Sunday, December 13, 2009

Viewing Log #24: Exact xylophone xerox extract [12/7/09 - 12/13/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Multiply. Make it happen.

  • Baby Mama [Michael McCullers, 2008] Sure, that was fine. I laughed enough. [Cough.]
  • The Hurt Locker [Kathryn Bigelow, 2008] Puts other Iraq movies to shame, no doubt, and makes Jarhead in particular, despite its strong cast and factual basis, feel all the more counterfeit. For one, it's an actual action film: its subject is action and action, here, dictates character. Pathologies dominate, but it's not a psychological film—we only see surfaces, and our visibility is poor. Still not sure if the film deserves all of its accolades since its tertiary characters and subplots are rather broad and the final "act" (so to speak) is expected, but it makes sense why it's such a favorite: terse, spatially aware, and, in one way, a very "safe" narrative structure built on camaraderie that plays to our vicarious thrill—way more than horror—at seeing these set-pieces go boom or whisk away from the safety of our hometown haunts.
  • False Aging [Lewis Klahr, 2008] A lovely little ode to relics remaining relevant, and alive, through art. Viewable here, with thanks to Matt for the tip.

  • The San Francisco Silent Film Festival's Winter Event, 2009. More to come in a dedicated post. But here's a few words on each of the films, each one a pleasure to take in, even with some beyond-brazen yakkers behind me for the Keaton segment.
  • West of Zanzibar [Tod Browning, 1928] Depraved, as ever with these guys. A hell of an ending.
  • Sherlock Jr. [Buster Keaton, 1924] # Movies inspire life, duh, on top of recording it or creating havens from it; also, "objective reality" can, without a doubt, be a lie.
  • The Goat [Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair, 1921] That shot of Buster riding the train up to the camera is something special: hilarious, daring, a tad ludicrous, seemingly unreal and yet wholly real.
  • J'accuse [Abel Gance, 1919] Unbelievably gorgeous print; insane, great fantastical final third.
  • Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness [Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1927] Talking animals, and lots of them, made this a blast.

  • All of these Resnais shorts listed below are recounted and read, maybe even narrativized, over here.
  • Statues Also Die [Alain Resnais and Chris Marker, 1953] 27min, 35mm, a blemish.
  • Guernica [Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens, 1950] 12min, in English, 35mm, crisp.
  • Toute la mémoire du monde [Alain Resnais, 1956] 20min, English version, 16mm, kinda grubby.
  • Le chant de styrène [Alain Resnais, 1958] 19min, projected digitally, looked great.

  • Whatever Works [Woody Allen, 2009] Pretty damned bilious, though it tries its hand at sweet. Still, its fantasyland made me laugh and Evan Rachel Wood in white pants is a vision. Also, it's simple, and that helps. Maybe the best movie Woody's made since, um, Sweet and Lowdown? It's still such a mystery to me how little he trusts his comedy in these later years. Don't get me wrong, a lot of his 00s comedies aren't exactly hilarious, but they're always more interesting/enjoyable than those dunderheaded "tragedies" he dreams up.

  • Mélo [Alain Resnais, 1986] # For the recherche; it was just as painful.
  • Broken Embraces [Pedro Almodovar, 2009] What else? A fiction about fictions, an onion that wants you to cry so bad it chops itself, a film about a woman (or her trace) as not just fatal but fated. Almodovar's got style on tap and colors that pop and perhaps the sexiest, most beautiful lead actress in pictures—who is most game with her maestro mate—but the picture's almost rote. Nothing surprised me, though Pene always excites me, except the site of Chus Lampreve still kicking jokes like a champ. You know the tropes, and you know the wistful feelings—you even know Pene's body—by now, so the biggest pleasure to be had with the film is watching it construct itself and peel off its trappings.
  • You Can Count On Me [Kenneth Lonergan, 2000] # I've been needing this. Up there with A Man Escaped and Kings and Queen for those "it's gonna be okay" moments.

  • Beowulf [Robert Zemeckis, 2007] Zemeckis calls his motion capture company Image Movers, which is pretty perfect, since all he wants to do, it seems, is fly his images all over the map from wherever he sees fit. A truly bizarre, prurient, silly spectacle. Maybe I'm just tired, but beyond the obvious myth riffing (self-mythologizing, historicity, etc) I have zero idea why the man would make the film other than some kind of nerd macho impetus. That is, a nerd's idea of macho seems to motivate this balloon of a "cartoon" the way a bro's idea of cool seems to motivate Bay's movies. That and what I'm guessing some trumpet as cinematic freedom. Probably should have seen it in a theatre, with 3-D goggles. Phelps is a big fan, and you can read why over here.
  • Kill Bill: Volumes 1 + 2 [Quentin Tarantino, 2003 + 2004] # A few bits and pieces, in HD on Spike, while on commercial breaks from a few basketball games. Boy did it look good (Uma, too), and boy does QT know how to light a scene. But, boy, this sure is a one-note kind of movie. Also, I continually ask myself: Who did what to wrong this dude? And when? How early on?

Abrazos 2


  1. "But, boy, this sure is a one-note kind of movie."

    It's a pretty good note, though, and I'm not sure if I've seen anybody else play it for that long.

  2. Don't get me wrong: I find those movies entertaining as all get out. And I agree with Dennis Lim's assertion (most overrated of the 90s now the most underrated of the 00s) whole heartedly. But, like you said, the sustain is held for maximum length/s; makes the attack/release more potent, sure, and the Crazy 88s fight is special, but I just don't have the time. Not when I could watch other mesmerizing one-note'rs like, say, on the opposite (decay) side of that coin, _The Battle Of Chile_ or a Dreyer or, hell, _Mélo_. On the QT side of that coin, that is the extravagant/giddy side, you can't do much better than the films he's made this decade, but I'd toss in Satoshi Kon and Wes Anderson, too, tho all three dudes are more polyphonic than I'm letting on here.

  3. Very pleased you liked the Klahr. I guess all one needs to make a movie (well, one that really moves, at least) is a pair of scissors, a good record collection, and some crap the world left behind.

  4. I think Quinten Tarantino has made incredible movies before Kill Bill that often go forgotten. With 3 other directors he put together a fantastic movie, Four Rooms. Also Coffee and Cigarettes was a good one too. He has come out with consistent hits and since the release of Kill Bill I believe people have forgotten the classics he has produced.

    Xerox Phaser Ink