Sun Oct 04 2015 11:05 To Stop Disturbance:
I was reading to Sumana the most interesting bits from Washington Goes To War, a book by David Brinkley about the changes to Washington D.C. over the course of World War II. It's full of interesting historical tidbits, including:
- The attempt to notify essential personnel of the attack on Pearl Harbor, without notifying the other 27,000 people in the same football stadium watching the Washington Redskins game.
- An entirely legal scheme by which a Washington columnist and the Spanish ambassador arranged payoffs in exchange for "the columnist [writing] about previously unknown virtues he saw in Francisco Franco."
- The controversial origins of having taxes automatically deducted from your paycheck.
But the thing Sumana wanted me to record verbatim was the policy that Washington D.C.'s Casino Royal put into place for dealing with the inevitable fistfights between soldiers and sailors. "Night after night," these inter-service resentments boiled over, and so the Casino Royal wrote down these rules and posted them "on a wall backstage under the heading TO STOP DISTURBANCE."
- Lower the house lights
- Turn the spotlight on a large American flag hanging from the ceiling
- Start up an electric fan aimed at the flag, causing it to flutter
- Have the band instantly stop playing dance music and strike up "The Star-Spangled Banner".
- Call in the military police and the navy's shore patrol
It always worked. The soldiers and sailors stopped swinging at each other, faced the flag and stood at attention while the band played. There was no way a uniformed military man in wartime could refuse to do this, however angry he was. Before the anthem was finished, the military police and the shore patrol were walking up the steps from Fourteenth Street.
The one that really gets me is #3. I can see how this behavior would be drilled into you as a reflex action, but #3 makes it feel like they're trying to inspire you, remind you what you're fightin' for. And then the MPs show up.
Thu Oct 01 2015 09:05 September Film Roundup:
Didn't see a lot of movies this month, so I'm going to add a new mini-feature that will run for the next few months. I'll be briefly reviewing some TV shows that, although I haven't seen (and may never see) absolutely every episode, I feel like I can evaluate the show as a whole. But first, our feature presentations:
- Rififi (1955) a.k.a. "Du rififi chez les hommes", a.k.a. "Rough Stuff" (my translation). Where's the dividing line between French New Wave films inspired by American noir, and just plain French noir? I don't know. This is definitely on the 'just plain French noir' side, but everything in this movie—the misogyny, the stylishness, the despair—is just a more extreme version of what you get from Truffaut. Not recommended overall but the half-hour silent heist scene is black-and-white gold, everything that was promised.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): The first Wes Anderson film I've enjoyed rather than admired. Everything is so cute and twee but with a little edge, so the style is a perfect match. If I've read the book it was in grade school, so I don't know who gets the credit for this idea, but I love how, despite being totally anthropomorphized, the stop-motion animals are animals. Really cool seeing Mr. Fox get into a hissing match with his lawyer, casually killing chickens, etc. Also love how 'cuss' is used as an all-purpose swear word.
- Kumaré (2001): Saw with Sumana and mother-in-law. Not really happy with the way this ended. It's common for the creator of a documentary about pulling a con job to start to feel remorse for their marks about halfway through the documentary. And this does happen to Vikram Gandhi in Kumaré, but when it's time to come clean he doesn't show the remorse. He retcons his con job as "Yes, I misled you and lied to you, but it was all in the service of a larger spiritual goal!"
Gandhi has a degree in religious studies so he should know this is Religious Huckster Trick #2. And of course it works. He pulls it off! But he's still operating the con.
- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985): This was on the list of great films by female directors (see previous post), and it was showing at the museum, so we caught the next train posthaste! (Actually we walked.) It's a fun movie that's very much a time capsule, not just because of the New York and the fashions and the yuppie coffee tables and the Madonna but because not one single element of this plot can coexist with cell phones or the Internet.
Well, one element can—hyperspecific amnesia caused by otherwise harmless head trauma—but that's just ridiculous, so I'm not counting it. No, you know what, even that can't survive cell phones. "I forgot who I am... good thing I'm still logged into Facebook."
You just know I'll like this movie because there's a very strong Celine and Julie go Boating vibe, not just in the magic show but in the way Roberta just picks up Susan's identity and tries it on for a while. Really fun.
And now the TV section. Obviously my technique of waiting until I can evaluate the show as a whole, creates a selection bias towards good television shows. I'll sit through a bad movie and then pan it in Film Roundup, but a bad TV show is outa here, especially since I watch movies on my own but I only watch TV with Sumana. But what's the problem with talking about good TV? Try this on for size:
- The Dick Van Dyke Show (1951-1966) - Or as I just typed into IMDB, "The Dick Van." I remember reading an essay that explained that Leave it to Beaver was a groundbreaking show because it showed post-WWII parents trying to figure out how to raise children without the corporal-punishment-centric style their parents used on them. But phooey on that, because Leave it to Beaver is not funny. The Dick Van Dyke Show shows a postwar couple trying to figure out how to be good parents and partners, and it's really really funny. It's got workplace comedy, metahumor, tastefully wacky neighbors, everything good you'd want from a sitcom. Rob and Laura will have a disagreement that turns into an argument and then a reconciliation, it will be realistic and funny, and they'll shoot it all in one long take. It's so good. Sometimes they tire of the normal fare and do a sitcom version of The Twilight Zone instead.
Best moment: Buddy, one of Rob's co-workers, is always making these awful jokes about his shrewish wife Pickles. And then in one episode all the co-workers have a night out on the town. Buddy brings Pickles along, and she's great! She's a Broadway chorus girl, she's the life of the party, she and Buddy are perfect for each other, totally in love, and you realize, of course! Why would Buddy marry someone who'd make him miserable? He's just an asshole who adopts this Borscht Belt persona at work. The show doesn't go out of its way to point out any of this; it just quietly develops the characters in ways that reward paying attention.
(Before you ask, Religious Huckster Trick #1 is "God told me to tell you to give me money.")
(3) Wed Sep 30 2015 21:50 Top 100 Films From Women Directors:
Sumana is tired of dude movies, so I went through this list of 100 great movies by female directors and noted the ones that a) I think Sumana would like (no Pet Sematary) and b) I am willing to watch (no Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a film Sumana really likes but just thinking about it makes me fall asleep. I'm asleep right now!) There were about twenty-five such movies.
The above-linked list is very quirky, and although the idiosyncracies generally work in the reader's favor (gotta figure out a way to see Jodie Mack's Dusty Stacks of Mom (2013)), it left rhetorical space for men to come into the comments section and say HOW could you OVERLOOK this GROUNDBREAKING film, [potentially useful recommendation], for you see, I know a LOT about FILM. Which I must admit would have happened anyway.
I don't know a lot about film, but I do know how to run SQL queries against IMDB data, so I thought I would make an intersubjective list of the top 100 films directed by women, judged by their IMDB ratings. In general I copied the implicit rules of the hand-picked list. Only feature-length films are here. No documentaries, no concert footage. (There is one comedy special in here, but whatever.)
As usual, films with fewer than 150 votes on IMDB were not considered. Also as usual, there are no links because the IMDB dataset is far too ancient for such things. I did some spot checks and kicked a couple movies off the list for obvious astroturfing. I don't believe one of the movies on this list is real, but I left it on the list because it's so weird.
Here's the list:
|1. The Matrix (1999)||Wachowski, Lana||8.7||Action, Sci-Fi|
|2. Cidade de Deus (2002)||Lund, Kátia||8.7||Drama, Crime|
|3. Voskhozhdenie (1977)||Shepitko, Larisa||8.3||Drama, War|
|4. Drushyam (2014)||Sripriya||8.3||Drama, Thriller, Family|
|5. Moe no suzaku (1997)||Kawase, Naomi||8.2||Drama|
|6. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)||Akhtar, Zoya||8.1||Drama, Romance, Comedy, Adventure, Family|
|7. Salaam Bombay! (1988)||Nair, Mira||8.1||Drama, Crime|
|8. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)||Sen, Aparna||8.0||Drama|
|9. Le roman de Renard (1930)||Starewicz, Irene||8.0||Comedy, Fantasy, Animation, Family|
|10. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)||Tandan, Loveleen||8.0||Drama, Romance|
|11. Persepolis (2007)||Satrapi, Marjane||8.0||Drama, Animation, War, Biography|
|12. Chelovek s bulvara Kaputsinov (1987)||Surikova, Alla||8.0||Romance, Comedy, Musical, Western|
|13. Zero Motivation (2014)||Lavie, Talya||7.9||Drama, Comedy|
|14. Chou tin dik tong wah (1987)||Cheung, Mabel||7.9||Drama, Romance|
|15. Out 1, noli me tangere (1971)||Schiffman, Suzanne||7.9||Drama|
|16. Tau ban no hoi (1982)||Hui, Ann||7.9||Drama|
|17. Gett (2014)||Elkabetz, Ronit||7.9||Drama|
|18. Sharasôju (2003)||Kawase, Naomi||7.9||Drama|
|19. Gangoobai (2013)||Krishnaswamy, Priya||7.9||Drama, Family|
|20. Patrice O'Neal: Elephant in the Room (2011)||McCarthy-Miller, Beth||7.9||Comedy|
|21. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)||Akerman, Chantal||7.9||Drama|
|22. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)||Faris, Valerie||7.9||Drama, Comedy, Adventure|
|23. English Vinglish (2012)||Shinde, Gauri||7.9||Drama, Comedy, Family|
|24. Shrek (2001)||Jenson, Vicky||7.9||Comedy, Fantasy, Animation, Adventure, Family|
|25. La distancia más larga (2013)||Pinto, Claudia||7.9||Drama|
|26. Pasqualino Settebellezze (1975)||Wertmüller, Lina||7.9||Drama, Comedy, War|
|27. Dönüs (1972)||Soray, Türkan||7.8||Drama, Romance|
|28. Strangers in Good Company (1990)||Scott, Cynthia||7.8||Drama|
|29. Awakenings (1990)||Marshall, Penny||7.8||Drama, Biography|
|30. Dolgie provody (1971)||Muratova, Kira||7.8||Drama|
|31. Ne dao Bog veceg zla (2002)||Tribuson, Snjezana||7.8||Romance|
|32. Tong nien wang shi (1985)||Yang, Li-Yin||7.8||Drama, Biography|
|33. Dedictví aneb Kurvahosigutntag (1993)||Chytilová, Vera||7.8||Comedy|
|34. Cheshmane John Malkovich 1: Viggo Mortensen (2004)||Solati, Sara||7.8||Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery|
|35. Earth (1998)||Mehta, Deepa||7.8||Drama, Romance, War|
|36. Nu ren si shi (1995)||Hui, Ann||7.8||Drama, Comedy|
|37. Lost in Translation (2003)||Coppola, Sofia||7.8||Drama|
|38. Efter brylluppet (2006)||Bier, Susanne||7.8||Drama|
|39. Water (2005)||Mehta, Deepa||7.8||Drama, Romance|
|40. Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (1926)||Reiniger, Lotte||7.8||Romance, Fantasy, Animation, Adventure|
|41. Rocks in My Pockets (2014)||Baumane, Signe||7.7||Comedy, Drama, Animation|
|42. Kirschblüten - Hanami (2008)||Dörrie, Doris||7.7||Drama, Romance|
|43. Selma (2014)||DuVernay, Ava||7.7||Drama, Biography, History|
|44. Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001)||Link, Caroline||7.7||Drama, Biography|
|45. Hævnen (2010)||Bier, Susanne||7.7||Drama|
|46. S tebou me baví svet (1983)||Polednáková, Marie||7.7||Comedy, Family|
|47. Nastroyshchik (2004)||Muratova, Kira||7.7||Drama, Comedy, Crime|
|48. Die Höhle des gelben Hundes (2005)||Davaa, Byambasuren||7.7||Drama|
|49. Sita Sings the Blues (2008)||Paley, Nina||7.7||Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Animation, Musical|
|50. Sans toit ni loi (1985)||Varda, Agnès||7.7||Drama|
|51. Olivier, Olivier (1992)||Holland, Agnieszka||7.7||Drama|
|52. Little Fugitive (1953)||Orkin, Ruth||7.7||Drama, Family|
|53. Film d'amore e d'anarchia, ovvero 'stamattina alle 10 in via dei Fiori nella nota casa di tolleranza...' (1973)||Wertmüller, Lina||7.7||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|54. Le bonheur (1965)||Varda, Agnès||7.7||Drama|
|55. Krylya (1966)||Shepitko, Larisa||7.7||Drama|
|56. Jibeuro Ganeun Gil (2013)||Pang, Eun-jin||7.7||Drama|
|57. Whale Rider (2002)||Caro, Niki||7.7||Drama, Family|
|58. Frozen (2013)||Lee, Jennifer||7.7||Family, Fantasy, Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Musical|
|59. Europa Europa (1990)||Holland, Agnieszka||7.7||Drama, War, History|
|60. Elsker dig for evigt (2002)||Bier, Susanne||7.7||Drama, Romance|
|61. Die Fremde (2010)||Aladag, Feo||7.6||Drama|
|62. Away from Her (2006)||Polley, Sarah||7.6||Drama|
|63. Saving Face (2004)||Wu, Alice||7.6||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|64. Tou ze (2011)||Hui, Ann||7.6||Drama|
|65. En chance til (2014)||Bier, Susanne||7.6||Drama, Thriller|
|66. Wadjda (2012)||Al-Mansour, Haifaa||7.6||Drama, Comedy|
|67. My Life Without Me (2003)||Coixet, Isabel||7.6||Drama, Romance|
|68. Neposlusni (2014)||Djukic, Mina||7.6||Drama|
|69. 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981)||Sen, Aparna||7.6||Drama, Romance|
|70. Depuis qu'Otar est parti... (2003)||Bertuccelli, Julie||7.6||Drama|
|71. The Hurt Locker (2008)||Bigelow, Kathryn||7.6||Drama, War, Thriller|
|72. American Psycho (2000)||Harron, Mary||7.6||Drama, Crime|
|73. The Secret Life of Words (2005)||Coixet, Isabel||7.6||Drama, Romance|
|74. Brødre (2004)||Bier, Susanne||7.6||Drama, War|
|75. Yeo-haeng-ja (2009)||Lecomte, Ounie||7.6||Drama|
|76. Ting shuo (2009)||Cheng, Fen-fen||7.6||Drama, Romance|
|77. I Am Sam (2001)||Nelson, Jessie||7.6||Drama|
|78. The Namesake (2006)||Nair, Mira||7.6||Drama|
|79. Boys Don't Cry (1999)||Peirce, Kimberly||7.6||Drama, Biography|
|80. Büyük adam küçük ask (2001)||Ipekçi, Handan||7.6||Drama|
|81. Hanezu no tsuki (2011)||Kawase, Naomi||7.6||Drama|
|82. Pora umierac (2007)||Kedzierzawska, Dorota||7.6||Drama|
|83. La faute à Fidel! (2006)||Gavras, Julie||7.6||Drama, History|
|84. Kazoku no kuni (2012)||Yang, Yong-hi||7.5||Drama|
|85. Zir-e poost-e shahr (2001)||Bani-Etemad, Rakhshan||7.5||Drama|
|86. Proof (1991)||Moorhouse, Jocelyn||7.5||Drama|
|87. Ramchand Pakistani (2008)||Jabbar, Mehreen||7.5||Drama|
|88. Te doy mis ojos (2003)||Bollaín, Icíar||7.5||Drama, Romance|
|89. Nanayomachi (2008)||Kawase, Naomi||7.5||Drama|
|90. La misma luna (2007)||Riggen, Patricia||7.5||Drama|
|91. Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (1974)||Wertmüller, Lina||7.5||Drama, Comedy, Adventure|
|92. Samt el qusur (1994)||Tlatli, Moufida||7.5||Drama|
|93. Et maintenant on va où? (2011)||Labaki, Nadine||7.5||Drama, Comedy|
|94. The Japanese Wife (2010)||Sen, Aparna||7.5||Drama, Romance|
|95. An Angel at My Table (1990)||Campion, Jane||7.5||Drama, Biography|
|96. Antonia (1995)||Gorris, Marleen||7.5||Drama, Comedy|
|97. Hooligans (2005)||Alexander, Lexi||7.5||Drama, Sport, Crime|
|98. Trolösa (2000)||Ullmann, Liv||7.5||Drama, Romance|
|99. A New Leaf (1971)||May, Elaine||7.5||Romance, Comedy|
|100. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)||Ramsay, Lynne||7.5||Drama, Thriller|
|101. Ke tu qiu hen (1990)||Hui, Ann||7.5||Drama|
|102. Mita Tova (2014)||Granit, Tal||7.5||Drama|
|103. Ratcatcher (1999)||Ramsay, Lynne||7.5||Drama|
|104. ...ing (2003)||Lee, Eon-hie||7.5||Romance|
|105. Tin shui wai dik yat yu ye (2008)||Hui, Ann||7.5||Drama|
|106. American Splendor (2003)||Berman, Shari Springer||7.5||Drama, Comedy, Biography|
|107. Tian yu (1998)||Chen, Joan||7.5||Drama|
|108. Cloud Atlas (2012)||Wachowski, Lana||7.5||Drama, Sci-Fi|
|109. Jestem (2005)||Kedzierzawska, Dorota||7.5||Drama|
|110. Korotkie vstrechi (1968)||Muratova, Kira||7.5||Drama, Romance|
|111. Dogfight (1991)||Savoca, Nancy||7.5||Drama, Romance, War|
|112. Across the Universe (2007)||Taymor, Julie||7.5||Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Musical|
|113. Sedmikrásky (1966)||Chytilová, Vera||7.5||Drama, Comedy|
There are 113 movies in this list because IMDB ratings only have 0.1 star precision. If you're a woman and you direct a movie that gets a 7.5, congrats, you're tied for 84th place.
Susanne Bier and Ann Hui each have five films on the list. Naomi Kawase has four. Some of the directors share the credit with a man, notably Lana Wachowski and Suzanne Schiffman. Barring any titles I don't recognize because they're not in English, the only films on this list I've seen are Sita Sings the Blues, Whale Rider, Frozen and A New Leaf. My personal favorites, among movies I know were directed by women, are A New Leaf and Wayne's World.
Finally, here's the base query I used to get the info I needed out of the database. I used the same database I built for Ghostbusters Past.
select distinct(title.id), title.title, title.production_year, rating.info, votes.info, movie_info.info, kind_id, name.name, name.gender from title join cast_info on title.id=cast_info.movie_id join name on cast_info.person_id=name.id join movie_info_idx as rating on rating.movie_id=title.id join movie_info_idx as votes on votes.movie_id=title.id join movie_info on movie_info.movie_id=title.id where cast_info.role_id=8 and kind_id=1 and movie_info.info_type_id=3 and rating.info_type_id=101 and votes.info_type_id=100 and name.gender='f';
Update: The pedantry continues with Darius Kazemi telling me that Loveleen Tandan was the casting director on Slumdog Millionare, not the director who yelled "cut!" and "action!" and "it's a wrap!". If IMDB says
role_id=8, that's good enough for me, but YMMV.
Update #2: danima asked about English-language films. I don't think IMDB tracks the primary language of a film, just whether a language is used in the film. So I can filter on "English", but I'll still pick up films that are primarily in French or Hindi, so long as there is some English dialogue.
Our story begins right after Across the Universe, where the previous list leaves off. Basically if your film is in English you only need to get a 7.4 or 7.3 (still several standard deviations above the median) to get in the top 100. I have not vetted this list for astroturf:
|57. Pismo do Amerika (2001)||Triffonova, Iglika||7.4||Drama|
|58. Bastard Out of Carolina (1996)||Huston, Anjelica||7.4||Drama|
|59. Frida (2002)||Taymor, Julie||7.4||Drama, Romance, Biography|
|60. Chance (2002)||Benson, Amber||7.4||Drama, Comedy|
|61. Kaméleon (2008)||Goda, Krisztina||7.4||Drama, Comedy, Thriller|
|62. Paris, je t'aime (2006)||Chadha, Gurinder||7.4||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|63. Le fils de l'autre (2012)||Lévy, Lorraine||7.4||Drama|
|64. Lifted (2010)||Alexander, Lexi||7.4||Drama|
|65. Belle (2013)||Asante, Amma||7.4||Drama|
|66. Desert Flower (2009)||Hormann, Sherry||7.4||Drama, Biography|
|67. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)||July, Miranda||7.4||Drama, Comedy|
|68. On Dangerous Ground (1951)||Lupino, Ida||7.4||Drama, Romance, Thriller, Film-Noir, Crime|
|69. Paris, je t'aime (2006)||Coixet, Isabel||7.4||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|70. Bound (1996)||Wachowski, Lana||7.4||Drama, Thriller, Crime|
|71. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)||Bigelow, Kathryn||7.4||Drama, Thriller, History|
|72. También la lluvia (2010)||Bollaín, Icíar||7.4||Drama, History|
|73. Monsoon Wedding (2001)||Nair, Mira||7.4||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|74. Mimì metallurgico ferito nell'onore (1972)||Wertmüller, Lina||7.4||Comedy|
|75. Hollow Reed (1996)||Pope, Angela||7.4||Drama|
|76. The Trouble with Angels (1966)||Lupino, Ida||7.4||Comedy|
|77. The Selfish Giant (2013)||Barnard, Clio||7.4||Drama|
|78. Mikey and Nicky (1976)||May, Elaine||7.4||Drama|
|79. José Rizal (1998)||Diaz-Abaya, Marilou||7.3||Drama, War, Biography, History|
|80. Titus (1999)||Taymor, Julie||7.3||Drama, Thriller, History|
|81. Sepet (2004)||Ahmad, Yasmin||7.3||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|82. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)||Yuh, Jennifer||7.3||Family, Drama, Animation, Adventure, Action, Comedy|
|83. Put oko sveta (1964)||Jovanovic, Soja||7.3||Comedy, Adventure, Western|
|84. Fish Tank (2009)||Arnold, Andrea||7.3||Drama|
|85. Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)||Forbes, Maya||7.3||Drama, Comedy|
|86. An Education (2009)||Scherfig, Lone||7.3||Drama|
|87. The Black Balloon (2008)||Down, Elissa||7.3||Drama, Romance|
|88. North Country (2005)||Caro, Niki||7.3||Drama|
|89. Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991)||Kelly, Nancy||7.3||Romance, Western|
|90. Funny Valentines (1999)||Dash, Julie||7.3||Drama|
|91. The Secret Life of Bees (2008)||Prince-Bythewood, Gina||7.3||Drama|
|92. Stander (2003)||Hughes, Bronwen||7.3||Action, Drama, Biography, Crime|
|93. Shao nu xiao yu (1995)||Chang, Sylvia||7.3||Drama|
|94. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)||Anderson, Jane||7.3||Drama, Biography|
|95. Craig's Wife (1936)||Arzner, Dorothy||7.3||Drama|
|96. Firaaq (2008)||Das, Nandita||7.3||Drama, History|
|97. Blood and Sand (1922)||Arzner, Dorothy||7.3||Drama, Romance, Sport|
|98. My Brilliant Career (1979)||Armstrong, Gillian||7.3||Drama, Romance, Biography|
|99. Eve's Bayou (1997)||Lemmons, Kasi||7.3||Drama|
|100. The Name Is Rogells (Rugg-ells) (2011)||Warner, Rachel||7.3||Romance, Adventure|
|101. The Voices (2014)||Satrapi, Marjane||7.3||Comedy, Thriller, Crime|
|102. The Woodsman (2004)||Kassell, Nicole||7.3||Drama|
|103. Talaash (2012)||Kagti, Reema||7.3||Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Crime|
|104. My First Mister (2001)||Lahti, Christine||7.3||Drama, Romance, Comedy|
|105. Big (1988)||Marshall, Penny||7.3||Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Comedy|
|106. Monster (2003)||Jenkins, Patty||7.3||Drama, Biography, Crime|
|107. The Secret Garden (1993)||Holland, Agnieszka||7.3||Drama, Fantasy, Family|
|108. Little Women (1994)||Armstrong, Gillian||7.3||Drama, Romance|
|109. Fire (1996)||Mehta, Deepa||7.3||Drama, Romance|
|110. The Connection (1962)||Clarke, Shirley||7.3||Drama|
Sat Sep 05 2015 16:52 August Film Roundup:
I think this month is about as close as Film Roundup has gotten to a random sample of movies. The museum did a series based on the 70mm film format, so we got three movies that have nothing in common except a decision to put really big film in the camera. Overall pretty happy with this month's crop though.
- Stagecoach (1939): I always come into these hyper-classics expecting to be disappointed, but Stagecoach totally delivered. It's a movie full of memorable character actors and easy-to-get jokes. Its plot structure is very unusual for a western. I found it a cut above much "deeper" westerns like Red River. Recommended.
- The Sun Shines Bright (1953): John Ford's second attempt at Judge Priest, the film I walked out of in July. I saw this one with Camille, so I was committed. Still has Stepin Fetchit doing his bit but generally achieves 1950s-liberal levels of anti-racism. I upgrade this version to "watchable." There's a scene where a lynch mob pours into town, and you see reaction shots from all the black characters, and it's filmed like the scene in a western where the bad guy walks down main street and the shopkeepers hurriedly close up shop. Also a very effective moment of cringe comedy at the beginning, like the striptease in Cotton Comes to Harlem. Plenty of good stuff interspersed between the never-explained scandals and the tepid romance between [Female Lead] and [We Can't Give An Old Guy Top Billing! Get Me a Zeppo Marx type!]
Between this and Stagecoach I wasn't expecting how pro-sex-worker John Ford is. ("So was Jesus."—Camille) This is the one that really hammers the point home, though. So cheesy and heartfelt and effective. Not believable, but effective. People marching with a banner saying "He Saved Us From Ourselves"—the ultimate liberal fantasy!
- Brainstorm (1983): I was really impressed by Brainstorm's portrayal of a Research Triangle tech company and the weirdos who work there. It doesn't hurt that Christopher Walken and Louise Fletcher play the weirdos. Some really clever twists, by which I mean ideas you might see in print SF in 1983, instead of film being twenty years behind like usual. It becomes kind of goofy at the end, but it's a Douglas Trumbull movie, you're gonna get some goofiness. A pleasant surprise.
- Victor/Victoria (1982): I cut this movie a lot of slack while I was watching it because I seriously thought it was made in, like, 1965. It's a mashup of a bunch of mid-1960s movie plots, and I'm still at a loss to explain how young Julie Andrews looks in this movie. Maybe a mosquito bit her just as The Sound of Music wrapped, the mosquito was preserved in amber, and a clone of the beloved actress was created from the blood in the mosquito's stomach. I assure you, it's quite possible. German scientists brought to the United States by Operation Paperclip had been researching... but you're not here for the science lesson.
I don't know about the politics of this movie, I guess it's pretty good for 1982. Overall it's kind of a mess in my mind. It's worth watching just to see Robert Preston (who has aged a normal amount) be a huge ham. There were a lot of funny moments but also a lot of duds, like the... bumbling private detective? What, did Blake Edwards direct this? Oh, he did? Well, he should know better.
PS: In an act of sheer cowardice, a "nobody's perfect"-style line was cut from the romantic lead's part, leaving him nearly as Zeppo-ish as the dude in The Sun Shines Bright.
- It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963): I'd never seen the prequels (It's a World (1956), It's a Mad World (1958), It's a Mad Mad World (1959), etc.) but it's pretty easy to follow. Also easy to see why this is where the franchise ran out of steam. Not recommended, especially since The Great Race (1965) fixes every problem with this movie:
- Less sexist
- Better characters
- Better jokes
- Better slapstick
- More Peter Falk
So watch The Great Race instead. It's one of my favorite movies and maybe the best thing about It's a (Mad )* World is that it ensured The Great Race would be greenlit.
- Baahubali: The Beginning (2015): Saw it again with the in-laws. My verdict is the same as before. One funny thing I forgot: there's a guy who's got all his lackeys together to carry out a coup, and as he explains why pulling a coup is the right thing to do, ethically speaking, all his lackeys intone in unison: "The right decision." It's funny the same way "The greater good." is funny in Hot Fuzz. I asked my brother-in-law if that was a translation error and he said no, that's pretty much what they say in the Telugu original.
In our collection of Amar Chitra Katha we found a comic called "Bahubali", and although it shares some similarities to the movie it's not the same story. The comic is notable for having a conflict between two brothers which could lead to war, but is instead resolved by contests of brotherly roughhousing: backyard wrestling, splashing water at each other, and so on.
- The Master (2012): I guess it was inevitable that some big-shot Hollywood auteur would take it into his head to make a prequel to Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), answering all the questions no one cared to ask, like: why is Torgo's posture so poor? How did he and the Master meet? And why does the Master keep all his wives under hypnosis? Creating such an elaborate backstory to something so silly is, well, silly, but it's also something I would do, so I'll give it a pass.
The performances in this are great, but it's ultimately another in Paul Thomas Anderson's explorations of horrible men being horrible, so... I'd stick with There Will Be Blood. At least there's blood in that one.
(2) Sat Aug 01 2015 09:57 July Film Roundup:
Sumana was gone for most of the month, and I discovered how easy it is to get to Film Forum from the library to see a movie after work. And when Sumana was around we saw a bunch of movies together, and the upshot is that I've now seen every movie ever made and there are no more movies. Here's just a sampling of the films I saw in July.
- Young Mr. Lincoln (1939): Very hagiographic about Lincoln personally but unsparing about everything surrounding Lincoln, especially antebellum American society and politics. One of the lesser John Ford films I
saw finished this month, if only because the competition's so stiff. In particular, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance does all the political stuff much better. Not bad though.
- The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Really good and super liberal. None of the "this is all in the past, you can relax now" we saw with Border Incident. Even the unbelievable ending, tacked on by the producer to forestall a socialist revolution, is downright pinko by today's degraded standards. I'd like to give special attention to John Carradine, who turns in a really good performance as a man of God who's lost his connection.
- Judge Priest (1934): I walked out of this movie after ten minutes because of the super-racist comedy. If this was a Serious Film I would deal with the racism, but this was supposed to be my lighthearted Grapes of Wrath chaser, so screw this movie. Also, is this guy a judge or a priest? Make up your mind! Negative one-and-a-half stars.
- Inside Out (2015): I love movies that posit weird theories of consciousness, and this one kinda mashes up Multiple Drafts with traditional theater-of-the-mind. Great stuff. It's a kids movie that's more mature than most movies for adults: not only is there no villain, the protagonists are also the antagonists. You could sit around and analyze the world of this movie for hours (I've done it; it's fun), but then there's this bit of IMDB trivia, which undermines most of the speculation you might do:
When asked about the genders of the emotions, Pete Docter said, "It was intuitive. It felt to me like Anger's very masculine, I don't know why... with Mom and Dad, we skewed them all male and all female for a quick read, because you have to understand where we are, which is a little phony but hopefully people don't mind!"
I try hard not to mind, I know this stuff is difficult, but if you're making decisions you consider phony for the sake of a quick read, I don't think you're creating something that can accommodate a nerd's analysis.
- Magic Mike XXL (2015): The bros started out a little bro-y for my tastes but over time their characters got more defined and it turned into a decent road trip/small business movie. I wouldn't watch it on the big screen unless you've got a taste for beefcake.
I don't really have more to say about the movie but I would like to critique some of the striptease routines. Near the beginning of the movie they're planning all these cheesy soldier/fireman routines, and thankfully they move in a different direction but that makes me think the first Magic Mike must be unbearable, with Matthew McConaughey MCing these guys in Village People outfits. I liked the routines that had an improv element, like Donald Glover's rap or the Kevin Nash painting routine.
Oh, also, Kevin Nash looks so much like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008) that for the whole movie I thought it was Mickey Rourke, that he'd beefed up for The Wrestler and really liked being that buff and that's his look now. But I guess it's just a common look. I'm not great at this movie-watching stuff.
- Invention For Destruction (1958): a.k.a. "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne", a.k.a. "Vynález zkázy". An utterly Gilliam-tastic film, both in the animation style (a direct inspiration for Gilliam's Monty Python stuff) and in the single overarching aesthetic which requires that every piece of every elaborate set be custom built. Here's Pauline Kael from 1991:
Zeman employs almost every conceivable trick, combining live action, animation, puppets, and painted sets that are a triumph of sophisticated primitivism. The variety of tricks and superimpositions seems infinite; as soon as you have one effect figured out another image comes on to baffle you.
It's so fun to watch. The plot is terrible, but I don't care. It was a decent plot when Jules Verne came up with it in 1898. Recommended. I feel like this incredible movie is gonna get lost in this huge list because I don't have much to say about this except "it looks really cool", but it looks really cool.
- Wagon Master (1950): It's rare to see cinematic depictions of Mormons, and although the Mormons in Wagon Master are mostly played like generic movie puritans, there are two big exceptions. First, Ward Bond, who is extraordinarily likable as the tough, self-deprecating Elder Wiggs. Second, the dances. Generic movie puritans would frown at dancing (and everything else), but these Saints have serious happy feet. Still not a lot of Mormon-specific content, but a fun comedic western.
I have one major complaint: as the tension ratchets up in the third act, our two Gentile protagonists plot together to form a genius plan, but the "plan" is the same as in every other western: get the drop on the bad guys and shoot 'em. Doing a full planning scene for that just got my hopes up.
- The Third Man (1949): I believe viewer enjoyment of this movie is highly dominated by not knowing its twist. Unfortunately, even if you don't know the twist going in it's pretty easy to figure it out, and even telling you why this is the case is enough to trigger figuring-it-out, so it's a tricky situation but rather than bemoan "the culture of spoilers" I posit that The Third Man is a fragile movie. Any other movie on this month's list you could have told me how it ends and I'd have enjoyed it just as much (or as little). But you live by the twist, you die by the twist.
It's not ruined if you know the twist. This is a classic that people watch over and over, and I had a good time even though I went in knowing the twist. The movie looks great. But despite my general pro-spoiler stance I'm not comfortable talking about my major problem with this movie, or even minor stuff like the pacing, because I'm held hostage by this damn twist. I guess that it's own kind of accomplishment.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): Not really fair to call this a 'deconstruction' of the western, but it's definitely John Ford being tired of making these movies and reevaluating exactly what message he's been sending for the past twenty years. In doing so he creates a much more complex story than usual and goes to some uncomfortable places. Great stuff.
Just when you think you can finally get through an old movie without seeing John Carradine, guess who shows up? No, guess again. John Carradine, you fool! He was the Christopher Lee of his day, or maybe the Nicolas Cage.
Amazing trivia! Woody Strode, the Dr. Phlox-esque coroner on Psych, is named after the actor who played Pompey in this movie. He was in some other Ford films as well as Spartacus. It's just about the weirdest character naming tribute possible, but there it is.
- The Fifth Element (1997): I was really down on this movie after seeing it because the sci-fi aspects, although beautiful, are entirely superficial. It's cool to see everyday life in the equivalent of the Federation, something that Star Trek never shows you, but it turns out it's very similar to everyday life in 1997 New York. A couple search-and-replace operations on the screenplay, and this whole movie takes place in 1997.
But then Sumana (who saw The Fifth Element a long time ago), pointed out that Luc Bresson directs action movies, not science fiction. If you're going to direct a by-the-numbers action movie, why not throw in an ancient prophecy and some really cool eyeball kicks and make it sci-fi? Otherwise no one will remember your generic action movie fifteen years later. Your only other hope is to write Laim Neeson's "special set of skills" monologue from Taken (2008)—Bresson also did that movie, so he's playing all the angles.
- Court (2014): The most realistic Indian movie I've ever seen. There are musical numbers, but they're all where you would expect to find musical numbers in real life. I didn't mind the slow pace, but it's not as funny as I'd been led to believe. I don't think it's funny at all unless you're unfamiliar with Indian culture and you turn the culture shock into nervous laughter.
Sumana did not see the movie, and I don't think she'd like it, but I narrated it to her afterwards and she made two really good points. First, this is a movie like To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) or Gentleman's Agreement (1935) whose goal is to get the audience to sympathize with an oppressed group, but the protagonist is not from that group. He's an outsider, a lawyer or journalist, played by Gregory Peck.
Second, Sumana explained the ending, which I found totally mysterious. The judge goes on his summer vacation and you see that even outside the courtroom he's passing judgement on people based on ridiculous, outdated precedents. That's who he is. Makes sense.
- Upstream (1927): Upstream Color? More like Upstream Black And White, amirite? This recently rediscovered John Ford film is full of light silliness. It's also got Sammy Cohen, a vaudeville-style actor who would have a lot of stereotypical "Jewish buddy" roles, including Ike Ginsberg, one of the cougar-hunting frat boys in The Cradle Snatchers (1928, previously on Film Roundup). In this film he's in his element as half of vaudeville duo Callahan and Callahan. That's the kind of movie we're talking about.
But the title's off. Upstream sounds kind of ominous. Like, well, Upstream Color. Our talented accompanists did what they could, composing a theme song for the movie that tries to make it make sense:
Broadway life is feast or famine
But if you're like the little salmon
You'll keep on swimmin' up-streeeeeam!
But here's the scoop, from the National Film Preservation Society:
The reason for the film being titled Upstream is no clearer after viewing it... According to Charles G. Clarke the film was known during production as The Public Idol: "The change in title was the result of a curious system that then prevailed. In those days, a film company sold a program of features to the theater owners for a year ahead…. In this case, a film called Upstream was scheduled to be made starring Dolores Del Rio, but for some reason it was not put into production. To make up for the deficiency, the Fox Film Company simply changed the name of The Public Idol to Upstream."
May curious systems always prevail.
- Ant-Man (2015): There was a lot of Edgar Wright in this, but not nearly enough. The thorax of this movie was a generic superhero movie, and it ain't no accident that this is the first superhero movie to show up in Film Roundup. I don't like 'em and I don't watch 'em. I do like the stories of ordinary losers on the periphery of a superpowered universe (the head of this movie), and I like ridiculous parodies of superhero movies (the abdomen). That's why I saw Ant-Man, and it delivered, just not all the way through.
I should make it clear that there are a ton of CGI ants in this movie, it's not just a metaphor for a guy being really small, so if ants squick you out, give it a pass. I didn't mind. It did make me wonder if doing mo-cap on ants counts as "animal action" for purposes of ASCPA monitoring.
No idea what was going on in the after-credits scene. Also not really clear on the difference between SHIELD and HYDRA. I was totally on board with Hank Pym's refusal to give shrinking technology to the military-industrial complex. Right on, fight the power, Tony Stark is a fascist. No need to explain anything more. But all the MCU movies have to share a common ideology, so Ant-Man then took pains to explain that the villain was working with HYDRA (bad), not SHIELD (good). It's well established that I won't do the homework to sort this stuff out, so it doesn't matter.
Bonus: Here are the three superhero movies I would love to see:
- Ambush Bug
- She-Hulk (probably better as a Netflix series)
- Squirrel Girl
You'd think I'd be excited for the forthcoming Deadpool movie, but Deadpool is too gory for me. I might see it anyway though.
- Baahubali: The Beginning (2015): The best thing about Times Square is that the big movie theaters on 42nd are always showing an Indian movie and a Chinese movie. It's a good way to see foreign blockbusters. Baahubali is very much in the spirit of the East Asian martial arts movies we've been seeing, but it's Indian, so a) everything has to be bigger and b) the martial art in question is "enormous set-piece infantry battles".
It's got everything I've come to expect from a martial arts movie, good and bad: non-stop action, semi-historical setting, political corruption, bandits, badass women, men creeping on those women, the CGI deaths of adorable megafauna. All that's missing is the burnt village (there was one implicitly, but at least we don't have to see it), and the priest who kicks ass for Lord Shiva. The priests in this movie are kind of craven. It's also got all the good and bad you'd expect from a Lord of the Rings type movie: magic, monarchy, quests, sword duels, horse stunts, a conlang, and a climactic battle against the dark-skinned Other. Plus the costume-change-heavy musical numbers you'd expect (blah) from an Indian movie other than Court.
It's a huge movie, three hours long. You watch a ninety-minute action movie, then you watch its prequel in a flashback (with some actors playing different roles and some playing 25-years-younger versions of the same roles--very confusing), and then it turns out it's the first part of a two-parter. Stuff that would be CGI in an American movie, they did it for real and filmed it. (A good decision--the CGI isn't great.)
I don't know if this movie is "good" in any highbrow sense—the plot is a pastiche of myth that gave me the overall impression of watching a big-budget Book of Mormon adaptation—but it's really fun to watch. American studios make this kind of movie all the time and they've got it down to a science. It's safe. I stayed interested in Baahubali because it didn't feel safe. There were a lot of plot twists, all from the same general mythic space, but they kept sticking 'em in and I didn't know which one they would choose next, not like with Ant-Man. Everything was so much bigger than other Indian movies I've seen, I felt at any time the director might lose control, but they pulled it off.
PS: Instead of the boring MPAA "This trailer has been approved for all audiences" green-screen, sometimes a trailer for an Indian movie will show you a picture of the trailer's censorship certificate. Classy!
- The Brink's Job (1978): Just after finishing the first run of Columbo, Peter Falk answers the question that was on everyone's mind: what if instead of a cop who entraps rich murderers, Columbo was a con who robs rich private security companies? I had to rearrange my whole day to catch this movie at Film Forum, but it was worth it. (It's on DVD, but the DVD costs $20. What is this, 2003?) It's a tense heist film full of slapstick that showcases Falk's ability to do comedy and drama at the same time. And his character is totally Columbo, whether he's baiting his adversaries into underestimating him, wearing shabby clothes he doesn't need to wear, or just doting on his wife. Features a solid supporting cast consisting entirely of "that guy", including Dick Van Dyke Show producer Sheldon Leonard as J. Edgar Hoover. Also features a brief Kevin Smith-esque comic book conversation.
In honor of seeing The Third Man and The Fifth Element in the same month I'd like to announce the Criterion Collection Film Festival. I call it that because I've collected movies that meet a certain criterion. I don't anticipate any trouble. Anyway, here's the lineup!
- The First Time (2012)
- The Second Face (1950)
- The Third Man (1949)
- The Forth Kind (2009)
- The Fifth Element (1997)
- The Sixth Sense (1999) <- Bruce Willis double feature!
- The Seventh Seal (1957)
- The Eighth Day (1996)
- The Ninth Configuration (1980)
Hope to see you there!