300: Rise of an Empire
In comparison with "300", this insane film is more engaging by dint of being absolutely impossible to take even a little bit seriously.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
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?
I sent an e-mail the other day that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. It was to Jim Palmer and Maura Clare at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder. I told them I wouldn't be coming back this spring. I sent it, and stared into space, and was flooded with sadness.
I don't intend to write here about the Conference, which has allowed me to live more than nine months of my life in Boulder, one week at a time. I wrote about CWA in a 2009 blog entry titled the Leisure of the Theory Class. I need not tell you again about Howard Higman or Daddy Bruce Jr.
There is no such thing as a ghost. And even if there was, would they have enough physical presence to show up in a photograph?
I say this with full knowledge that 245,000 images are linked by Googling "photographs of ghosts," and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the pragmatist Sherlock Holmes but a fall guy for spiritualists, endorsed the reality of the famous Cottingley Fairy Photographs, a hoax which inspired the 1995 movie "Fairy Tale: A True Story").
Perhaps you believe in ghosts, fairies, elves, leprechauns, hobbits and other mythical or mystical creatures. This is your privilege. That's not the question here. The question is, was there a ghost in a photograph of a deer I recently took in the woods in Michigan?
The possibility never occurred to me. In fact, I didn't find the photograph itself worthy of a Tweet. I'm not exactly like,
I started walking around London in my mind. It started when I wrote the entry about Jermyn Street. In mentioning Wilton's I should have mentioned that on my first visit there I ordered roast turkey with fresh peaches. I know, it sound like the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore routine about the Frog & Peach, but nevertheless that's what I had, with a raspberry syllabub for dessert.
In my mind my walk didn't stop when Jermyn Street ended at St. James. I imagined walking down St. James and into the park, and around the ponds. And admiring the view of Westminster Abbey from the bridge. And then perhaps out one end of the park toward Victoria or into Pimlico.
When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. -- Erasmus
One afternoon in Cape Town I sat in my little room at University House and took inventory. This must have been in June, winter in the southern hemisphere, and it had been raining steadily for most of a week. I was virtually alone in the student residence; the others had packed off for vacation. With an umbrella and plastic slicker I'd ventured out once or twice to the Pig and Whistle, where I favored the Ploughman's Lunch, but to sustain life I'd laid in a supply of tinned sardines, cheddar and swiss cheese, Hob Nobs, apples, Carr's Water Biscuits, ginger cookies, Hershey bars, biltong, sausage and a pot of jam. I had a little electric coil that would bring a cup of water to a boil, a jar of Nescafe, a box of sugar and some Instant Postum.
Not my office, but very close
I wrote in my journal: "I have not spoken to anyone since Monday. The radio is playing 'Downtown' by Petula Clerk. I've been reading some Shaw -- Man and Superman. I'm wearing jeans, my cable knit sweater and my Keds. I've made coffee and am waiting for it to cool. Let it be recorded that at this moment I am happy."
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
Fair warning: I begin with a parable, continue with vast generalizations, finally get around to an argument with Entertainment Weekly, and move on to Greek gods, "I Love Lucy" and a house on fire.
The parable, The lodestars of John Doe's life are his wife, his children, his boss, his mistress, and his pastor. There are more, but these will do. He expects his wife to be grateful for his loyalty. His children to accept him as a mentor. His boss to value him as a worker. His mistress to praise him as a sex machine. His pastor to note his devotion. These are the roles he has assigned them, and for the most part they play them.
In their own lives, his wife feels he has been over-rewarded for his loyalty, since she has done all the heavy lifting. His children don't understand why there are so many stupid rules. His boss considers John Doe as downsizable, and fears he may also get the axe. His mistress asks herself why she doesn't dump this creep and find an availableman. His pastor has a pretty good idea what goes on during the other six days of the week.
Eternal sun shines on the Malkovich mind