Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Toonies and Townies

I hung out with Brandon and his buddies and then later Spike after seeing Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then over a week ago.  Brandon asked me how the movie was.  I told him that it was the best movie of 2010.  But that wasn't true and I didn't even believe it when I said it.  I just wanted to believe it.

Intensely personal, Gravity is the most unusual, strikingly eccentric film I've seen so far this year.  Brent Green is obviously moved by the story of Leonard Wood and his telling of the tale is a rollercoaster of tangled emotions.  In the process of telling Wood's brilliantly absurd and dangerous love story, externalized by the physically real structural metaphor that is his house, Green sanitizes things a bit, giving the entire story gleaming rounded corners where rough edges had to have been.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that the real Leonard and Mary were a lot scarier and also more human than their film counterparts.  And the more I think about this film/performance, I start to focus on the little irritating things (mostly moments that are too cute or too cool in a This American Life kind of way).  It's still got a powerful charm;  and I haven't even mentioned the incredible music and the angry man theology at the center of it all.

What about The Town?

I loved it.  The action set pieces are all exciting and the love story at the core, based on an almost ridiculous premise, works surprisingly well.  The moral complexities of the characters, as in Gone Baby Gone, feel like real problems and tensions inside of real people (even though they're reflected through a clear genre prism).  These three things done so well- action, romance, ethics- make me want to compare this film to that juggernaut nightmare I endured earlier this summer, but I'm done beating that horse, I guess.  

I'd love to talk/write about The Town, but I'll wait for you guys to see it.  I'm really excited that we get to witness the beginnings of what I hope to be a long directorial career for Affleck.

I will write about something that happened while at the theatre.  There was a young guy with a date and a friend behind me.  A few times during the movie, the guy would whisper (loud enough for me to hear, but not full volume) to the girl he was with, usually making some smart-ass comment or asking her how she liked the movie.  I put up with this for a long while because it was infrequent and because the dude was obviously trying to impress a girl (though why a girl would stay with a guy that talks through a movie, I'll never know).  I was patient.  But enough is enough.  During one of the important moments leading up to the climax of the film, the kid kept talking and talking.  I turned around, said "hey" in a normal room voice, and waited for him to make eye contact.  Once he got a good look at my killer gaze, I said calmly and clearly, "Shut the fuck up.". The kid looked suitably scolded, muttered an "I'm sorry" and looked away.  I returned to watching one of the best films of the year.

So, here's the thing.  I'm a peaceable guy.  I rarely drop f-bombs unless I'm quoting someone else or doing so in some sort of humorous context.  It's been a long time since I've hit a guy for any reason.  But people who talk during movies, specifically at the cinema, make me want to hurt them.  If this kid hadn't apologized and stopped, I was ready to get in a fistfight with him and with his girlfriend and with anyone in the theatre who would try to stop me.

This isn't the first time this has happened.  I feel like at least 1/20 of the time I go out to the movies, I have to deal with rude people.  That my estimate is only 5% probably reflects my tendency to go to the cinema on Monday or Tuesday nights instead of sharing my time with the weekend multiplex crowd.  

One of these days, somebody's going to get hurt.  Probably me.  I hope I can count on one of you guys to pick me up at the county lockup after the brawl.


At home, I haven't watched too much.

I've fallen asleep to Murder, My Sweet multiple times.

I've half-watched a handful of Star Trek episodes, including one of the all-time great episodes, Shore Leave, written by the master Theodore Sturgeon, whose Law I've cited here on at least one or two occasions.  

The Brother From Another Planet has a few really great moments, but its illegal immigration commentary is a bit silly.  It's worth watching for those few really great moments and for the effective physical silent performance of Joe Morton.

The Cat's Meow is a good film about bad people; the same people we admire so much.  

Charlie Chaplin and Marion Davies were two of the funniest actors of the silent period.  Chaplin, in particular, was a genius and still near the top of any list of great U.S. film directors.  William Randolph Hearst was maybe the most important newspaper man who has yet lived and I personally love him for his undying support of Herriman's Krazy Kat in spite of any and every poor popular response.  

Chaplin was a serial womanizer as multiple affairs and failed marriages clearly document.  Davies was a beautiful strange woman, lips dripping honey, every bit as bitter as wormwood.  Hearst manufactured wars and covered up truths to suit his whims.  He also despised his marriage and kept Davies as a not-so-secret mistress.  Cat's Meow chronicles what may or may not be the true events involving a love triangle between these three and the still mysterious death of Thomas Ince, a powerful Hollywood player.

Bogdanovich's use of black and white as primary colors is an interesting experiment that works well and the music is so much fun that I wanted to get up and do the Charleston.  Bogdanovich maintains an easy tension between the bubbly happy surfaces and the simmering despair and disillusion just beneath.  Cat's Meow similarly feels like a trifle, but there's an enormous amount of craft and care hidden in plain sight.

I've still got Sweetgrass on the shelf. I'll get to it soon.

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