Dante Park

I was setting up at Lincoln Center (after midnight) and got booted so I took these shots across the street at the small park across the street. This was a couple weeks ago before the spring leaves came in.

Yesterday, I watched the movie, Fair Game, which is a not very fictionalized account of the Valerie Plame affair. I’m both amused and disgusted with reviews in various places that say the movie is complete fiction and the reviewers trot out all the fake GOP talking points (i.e., Plame was a CIA secretary) and rant about how anything with Sean Penn isn’t worth watching because he is obviously a communist.

Anyway, Ms. Plame in the DVD commentary says at one point: “Look at that! Great shot. Whole lotta nothin.'” She’s talking about a desert shot in the film but for a second, I felt a little vindicated in my aesthetic.

Teenage Wasteland

Over the Edge (1979), Matt Dillon, etc

I’m not sure how I didn’t get around to seeing Over the Edge until now. (Holy crap, the whole movie is posted on Youtube in 10 parts!) I was totally in this movie’s target demographic at the time it was made. My family Christmas card in 1977 shows me wearing a Yes belt buckle just like the lead’s Boston belt buckle. I was angry, I hated the ‘burbs, and I was making the transition from Yes, Neil Young, Heart, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Aerosmith to The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and X. Even though the film got bad distribution (fear of teen violence), I understand it was an HBO staple through the late 80s and 90s. Hm, I still don’t have cable.

Matt Dillon was incredibly lucky to be plucked out of high school for this, his first movie. I never took him seriously as an actor until Factotum, because he pretty much plays himself (or else his personal meld of Rocky Balboa and The Fonz as the filmmakers put it). While he doesn’t actually say the line, “I’m Richie White — I’m on probation” has always been Dillon’s core film persona. The other one is the Drugstore Cowboy/barfly which isn’t that different.
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Let’s Watch a Movie

I rewatched the movie Them! which I probably haven’t seen since I was a kid. For a 50s B-sci-fi flick, Them! rocks! Some cliches of Hollywood and lessons in fear-mongering, sexism, and racism were de rigueur. In this first set, the aged scientist schools the Washington idiots on how it’s going down. More pix after the jump.

Them! watching a movie

Them! watching a movie

Them! watching a movie

Continue reading “Let’s Watch a Movie”

Does the Movie Still Roll When No One Is There?

84th St. Loews empty

84th St. Loews empty

I saw Avatar with maybe nine other people in the theater which is not a big deal. Lots of movies screen all the time in big theaters for a few of us. I enjoyed it but have some misgivings which I’m sure have been talked about in one review or another. I was disturbed by the premise that the we were there in the first place to steal and ended up fighting ourselves because a renegade had a conscience. What if a soldier in the Iraq War had fallen in love with an Iraqi woman, and decided he’s sick of bombing and fighting for oil, and turned on his officers? An occupying army sets up all kinds of conflict and storytelling but the idea of an occupying army is wrong. As Howard Zinn noted, all war is against children.

Another thing that bothered me is the coming onslaught of 3D crap to our movie theaters. Most of these movies will be more Manichean fantasies with good and evil prototypes who duke it out. 99.9% of the time, the good side wins. If they don’t, definitely catch the sequel. Life isn’t so simple and these movies are so far from reality, they may as well sell you the hibernation pod that goes with the movie at the theater. Obviously, the killer app for 3D technology is porn which will be in your home theater very soon. The movie studios should keep trying to change the world, not enable us to continually escape from it.

Ghost Boast: I took the photos during the boring parts of Avatar. 15 second exposures.

Two Good Documentaries

Hulu has two free documentaries which are necessary viewing whether you’re conservative, liberal, radical, communist, or an independent weirdo.

  • The Corporation – The beginning of “too big to fail” which is anathema to capitalism. It starts out sounding heavily left and critical but gives a fairly balanced view. The film was made by Canadians.
  • Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky’s voice is usually censored from mainstream media which is anathema to free speech. Interestingly, also largely made by Canadians.

You have to put up with ads but that’s free TV. Feel free to discuss anything in these documentaries here or on hulu.

50 Ghosts Glowing

fountain outside zeigfeld theater

That last photo I posted was surreally bad. I recently saw the movie 50 Dead Men Walking. It’s about Ireland in the late 80s and has a really likable Irish bloke getting recruited by both the IRA and British Intelligence at the same time. The documentary-style cinematography was similar to that used in The Hurt Locker and the main message of both movies is that war is really fucked up. Given that they’re both stories about people who are on one side of a conflict, the other side will get short shrift. People who criticize these movies for being unbalanced miss the point. The first casualty in war is the truth (which is fixed around the policy).

Much Worse Today

Central Park South, 7th Ave, NYC

I either have the swine flu or a very severe sinus infection. I tried some cold pills that expired in 2006. Was that the last time I felt this bad? They didn’t work. I went out and bought some fresh generic ones and those aren’t working either. At leastThe Hurt Locker came in from Netflix. Oh goody, two hours of defusing bombs. Seriously, I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve sort of had Kathryn Bigelow in the corner of my eye since she directed a little 1987 vampire movie called Near Dark.

The One-Legged Cat

one-legged cat from The Brothers Bloom

one-legged cat from The Brothers Bloom

Sometimes I’m really dumb but I didn’t get this joke at first. It’s the punchline following Stephen’s declaration that they’ve hit a “one-hat town.” When I first saw it, I thought, “… but it’s a kitten! Poor kitty!” and then I thought “This is going to be an irreverent film,” and then I got the joke. From The Brothers Bloom which I thoroughly enjoyed. (4 stars)

I also saw this film and then I noticed there was no wikipedia entry for it so I wrote one — My contribution since I can’t afford to donate a lot. If you use wikipedia, please donate!

Five Star Movies on DVD

When I watch a string of really good movies in a row, sometimes I have to catch my breath. In no order, here are a few I rewatched and a couple new ones.

Gandhi, film still
Ben Kingsley really is astonishing in this. “He showed the world a way out of its madness and we don’t see it. And neither does he.” After discussing this movie with a friend I assumed to be firmly in the capitalist camp, she pointed me to a book called “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” by Walter Rodney which is posted in its entirety on a certain leftist site. Her point was that England trumped Gandhi and Nehru and purposely divided India setting Muslim against Hindu. Europe played the same game in Africa following colonialization.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Andie McDowall, James Spader
This film is really just navigating the minefield of honesty in relationships. James Spader gives everyone iced tea. Launching the career of Steven Soderbergh, he later went on to write and direct another of my low budget independent favorites, The Limey.

Wings of Desire
Wings of Desire, Solveig Dommartin
Angels are among us. I was shocked to learn that Solveig Dommartin pictured here died in 2007 at the age of 45 from a heart attack. She did all her own trapeze stunts in the film and we learn in the commentary that she was offered a few circus contracts following the release of this movie. Peter Falk sort of plays himself here and I also rewatched some episodes of Columbo on Netflix which is hit-and-miss. We find Steven Spielberg directed one of the first ones and it’s not that great. However, Columbo the character, is always colossal. It’s sad we never meet his wife.

Kontroll, Hungarian film
This is a wonderful low-budget first feature shot completely in the Hungarian subway system in Budapest with a plot not unlike Fight Club. Amusingly, the film is introduced by the Hungarian transportation director, paraphrasing, “If you really think there are people like this employed by Hungarian Public Transport, get a life.” I especially liked the girl in the pink bear costume.

Romulus, My Father
Romulus, My Father
This is based on a memoir by Australia’s eminent scholar and writer, Raimond Gaita. Eric Bana, who plays the lead, also played the lead in another great Aussie biopic called Chopper.

When I was a kid, I used to climb on the roof of our house. The view was spectacular and I probably loosened some of the spanish tile. I would also wonder when life was going to get better. Of course, it eventually did.

Another Night Owl

still from Spirit of the Beehive

I watched a slow Spanish movie from 1973 called Spirit of the Beehive. With notes of Antonioni and shot toward the end of Franco’s reign, it’s a meditative allegorical film eliciting all sorts of feelings about growing up in a repressive, spiritually dead environment. The lead, Ana Torrent, is still acting in movies today. The director, Victor Erice, has only made three feature-length movies in his career. I reckon he stares out the window a lot these days.

still from Spirit of the Beehive