Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 Recap

23 Features
Border Incident (1949) **
Lonely Are the Brave (1962) ***
Open Range (2003) **
The Little Minister (1934) **
Claire's Knee (1970) ****
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) ****
Bad Company (1931) ***
The Forbidden Trail (1923) ****
Red Salute (1935) ****
The Street of Forgotten Men (1925) ***
Laughter (1930) ***
Laddie (1940) ****
Partners Three (1919) ***
Get Your Man (1927) ****
Mr. Fix-It (1918) ****
Hail the Woman (1921) ***
Once in a Lifetime (1932) ****
Blood of a Poet (1932) **
Trouble in Paradise (1932) **
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) ***
The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) ****
The Narrow Margin (1952) *****
Love in the Afternoon (1970) ****

20 Shorts
Football 40 Years Ago (1931) ***
Hello Out There (1949) ***
Wife Trouble (1928) ****
Bell Boy 13 (1923) ***
Matchmaking Mama (1928) ****
Helen of Four Gates (1920) **
N.Y., N.Y. (1957) ***
Crashing Hollywood (1931) ***
His New Lid (1910) ***
Classmates (1914) ***
Tillie's Tomato Surprise (1915) ***
Just Nuts (1915) ***
A Deep Sea Panic (1924) ***
Away From the Steerage (1921) ***
No Children (1928) ***
The Janitor (1919) **
The Pest (1922) ****
Their First Execution (1913) ***
One a Minute (1921) ***
The Paleface (1922) *****

Smallville Season 6
BSG Season 4
Justified Season 2
The Simpsons Season 4
Robin Hood

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The 'It' Blog

Cinefest 32 Day 3

Saturday means 35mm goodness at the Palace Theatre.

No Children (1928) started the day off right with its tale of parents trying to smuggle their children into a "no children allowed" hotel by passing them off as dummies! ***

The Janitor (1919) isn't really anarchic enough to live up to its premise of a Bolshevik secret society attempting to bomb the rival Doves of Peace. **

The Pest (1922) is a pleasant early Stan Laurel short. There's a really great moment in which Stan dons a dog costume to get past a guard dog only to be chased by the local dog catchers! ****

Their First Execution (1913) is good if a little obvious. The execution scene relies too heavily on a man making really goofy faces. Fortunately, the man makes really great goofy faces. ***

Get Your Man (1927) only survives in an incomplete print, but what survives is fantastic! It's completely obvious why Clara Bow was the top box office draw of her time. She radiates charm here and plays her role just right. ****

Mr. Fix-it (1918) proves that my interest in Clara Bow is purely academic ;) If Clara Bow radiates charm, then Douglas Fairbanks is a freakin' charm supernova! The man puts all other men to shame. ****

The films after lunch were each solid, but none of them reached the heights set by the above two dazzlers.

Hail the Woman (1921) crosses the "message movie" line in its preachiness at times, but it earns its emotions in the end. All I'll say is that my eyes weren't quite dry when all was said and done. ***

One a Minute (1921) is a lighthearted snake oil success story. ***

Once in a Lifetime (1932) is an interesting film in the tradition of Hollywood films about Hollywood. It's specifically an early satirical look at the transition from silence to sound. ****

I'm obviously not too motivated to write at length about any of these considering that you guys are probably mostly skimming these posts and will likely never see any of these films. If you do, I'm willing to talk.

I might eventually write more about Bow and Fairbanks, especially as I catch up on more of their films.

That's it. I returned home after the Palace screenings so I won't be seeing tonight's films or tomorrow's films.

I might have another post soon reflecting on the experience as a whole.

Right now, my eyes are tired.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Agrarian Apologetic Cinema

Cinefest 32 Day 2

I slept through my wake-up alarm this morning and got a late start, missing the first two shorts of the day.

I did make it over to the fest in time for...

His New Lid (1910) is a humorous little short about a man buying a new hat. Losing his new hat causes some grief for his loved ones. ***

Classmates (1914) is an enjoyable love triangle dilemma that leads rivals to military school, then adventures in the Amazon. ***

Laughter (1930) is firmly in the love and laughter vs. money and comfort line of affair movies. There are some fantastic moments in this, notably a scene in which two lovers break into a house and wear the bear rugs they find. That scene is as fantastic at portraying careless joy as just about anything else I've ever seen. Unfortunately, I can't get behind this film. The love vs. money theme is simplified and adultery in service of feelings is lauded as a virtue. ***

I was in a bum mood after Laughter. Even fried chicken for lunch couldn't bring me out of my funk.

Luckily, the first afternoon film succeeded in lifting my spirits.

Laddie (1940) is full of homespun pleasures. A meddling little sister is the source of much delight here. It's hard not to enjoy seeing a good little girl whose biggest flaw is that she loves her family too much. It's a fact that this little girl steals every scene she's in. The rest of the cast, though, holds their own. Just a delight from start to finish. ****

Tillie's Tomato Surprise (1915) was the film I had been most looking forward to for the title alone. It's got a few good laughs. It was a disappointment only because I had unfair expectations for it. ***

Partners Three (1919) was a nice surprise. The second half of the film especially holds up well with its desert photography and well-earned character camaraderie. ***

Just Nuts (1915) is a funny plotless short. A bunch of guys run around swapping girls and bopping each other over the head. Good stuff. ***

A Deep Sea Panic (1924) has the funniest dog moments I've ever seen in a film. It's all around funny. ***

Astray From the Steerage (1921) continued the afternoon funny. The comedy here centers on immigration and prohibition, two comedy goldmines! ***

I skipped the 5:00 feature and then skipped the rest of the night. I've discovered that I'm not quite up to the task of this sort of non-stop marathon movie watching. My eyes needed a break. I walked around the carousel mall for a couple of hours, bought some comics, ate some food, resisted the temptation to see John Carter, went back to the dealers' room one last time, then came back to the hotel and read a little. Now I'm writing this while half-watching Grimm (it's not so good) and thinking about sleeping.

Goodnight comrades.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lonesome Coyotes, Suffering Centipedes, and More!

Cinefest 32 Day 1

Football 40 Years Ago (1931) is a pleasant enough short that started things off on a light note. Glenn "Pop" Warner gives us a cheeky demonstration of football styles old and new (for 1931). The wigs and fake moustaches are perfect. ***

Hello Out There (1949) is a late James Whale short based on a one-act play by William Saroyan. It feels like a one-act play. The dialogue and emotions are heightened. All of the action takes place in one room. It's no end of talky. The visuals, though, are pure Whale. ***

Wife Trouble (1928) is a deliciously funny short about a businessman working on his wife's birthday. He's forgotten to buy his wife a gift. Luckily, the lingerie saleswoman appears at the office and models possible gifts. The wife arrives at the office. Hijinks ensue. ****

Bell Boy 13 (1923) is an uneven comedy about a young man trying to marry without his (guardian) uncle's approval. There are some great moments, including a riotous "Bolshevik" uprising in a hotel. ***

Bad Company (1931) was directed by Tay Garnett, a man I know nothing about except that he directed one of my favorite surprises from last year, Trade Winds. Bad Company builds its story slowly, starting with a treacly romance, followed by some almost Dick Tracy level gangsterisms, finished spectacularly in an unexpectedly violent showdown. ***

Lunch was a couple of granola bars, a glass of water, and an hour in the dealers' room.

I skipped Ray Faiola's Trailer Mania Show IV after lunch. I probably shouldn't have skipped it, but I did.

Matchmaking Mamma (1928) had the hands-down funniest moments of the day. The whole thing is available on YouTube. Go find it there and weep over what you are missing at Cinefest. ****

The Forbidden Trail (1923) is a surprisingly enjoyable Western. I was waffling over it, ready to damn it with faint praise by calling it serviceable, then the wild, exciting ending happened. The hero rushes the villain as the villain is firing a rifle at him. A powder cellar explodes. The villain is tied up by another bad guy and left in a house set on fire. The hero and the villain engage in a sword fight (the hero wielding a fire poker against the villain's sword). The bad guy that set the house on fire steals the girl, some horses, and a wagon and flees. The hero rescues the girl. The wagon and the bad guy tumble off of a cliff into a river, but the man survives and continues to flee in a found canoe. The hero rides his horse down the side of a steep cliff (!) into the river (!) and wrestles the bad man out of the canoe and beats him into submission! Seriously over-the-top action fun! ****

Helen of Four Gates (1920) is a ridiculously stupid melodrama. **

Red Salute (1935) is the surprise hit of the day for me. Featuring just another one of Jeffrey's crushes, the compelling Barbara Stanwyk, the film is a madcap Red Scare Romance. It's got the standard hate-each-other-until-we-love-each-other RomCom formula. This would also be pure Americanism jingoism propaganda if it weren't for the fact that the soldier character gets away with crazy crimes that would have any man court-martialed. Maybe this is all part of the whole good ol' boy mentality, winking at our own sins while condemning others. I don't know. I only know that I enjoyed the zaniness here. ****

N.Y., N.Y. (1957) is an abstract appreciation of NYC. Purely visual delights. ***

Crashing Hollywood (1931) is a bit of a dud, but the moment of a fake Buster Keaton kicking a fake Charlie Chaplin in the face is worth the entire short running time. ***

Howard Hughes Multicolor Demonstration Reel was just something to sit through. Interesting biplane footage.

The Street of Forgotten Men (1925) is a look at bowery life, focusing on one huckster's struggle to rise above as he raises a dead prostitute's daughter. I was too tired to properly appreciate this. The fake blind man vs. fake one-armed man fistfight may have been the highlight. The ending jerked half a fake tear out of me. ***

That's it. I'm calling it a day. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Looking for love...

In all the wrong places.

When I find Jeff, he shoves my face in.

Not really.

We're both absolutely united in our love for Rohmer.

And it feels good.

I've got nothing to add. Except to say that Romance of Astrea and Celadon is the beautiful culmination of everything that Rohmer had previously hinted toward (I speak as one still mostly ignorant).

I forgot in my previous post to mention that I took the family to see Arrietty today at the Cinema Saver. It was just as good a second time. A peaceful film that rewards repeated relaxed engagement.

One of the best films of 2010. :)

Jeff's post is much better than mine.

He beat me to the post by 3 minutes and he wrote a lot more about Claire's Knee than I did.


Your last paragraph is exactly right and is what I was trying to get at in my Cassavetes comparison.

I would only quibble a bit with the following from your post: "Claire’s knee is a barrier, a test for Jerome. If he can touch the knee and go no further then he has overcome his youthful desire and is ready for his new adult life with his fiancee."

I agree that this is how Jerome views the situation. I'm not so sure (and I'm not certain that this is how you're viewing the situation) that this is how Rohmer wants us to feel about the situation. Giving in to the "quest for the knee" is exactly the sort of thing that betrays the fact that Jerome has not gotten past his "youthful desire." As evidenced by his dastardly follow through, he's still the same heartless bastard. To truly have overcome his Don Juanishness, he would have had to reject the game altogether. Instead, he is self-righteous in how he views the rightness, the properness, of his actions. He never doubts that touching that knee was a true moment of revelation for him in his progress as an adult.

Jerome only passes the "test" because he's set the limits of the test. That's easy enough for any of us. A real "pass" would have been denying himself the knee.

I'll definitely write more later if you want to keep this up.

The Bee's Knees

Today is the day that I finally got in my early morning viewing of Claire's Knee. I can sympathize with Jeff. I love Rohmer almost unconditionally. I've seen seven of his films and they're each one perfect. The thing is, his films are really difficult to write about. There's no way to credibly do so without interacting with the contents of the many conversations throughout. I'll just point out that the males in Rohmer's Moral Tales often draw a moral conclusion by the end of the film that is altogether different than the moral of the film itself. Jerome in Claire's Knee thinks that he has learned a lesson (and he has), but it's not (I don't think) the lesson that the viewer gets. Then again, against the series title, Rohmer isn't ever interested in straight preaching. In my mind, he's closest to Cassavetes (though with wildly different sensibilities) in honestly presenting his characters relating to one another in broken ways. Both of these great directors are only always interested in love. Anyhow, we don't get a straight lesson a la Aesop. We get a character drawing a conclusion and we're left to draw our own conclusions.

Other unfinished business...

I was disappointed that no one mentioned Open Range during the 2003 talk, so I re-watched it. It's only so-so. It's twice as long as it should be, long on atmosphere and generally bloated.

Smallville has been good to us lately. The Metropolis Green Arrow stuff has some promise; I'm waiting for some sort of JLA-lite moment to happen before the season is over.

The Little Minister had a few good moments but it, too, went on for far too long. I might have been a bit more sympathetic if it hadn't been Katharine Hepburn as the manic pixie girl. I can't stand Katharine Hepburn.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Lonely are the haters.

I know you guys have been missing my rambles, so here goes...

As expected, this "classic movie nerd" will now join the chorus of praise coming out of the blogs of Brandon and Jeffrey.

Lonely Are the Brave is The Big Sky meets Faces meets Rambo. I could unpack that, probably, but mostly I'm just trying to be as ridiculous as the rest of y'all.

1962 is the date engraved on the tombstone of the Western. I'm hoping to watch Ride the High Country and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence sometime soon. I'll be just fine if I never watch How the West Was Won ever again, but I probably ought to give it another chance. What I know about Liberty Valence and High Country, though, suggests the same sad recognition of the passing of what has come before.

Of course, that tombstone is marking an empty grave. Someone stole the body. I think I saw Aaron Katz running off with it last.

So, Lonely Are the Brave.

Yes, count me among those who saw the end coming from the beginning (not specifically HOW, but I knew he had to die chasing freedom). While I sympathize with Jason's concerns, I don't really agree that the ending is a downer. The film would not make the same point if Douglas rides off into the sunset. The Cowboy has been killed by Modernity. There can be no happy retirement. There are no margaritas on the gulf coast. There can be no treacly nostalgia.

Jerry Bondi: Jack, I'm going to tell you something. The world that you and Paul live in doesn't exist. Maybe it never did... out there is the real world. And it's got real borders and real fences, real laws and real trouble. And you either go by the rules or you lose. You lose everything.
Jack Burns: You can always keep something.

No one has mentioned yet that the film is based on a novel by Edward Abbey. I haven't read anything by him, but I've got friends who love his books. It's worth mentioning, at least, that much of the anarchic character of Jack Burns must be traceable to this source material.

I don't remember much about my early life and not much about my early education. I do remember my kindergarten teacher teaching us the subversive lyrics to Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

I'm a big fan of personal property. [and despise land taxes as something evil; a claim by the state to be the true owner of the land; if you don't think this is what land taxes mean, well, just try to stop paying them for a few years and see how long you can stay on "your own" land]. But, the above lyrics still deeply resonate. There's an instinctual understanding that a fence or a sign means nothing. Fences do not make good neighbors. They make good fences.

I found the immigration sub-plot an interesting addition to this theme. Jack's friend Paul is imprisoned for aiding illegal immigrants. Surely this has a lot to do with fences and borders as well as the way that Jack lives his life. Are we really going to fault men for crossing an imaginary construct?

It's a week in jail for assaulting a one-armed man. It's a year in jail for assaulting a man with a star pinned to his chest.

I won't go into a rant about the prison system now.

What is interesting here is that the West once was the frontier. Society hadn't caught up yet. I touched on this a bit last year when I wrote about True Grit. As the West is tamed and the fences come up and the laws (both necessary and sometimes ridiculous) are established, there is a reining in of the lawlessness (not necessarily a good or bad thing) that had once prevailed.

This is (at least one aspect of) what Lonely Are the Brave is "about".

There is no turning back the clock. There is no hope in the romantic notion that the cowboy spirit will prevail. The conditions that created the cowboy spirit are gone. Once the last of these men dies off, there is no chance of this spirit being revived. Conditions have changed. A new animating spirit has arrived. Kirk Douglas had hoped that the film would be titled, "The Last Cowboy."

We are undoubtedly living in a post-cowboy world. I've had limited exposure to cowboy and rodeo culture. There is some continuity to the old ways, but everything has been transformed. As always, there is no way to "conserve" the old ways. The (Cowboy) Spirit is constantly putting to death and resurrecting and transforming life. Clinging to old ways may be romantic and nice, but it always gets you killed.

Paul is the character in this film who is put to death and resurrected. He understands that he can no longer enjoy life in the way that he once had. He must enjoy it in the way that he has now.

Jack, our stubborn hero, is unable to do this. This is his charm and this is weakness.

Jack recognizes the flaw in his character:
"'Cause I'm a loner clear down deep to my guts. Know what a loner is? He's a born cripple. He's a cripple because the only person he can live with is himself. It's his life, the way he wants to live. It's all for him. A guy like that, he'd kill a woman like you. Because he couldn't love you, not the way you are loved."

That's all I've got for now. Not bad, considering that I was tempted to write a quick sentence stating that I agreed with Brandon and Jeff and be done with it.

March, so far, has been another slow month. I've watched a couple of episodes of Smallville Season 6 (last night's episode introduced us to Oliver Queen!). Besides Lonely, the only other feature that I've watched is Anthony Mann's Border Incident. I should write about how it shares some themes with Lonely, but, honestly, I didn't like Border Incident enough to care. It comes across as preachy/didactic in its toughness in a way that Lonely never does. So far, these Mann titles have been hit or miss with me. Two O'Clock Courage and Desperate? YES! The Black Book and Border Incident? NO!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bergman Talk

On The Seventh Seal and Through a Glass Darkly:

On Winter Light and The Silence:

Some follow-up: