirection to gain an audience. But Chabrol doesn't care about that so why should I?

The characters of Phillipe and Senta, man and woman, lovers and neurotics, are both mad, it is true, but only one appears to be to the outside world. Phillipe hides his madness behind a veneer of societal responsibility, a responsibility to his job and his family. Underneath that veneer is a burning passion for an ideal woman, a woman that only exists in the stony form of a bust of a goddess named Flora, intended for display in a garden. Senta's madness is visible. She's "odd" and "a bit weird" and quite possibly lies any chance she gets. She believes taking someone's life for someone you love is the same as writing a poem for them. She has no veneer and doesn't see any reasons for one. Senta has no illusions propped up and on display for the world around her. She may tell lies but she presents herself as is, openly and without reservation.

It is this sense of the visible and invisible, of two shared madnesses coalescing as one that Chabrol observes with patience and reserve, building dread until the story reaches a point where both characters must reveal the full scope of their madness to the other, and accept it. The audience may want more but the attentive viewer will realize that's all there is to show. A climactic showdown or chase or confrontation between the law and the lovers, between society and the fringe, would be too obvious, too rote, too expected. Chabrol gives us instead a declaration of love that could or could not mean something else altogether. The Bridesmaid asks the viewer to study madness in the guise of a thriller. Some of the same cliches are there (the ominous questioning by the police, the final walk through the old abandoned house - or at least the upstairs portion of it) but in the end Chabrol doesn't want to thrill his viewer but to engage him in something richer, more full of life. As the credits roll and Flora gazes back on us, unquestioning and unblinking, we wonder, did we just watch a love story or a psychodrama? And then we laugh and realize, "What's the difference?"


******************


This review of The Bridesmaid is a part of Ten Days Wonder, the Claude Chabrol Blogathon hosted by Flickhead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dreams... or Nightmares?



"It's heavy. What is it?" - The Maltese Falcon, d. John Huston



"What is it? It's heavy." - The Bridesmaid, d. Claude Chabrol


It's also Day Three of the Claude Chabrol Blogathon taking place at Flickhead's. I plan to contribute a much better and bigger piece than this screengrab post but just wanted to point out the two shots anyway because whenever one movie makes me think of another movie and it isn't because it's churning out the same cliches over and over, it makes me feel good. Oh and in both cases, the answer to the question is it's the stuff dreams are made of, only the dreams in the second turn into nightmares. So just how far should you go for love? Tomorrow... the answer?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Wanderers: James Edwards



Years ago I watched Bright Victory for the first time on cable. As I watched it I thought what most people probably think while watching it: "Arthur Kennedy is really great in this! Too bad he didn't get used more often in quality lead roles."

Then I thought the second thing most people probably think: "The guy playing his friend is great too!"

That actor was James Edwards. It took me a moment or two to realize it was the same actor who had played the paralyzed Private Peter Moss in Mark Robson's Home of the Brave (1949). In that film, as well as Bright Victory, Edwards plays the "black man." He's not a character who happens to be black, but rather a character whose skin color is of vital importance to the plot. In fact, in the play Home of the Brave, upon which the movie is based, the character is Jewish but thanks to the 1948 legislation that desegregated the Armed Forces the character was changed to a black soldier to keep up with the headlines, even if it meant being completely historically inaccurate by placing a black soldier in the same unit as white soldiers in World War II.

Edwards' characters in both films are noble black characters suffering under an oppressive system of inequality. Thanks to the time these movies were made the messages are a bit heavy-handed, falling more on the side of Clifford Odets' obviousness than subtle, nuanced psychological study. But that's what makes Edwards so good in both. When the blunt points have been made up front it's up to Edwards to provide the subtext with a look, a tremor in the voice or a simple body movement. His performance in Home of the Brave is justly celebrated but in Bright Victory too, he excels with very little to work from.

Bright Victory tells the story of a blinded war veteran, Larry Nevins (Arthur Kennedy), going through rehabilitation at an Army hospital. While there, he befriends another blinded veteran undergoing the same rehabilitation, Joe Morgan (James Edwards). Neither one knows the race of the other and at one point someone mentions that some new soldiers from a Negro unit will be showing up soon. Kennedy is surprised to hear this, thinking it's an all-white hospital and soon uses the word that quickly establishes his race to Morgan, and by Morgan's reaction, his to Kennedy. The friendship ends there and the rest of the film is concerned with Larry Nevins' guilt and changing attitudes as he returns home and finds he cannot be with his family and friends anymore who have racist beliefs. In the end, he meets up with Morgan and asks if they can be friends again. As in the rest of the film, Edwards uses subtlety in the face of an unsubtle (but still good) script. The pause, the look on his face, a look that can be interpreted a thousand different ways, the look that says, "Can I trust this guy again? Should I tell him to 'go to hell?'" Edwards isn't given much to work with in Bright Victory (it is, in the end, Kennedy's movie through and through) but what he is given he works with in ways a lesser actor never could.

Edwards never became a big star, working steadily in small and sometimes bit parts, always strong, always reliable. A wanderer, taking whatever work he could get to satisfy his need to perform, to hone his craft. In her excellent piece on him at TCM, Moira Finnie wonders about the fact that Edwards never became a star.



While Edwards and Poitier both entered movies at the same time, it is possible that Poitier’s disarming manner was easier for audiences to relate to in that period. Perhaps too, Poitier was the more natural star, as his timely performance in Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones would prove, while Edwards was simply a good, hardworking actor whose potential would find only fitful expression.


Or maybe, at the time, there was room for just one "black actor" in Hollywood. Oh sure, others could get roles, like Edwards and Harry Belafonte, but only one could be a star. Hollywood often figures out a way to sell one performer as the genuine article (Marilyn Monroe) and everyone else as the knock-offs(Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Diana Dors) and it would appear no different here. Besides, it was the fifties and there weren't exactly a lot of roles for black actors and parts in which a black actor could be cast where race didn't matter were small, so once the big roles were filled by Poitier there wasn't much left for Edwards. Too bad, because as much as I like Poitier, I like Edwards better. It's an impossible comparison of course since Poitier had so many more roles to analyze and Edwards so few. Still, Edwards subtle gifts as an actor portray a confident and skilled artist less inclined to some of the histrionics Poitier sometimes fell victim to (and Edwards command of speaking dialogue naturalistically far outshone Poitier's). Of course, in a perfect world they would have both been stars but Edwards worked steadily nonetheless. His final role was that of General George Patton's valet in Franklin Schaffner's Patton (1970). Shortly after completing his work on the film, and before it was released, he died of a heart attack.

I like to think had he lived the seventies and the type of independent movies being made then would have afforded him the opportunity to explore roles that had never been available to him before. Either way, he established himself early on a hard-working actor dedicated to his craft on both the stage and film. He was a wanderer, a pioneer, a journeyman, a professional and, above all else, a damn fine actor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And it doesn't even have a beanstalk!

Gone With The Wind. Duel in the Sun. The Big Country. Giant.

Surely you recognize all those titles. They're the big, colossal white elephants none of us are supposed to like but most of us probably do. They don't get discussed much on the movie blogs because they're big, bloated, melodramas and everyone knows that when discussing melodrama on a movie blog it should be in black and white (but color is allowed for those made in the fifties and anything directed by Douglas Sirk), come in under two hours, and have nothing whatsoever to do with wide-open swaths of land. Think Stella Dallas, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Imitation of Life. If you happen to love melodrama (I do) then you probably already know that it is a sometimes denigrated genre. At the same time everyone still agrees there are some great ones in the mix, like those mentioned two sentences before. But the epic melodramas? Those are the ones we're supposed to make fun of, right? Well... Thing is, I like a lot of them and all this started swirling around in my head thanks to this photo in my possession from 1951:





That's George Stevens, Elizabeth Taylor (duh) and Ivan Moffat, the director, star and associate producer for A Place in the Sun. Later, in 1955, they would work together on Giant, released in 1956. And all of this is simply to say, I like Giant. Yeah, that's pretty much it. There won't be any big write-up on the rules of melodrama and white elephant melodrama and epic weepies. Nope. It's just that when I looked at the photo I remembered how much I liked Giant.

I believe the main strength of Giant lies with George Stevens direction which gives the slow meandering action a steady clipped pace so the viewer doesn't notice that, quite honestly, it's all very slow and meandering. Action and plotwise, nothing much happens in this movie but you wouldn't know it from Stevens direction. He's got the editing and photography down like no other, knowing to keep everything in medium shot 80 percent of the time, pull out to wideshot for isolation metaphors and emotional distance and use the closeup sparingly for menacing impact. And there's not a lot of empty quiet space between shots either. It may be dialogue free for many of those spots but it's not empty because Stevens is focusing on a look, or a leer, from Mercedes McCambridge or James Dean. And Stevens holds all those actors, and their differing styles, together through all of it, achieving a consistency in performance that keeps the viewer from noticing the jarring contrast between the high energy acting of Dean and the laid back delivery of Hudson.

And that takes us to the second strength, the acting. Not only does everyone acquit themselves quite admirably in this (and yes, I do think Rock Hudson is good in it - you got a problem with that?), especially Dean and McCambridge who are both superb, but they do so under the most ridiculous make-up conditions ever imposed on a big budget Hollywood movie. Latex, wigs and putty? Ha! You're joking right? No, no none of that here. Dean, Taylor and Hudson all age by having gray paint sprayed on their heads and someone in the makeup department grabbing a mascara pencil and drawing age lines under their eyes. Yes, fifteen years prior, Orson Welles went through hours of make-up application as he portrayed the aging Charles Foster Kane and somehow, almost two decades later, movie makeup had devolved into browsing the Benjamin Moore aisle at the hardware store and raiding the script girl's makeup bag.

Also, and this is not to be underestimated, Liz and Rock play characters named Leslie and Jordan Benedict, Jr (his nickname is Bick) and Jimmy's character is named Jett Rink. Just try and forget that character name. Go ahead, try. If you never see this movie again for fifty years and someone asks, "Hey, what was James Dean's character's name in Giant?" without breaking your stride you'll confidently reply, "Jett Rink." And then possibly you'll pull up the collar on your leather jacket, comb your hair back and say to your companion, "Let's blow this Popsicle stand." You will do this because just uttering the name "Jett Rink" will make you feel almost unnervingly cool.

And then there's that scene. You know... that scene. The one where Jett shows up covered in oil and starts spouting off to Bick and Leslie that he done struck it big and now he's a gonna be a rich'un, just like they are. And then Leslie tries to act happy for him but he so completely creeps her out that she just wants to run and Bick just wants to smash his face in. Yeah, that scene. Man, that scene rocks.

Finally, there's the finale, and as the first word in this sentence is "finally" I suppose it is only fitting that the last word is "finale." The finale of Jett Rink, drunken and bitter, as he mumbles a bunch of crap by himself in a big conference room that no one could understand anyway even if they had been listening. The lines spoken by Dean were unintelligible since his head was down for most of it and had to be redubbed by Nick Adams after Dean's death.

And lest I forget, Dennis Hopper plays the son of Rock and Liz and his character is named Jordan Benedict III. Seriously, Dennis Hopper plays someone named Jordan Benedict the Third.

So there you have it. Giant is a great big sprawling piece of entertainment with sharp direction, fine performances and a melodramatic script. If you've got the time, it's an enrich'un experience.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Out and About



Like Debbie and Carrie I must take care of some business, run some errands and on the whole be out of the picture today so I'll hold off on any major post until tomorrow. And if I transport any children today, which I will as a part of my daily routine as school turns to camp, I promise I won't let them stand up in the front seat unbuckled. Thank God Carrie's still with us.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Do You Need Someone to Love?



Well then you've come to the right place, or at least sort of. The right place is Flickhead's on Wednesday, June 17th to discuss Henry Jaglom's Someone to Love which gives new meaning to the phrase... - oh wait, I have to wait until Wednesday myself. Yes, I watched it a couple of weeks ago and have watched several parts over since and can say with confidence that once again the TOERIFC membership knows - and I mean KNOWS - how to pick a film that will spark discussion. I look forward to seeing you there. As always, all we ask is that you watch the film before showing up, or know it well enough already to take part.

And now, since Marilyn has given me hell over how obscure some of my guessing games are there's this one: Okay Marilyn, or anybody, Name That Actress! And she's about as un-obscure as you can get! The winner gets to talk about how cool I am all weekend long. Man, the prizes around here just keep getting better and better!



Okay, that one is insanely easy (see, this is why I go for obscure) so here is another completely unobscure actor to guess. Name That Actor! And don't forget to watch Someone to Love. Have a ... TOERIFC weekend! Ha ha ha... oh, sorry.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

History and the Movies: There Are Places I Remember


File this history post under useless nostalgia. Since I obsessively search archives of revered institutions, foundations and universities on an hourly basis for anything and everything it is to be expected that I will come across photos of movie theatres from time to time. Even though I was born in the sixties and therefore wasn't around when the cinema below was showing Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharoahs in 1955 it still looks familiar. That's because the architectural look of cinemas in the fifties carried through well into the seventies and the seventies is when I started going to the movies on a regular basis.



Below is another photo of a cinema in Albany, CA in 1971. The cars have changed but the architecture has a similar feel. It's not that they're the same architecturally, because clearly they're not. It's that they have a business-like look about them, a functionality mixed with a bit of mid-century modernism. I can't pretend that these theatres look better than the palaces of the twenties and thirties, because they don't. But they're the theatres I love and the ones that bring back moviegoing memories like no other. And they just don't exist anymore.



And it's not just that they don't exist anymore. There aren't even theatres that replaced them in the same location. They got replaced and relocated. Look at the Albany cinema. Click on the photo to enlarge it. Down the street there is a silhouette of a stripper indicating that this cinema coexisted with the hardened denizens of the city, the real city, not those bullshit fantasy cities everyone has now where the downtown area is filled with chains and franchises and Ben and Jerry's and piped in music. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for my kids that Silver Spring has such a gentle, clean downtown area where they can hang out and feel safe but Lord, it's soulless.

It's nothing like the locale of the Ultravision. That's the theatre I used to go to in the seventies in the West Ashley section of Charleston, SC. I saw The Poseidon Adventure, Juggernaut and Jaws in their initial runs there and wish there were theatres like it to see movies in now. It was next to car lots and pawnshops and liquor stores. I couldn't find a picture of it online but ABC, the company that operated it, had a twin Ultravision in Deerfield, FL and that I could find a picture of, here, so you can at least see the design I'm talking about.


Later, after moving to Washington, DC in the eighties, I saw many movies at the Outer Circle on Wisconsin Avenue and was sad to see it demolished in 2007. It lasted for so long I thought for sure it would remain but alas, it couldn't survive the onslaught of the multiplexes even if I did think it was immune for a short while there. The picture below is courtesy of Rockcreek's Flickr account where I was happy to find several pics of this once great suburban cinema.



The Outer Circle was in the nowhere zone between DC and Chevy Chase, MD where you're not quite sure what city or state you're in. There were diners, banks and gas stations nearby. That doesn't mean much now I suppose but NOT being in a multiplex by a mall or a Disney-fied Downtown gave it a very different feeling that is hard to describe now. There was a feeling you could be walking down the street and suddenly happen upon a cinema next to the Phillips 66 and say to yourself or your walking companion, "Hey, want to see a movie?"

I miss the sleek lines and non-busy look of the mid-century to mid-sixties cinemas that filled my youth. They weren't as formal as the original movie palaces, not as corporate as the multiplexes that followed. They were slightly trashy and often times out of the way. They were next to fast food joints, bars and truckstops in the places that zoning forgot. I'd like someone to revive them but it's a bit like trying to make a campy film. If your intention is camp then it's not camp. For these cinemas to succeed they need a specific time, place and feel that's gone and will remain gone. But never let it be forgotten.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unseen Cinema: Sueños de Gloria

I wonder what this movie is about. It was released in 1953 under the title Sueños de Gloria (Dreams of Glory). Its IMDB entry is all but empty, a bare bones entry if ever there was one. It stars Miroslava Stern, who simply went by Miroslava for most of her roles, and Luis Aguilar. Judging from the poster I'd say this movie is about a swimmer and a race car driver, both ambitious and in love. I'm assuming to make it even more dramatic one of them must sacrifice his/her dreams to follow/pursue the dreams of the other. But that's all guesswork. And then there's this: Click on the poster to enlarge it. On the hood of the car you will see the face of Donald Duck. Yes, Donald Duck. I don't know how he figures into the story and given that there is no information on this movie to be found (don't bother Googling, you'll just get a bunch of song links, the IMDB page and the poster I've put up here) I guess I'll never know. Still, if anyone has any knowledge of the story I'd like to hear it.

Miroslava is known to most people for her work with Luis Buñuel in the film Ensayo de un Crimen, released in 1955, although I've never seen it (but the poster is terrific). Sadly, she committed suicide at 29 just after the movie finished shooting, a movie which could have catapulted her into bigger international roles. There's not much more I know about Miroslava outside of that and her Wikipedia entry is fairly scant. I guess I just wanted to mention her in case anyone did know anything about her or her films. Netflix has two of her movies available: La Muerte Enamorada (1951) which sounds like a charming comedy from it's synopsis and a Joel McCrea film directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1955, Stranger on Horseback. I've added both to my queue as my curiosity is piqued. Maybe I'll love them or maybe I won't but isn't seeking out the hard to find, uncovering the unseen and watching movies outside our comfort zone of knowledge what blogging and cinephilia are all about? I think so. I'm glad I stumbled upon that poster for Sueños de Gloria today. If nothing else, I look forward to learning a little something about an actress of which I previously knew nothing, and sharing it with you. And if you already know all about her, please, share it with me. Thanks.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Director, Star and Body Language



Director Herbert Brenon discussing a scene with Alla Nazimova on the set of War Brides (1915-16). Both are all but forgotten today although looking through Brenon's credits I realize I've seen three of his films and have his 1924 version of Peter Pan on DVD. I've even seen writer-producer-actress Nazimova in a couple of things as well, including her final appearance in a movie, Since You Went Away(1944).

I'm not sure why I like this photo so much, discovered in an online University archive, but I think it has something to do with body language, something actors spends their whole life studying, and if you'll indulge me, over-analyzing.

First, there's something about the fact that, to my mind, they are disagreeing on how the scene should work but she seems to be intently listening to his side of it and he seems to be presenting his side with a relaxed sense of confidence, signalling a willingness to work together on both sides.

Second, the camera seems to create a makeshift "fence" providing enough separation of personal space that they can both be comfortable.

Finally, they both have their hands on the camera, that wonderfully simplistic camera, in a kind of physical acknowledgement of meeting halfway.

**********

Click photo to enlarge

And So Name That Movie Ends


The clip is below if you'd like to view it. It's the final clip for Name That Movie as Bill R. of The Kind of Face You Hate took home the prize. Congratulations to Bill R.

I've always liked the idea of online games and building up credit or free shipping for DVDs at Amazon allowed me to have a prize to give away but I was always a bit disappointed at the limited number of participants. That said, Name That Movie is officially over. The first ever DVD Giveaway I did here at Cinema Styles took place at one time with everyone competing at once. Bill won that one too but Kimberly, Marilyn and Adam all came within minutes of beating Bill to the punch. If I do another game in the future, it will be more like that one. For now though, Bill has won which means I'll soon be ordering him another Rob Schneider movie and shipping it out. Thanks to everyone who played regularly (Bill, Marilyn, Arbogast, Flickhead, Ed, Fox and Rick mainly) and thanks to everyone else who popped in on occasion and took a guess.


video

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making Movies


The above public domain photo is of a movie being shot by Vitagraph in 1917. No information accompanies the photo as to who anyone is or what the movie is that they're making. Kind of like my upcoming teaser trailers for October, starting here tomorrow. Allow me to explain.

Anyone familiar with me knows I like the multimedia aspect of blogging and enjoy putting together short films, usually in the form of montages but sometimes not. I've enjoyed putting together the teasers much more than a montage so far because the creative side is more demanding than on a montage.

Each teaser consists of one clip and all the clips you will see come from a classic movie with nothing later than the seventies. But even if you've seen the movie the clip is from you might not recognize it. That's because I have used only a portion of the frame or enhanced the lighting in a dramatic way or added a completely new visual element altogether. And all the music you will hear, different for each teaser, was written and recorded by me. Except for a couple of montages in October, all future short films here will be scored by yours truly. And all of this is to say none of this is very important, I just like putting together short movies and if I can make them promotional trailers, well then, why the hell not? I hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Being a Cinephile Matters

Lately there hasn't been a lot of action at the blogs I regularly visit. My friend and fellow blogger Bill noticed this as well and wrote his own piece on a funk he's been in with regards to writing a full blown piece for his own blog, The Kind of Face You Hate. There are times when I think I might as well throw in the towel myself as I wonder what in the hell is there left to write about. But then I remember how much I've learned about movies since I started blogging. Before starting up Cinema Styles I was the guy who had all the info on movies if you needed it. After blogging for a year or two I felt like a rank amateur, but an eager one ready and willing to learn more every day from my fellow cinephiles online. Here's why cinephilia matters to me:

*I learned there's so much more to Tarkovsky than Solaris.

*I discovered Pinky Violence whereas I never knew it even existed before.

*I learned there's so much more to Godard than Breathless.

*I discovered there's a whole niche for Thai horror films.

*I learned there's so much more to Truffaut than The 400 Blows.

*I actually got to read a review for The Fireman's Ball (d. Milos Forman, 1967).

*I learned there's so much more to Dreyer than The Passion of Joan of Arc.

*I discovered a whole new world of Polish film posters.

*I learned there's so much more to Lang than M.

*I have engaged in vehement disagreements over what I previously thought were well established and accepted historical judgments.

*I learned there's so much more to Kurosawa than The Seven Samurai.

*I discovered other people hated CGI as much as I did and that yet others loved it and both sides had passionate arguments to make.

*I learned there's so much more to Bresson than Au hasard Balthazar.

*I discovered that not only wasn't I the only one who had seen and loved Michael Powell's The Edge of the World but that many others had long since "discovered" him beyond The Red Shoes.

*I learned there's so much more to Fellini than 8 1/2.

*I discovered that my belief that I was one of the few people out there who loved classic film from the thirties over most other film was not only wrong, but horribly, painfully and laughably wrong.

*I learned there's so much more to Renoir than La Règle du Jeu.

*I discovered other people have favorite bit players and character actors and the fact that I knew the work of Gail Patrick turned out to be not that impressive.

*I learned there's so much more to Eisenstein than Battleship Potemkin.

*I discovered that there is a whole microverse of aficionados of film out there who can agree half the time, disagree the other half and still acknowledge the love of cinema that nests in every argument and every consensus. And without that, without getting involved in blogging, I'd still be talking to people who think the nineties represents the golden age of cinema.

So there's a quick twenty from me but believe me I could provide dozens more. I've always sworn off memes around here but I'd like to know what my fellow bloggers think matters about cinephilia as well, if they like of course. That means Bill, Marilyn, Arbogast, Fox, Peter, Flickhead, Kimberly, Rick, Pat Piper, Pat (Not Piper), Campaspe, Nathaniel, Brian, Neil, Dennis, Jim, Ryan, Ed, Krauthammer, and ... ah hell, that list is already out of control and there are still so many more I'd like to link to. I'm sure someone has asked this question before so I apologize if this whole exercise is redundant but I can't keep up with every blog. Also, as I've broken the rules on these things myself constantly I wouldn't dream of applying any for anyone else. A list, a paragraph, a thought or two. However you want to do it. Just a little bit of what you think is important about studying film, loving film and discussing it with like minds. Basically, what have you learned? I know I've learned more than I ever did from decades of reading film books. How about you?