Movies postsSaturday October 10, 2015
You Are the Star Tonight
I watched “Hearts of Darkness” the other night for the first time since its release in theaters in 1991. Still a fascinating portrait of a man (director Francis Ford Coppola) and a period (the aftermath of the '60s), and how art imitates life (making a movie about the Vietnam War ended up being like the Vietnam War). “There were too many of us,” Coppola says at Cannes in '79, “we had access to too much equipment, too much money; and little by little we went insane.” Another unmentioned but obvious comparison: neither the U.S. nor Coppola knew how to end it. Maybe that should've been Coppola's ending: not being in control of the ending.
What really struck me this time, though, was a scene in which Coppola directs his star, Martin Sheen, in the Saigon hotel scene where Willard has a nervous breakdown, and which led to Sheen's own heart attack at the age of 36.
Coppola has heard that officers like Willard are often vain men; they admire their looks, their bodies. And he uses this tidbit as he directs his star:
Marty, go look at yourself in the mirror. I want you to look at how beautiful you are. I want you to look at your mouth—your mouth and your hair.
(Sheen runs hands through his hair.)
You look like a movie star.
I thought: He is a movie star. He's a movie star playing a guy who wants to look like a movie star.
And I thought: That's it right there.
We so want to be them (for the glamour, the girls, the fame), but in the movies they so want to be us (for the reality; to make it meaningful.) And they so want to be us, they'll pretend to be us pretending to be them. Because that's part of what defines us: wanting to be them.
Hollywood is under me
I'm Martin Sheen
I'm Steve McQueen
I'm Jimmy Dean
A Few Thoughts After Watching '2001' Last Night
I was thinking about Kubrick in the mid-sixties making it, when the year 2001 was in the future, and me in my living room last night watching it, with the year 2001 now more than a decade in the past.
And I was turning over the four-part structure of the film:
- The dawn of man, in which a group of ape creatures, driven from their water hole by a rival tribe, awaken to a thrumming black monolith, and thereafter make the giant leap forward: they use a bone as a weapon and take back their water hole.
- The near future, 2001ish, and the discovery of the monolith buried on the dark side of the moon.
- The mission to Jupiter, 18 months later, in which the HAL 9000 computer malfunctions, then kills four of the five crewmembers before being deactivated.
- Whatever the fuck is going on at the end. Old age and new births. A new dawn of man? A dawn of AI?
And I thought about what the year 2001 meant to its creators and what it wound up meaning to us.
To Kubrick, it meant a bland, clean, artificial efficiency. To us, it’s the year a rival tribe grabbed a new weapon and beat its enemies. It’s a year you would associate with the first part of the film (millions of years ago) rather than the last three parts (the near future).
I think Kubrick would've smiled at that.
A vision of the future from the past, with Pan-Am flights to the moon and Howard Johnson’s Earthlight Rooms.
Freedom vs. Community: The Lone Ranger Solution
I like this quote from “A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980” by Robert B. Ray, from a chapter examining the movies, “It's a Wonderful Life” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”:
As a way out of the impasse between the attractiveness of the outlaw hero's life, lived solely in terms of the self, and the need for community responsibility, the Classic Hollywood movie had proposed the archetypal American solution: the individual hero whose willingness to help society was pictured as a temporary departure from the natural and proper pattern of his life, which remained free of abiding entanglements. Involvement, then, represented only a momentary concession to emergency and not a genuine acknowledgement of society's claims. As Leo Marx has pointed out, such a view discredited politics in America; to make a career out of involvement was somehow suspect.
Cf., Bob Dylan:
The Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding down the line
Fixing everybody's troubles, everybody's 'cept mine
Somebody must've told 'em I was doing fine
Cf., as well, Zorro, “Kung Fu,” “The Incredible Hulk.” Cf., Ethan in “The Searchers,” delivering Debbie but not crossing the threshold to the house. Cf.,...?
He even wore the outlaw's mask.
Old Actor, Young Actress
The Wrap recently featured a slideshow of old actors and young actresses starring together in rom-coms, etc., which indicates—according to its headline—that “Ageism Still Plagues Hollywood.”
A few points:
- I think they mean sexism. Since the reverse isn't true. Jane Fonda isn't bedding Channing Tatum.
- Of the 17 films listed, fewer than half (eight) are from the last 10 years. Just as many are from the 1990s, so you wonder about the “still plagues” hed. Or the amount of effort they put into the piece.
- What's it all about, Alfie?
Seriously, any discussion of this topic needs to address what it means. Why are men in their 50s and 60s still considered romantic leads while women the same age can hardly get work? Put another way: Why are men valued for experience and position while women are valued for youth and beauty?
Put still another way: We know how men reduce women (cads). But how do women reduce men?
This one didn't make The Wrap's cut even though Bradley Cooper is 15 years older than Jennifer Lawrence. Is that OK? What's the cut-off? Do we do half+7?
What I'm Seeing at SIFF 2015
Here's a note I got this morning from John Hartl, Seattle's émenince grise of movie reviewing, after I asked him what might be good at the Seattle International Film Festival this year:
I've seen plenty of good stuff, including “Flowers,” “Love & Mercy,” “The Boss, Anatomy of a Crime” and “The Golden Hill.” And some bad stuff too, like “Sleeping With Other People” and “Summer in Provence” and “Seoul Searching.” Take care, and don't watch too much.
I'd already gotten my tickets, of course, and, yes, I'll be watching too much. Here's what I wound up going for, sorted by country, and with superhelpful links to the SIFF site for more info—even if the SIFF site isn't exactly superhelpful (it's slow and not exactly user-friendly):
|Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll||Cambodia||doc on rock history + U.S. Southeast Asia politics|
|Cave of the Spider Women/ Cave of the Silken Web||China||The first is a 1927 Chinese film — before Hollywood united all our tastes and predilections|
|The Connection||France||Jean Dujardin as Gene Hackman|
|Vincent||France||Alt take on superhero mythology|
|The Apu trilogy||India||Because I've never seen it (I hang my head in shame)|
|Theeb||Jordan||Great reviews + I know nothing of Jordan|
|Kurmanjan Datka: Queen of the Mountains||Kyrgyzstan||Looks beautiful + I know nothing of Kyrgyzstan|
|Love, Theft & Other Entanglements||Palestine||Dark comedy about Middle East + I know nothing of the Middle East|
|Accused||Netherlands||Miscarriage of Dutch justice|
|Meeting Dr. Sun||Taiwan||Looks funny + Taiwan (my old stomping grounds)|
|Mr. Holmes||UK||Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes in retirement? Indubitably!|
|Love & Mercy||USA||On Brian Wilson; someone bring the Barenaked Ladies|
|Slow West||USA||Great buzz from Sundance|
|Being Evel||USA||He's Evel Knievel, damnit!|