Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 5

Last night (Tuesday) was a night of African-American films at Noir City, or Noir Noir night.

NATIVE SON (1951): First up was this enormously significant cultural artifact, based on the groundbreaking novel by Richard Wright, who also stars as the main character Bigger Thomas. Eddie Muller actually started his introduction by showing a brief film clip of prominent African Americans talking about the significance of Wright's novel (which, I confess, I had never heard of before.) He then told the story of how hard it was to get this novel to the screen. Knowing Hollywood would cut it up and destroy it, Wright collaborated with director Pierre Chenal to make the movie in Argentina (with Buenos Aires filling in for the streets of Chicago, although there are some inserts of the Chicago skyline shot on the sly to establish location.) He also explained how they were on a tight schedule when their intended leading man Canada Lee dropped out (citing that he was too old--in his 40's--to play the 25 year old Bigger Thomas.) So Wright stepped in at the last minute, despite trepidation that he wasn't an actor. Yeah, he's not an actor, but honestly his acting wasn't the least polished aspect of the movie. It was a movie made with heart and determination, if not a lot of talent. Bigger gets a job driving for a wealthy white man. His first night on the job, he's supposed to take the daughter to college, but instead she insists on picking up a friend and going out drinking. They're both young, liberal (communist), enlightened kids who will solve racism all by themselves. Their naivety--that they'll fix centuries of evil by taking their new black friend (not that he had any choice whether or not to be their friend) drinking--is downright cringe-inducing. But it gets worse, When Bigger takes the girl home, while trying to keep her quiet he accidentally smothers her. And then, fearing the worst, he disposes of her body int he furnace. And things just get worse and worse and worse for him. It's really a powerful story--it has to be to make you sympathize with a [SPOILER!] multiple murderer. And although there's no doubt it's Noir, there's also an important distinction to an African-American story. In most Noir, there's a moment (often several) when the doomed hero could have chosen to do the right thing and everything would have turned out better (if not all right, at least better.) In this case, although there were several chances to do the right thing, I never got the sense that things would have been better. The fact is, the moment the girl decided to be stupid and drunk around a black man, he was as good as dead.

INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949): And then the second half of the double bill was this story written by William Faulkner. And before the film, we were treated to a surprise introduction by the film's young star Claude Jarman, Jr. (not quite so young anymore, but still still plenty energetic.) He plays young Chick Mallison, and as the movie opens he witnesses his old, black friend Lucas Beauchamp (Juano Hernandez, who is simply brilliant in the film) being hauled off to jail for murder. Seems he was caught with a smoking gun standing over the corpse of a white man who had been shot in the back. So he asks Chick to go and ask his uncle John (David Brian) to defend him. And he promptly refuses to take the case. But Chick investigates on his own, and with the help of the heroic old Miss Eunice Habersham (Elizabeth Patterson) they...well, I don't want to a spoil it. A crackin' good tale, with some splendid acting and more than its fair share of (well-deserved) moralizing.

Total Running Time: 191 minutes
My Total Minutes: 312,290

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 4

Last night (Monday) was a triple-bill of "pre-code" films. A funny thought, I was talking to a friend last night and noted that there were certainly some very nice, wholesome films before the Hays code was implemented. But "pre-code" obviously contains the promise that these were films that spurred the creation of a production code. I.e., these were nasty little films that had to be stamped out. Thankfully, they survived.

Also, since this was a time capsule of Prohibition days, we were treated in the mezzanine to free Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA. So my memory of the films might be a little clouded.

A HOUSE DIVIDED (1931): Directed by William Wyler. First up, a story of a gruff widower fisherman (Walter Huston,) his overly sensitive son (Douglas Montgomery,) and his mail-order bride (Helen Chandler.) She's the father's mail-order bride, although there's some confusion at first. See, he had his son write the letter, and when she arrives she thinks she's to be married to the son. And she clearly likes that idea better than marrying the father. In fact, she'd rather go back to Montana than marry him. But the wedding goes forward anyway, and soon enough the tension pits father against son. I kind of nodded off during the climax, but I heard it was pretty intense.

THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR (1933): Directed by the incomparable James Whale (FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN) and featuring a brief semi-nude scene (nothing that would make modern audiences blink, but scandalous at the time) of a young Gloria Stuart (yes, the Gloria Stuart of TITANIC fame.) She is caught cheating on her husband Walter (Paul Lukas) and shot dead in the opening scenes. The rest of the movie is a courtroom drama in which Walter's best friend and brilliant lawyer Paul Held (Frank Morgan) defends him, and in the process comes to realize his own wife Maria (Nancy Carroll) is cheating on him in almost exactly the same way. But while Walter acted in the passion of the moment, Paul is a cold, calculating lawyer. So he plans his revenge carefully, and in conjunction with Walter's defense. A great drama full of James Whale's unique brand of dark comic playfulness.

LAUGHTER IN HELL (1933): Long thought to be a lost film, this was actually always in Universal's vault (all films of the night were Universal, produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr. And kudos to Universal for "doing it right" not just in terms of archiving and preserving their films, but for letting their film prints be seen.) It's the story of Barney Slaney (Pat O'brien) and his lifelong feud with the Perkins boys--Ed (Douglas Dumbrille) and Grover (Arthur Vinton.) In fact, it goes all the way back to their childhood when they tormented him as he learned about his mother's death (those Perkins boys are downright assholes.) And it continues into adulthood when he wins the hand of beautiful Marybelle (Merna Kennedy) but Grover moves in on her while he's away (he's a train engineer.) A bit of murder in the heat of passion, and Barney is sentenced to life on the chain gang--a chain gang run by none other than Ed Perkins. There's a rather abrupt ending, and I don't really want to give spoilers, but I do want to point out that Gloria Stuart shows up again in this movie. And while in the last movie she was murdered by her husband, this time she ends up with the man who had previously murdered his wife. Weird coincidence!

Total Running Time: 207 minutes
My Total Minutes: 312,099

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jason goes to NOIR CITY--Day 3

Last Sunday night (actually, all day, but I saw the evening show because I was volunteering at Niles during the day) was a double feature of Hollywood Noir. Starting with an absolute classic...

SUNSET BLVD. (1950): If we want to get really technical, the title of the film is revealed in the opening shot of the curb showing the street name. Since the street name is abbreviated on the curb, the correct title is SUNSET BLVD. (the abbreviation and the period are part of the title.)

But I digress. The important thing is this is an absolutely brilliant movie. I had seen it a couple of times before, but only on home video. Not only was this the first time I've seen it on the big screen, it's the first time I've seen it since becoming a silent film fan and knowing at least something of Gloria Swanson's silent film career. And it turns out that knowing Swanson's silent film kinda cool, but not necessary. In fact, Norma Desmond is such an over-the-top character that Swanson disappears in the role. Yes, it's cool to see Swanson's actual publicity pictures populate the house as old photos of Norma Desmond. What's cooler is immediately recognizing her butler Max is Erich Von Stronheim, who actually did direct Swanson. It's cool to know when she's doing a Chaplin impersonation she's not just impersonating that famous little tramp we've all seen on stage, she's impersonating a personal friend and colleague (Chaplin actually auditioned--and rejected--her for a role in his first Essanay short HIS NEW JOB (1915), but she shows up in a minor role anyway.) It's cool that when she talks about a friend who was a stunt double for Pearl White, I know that Pearl White was the star of the PERILS OF PAULINE serials. And it was especially cool to see it all with an audience that (for the most part) knew all that as well. My favorite moment was when Buster Keaton appears on screen for just a few seconds (as one of her old friends who comes by to play bridge. He has exactly two line--"Pass." and "Pass." Of course, he never smiles.) The audiences sighed (knowing his sad decline after his heyday) and then burst into applause. Eddie Muller said after the movie that both films of the night might have gotten their best screenings ever, and I might just have to agree.

On a side note, this was the premiere (well, actually the second public screening, the 3:00 show was the premiere) of the brand new 4K digital restoration of the film, and it looked absolutely fantastic. I know plenty of film purists who would have paroxysms over the idea of such a classic film being shown digitally. And believe me, I've seen plenty of crummy looking digital projections. But this was amazing. I know I was watching digital, but several times I caught myself marveling at the visible grain of the film. I'm sure people with more fine-tuned eyes can still insist that film is "warmer" or "richer" or "lusher." For me, the only difference was that there weren't any scratches, dirt, or other minor film artifacts. I think it's time to stop just talking about "film vs. digital" and start talking about "good film vs. bad (damaged, etc.) film vs. good digital vs. bad (low-res, poorly projected, etc.) digital." There's no doubt in my mind I would've rather seen this good (great...excellent...practically perfect) digital projection than a bad film projection.

You might have noticed I haven't given a synopsis of the film at all. That's intentional. You shouldn't read about it, you should just go see.

Then the second film of the night was a wonderfully weird supernatural thriller REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947): Just before midnight on New Year's Eve of 1946 (about to start 1947) Sheila Page (Joan Leslie) shoots her husband Barney (Louis Hayward) dead. The reasons aren't explained (although they become clear soon enough) but she freaks out, runs away, and goes to find her producer (she's a Broadway star) John Friday (Tom Conway.) On her way, she makes a wish just at the stroke of midnight that she could go back and live the last year differently. And her wish comes true, but the time she gets to Friday's door it's New Year's Eve of 1945/46. And so begins a very noir-ish year with Fate as the heavy. A love triangle, some manipulative bitches, a drunk husband, and an awesome twist ending. Loved it.

Total Running Time: 201 minutes
My Total Minutes: 311,892

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 2

I missed opening night, because I was on a work trip. So I missed meeting Peggy Cummins. But I was back and ready to rock on Saturday, starting with a double-feature of Peggy Cummins in not-exactly-noir-but-certainly-noirish movies.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957): A supernatural thriller from England, where a cult of demon-worshipers is causing quite a fuss. American paranormal psychiatrist Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) travels to England to chair a scientific conference primarily focused on debunking of the demon cult. On the flight, he meets (and does not get along with) Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins) who is going there because her father was the latest victim of the demon cult. Great atmosphere, great acting, cool story with a great ending. Kind of ruined by a really cheesy looking monster, which was added later against the director's (Jacques Tourneur's) wishes. It's not just that the monster was cheesy (the special effects are actually pretty okay for 1957), it's that the whole style was built around suspense and suggestion. Showing the monster throws suggestion out the window and ends up feeling like a cheap cop-out. But the rest of it was pretty awesome.

HELL DRIVERS (1957): A film that epitomizes grittiness. In fact, it's all about hauling gravel. Ex-con Tom (Stanley Baker) shows up looking for work at a trucking company. He quickly learns that the fellow truckers are a rowdy lot, led by Red (Patrick McGoohan.) His only friend is Gino (Herbert Lom), an Italian ex-pat who is working to make enough money to return to Italy with his girl--the company secretary Lucy (Peggy Cummins)--and start a family (whether she really wants to or not.) Well, Tom has some trouble fitting in, and it only gets worse he ends up labelled as "yellow" rather than getting involved in a massive brawl (that could have blown his cover and sent him back to jail.) So his only hope is to out-drive Red, expose the company's corruption, and win the girl. This was directed by Cy Enfield, who was an uncredited screenwriter on NIGHT OF THE DEMON and also directed the next movie TRY AND GET ME!, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The important thing to know is that he was blacklisted (his leftist politics are clearly on display here) and so had to ply his trade as an American ex-pat in England.

Then I had a long break. I went barhopping with my friend. Had a drink. Had dinner (and a couple of drinks) had a couple of after-dinner drinks, and was back and ready for the evening double-feature.

TRY AND GET ME! (aka SOUND OF FURY) (1951): The second of 4 films (so far) made about the Brooke Hart kidnapping and murder case (which happened right here in San Jose some 80 years ago--in the movie the town is changed to Santa Sierra.)  Howard Taylor (Frank Lovejoy) is a family man just trying to make a living. He falls in with Jerry Slocumb (a young Lloyd Bridges), who offers him more money than he can resist just to be a driver. A getaway driver, to be precise. They knock over a few gas stations, etc. Then they go after the big score--kidnapping and ransom. But it goes bad when Jerry kills the kidnappee and dumps him in the bay. Enter the newspaper element, as Gil Stanton (Richard Carlson) sensationalizes the whole thing. His friend, the scientist Dr. Simone (Renzo Cesana) warns him of inflaming public emotion, when reason is what should be used to treat the sickness of violence. That's right, this film is so freakin' cynical a physicist is the voice of conscience! There's nothing I can add to that. Perhaps the '50s were just a different time, when physicist's were seen as a paragon of virtue.

THE HOODLUM (1951): And finally, the endlessly bleak (and mercifully short) story of Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney, aka The Meanest Man in Movies, aka The Noir Monster.) In and out of jails for his whole young-adulthood, he's out once more on the the pleadings of his mother (Lisa Golm) to the parole board. Needing a job, he sets to work at his brother Johnny's (Edward Tierney, Lawrence's actual brother) gas station. And he immediately starts working on a new caper on the bank across the street. And he starts working on his brother's girl, Rosa (Allene Roberts.) He's basically not a nice guy. Not a redeeming characteristic in him anywhere. You know, a real noir guy.

And that was it for the day. Damn, it's good to be back in Noir City!

Total Running Time: 348
My Total Minutes: 311,691

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night and Watches SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine describes the treatment of Clostridium difficile via fecal transplant (MSNBC article for the layperson.) The next step in the research is replacing donor feces with ground up DVD's of SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, on the hypothesis that they're basically the same thing.

Okay, that's not actually true, but if you do come across a DVD of this movie, I advise you go ahead and shove it up your ass. Under no circumstances should you let it get anywhere near a DVD player. I am not a doctor, but I do work in the medical field, so I know something of what I'm talking about.

Charlize Theron plays a queen who is so evil, she's made entirely out of crows. No kidding, multiple times she bursts into a murder of crows (did you know the word for multiple crows is a "murder?"), flies away, and then reassembles as some sort of crow-Voltron.

The queen destroys all nature. Except, I guess, crows. I guess they're not part of nature because they're black (shit, this movie is more racist But the nature she destroyed is full of creepy trees made of snakes, turtles covered in moss, and fairies that jump out of birds' chests. This did not fill me with whimsy, unless whimsy takes the form of screaming, "Aaaaagh! Kill it! Kill it with fire!" I guess the queen is supposed to be evil because she killed it with magic instead. Or is she evil because she didn't kill all of it?

Snow White is locked in the tower for her entire childhood, where the queen could kill her whenever she wanted. Instead she waits for Snow White to escape.

The magic "mirror" looks like a giant gong, and is not that reflective. It sucks as a mirror, and is not actually hung on the wall. Are they just trolling us at this point?

The huntsman is played by Thor. He was cast so that when he picks up an axe we could make jokes about his Thorax. That got old way too fast.

The dwarves are played by full-size actors either cropped or CGI'd to look small. Bob Hoskins is their leader, and he always looks really sad. I'm not sure if his character is supposed to be sad, or if he's just sad that he's in this movie.

Incidentally, one dwarf dies in battle, but in the final scene there are still seven dwarves. I don't know (or care) if there were originally eight or if Snow White brings him back to life with magic (apparently she has the magic of prettiness that can reverse all the queen's evil. Maybe that includes being shot through by an arrow.)

Snow White is played by Kirsten Stewart. I know it's "fashionable" to make fun of her blank, expressionless face. Wait, did I say "fashionable?" I meant to say "absolutely spot on accurate." I cannot tell from her face whether she's sad, orgasmic, or comatose.

Speaking of comatose, she briefly falls into a coma when she bites the poisoned apple. If she'd taken my advice and shoved it up her hoo-ha and shot it across the forest to the delight of the dwarves, huntsman, and gathered freak-animals she would've been fine. Call me a pervert, but who's got the survival skills here?

I think that's a good note to end on.

Running Time: 127 minutes
My Total Minutes: 311,153

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jason watches THE IMPOSSIBLE

Although technically, if it's based on true events (and the opening text lets those two words hang on the screen long enough to make sure you really, really get it) doesn't that make it THE INCREDIBLY IMPROBABLE?

I'm just relieved they made the story about the 2004 tsunami that his Southeast Asia all about white people, so I could watch characters I could care about.

In all seriousness, it was absolutely well made. Tears were jerked, heartstrings were pulled, and the human spirit was once again proven indomitable. But here's the thing, what about all the other victims, who didn't get miraculous reunions? And I don't mean that lightly, the film itself shows a lot of that. They meet several people who are looking for their loved ones, and take lists of names to search for. At one point the eldest son is running through a hospital trying to reunite whomever he can find. In the final scenes, the have several meaningful looks at suffering, lonely victims. The father looks at a piece of paper someone gave him with the names of people to look for. And then...they board a plane to Singapore where the mom will get better medical treatment before they all head home. It was all set up for someone to stand up and say, 'Wait! I want to stay and help other people find their loved ones!' But nobody does...and that makes them seem kind of selfish.

Look, I know this is based on true events so I assume that's how it happened in real life. And I'm pretty darn sure in such a situation I would just want to get the hell out of there. So I'm certainly not criticizing the actual family for not staying and helping out. But I am criticizing the movie for making me feel they should, and then not following through.

Running Time: 114 minutes
My Total Minutes: 311,026

Jason watches ZERO DARK THIRTY

I think it's fair to say that everyone who sees this movie will go in with some knowledge and some opinions on the events depicted. Nobody is truly neutral about the war on terror. You might believe torture is never justified. You might believe torture can, in some instances, be justified if it saves more lives. Or you might believe "true" torture is never justified, but nothing we've done in the name of the War on Terror rises to the level of torture. For that matter, you can have opinions about whether the ultimately successful hunt for UBL was a good use of resources or whether the CIA could have better used its resources tracking more active terrorists and thwarted other terrorist attacks.

None of that matters to the film. It takes a very matter-of-fact approach to the decade-long manhunt and the one woman in the CIA who pushed for it the most. In fact, the actual raid on the compound is only the last ~25 minutes of the film (very close to the actual time of the raid, and definitely made to feel like real-time events.) The other two hours of the movie is the ten years of intelligence gathering (and a couple hundred days of politics) leading up to it. That's the real meat of the movie, contrary to how all the trailers depict it.

It's a very well done film, and a sobering inside-view of the War on Terror. Just realize when you hear people railing about how it defends/glorifies torture or how it's critical of those means and the intelligence community in general...well, whatever your opinions on that are what you brought into the movie to begin with.

Running Time: 157 minutes
My Total minutes: 310,912

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night and watches TOTAL RECALL (2012)

What the fuck was that!?

Okay, it kept the three-boobed prostitute, but it was just a random cameo that simultaneously made no sense and made more sense than anything else in the movie.

I'm technically going to get spoiler-y here, but I don't care because you can't spoil shit. They never get their ass to Mars. Instead, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell, stepping into the Arnold Schwarzenegger role for some reason) lives in "the colony" (Australia) and works in "U.F.B." (United Federation of Britain, i.e., the U.K. Or just Ultra Fucking Boring.) To commute every day, he (and thousands of other workers from The Colony) travel through "The Fall." That's a giant tunnel through the center of the earth, with a building-sized transport vessel and a fancy-shmancy zero-gravity part near the center of the Earth.

Blah blah blah...shit happens. U.F.B president/meth chemist Heisenberg plans an invasion of The Colony. But Quaid/Hauser/Bullseye/whoever stops him by...blowing up The Fall. Which destroys the ability for thousands, if not millions of colonists to commute to work, plunging their economy into chaos. But at least he thwarted the invasion, because in the future there's no way to get from the U.K. to Australia without going through the center of the fucking earth!?

Running Time: 118 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,755

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a Laurel and Hardy afternoon with The Sounds of Silents.

The second Sunday of every month is the Laurel & Hardy "talkie" afternoon at Niles. But last Sunday, these weren't technically talkies--they were sound films with a recorded Vitaphone soundtrack, but no talking. These are films that were shot as silents and had soundtracks recorded for them after the fact. It's an interesting little window looking into the transition period between silent and talkie films. In fact, a couple of them I had seen as silent films before.

LIBERTY (1929): Laurel & Hardy are great proponents of liberty. You would be too, if you'd just busted out of prison. First things first--they have to change out of their prison uniforms and into street clothes. Problem, the accidentally switch pants (so Stan can't keep Ollie's giant pants up, and Ollie barely fits into Stan's), which leads to a lot of comedy based on them trying to disrobe and trade pants in public. Eventually the action takes them onto a skyscraper under construction. They actually built a fake skyscraper set on the roof of another building. So they really were dangling ~10-15 feet over the roof, and the shots of the ground below are real (not back-projected.) As someone with slight acrophobia, these always get me.

BARNUM & RINGLING (1928): Our Gang sets up their own circus inside a fancy hotel. Lots of wacky hijinx with animals. And a cameo appearance by Oliver Hardy.

Then after a brief intermission, two more shorts!

CAT, DOG & CO. (1929): Our Gang, working with animals again. This time they're taught to be kind to animals and are deputized into the Be Kind to Animals Society. So they run around and try to free animals from all sorts of situations, including many where they were supposed to be in cages.

BACON GRABBERS (1929): Laurel & Hardy are officers sent to repossess a radio from Edgar Kennedy. He certainly doesn't make it easy for them, and a good bit of hilarious destruction ensues.

Total Running Time: 74 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,637


Bill Murray is pretty good, but I couldn't stop seeing him as Bill Murray--I never saw him as FDR. He's just too iconic as Bill Murray for me to lose him in the role (the way, say, Daniel Day Lewis disappeared leaving only Lincoln behind.)

The movie unevenly bounces between FDR's relationship with his distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) and the important weekend visit of King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman.) This is the same stuttering King George from THE KING'S SPEECH, of course, and Samuel West does a fine job.

The press goes wild for the announcement of the first visit by a monarch of England to the U.S.A. Especially when he dines on a hot dog. But, of course, the purpose is really to secure American support for the war effort (at this point America had not yet entered WWII.) And the scenes with FDR and King George talking (and drinking, and smoking) privately are some of the most fascinating. And one of the best moments was when FDR explained why nobody mentions his polio or George's stutter. It's because the people want their heroes, and don't want to see their heroes dragged through the mud (clearly this was a different time.) However, this, to some extent, is exactly what the movie does. It shows FDR as not just a polio-stricken cripple, but a serial philanderer. It shows George not just as a stutterer, but as a weak, scared man lacking the confidence required for his position. It shows them both fighting with their wives (and in FDR's case, fighting with his mother.) And then...well, in the end it wants you to still treat them as heroes. I think the point is to show that our heroes are fallible, and in fact that their ability to relate to the common man (e.g., the king eating a hot dog) is part of their heroism. I just don't think it makes the case very well.

Running Time: 94 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,563

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jason watches IMPOLEX

That was an enjoyable little piece of weirdness.

I liked THE COLOR WHEEL when I saw it at Indiefest last year. In fact, I liked it enough to see it a second time when it returned to the Roxie (warning, that second link gets really spoiler-y.) So, of course, I was excited to see director Alex Ross Perry's first feature, IMPOLEX, at it's one-night-only special screening at the Roxie. Me and...a handful of fellow true cinephiles. I don't think there was anyone there that night who I hadn't seen at multiple film festivals in San Francisco over the years. Even if I didn't know everyone by name, I knew pretty much all of them by sight.

Perry has a unique style of understated, deadpan absurdism. In THE COLOR WHEEL it was muted enough that some people I talked to at Indiefest didn't actually think it was a comedy. In IMPOLEX, it's a little more obvious, as you have Tyrone (Riley O'Bryan) wandering through some unspecific forest lugging around one V2 rocket and looking for another one. And he meets a lot of strange people from his past, and a talking octopus. I'm not sure it's "about" anything other than the absurdity of the situation. Maybe it's about finding your soulmate--if you're a rocket. Yeah, that's what I'll go with. It's a rocket-meets-rocket rom-com.

Running Time: 73 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,468

Monday, January 14, 2013


There's at least a 50% probability I've spelled that right. Just don't ask me to pronounce it.

Okay, I'm about a week behind in updating my blog. My new job is taking up quite a bit of time. I actually saw this last Tuesday (although it's still playing until January 17th at the Roxie.)

This is an odd little movie. Billed as "A real world, real deal analogue to BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD" it's...not quite that. It's faux-verite kinda-documentary story of 3 young brothers from the town of Algiers, right across the river from New Orleans. They take the ferry across to New Orleans and have a night of adventure, seeing all the colorful characters. They miss the last ferry back home, play around in an abandoned steamboat, and...well, that's about it. It's part travelogue, part coming-of-age story, and all done in a cinema-verite style.

But it's not verite. Although it's presented as taking place over one night, it was actually shot over a period of 9 months. And if you read the user reviews on IMDb, it's not a particularly accurate portrayal of New Orleans (starting with a curfew for teenagers in New Orleans, meaning they would've been picked up by the police.) I don't personally know anything about that. I've been to New Orleans once, back when I was in college, for a little Mardi Gras debauchery. But I can't help but remember Werner Herzog's words (paraphrased, to the best of my memory): 'All movies are a lie! All movies are the truth! It's what you bring to it that matters! And if you can't see that, you're an imbecile!'

Unfortunately, I just couldn't find much of anything to bring to this (or that it brought to me.) I was pretty much just bored.

Running Time: 80 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,396

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night--SNAKES ON A PLANE

I want this motherfucking flick out of my motherfucking brain!!!

That is all...or at least it would be. But I have to ask, why were there so many people there?! Were there a lot of people who really wanted to see this? Were they all there ironically? It's the Mission District, but there's a point where hipsterism goes way too far. And this is it.

Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,316

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Of course, it's a Tarantino revenge flick, so if nothing else there's a gory sense of fun in it. And for a freed slave to get revenge on slave-owners...well, that's the kind of gory fun I can get behind. Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz gets things started by buying Django (Jamie Foxx.) See, he's a bounty hunter and Django knows the guys he's looking for. For a while it becomes a story of their friendship, and tries to make some interesting observations on the master/slave relationship and comparing it to the mentor/student relationship.

As for the n-word. Yes, it's used excessively...even gratuitously, but not unintelligently. One of my favorite parts is when Django uses the n-word and makes it clear he's also using it to refer to a white guy (a sycophantic assistant to Leonardo DiCaprio's evil plantation owner.) In a way, the film takes less of an anti-slavery view than a worship-of-the-brave-individual view.

But then, there are just the odd moments. Very early on Dr. Schultz shoots a slave trader and then his partner's horse. I was struck how watching a horse fall had a bigger impact than watching a man die. I assume this was done intentionally.

Later on one character gets shot and flies off at a 90-degree angle from the direction of the shot. That was jarringly weird. But I assume that Tarantino is such a glutton for film he's making a visual reference to some film I haven't seen or don't remember. I can't believe he thought that looked right.

But the most egregious example was the proto-KKK scene. A bunch of locals want to terrorize Schultz and Django. So they ride up with bags on their heads, and start complaining about how they can't see through the poorly cut eye-holes. This goes on for several minutes, Jonah Hill turns out to be one of the guys under the hoods. It was funny as an isolated scene, but it felt like a Saturday Night Live sketch jammed into the middle of the movie. Horribly out of place.

But, for all it's excesses and puzzling scenes, it was a fun, bloody ride. And that's all you should really want from Django.

Running Time: 165 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,211