Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

This post is more of a mess than usual. It's a hodgepodge of stuff I've written over the past few weeks of June.  I've watched a lot (even with a whole week of watching nothing but 25 minutes of a film I walked out of), but have had trouble concentrating and/or caring about much at all, least of all writing here.  Maybe it's Summer.  Maybe it's mourning.  I've just been floating through.

But film club must go on.

Dialogue from Rohmer's La Collectioneuse:

Adrien: To do nothing, yet think while doing it, is exhausting.  Working's much easier.  You follow a well-trod path.  Ther's a kind of laziness to work.  Work is an escape, a clear conscience bought on the cheap.

Sam: Of course, that makes you the least lazy person I know.

Adrien: I haven't taken a vacation in 10 years.

Sam: Sure.  You're on a permanent vacation.

Adrien: No.  Well, yes and no.  Not exactly.

Sam: It amuses me how you're always trying to justify yourself.

Adrien: On the contrary.  I don't have a guilty conscience.

Sam: You're a liar.  You feel guilty because you have no money.

Adrien: Listen, Sam, I'm sure you've heard of the Tarahumara Indians.  When they enter a town, they beg from house to house.  They stop at a door, then stand in profile with an air of haughty contempt.  Whether given alms or not, they leave after a set period of time... without a thank you.  When I beg, I always turn in profile.  Besides, we're always someone else's slave.  I find less dishonor in living at a friend's house than in being on the government payroll.  Most people's work today is useless.  Three quarters of all activity is parasitic.  I'm not the parasite.  It's the beauracrats and politicians.

Sam: If I were 6'6" with an eagle's profile, I'd feel nearer to the gods too.  You're nostalgic for the good old days, while I'm happy to live in this modern world.  

Adrien: I'm as modern as you are.  But what matters today isn't work but laziness.  Everyone says work is just a means to an end.  We speak of a leisure society.  But when it comes, we don't know what leisure is.  Some people work 40 years for their life of leisure, but when the time comes, they're lost, and they die.  In all sincerity, I think I serve mankind better by taking it easy than by working.  It's true.  It takes courage not to work.

Sam: More courage than going to the moon?

Adrien: Of course you can go to the moon too.  But that's both fascinating and contemptible.  

Sam: I think if I listen to any more of your little monologue, I'll fall asleep right in this chair.  You're like a small child, happy as can be with his mediocre life.  Go to the moon, Adrien.  Jupiter too.  Hurry... and when you get there, send me a postcard, if you have the money to buy one.

Adrien: [in English]Listen here, you old villain[/in English].  I've always been sorry I wasn't rich.  But if I were, my dandyism, as you call it, would be too easy... lacking any heroism whatsoever.  And I can't imagine a dandy not being heroic.


That dialogue isn't quite as rich when ripped from its context and apart from the wonderful actors who deliver the lines (and of course it's the subtitle translation from the French), but it stands on its own for the purposes of shedding light on Jim Jarmusch's first feature film, Permanent Vacation.

Allie, the dandy hero of Vacation has no home, no job, and no real friendships.  He has been living with a girl, but leaves her for no other reason than that it's time to move on.  Maybe he's starting to feel too grounded.  He talks to plenty of people here and there, but he is alone.  And likes it that way.

Still, he knows that "most people's work today is useless."


I'm giving up on what I started above.  I'm behind in writing and don't want this blog to ever cause me stress.  So no more on Permanent Vacation except to say that it's worth watching at least to see how Jarmusch started.  

I've also seen:

I Shot Jesse James is everything Brandon said it is.

The Baron of Arizona shows off Fuller and Vincent Price at maybe their most playful.  Serious fun.

Cutter's Way has a couple of good moments and a decent ending.

Piranha looks like it was a lot of fun for the child actors.  Ironically, horror may be the most fun genre for child actors. At least when it's piranhas and not pedophiles who are the monsters.  Piranha is silly and fun and ultimately stupid.  Dante knows how to craft a whole better than the sum of all pirahna parts.


Here's my (not so) deep thought for the day: 

Every year in film sucks, more or less, by this time of year.  

We're still getting the leftovers from last year in January, February, and March with nothing worthwhile new coming out.  April, May, and June all contribute to a wasteland of crappy domestic releases.  July, August, and September typically give us a small handful of arthouse releases and maybe one or two decent wide release studio pics.  Only in October, November, and December do we usually get the waves of Oscar contenders from the American studios and, more importantly, we get to see releases of a small trickle of foreign pictures that played elsewhere in the world earlier in the year.  Most important, those of us far from major metropolitan cinemas get to start seeing on DVD all of those limited releases, both domestic and foreign, that never made it to our local cinemas.  Even with Cornell being close and Art Mission and Cinemapolis, there are films that don't make it here or, if we're lucky, might run for a week.  Blink and you miss them.  

So, 2010 may still be great.  I just can't see it yet.

Yes, all of this because... Jonah Hex is terrible.  The worst 2010 film I've seen so far.  She-Wolf of London had no werewolf.  Jonah Hex is a Western without the West.  There's nothing recognizably Western here past the surface.  Instead, Jonah Hex plays out like any bad '80s Seagall action picture.  Our action hero must stop a terrorist from blowing up Washington D.C.  There are more explosions and maybe as many stupid deaths as the equally atrocious Punisher War Zone from last year or the year before (I can't remember).  The story is a mess and a great cast is wasted.  And, yes, somehow Megan Fox is made to look absolutely unappealing as the half-naked prostitute.  Seriously, Hayward and co., you screwed up every last thing.

It was so bad that I had to immediately check to see if any critics had defended it. Surprisingly, Darghis wrote the most positive review, but the best that she could come up with was that Jonah Hex is better than The A-Team.

I also caught a matinee showing of Robin Hood.  This movie is also a minor mess, but it follows the historical epic model faithfully and there's enough here to enjoy.  The historicity is slight and plenty of contemporary ideas and humor fill out the frame.  The father-son stuff mostly works.  The "rights" talk gets preachy, but is fine.  Von Sydow as an aging knight is a delight.  Blanchett is great up until the finale in which the script demands the ridiculous.  I liked it all enough to be there for whatever sequel may come.

I started my Cornell Summer job.  Breaking Upwards is awful.  I walked out after 25 minutes.  I rarely walk out of movies, but this one deserved it.  I don't care to write about it.  I'd rather eat glass than spend any more time with these people. I'd rather watch Jonah Hex a dozen more times.

Bend of the River is the sort of Western I love.

Night and Day is great.  I've since heard that it's really great in 3D.  We went 2D, partly because of price and partly because of my general resistance to 3D.  
Toy Story 3 is beautiful, a perfect payoff to a perfect trilogy.  Yes, I teared up during the incinerator scene.  Yes, that scene alone makes Toy Story 3 the best film of the year.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is never as good as it should be.

The Scarecrow might be my favorite Keaton short.  I love watching silent comedy shorts with my girls.

Keaton's The Paleface is also really funny. 

The Big Heat is brutally good.

I missed Metropolis because I ended up working an overnight shift to help a co-worker.  

One Mysterious Night is enjoyable fluff.

Escape in the Fog is stupid enjoyable fluff.  The fog is effective.

It Came From Kuchar is incomplete on its own.  I wish it had been screened with a couple of Kuchar shorts beforehand or afterward.  Oh well.


During college, if anyone asked me what my favorite movie was, I had a quick answer: Rubin & Ed.  I discovered the film at Star Video through the guidance of the owner Jerry.  I was about 13.  I tried to buy the store's copy, but he wasn't selling.  A couple of years later, I was riding my bike in Center Moriches with my friend Tim.  He wanted to stop at this junk/pawn shop and look through a barrel of tools.  In that barrel of used tools was one VHS tape.  Rubin & Ed.  I think I paid $5 for it.  

But enough about past purchases.  What sales have I recently succumbed to?

Yard sale find - 3 for $10, all new in shrink.  DVD straight from Trent Harris - $25.  Vestal Hollywood Video sale - 6 for $21 and 1 for $6 

I Walked With a Zombie & The Body Snatcher
Isle of the Dead & Bedlam
Road to Zanzibar

Rubin & Ed

Julien donkey-boy (Korine)
Chunking Express (Wong)
Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut)
Cache (Haneke)
Terror's Advocate (Schroeder)
Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion

A Serious Man (Coen)

In related news, I've started a box of DVDs to get rid of, but right now its contents are much smaller than the rows of unwatched DVDs on the shelf.  I need to stop buying DVDs.  It's probably my biggest stupidest consumer-collector mentality problem at the moment.  Stop.  Just stop.   

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