Monday, June 21, 2010

There Ain't No Sanity Clause

This is a poor man's obituary, but I gotta get it out.

Timothy Rhatigan was my best friend for about a year.

I had a lame joke that I always liked to tell that I wrote for Tim.

Tim woke up in the morning and saw a rat. Then, he looked in the mirror and saw a Rhatigan. (rat again. get it?)

I don't remember how or specifically when we met and I'm also not sure why we drifted apart. We just did.

Within a month of meeting each other, we had accidentally burned a house down together.

We got high a lot.

We listened to a lot of Circle Jerks and Buzzcocks and The Damned and The Ramones and we both loved Robyn Hitchcock. Tim taught me the words to Kristofferson's Sunday Morning Coming Down.

One of my favorite memories is playing frisbee by moonlight with Tim's mother's Rod Stewart LPs.

We'd often ride our bikes 5-10+ miles to get to the stores we knew would sell tobacco to minors or to meet a neighborhood freelance pharmacist or to buy tools or just to ride.

Or to see girls. We talked a lot about girls. We stole his dad's nasty pornography. We were generally confused about our sexuality. Jet Boy, Jet Girl was one of our favorite songs. I Just Want Some Skank was our anthem. We'd practice leaning cooly against a wall and casually picking up a girl with our favorite pickup line, "hey baby, wanna fuck?" We never got the girls. We alternately hated and envied the guys who did.

We got high a lot.

We were both terrible skateboarders, but that didn't stop us.

We loved black cherry soda with fresh lime. We drank cheap vodka.

Tim's mother once rented a car and took us on a trip to Great Adventure. On the way there, we thought it'd be awesome to have anarchy symbols scarred into our flesh. Eager to prove my punk abandon, I bared my upper left arm and Tim gouged my flesh with a pocket knife. Buckets of blood and me yowling like a baby, I couldn't finish, but I have a beautiful large scar to prove my half-assedness. And I like to think that my blood is still there on that rental car seat.

So many more stupid stories.

After we'd mostly parted ways, Tim gained infamy for stealing the baby jesus from the Shrine and converting it into a bong. I wasn't around when he stole it and never really approved of the sacrilige, but I still admired him for the brazenness of it.

I always loved him. I know that he knew that at one point, but we drifted apart. I miss him.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ordinary Time

Audience of One presents the audacious cinematic journey of a specific assembly of kooky Pentecostals making a movie of movies for the king of kings.

And it all goes wrong.

And it all goes right.

Such is the work of the Spirit.

By the end, when the pastor starts talking about colonizing other planets, we know for sure that his reach is out there further than his grasp.  But, dear folly, the man's reach is something splendid.  And, I dare say, worthy of emulation.

My response was much more complicated than this and obviously the delusion involved is crazy and Pentecostals are crazy and floating adrift apart from any historical perspective and/or often any semblence of Orthodoxy is hazardous to one's health.  But, still, these kooks are my kooks.

Like Alice, we might all be better off thinking of six impossible things before breakfast.

I rented Burton's Alice, but I slept while Abigail watched it.  I did watch about the first half hour and my liking the film more than anyone else still stands. 

The Battle of Midway was an impossible thing.  John Ford's documentary of the action is pure propaganda.  But time reveals each cloud of black smoke in the sky as a real life extinguished.  And the audience cheers.  

These men were our real enemies and sought to kill our people.  In such a time and place, it seems appropriate to cheer our victories.  

But not too much.  The vilification of all "Japs" and the abstraction of their deaths can only end in atomic abomination.  A larger black smoke for the audiences back home to cheer about.

Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln may be "pure cinema."  It's definitely pure tall tale.  And a mighty good one.  And at least as true a reflection of American history as any string of facts could be.

Becoming John Ford is an artsy-fartsy waste of time.  I should have skipped it and popped in another Ford disc.  Some talking heads and some clips and so-so voiceover.

I initially described Blast of Silence and its perfect fatalism as "the end of noir" and I stand by that assessment.

My dating of the end aside, the first instances of post-noir (or neo-noir) that I'm aware of were brought to us a year earlier in 1960.  Films standing in the tradition but also apart from it and self-conciously riffing on genre tropes and themes. 

Those two films are Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player.  The former is an original Truffaut script, based on a newspaper story if I'm not mistaken, and ultimately brought to playful life by Godard.  The latter is a Truffaut adaptation of a Goodis novel, directed by Truffaut himself, who seriously delivers on all of the promise exhibited in 400 Blows while subverting expectations in carefully tossing out the screwball pitch of Shoot the Piano Player.

Piano Player is a healthy mash-up of genre conventions, resulting organically in a sort of screwball noir, modeling the pastiche and homage that would later be brought to an even fuller realization and near perfection in the Coens's The Big Lebowski nearly four decades later.

It's no surprise that, like Lebowski after it, most audiences couldn't initially handle Shoot the Piano Player.  It was largely dismissed both critically and popularly.  Both films demand audience submission to very specific zaniness which both exists on its own and exists in rich dialogue with much that has come before.  If the viewer won't submit, the viewer will also miss out on the rewards that these films harbor.   

It might be silly (it is silly), but my favorite moments in Piano Player are the Bartender tryptich and the mother keeling over, a couple of playful nods toward Gance and silent cinema.

The ending is predictable and a bit hokey.  It still manages to be emotionally poignant and visually stunning.

Noir may be dead.  The Western lives on.  

By now, my defense of Appaloosa may seem tired.  A minor masterpiece and the best thing Ed Harris has yet done either behind or in front of the camera.

I'm really excited about Jonah Hex.  I'm even more excited that I'm going with Duke.  I hope it's much better than the trailer, but if it's at least as stupid as the trailer, then I think I'll have a good time.  Please.  I hope so.  2010 sucks.  The curse breaks with Jonah Hex!  I want to believe!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Conversations 2010 #13

Conversations 2010 #13

TRAWLERMAN: We have a sinner with us here, who wishes for salvation. Jason, are you a sinner?
82jp: Yes.
TRAWLERMAN: Brandon and John can't hear you, Jason. Say it to them. Go ahead and speak to them, it's alright.
82jp: Yes.
TRAWLERMAN: Down on your knees and up to them. Look up to STORMANDSTRESS and CHASINGPICTURES and say it.
82jp: What do you want me to say?
TRAWLERMAN: Jason, you have come here and you have brought good and wealth, but you have also brought your bad habits as a backslider. You've lusted after Facebook, and you have abandoned your blog. Your blog that you raised, you have abandoned all because it was sick and you have sinned. So say it now- I am a sinner.
82jp: I am a sinner.
TRAWLERMAN: Say it louder- I am a sinner!
82jp: I am a sinner.
TRAWLERMAN: Louder, Jason. I am a sinner!
82jp: I am a sinner.
TRAWLERMAN: I am sorry Brandon and John!
82jp: I am sorry Brandon and John.
TRAWLERMAN: I want the blog!
82jp: I want the blog.
TRAWLERMAN: You have abandoned your blog!
82jp: I have abandoned my blog.
TRAWLERMAN: I will never backslide!
82jp: I will never backslide.
TRAWLERMAN: I was lost, but now I am found!
82jp: I was lost but now I'm found.
TRAWLERMAN: I have abandoned my blog!
[82jp glares at him]
TRAWLERMAN: Say it... say it!
[82jp mumbles]
TRAWLERMAN: Say it louder... say it louder!
82jp: I've abandoned my blog! I've abandoned my blog! I've abandoned my blog!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Conversations 2010 #12

Conversations 2010 #12

Pete, The Human Experience doesn't appeal to me (I just watched the trailer), but only because it looks way too self-important.  Or at least it has been titled and marketed that way.  WE'LL GIVE YOU THE ENTIRE HUMAN EXPERIENCE IN 2 HOURS OR LESS!  Two documenatary film-making brothers discover the meaning of life and share it with us all.  Bah.  I am intrigued that it got favorable reviews from both Indiewire and First Things.  I'll check it out if it comes around.

Matt, you would know what I think of The Box if you actually read my posts here instead of skimming them for mentions of Fiddler on the Roof and Oklahoma!  I wrote about it last month.  Smiley face.

Jason, say it.  I've abandoned my blog.

Spike, where's that Meg Ryan piece I wanted on my desk yesterday morning?

Brandon, I did like HtTYD more than I probably made it sound like.  It's well-crafted, nice to look at (even in 2D), and a lot of fun.

Now, stuff I've watched.

Pulse is terrifyingly boring.  No tension and no scares.  Did I miss something?  Yes, I missed the second hour because I couldn't tolerate it any longer.

I really respect Mister Lonely, but I don't love it the way I love Julien Donkey-Boy.  I want to write more about it, but don't want to spoil anything.  

Passport to Pimlico is funny.  There aren't too many hold your belly and roll around on the floor moments, but there is a steady comic pace that keeps the smile on your face.  On my face at least.

Blast of Silence is in the pantheon.  Essential.

La Collectionneuse is another Moral Tale, the only one that I had seen before.

I'm going to watch Jarmusch's first feature, Permanent Vacation, soon because I'm curious to see if he lifted the title to that film from one of my favorite moments in Collectioneuse.

The 400 Blows is great.

One of my biggest regrets in relation to the Ithaca Hollywood video sale was passing over a few Truffaut films (even though I did pick up Piano Player) and at least half a dozen Chabrol films.  

Chabrol and Rohmer wrote one of the earliest serious assessments of Hitchcock.  Truffaut followed this up in the next decade with his Hitchcock interviews.  All of these men also respected Rossellini.  To simplify things too much and to ignore the very "Frenchness" of the New Wave, the films of the New Wave can clearly be seen as the various children spawned by the improbably perfect mating of Hitchcock and Rossellini.     


I also watched some Popeye shorts and silent shorts with the girls, but nothing exceptional.

Lost is done.

I like and mostly agree with Jim Emerson's short asessment of the show's lapse "sideways" -

Emerson: "But, still, the finale kind of redeemed a lot of the interminable padding of the last several years -- mainly by ignoring them and by re-framing The Island as a peak experience that bonded a group of people, even if the Thing Itself had no intrinsic meaning. You know, like being together in the army, or a college dorm, or a TV series for a few years..."

Kind of.  The positive "re-framing" does occur, but it doesn't really excuse all of the sub-par stuff that comes before or even the lameness of the ending itself. The Jimmy Kimmel kiss/punch/kiss montage worked just as well as a summation of the series as anything in the finale.

I'm in the middle of listening to the recent /filmcast discussion of the finale.  It's a good conversation.