Saturday, March 30, 2019


Koyannsqatsi: the natural world

Today's double feature starts with Godfrey Reggio's Koyannsqatsi. It is a film of images without narration, but with a constant score by Phillip Glass enhancing the images. It's about nothing and yet about everything. We see a lot of natural images...mountains, rivers and such. Then we see man made architecture, skyscrappers, demolition and such. We see a lot of human activity then...much of it speeded up. Director Reggio says the movie has different meanings to each viewer (even if you think it's crap-his words). It was a nice experience...I may want to check it out again...maybe after some fasting....or meditation...or peyote.

Koyannsqatsi:: man made demolition

 Archangel in the air

Just when I was lulled into a zen state with the non-narrative Koyannsqatsi, I was bombarded by more images from Guy Maddin's Archangel, a film about...what was it about again? This one I was supposed to draw something from the narrative...I know it showed some Canadian involvement in the Bolshevik revolution...World War I...bravery....flying...repeated images and a look that is very reminiscent of a silent movie..some pretty graphic gross out scenes. I admit I'm writing about this a few weeks after viewing and I'm having trouble remembering many plot details. I checked Wikipedia for the plot summary and there were apparently a lot of things that happened in Archangel that didn't stick with me. Meditation or fasting probably won't help with this one...maybe straight to the peyote.

Archangel on the ground

Monday, March 25, 2019


Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

A first time viewing for me of Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch made for an interesting double feature. I can see why Ritchie is referred to as kind of a British Tarantino, but he certainly has a style of his own-especially in plot. Both of these films deal with crime, gangsters and characters getting in over their head. The plots are multi-layered and you may need a score card to keep up with everyone, which Ritchie sort of  provides in the introduction of the players by splashing their names onto the screen in freeze frame at the start of the movie.

I wasn't really in the mood to watch a gangster movie (or two), but the playfulness and humor of these films won me over despite the sordid subject matter.

And I love the final scenes of both movies.

Jason Stratham and Vinnie Jones appear in both films.

Noteworthy performance in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking real life bouncer Lenny Mclean. The guy who plays Eddy the gambler's father also looks an awful lot like Sting.

One of my favorite characters in Snatch is Tyrone (played by Ade) as an overweight getaway driver.
Also of note is Brad Pitt as a gypsy fighter who no one can understand much of what he says.
And the crime boss played by Alan Ford's (Brick Top) sober description of how to feed a corpse to pigs is worth the price of admission.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019


The ultimate model for Harry Potter is "Tom Brown's School Days" by Thomas Hughes, published in 1857. The book depicts the Rugby School presided over by the formidable Thomas Arnold, remembered now primarily as the father of Matthew Arnold, the Victorian critic-poet. But Hughes' book, still quite readable, was realism, not fantasy. Rowling has taken "Tom Brown's School Days" and re-seen it in the magical mirror of Tolkein. The resultant blend of a schoolboy ethos with a liberation from the constraints of reality-testing may read oddly to me, but is exactly what millions of children and their parents desire and welcome at this time.-Harold Bloom, Yale

Harold Bloom's negative review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at least made me think of revisiting Tom Brown's School Days, a movie I haven't seen in decades. I'm talking of the 1940 version, though the book has been adapted to the screen and television several other times.

First the book-Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes came out in 1857 and depicted a fictional account of the author's days at a boys school in England. The book was very popular and helped to increase the sport of Rugby in jolly ole England. The sequel Tom Brown at Oxford was less influential. 
Tom Brown's School Days

The movie stars Jimmy Lydon as Tom, a new student to Rugby school who has trouble adapting, mostly thanks to hazing and bullying by some of the other students, especially the head bully named Flashman, who Tom eventually does stand up to. All seems well when Flashman is expelled, but when word gets out that Tom ratted out Flashman to the Headmaster (A false accusation) he is ostracized. Telling tales is something you don't do to a student no matter what! The school is looked over by the strict but revered Dr. Arnold (Cederick Hardwicke).

This brings us to a little book published in 1997 titled Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. I won't get into the unprecedented popularity of the books in this series and subsequent movies, but I did want to ask the question, "Is Harry Potter just Tom Brown with magic?" The answer is: not really, even though I call it that in front of my wife if I want to get her to roll her eyes at me.

Harry Potter is an orphan raised by the evil Dursley family. Tom Brown comes from a nice home.

Harry goes to Hogwarts school, which has a beloved headmaster named Dumbledore.
Tom has Dr. Arnold. Dr. Arnold does die at the end of the film, though not at the hands of an evil sorcerer.

Harry has a best friend named Ron. Tom has a best friend named East, who turns on Tom when he thinks he's a snitch.

Speaking of Snitch, Harry does have a Rugby/Cricket-like game called Quidditch. I did see a similarity there.

Hogwarts is of course co-ed, so there is no Hermione equivalent in Tom Brown's world.

The teachers at Hogwarts are very colorful characters. The teachers at Rugby are a bit stuffy, but they do provide some comical moments.

Hogwarts has a bully named Draco. Rugby has the bully named Flashman.

There doesn't seem to be the stigma at Hogwarts for "telling-tales" that Rugby has.

So despite some similarities, I have to disagree with the esteemed Mr. Bloom. There will always be some common threads in a similar setting, but Harry Potter is officially absolved (at least on this blog) of being Tom Brown with magic.

I did enjoy visiting both again, though I am more likely to revisit other Harry Potter movies than watch other versions of Tom Brown in the future.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I got to thinking about Harry Potter when I was at the place where you can't help but think of Harry Potter the most...And that is The Wizardy World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida. 

At Harry Potter World, you get to visit a recreation of Diagon Alley (the picture at the bottom) and ride a ride through the Gringott's bank with goblins included (below). You can drink the Butterbeer drink of your choosing and dine at the Three Broomsticks or The Leaky Cauldron. Don't forget about all the shops right out of the movie, such as Ollivander's Wand Shop the Weasley's Magic Store! And you'll certainly have fun on the Hogwarts Express or the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. And if you want to buy a Harry Potter robe or broomstick, there's plenty of places to get one. No, I didn't buy a Harry Potter robe, but it's nice to know I could if I wanted to. If you don't go there as a Harry Potter nerd, you may leave there as one. So watch yourself!

I hear a new Hagrid ride will be opening soon. I may have to go back!

Gringott's Bank at Universal Studios, Orlando

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, Orlando

Friday, March 15, 2019


Melvin Van Peebles in
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Sweet Sweetback is Melvin Van Peebles' 70's indie film that is credited with being one of the first films of the 70's to show that a film starring and made by a black person could have crossover appeal. This is an interesting concept to keep in mind when watching it, because it is anything but commercial or sanitized! There is sex and violence and a lot of unpleasantness throughout. But wasn't that what 70's cinema was in general? It showed us something different on the screen that we had never seen before. Sweet Sweetback is indeed a badass and he's coming back and takin' names!

Most of the blackploitation movies of the 70's which Sweet Sweetback paved the way for were much more mass audience least by comparison. I am going to be catching up with some of these on upcoming blog posts.

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company
(and Enjoy It)

I was curious enough about Van Peebles to watch the documentary How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company(and Enjoy It) . A most interesting life Melvin has led. Soldier, novelist, maker of short French films, landmark filmmaker in America, musician, and Wall Street the guy never ceases to have scores of girlfriends even into his 80's!

I first saw Van Peebles' Watermelon Man (1970)  on television when I was in High School. It is about a bigoted white man who turns black one morning and has to deal with the consequences. I wanted to find a copy of it, but it seems a little hard to find these days. That's a shame, because I remember it as being quite funny and with a serious and highly effective final shot. I'll keep looking.

(and Enjoy It)

Sunday, March 10, 2019


The Saragossa Manuscript

WWJD? What would Jerry do? 

I was struck by the fact that the epic three hour Polish film The Saragossa Manuscript has been sited (even on the DVD label) as being Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia's favorite movie. So what is it about this film that appeals to Jerry? One thing must be that this is not your typical epic. The film begins with a soldier finding of copy of the titular manuscript. We then go through a series of stories that are linked together...well, some aren't linked that much, but most are. We see tales of royalty, bravery, chivalry, comedy and attractive women. It's one of the most layered films you'd ever want to see. Peel it apart like an onion if you dare. Jerry did. And isn't that the important thing?

Jerry apparently had his own copy of the film which he used for private screenings during the time when the movie wasn't that accessible. Only during the 90's has the entire three-hour version of film become available, thanks to the restoration efforts of Martin Scorsese (of course), Francis Ford Coppola and Jerry.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

It made me wonder what other films influenced Mr. Garcia. I found a surprising answer in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Now I grew up watching Abbott and Costello and Universal Horror movies and this one was a favorite of mine as well. Watching it again, it is pretty silly, with Costello being chased around by Dracula (Bela Lugosi returning to the role), the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff had long had enough of the role) and the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr. of course). Grouchy Abbott never believes that Costello is seeing all these monsters, but Lou turns out to be right in the end. It's still fun to watch and I definitely admit to having a sentimental attachment to this one.

But what WWJD? Here are some Jerry Garcia quotes about Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein:

For me, this movie began my fascination with movies.

It frightened me to where I wouldn’t actually look at it.

Comedy works in disarming powerful adversaries.

I have a general fascination with the bizarre that comes directly from that movie.

Jerry also mentioned his fascination with the re-animation aspect of the movie. Part of this stemmed from the fact that young Jerry had lost his father shortly before he saw it.

Rest in Peace, Jerry

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant
Just let me say that the films of Rainer Warner Fassbinder are challenging to watch. 

The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant features a successful fashion designer (Petra) who becomes involved in an obsessive relationship with a younger woman named Karin. The romance between between the two quickly becomes one-sided and much of the second half of the movie features Petra's anguish at the end of this relationship. But all of Petra's relationships are difficult or strange. Her live-in maid Marlene, who almost never speaks, is treated by Petra like a slave. Petra's relationship with her teenage daughter (who she rarely sees) is extremely contentious. She also has a breakdown in front of other members of her family.

The movie is very dialogue heavy, as it is based on Fassbinder's play of the same name. It's bizarre at times to look at with Petra's constant changing of clothes (and wigs) as well as the nude wallpaper lining her wall. I love the final scene when Petra finally tries to relate to Marlene, but Marlene responds by slowly packing her things to leave.

Fassbinder  in Fox and His Friends
Fox and His Friends is a movie about class. Fox (played by Fassbinder) is a working class gay man who works in a carnival and never has any money. That is until he wins the lottery. He then becomes involved with an upper class businessman named Eugin. Their relationship is complex. Eugin wouldn't be interested in the working class Fox if not for his newly found wealth. However, it doesn't seem cut and dried in that Eugin is overtly using him, but their romance is obviously going to be doomed when Fox inevitably loses his money.

It also interesting that this film is a study in class and not about homosexuality. The families of Fox and Eugin don't seem to give a second thought to the fact that they are in a openly gay relationship (Remember, this is 1975) but the class differences between upper class Eugin and the hard-edged and unrefined Fox seems to be emphasized in every scene. The ending of this film is also effective (and depressing) with Fox lying dead of an overdose in the subway and schoolboys stealing his valuables. When people Fox is acquainted with come across his dead body, they flee to avoid getting involved.

The ending of Fox and His Friends is especially prescient in that it foreshadows Fassbinder's own death from an overdose in 1982.

Friday, March 1, 2019



The Pianist surveys the devastation

The Pianist is the story of Szpilman, a Jewish pianist in Poland and his struggle to survive during the Holocaust. It was a hard film for me to ever get motivated to watch (This is a first viewing) but a hard film to take my eyes away from once I did. Every struggle, including watching his family go to a concentration camp, his having to perform slave labor and his final connection with a German officer who helps him are detailed and emotional to sit through. Szpilman's playing of Chopin for the German officer is probably my favorite moment from the film. Adrien Brody won an Oscar for his portrayal, as did director Roman Polanski.

Michael Moore takes some shooting survivors to Kmart
in Bowling for Columbine

I like Michael Moore, He's a passionate guy and has plenty of fans and seemingly just as many detractors. Bowling for Columbine was his documentary about gun control after the Columbine shooting in 1999. Moore tries to figure out through his interviews why the United States seems so obsessed with guns and why we feel the need to use them on each other so often. Moore's taking some of the shooting survivors to Kmart to have them seek a refund for the bullets lodged in them was brutal but effective. His interview with a clearly sickly Charlton Heston doesn't come off so well.
Despite the subject matter, the film does display Moore's trademark sense of humor and his editing is always creative. His interview with Marilyn Manson is also a rather surprising highlight of the film.

Here are some other movies released in 2002 that I have seen that didn't make the 1001 movie cut.

About Schmidt
I like this film with Jack Nicholson as a widowed everyman trying to find himself. And who wouldn't want to get into a hot tub with Kathy Bates?
About Schmidt

I thought this Clint Eastwood crime procedural was a bit by the numbers from what I remember.

Two Weeks Notice
Is it still okay to call a movie a chick flick? And why does everything Hugh Grant says seem so damn witty?
Two Weeks Notice

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Is it really still okay to call a movie a chick flick? It did have funny moments from what I remember and it did have Ashley Judd.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

High Crimes
Speaking of Ashley Judd...It's official that I admit to getting all these Morgan Freeman/Ashley Judd movies mixed up now! And Freeman isn't even Alex Cross this time!
 High Crimes

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second of the Harry Potter films and the last one my wife says has the "real" Dumbledore (Richard Harris). Can I get at least a little love for Michael Gambon?
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Infernal Affairs
Comparing Infernal Affairs to The Departed (Which was a remake of Infernal Affairs)
I watched these films back to back and it is interesting to notice the differences. The Departed is about an hour longer than Infernal Affairs, so it does have more time to flesh out the characters. Infernal Affairs doesn't go into nearly the details of the origin story and practically avoids the romantic sub-plot we see in The Departed all together. But it is interesting to compare the scenes taken from the original and placed in the Scorsese film: two hoods talking about how to spot a cop, a sting that goes wrong because of the mole warning the crime boss ahead of time, confessions to the lady psychiatrist and both the rooftop scenes. There also is no real equivalent of Mark Wahlberg's Dingham character in Infernal Affairs.
Infernal Affairs

Lilo and Stitch
Disney film that did have a most original not-so-cuddly alien creature in Stitch.
Lilo and Stitch
Minority Report
Top-notch futuristic thriller from Steven Spielberg. 
Minority Report
Panic Room
We all need a panic room sometimes.
Panic Room
Pokémon 4Ever
I love my son. The fact that I took him to see all these Pokemon movies proves this.
Pokémon 4Ever

Punch-Druck Love
It is funny that whenever Adam Sandler tries to make a good movie, it doesn't do too well with audiences.
Punch-Druck Love

Red Dragon
Manhunter or Red Dragon? I still think I'd go with Manhunter.
Red Dragon 2002

Manhunter 1986
The Ring
The Ring or Ringu? I still think I'd go with Ringu.
The Ring 2002

Ringu 1998

The Time Machine
The Time Machine (1960) or The Time Machine (2002). I still think I'd go with 1960.
The Time Machine 2002

The Time Machine 1960

Road to Perdition
Excellent prohibition crime drama.

Road to Perdition

Scooby Doo
Did we really need a live action Scooby Doo? I guess if you're just dying to know what would Freddie Prinze Jr.'s interpretation of Fred be like, I guess.
Scooby Doo
Kinky and weird...I'm still not sure if this is compelling or just an exploitative mess.
I like M. Night Shyamalan films for the most part, though people seem to want to rag on them.

I also like the Spidey movies with Tobey Maguire. I haven't seen any Spider-Man movie since 
Spider-Man 3

Springtime in a Small Town
A remake of the Chinese classic
Springtime in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town

Star Trek: Nemesis
I am a fan of The Next Generation, but I think we all needed a break from the franchise after this one.
Star Trek: Nemesis

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
I am a fan of Star Wars, but I think we all needed a break from the franchise after this one...but I guess they had one more to go before closing shop for awhile. I like the recent Star Wars movies much more than these prequels, if that isn't stating the obvious too much.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Tuck Everlasting
Popular book. Took the kids to see this. I'll get back to you on what the plot was again.
Tuck Everlasting

The Wild Thornberrys Movie
Yes, they really made a movie about the Nicktoons series. Apparently, it did well., so I shouldn't scoff.
The Wild Thornberrys Movie

And Robin Williams 2.002
Robin Williams and Al Pacino
in Insomnia

Insomnia was a film first made in Norway in 1997. This Christopher Nolan remake\features Al Pacino (Dormer) as an LA cop in Alaska seeking a killer. He encounters several problems in Alaska: he becomes aware of an investigation against him, he can't get any sleep and he accidentally shoots his partner. It's a really great role for Pacino, but what about his target? Robin Williams (Walter Finch) plays the killer here. A writer-a complex, emotional guy who always seems to be a step ahead of Dormer, even after he is discovered. You see, Walter knows about Dormer shooting his partner.

I always liked when Robin tried to do different things and get out of his manic comedic pigeon hole. He is effective here and a good contrast to Pacino. But he had one other role from this year that got him out of this pigeon hole even further.

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo

I think Robin Williams is good in Insomnia, but I could still never quite get out of my head that that guy on the screen is Robin Williams. In Robin's other 2002 film, One Hour Photo, I only see him as Sy, the troubled photo technician.

In this film, Robin not only doesn't look anything like we're used to him looking, but his manner is understated and totally different from anything else I can remember seeing him in. Sy is overly anal about everything going perfect at his job at the photo lab. He also becomes attached to a family that brings their photos for developing on a regular basis. Why Sy is the way he is and why he becomes obsessed with this family is something we find out as we go along. I think it's a great performance which is at times heartbreaking.
If you are a Williams fan (I am) and may have skipped seeing One Hour Photo before (I did). I recommend it highly.

The recent biography of Robin Williams by Dave Itzkoff is also recommended for a take on this uniquely talented but troubled soul.