Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conversations 2010 #3

Conversations 2010 #3

Brandon, I'm trying to figure out what sort of fundraiser I need to plan to get you money for a new computer.  I hope you get one soon.  I'm glad that you seem to have found a way to post more often.  I hope you don't get "called into the office."

I'm only throwing this out there, but maybe Tara is not watching many films with you because you're watching Halloween 2 and The White Ribbon and others like those.  :)

I enjoyed the Lifeboat snd Saboteur reviews.  Two "minor" Hitchcock pictures that I've been meaning to check out for a while now.

I couldn't agree more with the Tarantino/Godard bit.  From the very beginning, Tarantino has been aping Godard (quite publicly- his production company is named A Band Apart for crying out loud) and reaping great benefits from it. The reason this works is because Tarantino is always very much his own man even when he shamelessly steals from his heroes.  Just like Godard kept trying to make a Hawks film and discovered that he couldn't make anything other than a Godard film.  

As far as Truffaut goes, I have to stay shamedly silent.

The Trouble With Harry is really great.  I watched it a few years ago with my friend Spike.  At the time, I hadn't even heard of it.  Now, I think it's essential Hitchcock.  Any Hitchcock film has a better sense of humor than 99% of what's typically billed as comedy.  When Hitchcock does a "pure" comedy (Harry, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), there's not much better in the world.

Jason, I saw Valley of Gwangi way back in Houghton days when I was back home staying with my parents.  I think it was shown on AMC, but maybe I even found a VHS copy somewhere or maybe we had gotten TCM at that point.  I can't remember.  I do remember marvelling at the special effects and being surprised by the story, just as you were.  Good stuff.  Also, I'm glad you made it to the Dryden.  

Your Fairbanks post reminded me that I had made a resolution this year to watch one silent feature every week this year.  So far, I'm failing miserably at this goal.  But, I have watched a handul of silent shorts.

From the 19 aughts...

5 directed by James Williamson:
Attack on a China Mission is a forgettable one-shotter.
The Big Swallow is a big gimmick/magic trick (a man swallowing the camera that is filming him) that absolutely works.
Stop Thief! is an early three-shot chase film that may have established the pattern for every chase to follow it.  It also holds up favorably against all of those subsequent chases.
Fire! may be interesting historically for its early complex editing and for inspiring countless other fireman movies, but it's otherwise uninteresting.
An Interesting Story follows a guy too absorbed in the book he's reading to care about safety.  The steamroller scene shocked me into fits of laughter because I really wasn't expecting it.

1 directed by Frank Mottershaw:
Daring Daylight Burglary builds on some of the ideas that Williamson had helped pioneer and populize and then pretty nearly perfects them.  There's a shot of the burglar and a cop wrestling on a rooftop in which the cop gets thrown off the side of the building.  I can't quite explain why, but I love this shot.  I think that it's because few directors today would hold that shot on the rooftop after the cop is thrown off.  Somehow, staying with the burglar for a few seconds longer makes the cop's fall all the more real than if we had been immediately given a cut to a shot of the body falling or hitting the ground.

Finally...
  You might be a Yankee if...

...you laughed often at the alternate history documentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America.

I'm not going to write a lot about C.S.A.  Except to say that I really liked it.  And that I would rank it as one of the best science fiction films of the last decade.  Seriously.

There is a long and boring debate in SF circles as to whether or not Alternate History (AH) properly belongs as a sub-genre of SF or if it belongs somewhere else completely.  I'm firmly in the former camp.  If SF is loosely defined as what may be based on what is, AH can be seen as what may have been based on what was.

C.S.A. is particularly illuminating in that it clearly sheds light on how far we have yet to progress in undoing the toxic effects of chattel slavery in this country.  

And tying C.S.A. back to silent film, the blackface Licoln in a Griffith parody/homage is absolutely hilarious.

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