Conversations 2010 #1
Brandon, I agree with you about the importance of listening to non-cinephile perspectives. I must have missed Hudson's resolution. I need to go back and find that post. I've been trying to get my friend Matt (are you "scanning" this Matt?) to join in on the film blogging fun. He's definitely a non-cinephile, but I trust his values and opinions in other matters. The fact that I trust his opinion in other matters is precisely why I want to hear what he thinks about films he's watching. I feel confident that he'd join me in condemning Transformers 2. I don't know how he would react to La Moustache or The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. But I want to know.
More importantly, he enjoys all sorts of silly musicals and I'd love to know specifically why. I'm aware that my own aversion to musicals is primarily a peculiar personal bias, not a hard and fast rule that the genre has nothing to offer.
On that same note of listening to non-cinephile perspectives, I'd rather listen to my friend Scott talk all night about Lonesome Dove (which I still haven't seen) than read and listen to so much of what passes as critical discourse.
The White Ribbon, 35 Rhums, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Box, Up in the Air, and probably still more to come. You've been busy!
I really regret not seeing The Box while it was out. I remained optimistic about it despite the poor critical reception. The one night that I could have definitely gone to see it, I took Abby to see A Serious Man instead (because I wanted her to see it and I wanted to see it a second time). I never doubted Kelly but, then again, I still haven't seen Southland Tales.
I'm hoping to see Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans at the Cinemapolis soon. I've never seen any Herzog film on the big screen. I don't know why this one shouldn't be the first.
35 Rhums is playing at Cornell this Spring semester. The new schedule is up at cinema.cornell.edu
I might get to see it. I might just end up relying on you giving me a DVD data disc with all of these AVIs on it.
Finally, if you haven't already, then go now and check out my friend Jason's new film blog, read it regularly, and give him some encouragement!
Jason, I am happy. Thank you.
In response to your ESA post, I think that you read my Japon and Wrestler posts from early last year. I've pretty much said what I have to say there. I don't think that it is "uptight" to insist that ESAs have a proper place and that in front of a camera is never it. In fact, I insist just that and I've rarely been described as uptight. There's a reason that you have ESAs with your wife in your bedroom and not in my bedroom. And yes, I'm getting a kick out of using the acronym ESA.
So why do I ever submit myself to viewing ESAs? Maybe I'm inconsistent or hypocritical. I think that it's more complicated than that. In order to engage with the world, it has become necessary to a certain extent. I can't walk into a grocery store without seeing magazines devoted to exploring new wild and wooly ways to engage in ESAs with strangers. More importantly, I can't care about film, film history, and film culture without at least to a limited extent being exposed to filmed ESAs.
I prefer not to be exposed to ESAs and that is one minor reason among many that I prefer so much of Code era cinema to what is being made today. I would also argue that some of these Code films have a charged sexuality and eroticism that is just not possible with the all-out bare naked ESA. The filmed ESA, by its nature, has no respect for Mystery. It is the laziest and least beautiful way of conveying information about sexuality.
That said, I feel like bringing up The Limits of Control. It is interesting to me to see Jarmusch play with the Idea of The Nude and introduce a chaste hero (at least while he's working!) as a sort of response to the popular action hero that everyone thinks is so damned cool. Jarmusch is interacting with the entire history of nude representation in art in the midst of what is essentially a mystery/crime sub-genre, the lone gunman on assignment tale, a type of story (especially in the pulps that inspired many films) that is notorious for its use of ESAs.
So, to begin to finish my rambling answer, what about a film like Shortbus? I have no interest and would never watch it. Unless... Yes, there are exceptions. If I met someone and I came to value his opinion and he told me that Shortbus is his favorite film of all time, I'd consider watching it.
Also, directors matter. Twelve or so years ago, I watched Boogie Nights because I was so impressed with Hard Eight and Magnolia. I wanted to know Anderson better. I don't ever care to see it again, but after falling hard for There Will Be Blood, I may be first in line for tickets if Anderson felt that his next project needs to be Boogie Nights 2. I don't know.
Similarly, I wanted to make it to Brandon's Antichrist party, but missed it. I don't know that I care enough about Von Trier to ever seek this film out on my own in the future, but I had been willing, rightly or wrongly, to submit mysel to its tortures then.
Somewhat related, there was an interesting post recently on The House Next Door exploring the intersection between pornography and Cronenberg's film Crash. Check it out.
Eric Rohmer died yesterday. His Astrea and Celadon is one of the greatest films I've ever seen, a truly great end to a master career. The exquisite use of an (admittedly not too explicit) ESA at the end is perhaps the best argument I can think of in favor of a possible proper use. I'm hoping to tackle his moral tales later this year.
I'll continue to think about it and maybe give a longer or at least fuller answer some time in the future. Then again, maybe not.
I'm glad that you checked out a couple of Holmes films. Since watching it, Dressed to Kill has only risen in my estimation. I really like it.
As far as your list of movies watched in December, I only have one question. I don't know exactly where you live now, but I'm guessing that it is relatively close to the Eastman House. Why aren't you taking advantage of this amazing cinema in your backyard?
I haven't been in much of a movie chasing mood recently. My mid-December funk has carried over into the new year. I should have a post coming soon about two Bergman features, Winter Light and The Silence. I've watched the former already but I want to watch the latter (probably early next week) before I write anything.
My job did allow me to make it out to the cinema in 2010 and the first film I saw was Invictus. I even got paid overtime to go.
I remember when Changeling came out, there seemed to be a lot of conversations around White Elephant art. After seeing Changeling and reading Farber, I can only say that critics can be stupid. I don't think that Eastwood has ever made a thing that qualifies as White Elephant art (keeping in mind that I've only seen a tiny portion of his films). After Invictus, I'm even more impressed at how Eastwood selects stories that matter to him, leaves the scripts alone, and then tells the story instinctively as best he can. There's a sense in which Eastwood's films are carefully constructed according to classic Hollywood principles, but there is also a more immediate sense of Things being thrown out there, stuffed full of Eastwood's interests, and held together by Eastwood's passion alone. In Invictus, there are weird editing choices, songs that shouldn't be there, non-professional actors who scream non-professional actor, and all manner of triteness. Eastwood makes it work.
I liked Invictus. I probably liked it even more because I was almost forced to go see Old Dogs instead. That was a close one.