Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haw Haw Hawnting

It's that time of year, I guess, for us to recycle all of our horror enthusiasms and horror disapproval. I want to like horror films. I want to be scared. I want to be shocked. Unfortunately, I'm more often than not bored and left scratching my head.

So it is with The Haunting.

Praised by many as one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Haunting failed to win me over. I respect it. I found the sound design excellent. I found the voiceover narration to be among the best I've ever heard in communicating an interior monologue running against and commenting on the visual action.

Mostly, though? I was unimpressed by the haunted house story. I was especially unimpressed by how it plays out and how it resolves. The camera tricks and sound design seemed too obvious at every time. Maybe it's because I'm hyper-aware of these things when watching an horror film, my mind's way of protecting me from ever actually having to be frightened by any silly old image. I don't know. I respect the film. I don't much like it.

All that said, there is one very effective moment that moved even me, horror skeptic that I am. When Julie Harris begins dancing among the statues, I could feel all the horror and hurt and strangeness that the film was trying so hard to communicate. That scene works.

Catching Up

Copying and pasting Letterboxd capsules (note the incorrect dates that I didn't bother to fix). As you guys know, I watched zero films in September. That is the record worst slump since I started this project. October's already looking a little better. I don't have the energy for a full post about any of these. It's at least a positive sign that I'm watching films and thinking about posting again. Finally, if any of you like Shakespeare (and who doesn't?) and like Joss Whedon even the tiniest bit, then do yourself a favor and rent Much Ado About Nothing as soon as you can. Right now, it's my favorite film of 2012.

The Man Who Came to Dinner 1942
★★★  Watched 21 Oct, 2013

Some good laughs. I' probably rate it higher if I wasn't distracted by how oafish and imbecilic the father is portrayed as, essentially coaxing the audience into feeling that the father deserves to be the victim. This is all tied up with how the antihero gets away with being a lovable rascal.

Stranger Than Paradise 1984
★★★★  Rewatched  16 Oct, 2013

Not quite a "my essentials" pick but was very important in my development as a cinephile. This and Overboard starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Much Ado About Nothing 2013
★★★★½  Watched 15 Oct, 2013


Fortune Is a Woman 1957
★★★  Watched 12 Oct, 2013

A solid enough picture with some real tension in the last 2/3rds, almost but not quite ruined by a rushed and too obvious resolution.

The Goonies 1985
★★★  Rewatched  07 Oct, 2013

Goonies holds up just fine.

The Oregonian 2011
★★  Watched 06 Oct, 2013

I'm on the fence about this one. I respect it for fully committing to its dark comic logic.

Silver Bullets 2011
★★  Watched 05 Oct, 2013  5

Swanberg is sad but unrepentant. His movies don't matter. And won't matter.

Museum Hours 2013
★★★  Watched 04 Oct, 2013  4

Worth seeing. At its best, it is one of the best films I've seen in years. At its worst, it's too on-the-nose, self-contradictory, and loses its way in the final third.

Monday, October 21, 2013

4 Years Ago - Cassavetes Appreciation

All apologies for my lack of enthusiasm lately. As a trick or treat (you decide), here's something I wrote four years ago that I never went back and finished. I present it now "as is" in the hopes that it might shame me into writing like I used to write when we first started this blogging madness.


Killing of a Chinese Bookie has occupied my mind for the several months since I first watched it.  It has set up camp and seems to have no intention of leaving.  Nor do I wish it to.  This is a welcome invasion.

Within a few days of watching the film, I stumbled upon a copy of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus while at work.  One line caught my attention and lodged itself in my brain in the same far corners that Bookie had firmly established itself.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Glowing Furnace of Charity…

There are no better words to describe Cassavetes.  Glowing Furnace of Charity.  In his generous creativity, Cassavetes participates in a firestorm of grace, actively reflecting, through a glass darkly, the source of all creative energy.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other master film directors.  None are as firmly grounded in love as John Cassavetes.

Paul Schrader has written a book on “transcendental cinema.”  Schrader also wrote a negative review of Cassavetes’ Faces and seems to dislike Cassavetes in general.  I think I know why.  Cassavetes did not make Transcendental Cinema.  He created Incarnational Cinema.

Cassavetes’ films all evince a mature awareness that we’re more than just souls awaiting deliverance.  Our enfleshed bodies require redemption here and now.  Our goal should not be to move beyond being human, but to become fully human.

Cassavetes brings the Heart of infinite love to the finite folk of our specific time and place.

Some other directors have clearly shown us the dis-ease of modern life.  For all of his faults, I respect Michael Haneke, but he’s only shown us the evil.  He knows no way out.  Cassavetes’ art is concerned with the reconciliation of persons to one another through the purification that comes from passing through the furnace of charity.  In short, his art is love.