Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And in the end...

...none of this means anything. This post has been a long time coming. In the past few months my productivity here has dropped off gradually, but not dramatically, and I find myself questioning more and more what any of it means and what value any of it holds. Not much, I think. I have stated both here and on Facebook my desire to complete a short film (one I'm not sure I even understand) and a story for a screenplay as well as the desire to find better paying work to provide for my family and make me a better father and husband. Right now, just now in fact, in this moment, Cinema Styles stands in the way of that.

I have to put it aside, not indefinitely mind you, or even for an oppressively long period, just for a little while. Maybe two months, maybe only two weeks. I'd like to announce how long Cinema Styles will be idle but the truth is, I don't know. I do know I am not foolhardy enough to abandon something that has been as rewarding to me as this blog and so I assure you, I will not. I just need to finish some things up and kick-start a few others. For that to happen, I need to stop spending days tensing myself up because I can't think of anything good to write and then thinking of something, writing half of it and abandoning it only to start the whole process over with another piece that will end up in the same ashcan. And for what? I mean, really, there comes a time when reality makes itself known and announces loudly, "It's just a blog." What's more meaningful is when you finally hear it.

I also know that reading the posts of others and commenting on said posts often provides me with inspiration so let me also apologize preemptively if all of this turns out to be much ado about nothing. To wit, don't be surprised if three days from now I put up a new piece. Such is the way of fleeting inspiration and if it does come, I won't suppress it. But if it doesn't, I'm not going to force it, and that's the main thing I'm attempting to state with this post.

I will keep posting on The Invisible Edge for a couple of reasons. One, I have never not enjoyed it. Sometimes that has been the case here but there, never, not in over two years now (don't go by the archives dates, I'm constantly shifting, changing and deleting posts in an effort to simplify the format). I always enjoy sharing the bizarre photographic ephemera I come across in my casual searches of public libraries and university archives. And two, it's effortless. I mean, really, I find a pic, save it and post it. I don't even add captions to most of them anymore. Each post literally takes seconds to complete.

As for Unexplained Cinema, I don't know. I'm not sure how many people find any value in it (or if I even do) but it is so low maintenance for me that I can't imagine bothering to suspend it or shut it down. If I post there again, great, if not, no big deal. It is my favorite template design though of all the ones I've created (if you scroll down the page it is intended to mimic frames in a film strip, hence, no sidebars) so I definitely will never get rid of it entirely.

And that's that. I will see all of you on Facebook, at The Invisible Edge, at your blogs and websites or just... around. I'll return here too, in a bit, once I get my bearings. See you then.


P.S. - My apologies, but the comments for this post are closed. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The One You Might Have Saved (Redux)

That crazy Arbogast is at it again. More savings for the ongoing One You Might Have Saved Blogathon. I'm always game for saving a doomed character in movie history with whom I feel a certain degree of connection so what the hell, let's do it again, but beware, SPOILERS ABOUND!

For this entry I choose Sam Bell number five. The movie is Moon, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, which is, for what it's worth, the fifth time in his career he has played a character named "Sam." If you've seen Moon you know that there are an endless number of Sam Bell clones who all serve mining duty on the moon for three years until they are disposed of, or die, to make way for the next clone who will serve for three more years and so on. None are allowed to know they are clones or that they will never leave. Each clone works alone and is under the impression that he is the real Sam Bell and will go home after a three year tour of duty.

If you think I just spoiled the movie for you I didn't, not really at least. For one thing, I did give a spoiler warning at the top of the post but mainly, the movie itself is not concerned with a big twist/reveal at the end of the movie. The clone element of the story is revealed fairly early on and the movie quickly becomes a tale of two clones, Sam Bell 5 and Sam Bell 6, who become dependent on each other in much the same way Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight do in Midnight Cowboy. While many reviews, like this excellent one from This Island Rod, rightly mention nods to 2001, Blade Runner and Outland, none I have seen so far mention Midnight Cowboy and to me, that's the primary influence.

Like all the best science fiction, it's not about the setting or the technology, it simply uses setting and technology to explore character. And so, while Midnight Cowboy and Moon may take place in worlds some 235,000 miles apart, they tell much the same story: two men struggling to make their way in the world, realizing too late for one that helping each other is what they needed to do all along. And what they need to do in this case is get off of the moon before a "rescue" team shows up to correct a mistake in the system, that is, eliminate one of the clones.

The newer clone, Sam 6, is awakened to start his tour of duty, memory implants of a life on earth in place, after Sam 5 has an accident leaving him stranded on the surface in a large moon rover. The glitch in the system occurs when Sam 6 finds Sam 5 and brings him back to base. There are two of them now, and they were never supposed to know of the other. This presents a problem for the company running the operation. See, they don't know the two know of each other. They think Sam 5 is still stranded on the surface and are sending that previously mentioned "rescue" mission to get rid of him before Sam 6 discovers him, which, of course, he already has, unbeknownst to them. Sam 6 sees all of this coming and devises an escape plan while the older clone, Sam Bell 5, gets sicker and sicker. Constantly hacking and walking with an odd limp, more vulgar and unkempt than Sam 6, he is the lunar spiritual brother of Ratzo Rizzo.

By the end, a plan is devised and an escape is made but one that Sam 5 can never enjoy. His diseased body is too battered and bruised for this world and while the journey home may give him hope, as the trip to Miami does for Ratzo, it's a trip we know he'll never survive. And so, placed back in his rover for the rescue team to find, he dies and while we know he must, we still don't want him to. He's so helpless and filled with the desire to see his daughter, a daughter that does exist for the real Sam Bell, but is nothing more than a stranger to Sam 5, that we want him to make that journey home, desperately. Which brings us around to the whole point of this post and of Arbogast's ongoing blogathon. If I could, I'd walk into that station with the best medical team I could find and, by God, we'd make Sam better. We'd get him well and bring him back to earth safely. And even though his daughter wouldn't know him, since her real father, the real Sam Bell, is fifteen years older, I'd make sure, somehow, he got a chance to at least see her. And all of this is a testament to just how well Sam Rockwell pulls this whole thing off. He takes two identical characters and makes them so different, I forgot, and easily, that it was the same actor playing them. Rockwell makes Sam 5 so sympathetic that when he finally does shuffle off this mortal coil we wish only that we could've saved him. And if I could, I'd go all the way to the moon to do so.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back to School

And we're off! My wife, daughter and I are hitting the road for a college campus tour this weekend as the oldest daughter explores her collegiate options. See you next week!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meatloaf, Soup, Coffee, Repeat

The stark and stunning power of monotony. Of real time. Of following something until slowly, barely, almost imperceptibly, it unravels. And collapses in relief.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Bucket o' Bile

Writing online can be frustrating, invigorating, exciting, demoralizing and rewarding all at once. I've probably wanted to quit and walk away from it a thousand times and still do at least once a week. I usually get drawn back in due to the excitement of seeing a little known movie and wanting to review it. Or going to see a much-discussed new release of which I want to be a part of the discussion. Or just the desire to take a general belief in some aspect of movie-making and put it into words. All of those would fall under the rewarding part of online writing.

But the frustrating parts are legion. In fact, they may be greater than the rewarding parts. Let's see, for starters, there's getting into fights with friends over movies, goddamn movies! Or avoiding fights! Yes, that's a big one too. I see some asinine opinion that I want to take down but know I risk my sanity if I get involved and so I avoid it and instead fume, quietly and impotently.

Or the feeling that the modus operandi of the online movie community is dull and getting duller. Specifically, take a movie or director not highly thought of and tout said movie or director as unappreciated and brilliant. Say things like, "One day this film/director will be revered, just you wait and see!" And then the comments say things like "I thought I was the only one" and everyone pats each other on the back for having the courage to recognize the artistry of some piece of shit low-budget craphole movie or some jackass talentless hack that the rest of us pay lip service to so as not to appear too cruel. "Well, yes," we say, "I can see your point but I just don't think Mike Mediocrity is that great a director," when what we really want to say is, "What in the fuck are you talking about? He sucks! His movies suck! And I've just lost what little respect I had for your taste with this latest salute to filmmaking half-assery!"

And then there's the homogeny of the responses, the trotting out of the same jokey phrases ("I love me some" - Guess what? I fucking hate me some of that stupid cliche!), the reliance on the same tired formats and the leaning on the same pantheonistic crutches that have propped up one worthless movie site after another. Christ, have you looked around lately at some of the movies sites out there? I mean the commercial ones, the ones overflowing with up to the millisecond news items concerning the world of film, the ones that release a top 100 this or that every few months that we all discuss and argue about like the stupid fucking lemmings that we are, driven to mass intellectual suicide every time some idiot with a "History of the Movies" book writes a list proclaiming La Regle de Jeu or Citizen Kane is overrated while at the same time trumpeting the efforts of that dick you never heard of because it turns out he only made three movies in the 1970s and when you finally got a chance to see them on Netflix they turned out to be stinking, festering piles of horseshit. You know, that guy! He's a genius, Welles is a hack.

Or how about the old switcheroo game we all play with director's credits. Boy, I love that game! You know, that's the game where someone sagely declares that, "Sure, I appreciate Vertigo and Psycho and Shadow of a Doubt but honestly I think I've come to view Topaz as Hitchcock's best work." Really? Then shut the fuck up and stop writing about movies because you have nothing important to add to the conversation. Or the reverse where someone declares that the director's most highly praised work really isn't that good. I love that game too! Love it!

So where's all this bitter bile leading? What's all this about? How should I know, I'm just writing it. I'm just spewing forth whatever comes to mind in a fit of frustration about all the things I have to do and all the things I have no time to do. I have to get paying work because this shit just isn't cutting it. I find myself reviewing CDs for the free CDs themselves, no money. Great! That's a pretty difficult transaction to make work at the local Trader Joe's, I can tell you. So there's that.

I also have to do things, lots of things, lots of random things around the house and around my life on a day to day basis, things that I enjoy doing and this online life cuts into the time needed for them. So the online life has to justify itself and more and more I see only the frustrations and fewer rewards. I'm trying to make short films and keep getting distracted from them by online activity. I'm trying to write a screenplay with a friend and can't focus on necessary plot details because of online activity. And I don't mind the online activity, the tweets and facebook status updates and blog posts, as long as at the end of the day they pay for their upkeep but lately, I'm not seeing significant returns on my investment if you know what I mean. I won't stop tweeting and facebooking but honestly, I cannot point to anything worthwhile I've done with them. I have enjoyed many conversations but in the end, it's just background noise, nothing else. Maybe I'm not imaginative enough with them but if that's the case at least I'm not alone because we all seem to be using them in the same way. I did start a joke group on Facebook, "If a million people join this group Larry Aydlette will get back online." A few people joined, I didn't advertise it, so you had to see it in my updates to even know about it. But then I started thinking, "Maybe Larry's got it right. Maybe Larry's smarter than all of us put together." I used to find it funny how Larry would go on and offline with such regularity but now I think I understand. It's all just background noise and it's up to us to search for the patterns in the static. If we find them, great! If we don't, or we get tired of the same patterns, we have to look deeper to find some meaning to what we're doing. I'm looking now but I also need to make some art and not just write about it. I'm not going anywhere, I think, or at least not yet, just trying to clear the air. The patterns are clear but the noise from the static is sometimes overwhelming and I just wanted to speak my peace before my voice got lost in the noise. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Return of the Cinephile Native

It's been a long time since an update here and I apologize. Spring Break for schools in this area runs a full week and two days so today is the first day back. I've got plenty so say, which I'm working on, but for now it's probably best to just get out whatever unedited, unformed thoughts on movies I have in my head to break the long silence.

*A couple of weeks ago my wife and youngest went to see Mon Oncle at the AFI and I maintain that not only does Jacques Tati work on the big screen (and with a cheerful audience) where he may be slightly mystifying on the small screen, but he triumphs. The film was a delight, yes, but visually Tati is a brilliant observer lacking in all sentiment. It was my wife who noted, "There's not one close-up in this movie." There is not and as she also noted, during the wagon ride scene, it's in close-up that sentiment works its magic. Without it we are only observers to the scene, and the scene thus carries only delight and no goopiness. What a terrific movie! If you ever get the chance to see it on the big screen I highly recommend it.

*My wife and I were watching Keys to the Kingdom the other night on TCM and both remarked that Gregory Peck's relentless solemnity made him perfect for roles like this, and perhaps not much else. He had a great, deep and resonating voice, one made for missionary priests and righteous lawyers (To Kill a Mockingbird) but I don't care for him much outside those limitations.

*Also while watching Keys to the Kingdom we received an alert from the Associated Press' International Duh Division: Thomas Mitchell is one of the best character actors that ever lived.

*Some of those old ABC Mysteries (Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife) were pretty good. We watched some on Netflix Instant and had a great trip down memory lane in the process.

*We also watched some Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Not as good as I remember but one of the ones we watched, Our Cook's a Treasure, with Everett Sloane and Beulah Bondi, was terrific.

*Hell, we watched a lot of classic tv quite frankly. Maybe Spring Break put us in a nostalgic mood but we also watched Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Rockford Files.

As to the first, it's about as hit or miss as they come and it was quite clear the network was just throwing shit together to hook in the horror/supernatural crowd. The lizard man in The Sentry doesn't even resemble a man in a Halloween costume, he resembles a man in a second-hand, discounted, retrieved-from-the-dumpster Halloween costume. The Trevi Collection, however, about a witch trying to take over the world of fashion, was fairly decent and achieved low levels of creepiness with the mannequins coming to life.

As to the second, it's too bad James Garner couldn't have stayed young forever and had one new show after another throughout the decades. The Rockford Files may be an average detective show, and is, but Garner's charisma makes each episode worth watching. And the opening credits, with the still photos fading one into the other, just may make a special tv version of "Opening Credits I Love."

Finally, Dennis Cozzalio has chosen poorly. Maury Chaykin responds: