Media Log 2011
MOVIE: Blue Velvet (1986)-- David Lynch.
Rewatch. Upon looking again... I really don't see the big deal? All of the WEIRDNESS of the film is not all that weird and is quite shallowly weird anyway. It is just inexplicable shit happening for no reason. The shooting is highly conventional, the acting is par, the only thing that spices up the pacing is the occasional random flickering candle with weird noises OOH HOW MEANINGFUL. The "dark underbelly of normality" just seems like such a dumb, obvious thing to begin with. There are so many points with really hamhanded attempts at depth that just come off as completely laughable to me; Sandy and Jeffrey by the church, the bugs, the candle, etc. Even the supposed subversive and disturbing or "WEIRD" aspects are often just sort of.... sophomoric. The homosexual pimp's apartment, the double-murder-tableaux, and especially "I have his disease inside of me" are just hilarious. At least it's entertaining, but there's really nothing important said or done in this. It's weird/artsy cinema for the milquetoast and cowardly, or schlocky popcorn cinema for intellectuals.
PLAY: A Dream Play (1901)-- August Strindberg.
The prologue-in-verse and most of the last act feel extremely unnecessary, but nonetheless, everything else is a very heartfelt, and titularly dreamlike, experience. The author-note at the beginning even has poetry in it. So far the most "Tender" Strindberg I've read; it, by and large, is not a social critique, and is more about pure dreamy emotional states-- ridiculous love stories out of nowhere, people popping in and out, going everywhere, physically and mentally, in the blink of an eye. Honestly I'm not sure what to say.
MOVIE: I'm Too Sad To Tell You (1971)-- Bas Jan Ader.
:'c ... Something about Bas Jan Ader's work strikes me as disarmingly sincere and human (unlike the work of Acconci and Burden). The stark minimalism of this short film is absolutely beautiful and Ader's weeping does not feel manipulative. It encourages warm contemplation rather than cold critique. The silence, too, adds to the meditative state of the film. This disconnect between him and the audience leaves a deep impression about connection in general.
MOVIE: The Circus (1928)-- Charlie Chaplin.
I actually like this more than The Gold Rush-- mostly because I am a sentimental faggot and like microcosm over macrocosm (and the ending is much better), but still--. Chaplin's singing during the credits is almost heartbreaking. This deserved the "special award" it got from the first Oscars thing. Probably the only year the Oscars weren't completely stupid and irrelevant. Second only to City Lights in the charming-ness of the Tramp, it's an extremely quality film.
MOVIE: The Gold Rush (1925)-- Charlie Chaplin.
Just about everything it has been said to be. I can see why Chaplin liked this film of his the most. It's certainly the grandest in scope. I really don't know what to say except to wwatch it! It's as warm as City Lights and as raucous as Modern Times, but the ending is a little unsatisfying. Also make sure to get the actual-silent version and not the updated narrated version. The narration is often idiotic except for one single bit, so, yeah, avoid it.
MOVIE: Pay Day, The Idle Class (1921-2)-- Charlie Chaplin.
Extremely adorable, if inconsequential, shorts. Each feature two or three gags that singlehandedly beat any laughs from his films, though. These just lack the "content" of the films.
MOVIE: Up In The Air (2009)-- Jason Reitman.
George Clooney should stop playing George Clooney so much. I mean, yes, he's handsome and charming, but at this point he's handsome, charming, and boring. The whole movie rockets back and forth between idiotically cute and mind-numbingly prescriptive. Only in the last act (and the acts are so clear cut there may as well be intermissions between them) does something interesting happen, does the protagonist actually have to stop and think. The first two acts should have been the first halfhour of the film and then the rest of it is him taking stock of what he actually wants. Trying to figure that out. In fact, the part I'm talking about was only the last 5 minutes or so of the film. That five minutes could make a great two hours. There's also some hilariously obvious foreshadowing afoot for all the manipulative melodrama that happens eventually. One scene that kind of infuriated me was, after one character had cold feet at his wedding and then was coerced into marrying again, the camerawork changes from the calculated mediocrity, it is suddenly handheld and purposefully shakey. This is supposed to make it look like some homemade wedding documentation but it just sticks out like a sore thumb and feels so insincere when coupled with the highly average cinematography in general
SINGLE: C'est si bon/La Vie En Rose (1950)-- Louis Armstrong.
For a long time I thought I hated Louis Armstrong, but it turns out I just hate "What A Wonderful World". He does great, sweet, but not saccharine, versions of these french songs. I can't think of what else to saaaaaaaay. sdglnflgnk. Hornplaying as good as in the 20s/30s and singing better than 20s-40s. The arrangements are lovely and romantic. The whole thing is HUGGLY.
MOVIE: Abigail's Party (1971)-- Mike Leigh.
Thank you, Mike Leigh, for making a film that shows, emotionally, every social event I have ever attended. Acting good enough to be called "Performance Art". The filmed-play format somehow ends up feeling endlessly more inventive and engaging than the fanciest camerawork of the last ten years. While most of the film is more smile-and-nod comedy than anything laugh-riot funny, there is a constant build up of tension and suspense throughout the whole thing that somehow also intensifies the comedy. It's goddamn amazing.
MOVIE: Documentation of Selected Works (1971-1974) (1975)-- Chris Burden.
While I feel that much of Chris Burden's work is pretentious and sometimes downright stupid, there's something interesting about his softspoken elaborations on his works and performance art in general. This film gives a good look at some early-70s performance pieces, ranging from somewhat interesting to completely fucking idiotic (I hate "Shoot" so much) but as a performance in and of itself, this video is more interesting than a lot of Burden's work.
MOVIE: Happiness (1998)-- Todd Solondz.
At my university, there are quite a few people who call this "the meanest movie ever" as a great compliment. Well, it is the meanest movie ever but that is far from a good thing; the film is so misanthropic that it just becomes silly. Solondz's attitude toward the characters feels almost like he's just bullying them, making them be at their worst 100% of the time, building entire characters just around "dark little secrets", and making just about every male character a rapist (not kidding). However it is paced all right, but is completely average visually. The music, when not by the film's composer, is great sometimes (Vivaldi > Mozart >>>>>> Solondz), but the film's score is so painfully ironic. Happy music under overbearingly sad or morally questionable things, sad music under normal things. The acting is sometimes good. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jane Adams are the only ones who are at all interesting; everyone else is an annoying ridiculous caricature. People call this film "real" but that's far from true, it is exactly a zany mainstream comedy, just played more serious, with worse people (people are not that horrible in real life). Put Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler or whoever in this instead of Hoffman and Dylan Baker and it could be a full-on-comedy. If this movie was a highschooler it would wear all black and listen to My Chemical Romance constantly.
MOVIE: Paleface (1922)-- Buster Keaton.
Un Chien Andalou stole a GROUNDBREAKING SURREAL EFFECT from the last gag in this film. This is also the adorablest of Keaton's work that I've seen. While I guess it is still the awful "white man makes the best indian" trope, at least it really really does not take itself seriously.
MOVIE: Every Man For Himself (1980)-- Jean-Luc Godard.
Okay, so, I don't "get" Jean-Luc Godard. He seems like a cold, uninterestingly pretentious man. He seems also to realise this judging from the hilarious self-insertion. The first part, the cold open, however had me looking forward to the rest of the film. It started quite funny and more interesting than all of his other stuff I've seen but then it started turning into a pretty silly remake of Vivre Sa Vie.
MOVIE: Kuroneko (1968)-- Kaneto Shindo.
I came in expecting a slightly more pulpy, fluffier Ugetsu Monogatari and I got a touching melodrama in the form of a ghost story. The Noh-drama touches were amazing but there weren't enough of them. The full orchestra score got a bit syrupy at times. I would have had a great time in the theatre if it wasn't half full of people going "LOLOL A CAT IS MEWING. TEEHEE MANNERISM. ROFLMAO HE IS ANGRY THAT HIS WIFE IS DEAD".
MOVIE: Stalker (1979) German DVD release-- Andrei Tarkovsky.
NO D:< THIS IS NOT RIGHT AT ALL >:'C
MOVIE: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)-- Frank Capra.
Maybe I'm just a stupidly sentimental fagmosexual, or maybe it's that I was in a majorly panicked state before I watched the film, but holy shit this is one of the most touching films I've ever seen. There were a handful of times my eyes got blurry with tears, never actually crying, but just overwhelmed by the despair and joy in the film. I mean, goddamn, I dunno. TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL, ALL THOSE CLICHES. The acting, especially from Stewart, was beautiful. It is even shot marvelously-- almost reminds me of a less experimental Ozu; space is used as fully as it can be used, only falling back on stale and boring shooting every once in a while. The close ups are as devastating as those in Faces and I can really see what Cassavetes saw in Capra. It is a pretty cuddly movie, and there are very few cinematic masterpieces that are very cuddly movies!
MOVIE: Steamboat Bill Jr (1928)-- Buster Keaton.
Even when he's being the world's biggest priss, Buster Keaton's still a fucking tough dude. Something about Keaton's death-defying stunts makes me think of endurance-art and other sorts of body-pushing conceptual art like Chris Burden or some works of Marina Ambromovic and such, except less intellectual and pretentious.
OPERA: Don Carlo (1867)-- Giuseppe Verdi.
(As directed by Nicholas Hytner/Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin) Act IV was pretty much the best thing. Also-- goddammit, Carlo and Rodrigo, just make out already, I know you both want to! It's all you guys ever talk about.
MOVIE: Sansho The Bailiff (1954)-- Kenji Mizoguchi.
Mizoguchi makes the saddest goddamn movies ever. Something he does extremely well is work with dramatic irony for tragic effect. By the end of this film, it feels like Zushio has lost everything, worked his way up but didn't achieve any of his original goals (despite achieving what could be called a much more noble goal), but there's still hope; he still has dignity, principles, temperance, rememberance of those who pushed/helped him.But yeah, my expression throughout could be summed up as follows-- ; O ; BAWWWW
MOVIE: One Week (1920)-- Buster Keaton.
Keaton's big wacky house is completely and utterly adorable. Watching this further solidified my Chrus-Burden-of-Slapstick idea about this man.
MOVIE: Trash (1970)-- Paul Morrissey.
Holly Woodlawn totally deserved at least an Oscar nomination for her performance in this dramedy of drugs and errors; George Cukor was right. A Worthy sequel to Flesh, Dallesandro still full of commitment and great dramatic and comedic timing. Dallesandro's beat, world-weariness is a hilarious contrast to all of the disarmingly lively forces in his life. But even if it has its extremely clever moments, at its core, it is a very striking criticism of libertine-ism and drug-culture, and a pretty sad one at that. One particularly striking satirical moment was the rich girl finding Joe robbing her house; her response wasn't fear or anger, but bemused naive fawning over him, making fun of class-tourists who romanticize squalor.
OPERA: Macbeth (1847)-- Giuseppe Verdi.
164 years and 1 day from its premiere I performed in a chorus for Macbeth for the first time. It is even more intense when singing with them! Also this time around, the dude playing Macbeth was a fucking sex-machine and in the first act he wore a fairly revealing shirt, so that was nice.
MOVIE: Eyes Without A Face (1960)-- Georges Franju.
Someone said that this is the most elegant horror film ever made and it certainly is that, if anything. It's essentially a schlocky B-Movie given a soft emotional french existentialist treatment, which actually is pulled off quite well, with vaguely sympathetic characters, strange dream-like floating-feeling pacing, and a surreal story to hold it all together.
MOVIE: The Face Of Another (1966)-- Hiroshi Teshigahara.
I've seen very few movies that distill a feeling of isolation as strongly as this one...
MOVIE: Master of the House/Thou Shalt Honour Thy Wife (1925)-- Carl Dreyer.
ALL RIGHT: WHO DID IT? WHO FUCKING DUBBED A TECHNO SOUNDTRACK OVER THIS? WHY? WHY TECHNO? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? WHY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. GO TO HELL
MOVIE: They Caught The Ferry (1948)-- Carl Dreyer.
If you watch one road-safety film ever, watch this one. Despite Dreyer's own disdain for his commercial work, this short is strangely powerful and propulsive-- it really shows Dreyer's eye as effectively as anything else he's done, just for a much more simple and innocuous point (ie, drive slower/having no speed limit is stupid). Strangely beautiful for a PSA.
MOVIE: A Fine Young Man (2011)-- Kevan Funk.
More of a trailer or an ad than some kind of standalone short. In retrospect the BIG TWIST is a bit dopey and laughable, but perhaps it could be better with a longer treatment.
MOVIE: The Leopard (1963)-- Luchino Visconti.
the Leopard is to aristocracy as Faces is to middle-class. However The Leopard has the BIGGEST CUTEST PUPPY DOG IN IT OH WOW JUST LOOK AT HIM GNAW TANCREDI'S ARM I JUST WANT TO PAT AND SNUGGLE THAT GREAT BIG PUP OH MY GOD, THAT DOG. Also the party scene is the best party scene I've seen since Abigail's Party. It is sad and elegaic yet with a minimum of sad faces or sad music or sad shots or outwardly sad anything
VIDEO ART: Selected works by Susan Britton.
If anything at all, seeing this little exhibition of her work made me want to see some more. There were flashes of hilarious and frank insight in ones like Why I Hate Communism, 1984, and Freeze Frame, and also a weird sense of deconstructed tragedy and abject horror atthe contemporary world with Casting Call and Up Down Strange.
PLAY: Rosmersholm (1886)-- Henrik Ibsen.
As performed by the Jericho Arts Centre theatre group. Not as immediate or profound as Chekhov or Strindberg, but by no means less than great. On a comedic level, it is a great satire of party-politics and the popular press. On a tragic level, it's the best musing on ambition since Macbeth.
MOVIE: Eat For This is My Body (2007)-- Mechelange Quay.
The wackiest film that could possibly be made about colonialism. It has a really fascinating vision of the world and the way the world is put together, with a really fascinating and original series of symbols. Occasionally pretentious, always strange and fascinating.
MOVIE: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)-- Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Thus far it is the only really worthwhile film I've seen from 2010. Because I just got out of a fucking stupid dramatic filmmaking class just about everything I have to say about it is framed as an angry jab at the teacher of that course. The film does everything that that teacher told his students not to do. Dilate time, minimize plot and conflict (to maximize theme and character and above all in this case, texture), avoid copious closeups, use minimal amounts of music... That teacher would say that the film would be better if it was 9 minutes long. FUCKER. Uncle Boonmee is a million times better as a film than his work for all the shit he says to avoid sfgknsdglknsdgsg. I am sorry I am still just a bit angry/unimpressed that he said his main concern was "to teach protocol" Here is his painfully mediocre showreel fsglnflgsgsdSDFGSDGSDG. It's about death and memory and stuff, as can be gleaned by the title, really. It's a really meditative film.
MOVIE: Report (1967)-- Bruce Conner.
It is strange to view a Bruce Conner film set to dialogue, not music, but it grounds it in a way that makes things in a way seem less magical than things like Valse Triste or A MOVIE, but makes up for that with immediacy that spoken dialogue gives (all taken from radio broadcasts about the Kennedy assassination). A really powerful satire: Not a finger-pointing exercise, but an elegais portrait of the end of an age, and of materialistic culture. What's great is that it's as funny as it is tragic and disturbing.
MOVIE: Last Tango In Paris (1972)-- Bernardo Bertolucci.
By and far Brando's best performance, and by and far Schneider's too. The film was funnier and more romantic than I thought it would be-- but also just as cynical and disturbing and tragic as it has a reputation for all the same. The film director boyfriend was also one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. I kind of wonder what the film would be like if it was a homosexual affair as Bertolucci had planned (and Bergman said should have happened).
MOVIE: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)-- Orson Welles.
While there is much evidence of it being "edited with a lawnmower" as Welles himself said, this is still a gem of a film. It's like if Citizen Kane had some emotional life to it-- a little heart and soul to go with that brain. Being the geek that I am, the happy ending is filled with a weird amount of tragedy just knowing the story behind it, seeing the stiltedness of those last two shots ending the film after George finally does get his comeuppance. Lost works of art are the saddest things in the world, especially in these more recent cases, where the irretrievable loss seems so avoidable in retrospect.
MOVIE: A Castle in a Castle (1955)-- Carl Dreyer, Jorgen Roos
A very interesting and stately architectural essay. As much as Dreyer hated his PSA work, they all still have his "touch" to them.
BOOK: The book of Joshua from the Old Testament.
Joshua is a fucking genocide machine.
MOVIE: Vampyr: The Dream of Allen Grey (1932)-- Carl Dreyer.
Most horror movies work very hard to just emulate the happenings of a nightmare. This film, quite effortlessly, IS a nightmare. Everything is draped in a thick eery fog of dread and confusion. Watching this film might not be as scary as Alien or something, but there is a discomfort and unease and mutability that is much more disconcerting.
OPERA: Die Walkuere (1870)-- Richard Wagner.
As directed by Robert LePage and conducted by James Levine.The ride of the Valkyries is a helluva lot better with singing than without. Got progresively better as it all wore on. Last act was phenomenal, while very very very long, it kinda felt like it couldn't have been shortened.
OPERA: The Other Side Of The Mirror: Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-65 (2007 (1963-5))-- Murray Lerner.
It is only a document. Far from anything artistically/cinematically interesting in and of itself, it is still a very good and concisely made document..
MOVIE: Bodyguard (1979)-- Ali Khamrayev.
As elegant and fun as any of the better Spaghetti Westerns.
MOVIE: Bo Ba Bu (1998)-- Ali Khamrayev.
After watching this I felt similarly to how I felt after watching von Trier's Antichrist. This something far behind the apparent misogyny of the surface of things. I'll be damned if I know what, though. (On a side note: Bo (Abdrashid Abdrakhmanov) was also completely dead sexy.)
MOVIE: The Tree of Life (2011)-- Terrence Malick.
I have to resist reading IMDb forum posts about this film or I will get depressed. Thinking about it now, the two films I want to see most from 2011 are about the creation and destruction of Earth (Tree of Life and Melancholia respectively). But about the film: As one might assume from the opening quote, this film is something like a 20th century retelling of Job. It starts suggesting quite a nihilistic worldview, but as it goes on, it grows in warmth and complexity. The narration has an interesting feature in its fluidity; I don't know how to put this but there are many times when it can seem as if it is not just the character speaking to themselves (or internally toward someone else, or toward God) but perhaps God talking to the world that s/he created-- which makes sense to me in that all of the narrators are creator figures (inventor/musician, mother, musician, architect, painter, imaginer, whatever). The God of the world has as much to learn about how to raise the world as any father/mother has to learn to raise their children as they grow. As a nonsequitur to the film on a whole, I have to say just as a piece of music the Lachrymosa of whoever's Requiem is in the film floored me. The centre of the film is, despite whatever difficulties and pains, compassion; the last lines are not what IMDb says, but rather-- sung in the requiem that backs much of the film the last ringing words as the small sphere that's been studied for 2.5 hours careens through space: "Agnus Dei"-- the lamb of god.
MOVIE: World on a Wire (1973)-- Werner Rainer Fassbinder.
Like Alphaville, if Godard had any idea what the fuck he was goddamn saying/doing. Also gives strong display of Fassbinder's love of shooting into mirrors-- and a strong display of Fassbinder's love of shooting swarthy well-built halfnaked men.
MOVIE: The Man From Laramie (1955)-- Anthony Mann.
Disarmingly complex characters!... As well as the stupidest most annoying theme-song this side of Pokemon!
POEM/GRAPHIC ARTS: Songs of Innocence (1785)-- William Blake.
Everything this man writes and paints will melt your fucking heart. Even at its most stilted, it is amazingly sincere and warm. It is worth the trouble trying to make out letters sometimes in reading the actual illuminated book and not just the printed poetry. Even if just taking in the illustrations subliminally it makes the experience richer.
MOVIE: Cat People+Curse of The Cat People (1942/4)-- Val Lewton (with Jacques Tournier and Gunther Fritsch and Robert Wise).
Should I just upload the 1000 word essay I wrote about these films? They're disarmingly mature especially for B movies.
MOVIE: Gilda-- Charles Vidor (1946).
70 minutes of PURE SEX with dialogue made 100% out of innuendo and dramatic irony, 30 minutes of everyone fucking everyone else over out of petty spite, and 5 minutes of distressingly out-of-place happy ending
MOVIE: The Woman in the Window-- Fritz Lang (1944).
Good but does not measure up to previous triumphs-- with one fatal, idiotic flaw: The tacked on production-code-required ending. I can just see Lang et al on set going "we need to give them a sappy ending? well HERE you cretins! HOW'S THIS?!"
MOVIE: Laura-- Otto Preminger (1944).
As weird and disarming as any number of Bunuel's or other surrealist films.
MOVIE: Trouble in Paradise-- Ernst Lubitsch (1932).
Lubitsch is a master of sex without excess and distinctly suggestive but tasteful comedy and this is the prime example. From the first moment of the credits-- starting with "TROUBLE IN ... [picture of a bed]" before the word "paradise" shows up. I don't know if that's stupidly immature to find funny or clever as hell. There is also an amazing quality of sincerity and modesty in the film's almost overbearing puckishness
MOVIE: Meet John Doe-- Frank Capra (1942).
GODDAMMIT, FRANK, STOP MAKING ME CRY.. :'C
MOVIE: Heaven Can Wait-- Ernst Lubitsch (1943).
Characteristically light and clever and subtly sexy but also with an extremely human, even sentimental, touch.
MOVIE: l'Age d'Or-- Luis Bunuel(1930).
MOVIE: Roberta-- Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, William A Seiter (1935).
I have a habit of not being able to stand Jerome Kern but I can't find a single fault in "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". Dialogue and relationships are quite well put together and only sometimes fall into whatever-it's-just-a-musical stupidity. Astaire and Rogers, being only secondary characters, not only steal every scene they are in but rob the scenes at gunpoint and then shoot them anyway.
GRAPHIC NOVEL: The Medium Is The Massage-- Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore (1966).
When push comes to shove the content of this book isn't much at all but it is presented and written to beget more thought and discussion outside of just the book itself. And that sort of thing seems to be the point. A lot of things to consider, a lot to disagree with, but a very interesting read (and basically a comic book from how integral the images are to the work itself)
BOOK: Elements of Typographic Style-- Robert Bringhurst (1996).
A good textbook written with a jaunty tone that is definitely a good introduction to typography.
MOVIE: Follow The Fleet-- Mark Sandritch (Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan) (1936).
I can't remember any other movie from this era that wears its sexism on its sleeve quiet so much as this. And the more I watch RKO musicals the blander Randolph Scott gets.
MOVIE: Lost Horizon-- Frank Capra (1937).
It is obvious that it was originally 3 hours long (Hell, originally SIX hours long) and could have been phenomenally better and more well developed; many characters and ideas are dropped and pop back up quite suddenly. The missing minutes that add up to the restored-as-possible 132 minute version are indeed absolutely necessary for the plot-- I wonder how integral the 1-5 hours cut were integral to character depth.
POEM: Goblin Market-- Cristina Rossetti (1859).
Great lesbian fairy-tale, or best lesbian fairytale?
MOVIE: Cache-- Michael Haneke (2005).
One of the most weird and nightmarish films I've seen, and yet perplexingly simple and nonthreatening in its approach. A tense minimalist thriller about guilt and deception, and Haneke ever the perfectionist, weaves this into every detail.
I want to make sure to say something, ANYTHING, about the shit that I watch/play/see/read/listen to/whatever, even if it is a single dopey line.
(I suck at that, even. Nothing for months, pretty much... :c I suck)