A New Leaf, a 1971 screwball comedy written and directed by Elaine May, is a great genre film made by a women. You know how many great genre films were ever made by women? Well, lessee, there was…oh, how about…no, that one was a genre film made by a woman, but it was rotten…hmmm…
Given enough time you’ll come up with something (Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker), but it isn’t really worth the effort. Too depressing.
Posted: January 15th, 2013
I waited to write about Django Unchained because I couldn’t figure out how to account for its maddening effects. But they’ve gotten more and more maddening over time, to the point that I found myself in a restaurant the other night ranting about the sheer horror of hearing Jim Croce’s soporific ‘70s soft-rock ballad “I Got a Name” scored over should-be-exhilarating shots of Django as a newly freed man riding a fine horse through a grand Western snow-scape.
Sorry, other patrons of the restaurant in question! But consider the provocation! “I Got a Name,” for the love of Christ, right there in the middle of my pre-Civil War slave-revenge epic that I’ve been waiting a year to see! “I Got a Name”! I mean, why not the mellow stylings of James Taylor while we’re at it? Maybe Django could sing “You Got a Friend” to his horse or something! My God! Has the whole world gone crazy?
So what the hell, after that there’s no point holding back.
Posted: January 6th, 2013
First things first: Roger Deakins is the god of cinematographers. As you know, he’s the Coen Brothers’ long-time DP—your cue to salute—and he’s on the job here in Skyfall, the latest Bond movie. Another Coen film crew member, Dennis Gassner—salute, goddammit!—is handling the production design. So the visuals oughta win Oscars, but they won’t.
Fuckin’ Deakins, that guy can shoot, man! You’ve gotta see the night sequence in Shanghai! Scary-tall skyscrapers with their huge panes of neon-reflecting glass, against which men with guns stalk around and lose themselves in patterns of swirling, shifting colored light. It’s so staggeringly beautiful, you think, “Huh, turns out modernity was worth it after all.”
Posted: November 11th, 2012
In this festive season of the year when cheery death-related imagery like skeletons and ghosts and zombies cluster all around us, it seems fitting that we celebrate someone who really liked death and tried his best to show us how terrific it is: horror film producer Val Lewton.
In his low-budget 1940s films such as Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Seventh Victim, and Isle of the Dead, Lewton and his tight-knit creative team generally aligned death with the most beautiful characters, the richest imagery, and the most soothingly lovely camera and editing rhythms. Oh to cast off the harsh noisy nonsense of life and sink into that silent, velvet blackness!
Posted: October 28th, 2012
Seven Psychopaths is one of those movies that’s too cute by half. If I hadn’t been so fried, I’d have paid more heed to the warning signs—the arch title, the “quirky” poster images, the fact that Tom Waits is in it—and given the whole thing a miss.
But you know how it is when you’ve been roughed up by life a lot lately, and you just want to forget it for two hours. You look for a convenient screening time and take your chances. (Shoulda gone for Taken 2!)
Posted: October 14th, 2012
As soon as The Master was released, every day it was, “Ja see it? Ja see it yet? Whadja think? Ya gotta go see it.” Nag, nag, nag.
So to give writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson credit, he’s got crass showmanship going for him. He can crank up the ballyhoo machine, and that’s not nothing in these dull times.
What with all the hue and cry, you find yourself hustling right off to see his latest extravaganza, and only then do you remember how much you hate that little flimflamming PTA fucker. He takes your money and gives you crap in exchange every time—magnificently shot crap festooned in Acting with a capital ACK.
And then, after the last time when you swore to yourself you’d never get taken in by any more of his milkshake cons—he does it again! PTA Barnum!
Posted: September 23rd, 2012
I was feeling pretty low, so I watched Takeshi Miike’s Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai. A movie about ritual self-disembowelment was a fitting end to the week I had. So I was more than happy to sit there drinking in the whole slow, stately, highly composed meditation on samurai codes punctuated with carefully placed scenes of bloody agonizing seppuku. In these troublous times, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Posted: September 3rd, 2012