by Ryland Walker Knight
- The Taking of Pelham 123 [Tony Scott, 2009] As prep for Unstoppable because I didn't make it to the theatre this weekend and I did want to watch this one first since they're both about trains. As Danny and Andrew and I laughed on 6th Avenue that one time, its final shot is so fucking cheesy cheese balls that it almost works. And the movie's goofy enough along its nowhere way to love like a pet, like a fishtank maybe.
- —A bullet for the entire week. The first four episodes of the fourth season of The Sopranos [Fall 2002]. The early star of this season is Janice and her insanity, which is good for a "holy shit" as often as a laugh, as when she's encouraged to talk to Ralph about breaking up with the compassion she's famous for—only to, instead, throw him down the stairs. That this event also involves the other stalwart of this season, Joe Pantoliano's Ralph, speaks to the writers' obvious excitement at throwing these two hairballs of crazy at each other, if only for a few hours of screen time. And it's a great analog to Ralph's relationship with Tony, as evidenced in Ralph's kink to be pegged and degraded in bed. Because this show, fearless as it is, goes there.
- Whip It [Drew Barrymore, 2009] Kinda clumsy and clichéd, but winning with its jokes and its tight script and its performances, this thing's a real rawr'r for all the girls out there. And for saps like me, I suppose, who aren't afraid of the word "feminist" as much as they might've been, say, a couple years ago. Also, because, duh, this kind of strength is sexy as much as simply charming.
- Van Gogh [Maurice Pialat, 1991] Almost feels like a Renoir with all the hanging out at parties and the theatrical staging of certain events, but it's certainly a Pialat in its offhanded, everyday dealings with sex and desire. That is, nothing's sensational or trumpeted. Or, if things are, it's the violence people do unto one another, not the acts of love, which are always understated and (here at least) often edited around. Nudity isn't racy, it's a fact, for Pialat. Just as are flings and the fluid (some might say fickle) changes a person can seem to undergo in the course of an afternoon, or 67 days, though it's obvious to the aware viewer than the person hasn't changed; it's how s/he's choosing to interact with others, with the surrounding world. Which is to say that once again here's a film about perception as registered in actions, without psychology, or without access to the minds inside the many clam-like characters.
- Vivre sa via [JLG, 1962] # Another ringing BluRay recommendation. Amazing what JLG's able to convey with simple title cards, how two words will color a face five minutes later; a face, as is often the case, turned from the action that the camera's turned from, doubling the negation and the horror. The film also wins, of course, because of Anna Karina—but you knew that already. The point is to watch this and pay attention to the shape of it, not of her, as JLG's films are often blocky, as reflected in the 4:3 frame, but this one takes it further to break up the blocks themselves; it's a film of segregation, really, in the most basic way—separations determine everything. It's bleak. But it looks so good! (Sometimes I think it's the best one of this, the much vaunted, early period, because it's such a "pure" document. All the "tricks" serve some concrete answer to the question. After all, A.Baz's Q is the only one we all answer differently, and never the same way twice.)
- The Red Shoes [Powell & Pressburger, 1948] # Consider this my endorsement for the BluRay Criterion put out of the new Film Foundation restoration. Everything's sharp, sure, but there's grain in there. And the colors feel real as much as caked-on and painted-loud surreal. Not to mention the fact that the movie is superb, of course, and speaks to a number of things on my ideas-worth-thinking-about check list. This time all I could focus on, whether due to a flu or to this presentation, was the well-renowned mise-en-scene of the film. A favorite moment is somebody saying something about Lermontov leaving on the 8:15 train to Paris, to which Vicky responds by looking up at the top left corner of the frame, which aptly dissolves to a clock on the platform, hands at 8:05, with her eyes directly on it. It's a simply thing, really, and obvious, but it's also an effective visual touch that's become rather rare in the making of movies these days. It's also the kind of thing people like to laugh at, or point at, in current cinemas like, say, a Wes Anderson picture, as some kind of arch touch when it's simply good visual storytelling. Sure, there's variances in tone between my two examples but I get the same thrill from, say, Kumar saying, "There he goes," followed by a shot of Owen Wilson hailing a cab, as I do this clock moment. Though, of course, in a world of "cut-away" humor (even good versions of it like on this week's 30 Rock) this pointing within a story can seem short-hand for clever instead of actually being clever. At any rate, this picture is not just clever, it's gorgeous. And worth sharing.
- 30 Rock "Brooklyn Without Limits" [S5E7, 2010] We all know, as somebody on This Recording said, that it's Tina Fey's rack, not her butt, that turns LL's nerd chic into some kind of sexy (and makes TF's classier IRL attire that much more attractive) with, among other things, all those deep-V's. We also know that this season is turning out great, with "veiled" jabs all over the place: at the show itself, its character construction say, and at this modern world, as some say, with a bunch of dumb gross out jokes I can't get enough of since they're neither dumb nor all that gross.
- Open Five [Kentucker Audley, 2010] More here.
- That Paul Millsap explosion in that Jazz-Heat game sure was something. It's almost like Carlos Boozer's an afterthought these daze. Also, the Heat-as-villains can't quite work when they play like chumps coasting on cred they haven't earned yet together.