Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Think of the worst movie you’ve ever seen.
This is a dispatch about the first weekend of NYFF 2014, including Green's "La Sapienza" and Fincher's "Gone Girl".
A piece on four films from the opening week of the 2014 New York Film Festival: "Heaven Knows What," "Seymour, an Introduction," "Stray Dog" and "Beloved Sisters."
An interview with Ira Sachs, director of "Love Is Strange."
Remembering Ruby Dee; "The Fault in Our Stars" succeeds and fails; Amazon vs. Warner Bros.; The case against "Edge of Tomorrow"; Trials of a documentarian.
Is "The Goldfinch" art?; The meta-homophobia of "22 Jump Street"; Seinfeld on celebrity; Lack of TV writer jobs in NYC; "Orange" is the new "Hill Street Blues."
The Wolf of Broadway; Kevin Costner's potential comeback; A reporter who spent a year observing college fraternities; An examination of Kurosawa's High and Low; Dana Stevens on Miyazaki's last film.
An excerpt from a forthcoming book on Terence Davies by Michał Oleszczyk.
Peter Bogdanovich's movie musical "At Long Last Love" developed one of those reputations as a career-killing stinker, but in hindsight, it's a pretty darn good mix of 1930s tunes with the slightly more realist sensibility of later musicals. And it's a project with a crazy history. Now that it is out on Blu-Ray, it deserves another look.
Marie writes: Did you know that if you wear your contact lenses too much and too long during the cold, winters months - and with the windows closed and the heat cranked-up, that you can develop an annoying eye condition? Because you can. Ahem. And so for the time being, I'll be spending less time staring at my monitor and more time resting my eyes. The Newsletter will still arrive as usual each week, but it won't be as huge. That said, it will contain a few extra goodies to make up for it, by way of curious finds. And speaking of finding stuff...."On Thursday, March 7, 2013, SpaceX's Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet), hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad. At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9. The test was completed at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas." - by Neatorama
Marie writes: Behold a living jewel; a dragonfly covered in dew as seen through the macro-lens of French photographer David Chambon. And who has shot a stunning series of photos featuring insects covered in tiny water droplets. To view others in addition to these, visit here.
(click images to enlarge)
"A man can be an artist ... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece." -- Rayburn (Christopher Walken), "Man on Fire" (2004)
While I've never been a fan of the late Tony Scott or Christopher Nolan, a few thoughtful articles in recent days have helped me see them in new lights, and got me to thinking about their resemblances as well as their dissimilarities. Several appreciations of Scott (especially those by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Bilge Ebiri, David Edelstein and Manohla Dargis), along with David Bordwell's incisive essay on Christopher Nolan ("Nolan vs. Nolan") got me to thinking about the common assumptions about these popular filmmakers, both of whom are known for quick, impressionistic imagery, intercut scenes, slam-bang action and a CGI-averse insistence on photographing the real world.¹ Regardless of what you ultimately make of their work, there's no question they've done it their way.
This is an attempt to look at both filmmakers through the prism of others' points of view, refracted in critical appraisals like the above.
Of course, Scott and Nolan have passionate admirers and detractors. Until Scott's shocking suicide last week (from a bridge, a landmark that figures hauntingly in the climaxes of several of his movies), I wasn't aware of many critics who championed his movies, but with a few exceptions the obits seem to have been more admiring than the reviews over the years -- understandably, under the sad circumstances.
Those who applaud Scott and Nolan's films see them as genre boundary-pushers (thrillers, action pictures, science-fiction, superhero movies); those who denigrate them see them as symptomatic of the debasement of resonant imagery in modern Hollywood movies. Both have been subjected to that worst of all critical insults, comparisons to Michael Bay:
"'Inception' may have been directed by Christopher Nolan, but Nolan's dreams are apparently directed by Michael Bay." -- Andrew O'Hehir, "Inception: A clunky, overblown disappointment"
"If it sounds like I'm describing Michael Bay, that's because I sort of am. What we like to think of today as the Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer aesthetic was, in fact, originally the Tony Scott aesthetic (often deployed in films made for Bruckheimer and his late partner Don Simpson). Only back then there was a lot more art to it." -- Bilge Ebiri, "To Control Something That's Out of Control: On Tony Scott"
One of Scott's notable defenders has been The New York Times' Manohla Dargis. She identifies him as a "maximalist" who used "a lot of everything in his movies: smoke, cuts, camera moves, color. This kind of stylistic, self-conscious excess could be glorious, as in his underappreciated film 'Domino' (2005)," which Roger Ebert also somewhat grudgingly admired, quoting a character to describe the movie itself as having "the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth." Dargis writes:
Marie writes: Next door, across a long narrow drive and beyond the row of cedar hedges which run parallel to it, there resides an elementary school dating back to 1965, along with an assortment of newer playground equipment rendered in bright, solid primary colors...I'm sure you know the sort I mean...
Marie writes: I've never seen this done before - and what an original idea! Gwen Murphy is an artist who breathes new life into old shoes, transforming them from fashion accessories into intriguing works of art. Thanks go to club member Cheryl Knott for telling me about this. (Click to enlarge.)
Marie writes: I recently heard from an ex-coworker named Athena aka the production manager on an animated series I'd painted digital backgrounds for. She sent me some great photos she'd found on various sites. More than few made me smile and thus inspired, I thought I'd share them with club members. I've added captions for fun but if you can come up with something better, feel free to submit your wit by way of posted comment. Note: I don't know who the photographers are; doesn't say. (Click pics to enlarge.)
"I want a peanut for every photo you took of me..."
"The number of people blogging television online -- it's ridiculous. They don't know what we're building. And by the way, that's true for the people who say we're great. They don't know. It doesn't matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn't mean anything until there's a beginning, middle and an end. [...]
I do have a certain amused contempt for the number of people who walk sideways into the thing and act like they were there all along. It's selling more DVDs now than when it was on the air. But I'm indifferent to who thinks Omar is really cool now, or that this is the best scene or this is the best season. It was conceived of as a whole, and we did it as a whole. For people to be picking it apart now like it's a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time -- it's wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end. Our numbers continued to decline from Season 2 on.* -- David Simon, creator of "The Wire," "Generation Kill," "Treme"
I've heard some very good film critics make this argument before, too. Of course, a movie has a beginning, a middle and an end (although, as Jean-Luc Godard reminded us, not necessarily in that order). That's the fabled "three-act structure" all the screenplay manuals talk about. Wim Wenders and other great directors have observed that they always make at least two movies: the one they set out to make and the one they discover while they're trying to make the first one. Same goes for watching a movie or TV series: there's always the show you watch when its destination is unknown, and the one you reconsider after you know how it ended up.
Marie writes: kudos to club member Sandy Kahn for finding this - as I'd never heard of the Bregenz Festival before, despite the spectacular staging of Puccini's opera Tosca and which appeared briefly in the Bond film Quantum of Solace; but then I slept through most of it. I'm not surprised I've no memory of an Opera floating on a lake. Lake Constance to be exact, which borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps...
Tosca by Puccini | 2007-2008 - Photograph by BENNO HAGLEITNER(click to enlarge)
Every writer hopes to see his book reviewed in The New York Times. The grand slam is to be reviewed twice, both daily and Sunday. On last Thursday, Janet Maslin reviewed "Life Itself" and it was the best review I could possibly hope for. On Sunday, Maureen Dowd reviewed it in the NYTimes Book Review. Another positive review--indeed, for Dowd, positively generous. ("A captivating, movable feast.") But near the top it contained a zinger. "Ebert is a first-rate second-rate memoirist," she wrote. I cringed, and then I smiled. If there was ever an example of snark that I fully deserved, it was this one. First of all, it is fair enough. If Nabokov's Speak, Memory is an example of the first-rate memoir, then the bar has been set pretty high.
Marie writes: Summer is now officially over. The berries have been picked, the jam has been made, lawn-chairs put away for another year. In return, nature consoles us with the best show on Earth; the changing of the leaves! I found these at one of my favorites sites and where you can see additional ones and more...
My blog entry I met a character from Dickens stirred up nostalgia for London even among some who have never been there.
The great city lives in our imaginations like no other, perhaps because of the writers who have so memorably populated it for us:
Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace Thackery, George Gissing, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Compton Mackinzie, Virginia Woolf, Anthony Powell, Iris Murdoch. And then Shakespeare and the incomparable Johnson and his Boswell.
If the physical city is burned, bombed, bulldozed and stripped of the past through urban renewal, the London of our imaginations endures rich and full. RE
Blackfriar's Bridge in 1896
Petticoat Lane in 1903
A rather amazing and nearly crystal-clear color motion picture of London in 1927.
A magic camera's futuristic visions on London in 1924
The Blitz, 1941
The victory celebrations of 1945
"Of all the seats in all theaters in the world, the best seat is at the front of the top of a London omnibus." -- Henry James
Driving the A13
A cruise on the Thames, 1983
The haunted London Underground
• Toronto Entry #4There is a Truffaut film, rarely seen, named "The Green Room," based on the Henry James short story "The Altar of the Dead." That was about a man whose constant companions were the friends he had lost. He was faithful to their shrines in his memory. The term for his obsession is thanatopsis, a meditation upon death. Truffaut himself plays the hero of his film, and maintains a little chapel to the memory of his late wife and other loved ones. Nathalie Baye plays a woman he meets who shares his devotion, and it seems possible they may find happiness together, but she cannot reach him because his mind seems to reside in the next world.
Marie writes: I love illustrators best in all the world. There's something so alive about the scratch and flow of pen & ink, the original medium of cheeky and subversive wit. And so when club member Sandy Kahn submitted links for famed British illustrator Ronald Searle and in the hopes others might find him interesting too, needless to say, I was quick to pounce; for before Ralph Steadman there was Ronald Searle... "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence onmy life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle."-- John LennonVisit Kingly Books' Ronald Searle Gallery to view a sordid collection of wicked covers and view sample pages therein. (click to enlarge image.) And for yet more covers, visit Ronald Searle: From Prisoner of War to Prolific Illustrator at Abe Books.
Marshall McLuhan wrote much nonsense. Embedded in it I find startling insights that help explain my experiences. Consider the phrase "the medium is the message." These five words at a masterstroke explain the digital age we now occupy. One sign of a valuable insight is when it applies to developments its author could hardly have foreseen.
Like most people, I've long thought I knew what McLuhan meant by his phrase. I won't bore you with what I thought that was. I've come across an explanation that explains what he meant with such blinding clarity that my own notions seem half-formed. I was poking around on the internet, and came across this passage from the Playboy Interview with McLuhan:
"I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music." - Alex Steinweiss
"Death disports with writers more cruelly than with the rest of humankind," Cynthia Ozick wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic.
"The grave can hardly make more mute those who were voiceless when alive--dust to dust, muteness to muteness. But the silence that dogs the established writer's noisy obituary, with its boisterous shock and busy regret, is more profound than any other.
"Oblivion comes more cuttingly to the writer whose presence has been felt, argued over, championed, disparaged--the writer who is seen to be what Lionel Trilling calls a Figure. Lionel Trilling?