If you want, you can picture an image of the Pokémon Slowpoke with the words “Hey, The Great Dictator is a great movie!” around him. After all, the movie came out in 1940, and was a critical and commercial success. So you know, duh. But sometimes obvious things need to be said, so… Hey, The Great Dictator is a great movie! But more than that, it’s a surprisingly brave movie, showing the brutality of Hitler’s reign while coming out before the United States got involved in World War II. (It’s Chaplin, so it’s also funny.) Continue reading
It’s interesting to me how sometimes if a film is too good, you can’t say much about it. For example, this weekend, I watched two films — Fantastic Mr. Fox and Evil Roy Slade. Of these two movies, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the superior one. Wes Anderson is a brilliant director, and the film was exquisitely made. But I can’t really figure out what I’d fill up a review with other than adding about 300 “really”s to “It was really really really good”. Evil Roy Slade, on the other hand, is quite good, but has some pacing issues, and has a couple of casting flaws, but — there’s more for me to say about it. Continue reading
Cardiacs were a wonderful band — pretty much any given lineup of the band is going to be awesome, but the lineup on the All That Glitters Is A Maresnest concert film is probably my favorite lineup. Or at least one of them, since, well, probably all the various Cardiacs lineups are my favorite. But this one especially so — I love Sarah Smith’s sax and William D. Drake’s keys and, well, just about everything.
When I was waiting to get into the Roxie Theater in San Francisco last Friday night, some people got into line behind me and immediately began chatting idiotically about how terrible the movie was going to be. “This is going to be terrible,” one of them said. I detest the mindset of people going to see movies simply because they are ‘bad’. This kind of mindset makes no allowance for the movie to not suck. It’s like the person watching is so invested in the movie being a piece of shit that they take offense if the movie dares to NOT be a piece of shit. I’m all for enjoying a hilariously inept movie, but The Canyons is actually a beautiful and brilliant film. Continue reading
Superman is an icon of comic books. Superhero comics, and arguably comics in general, are what they are today partly because of him. Had he not come along, comics as we know them would be something altogether different. What they would be exactly and how different they would have been can’t be determined. But they would be different. Superman is significant for that alone. Continue reading
I learned that the movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot existed in May of 2010. I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico visiting some friends and we had gone to a local video rental store and each of us chose a movie to rent. I was careful to choose a movie that was not available at the time on DVD or Netflix (it now is). I chose a Jeff Bridges movie called Against All Odds (if you don’t know the movie, I know you know the Phil Collins theme song which is called “Against All Odds” but it’s the “Take a look at me now” song). I was looking at Jeff Bridges’ other movies on the IMDB app on my iPhone when the title jumped out at me and I made a note to see if I could find the movie. Continue reading
The album version of The Point, Harry Nilsson‘s children’s fable, was an integral part of my childhood. I have many fond memories of listening to that record with my dad, thrilling to the story of Oblio, born pointless in a world where everything is pointed, and his adventures in the Pointless Forest. But I did not see the film version until I was older, and that one time was quite awhile ago. So it was with fresh eyes that I watched the new “Definitive Collector’s Edition” DVD, but I am very happy to report it lived up to all my expectations. Continue reading
I remember visiting SeaWorld as a kid. I grew up only a few hours north of San Diego, so that’s the park where we would go. SeaWorld was never quite as much fun as a trip to DisneyLand or Knotts Berry Farm or Magic Mountain or even the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park. But it was always a big event. And the entire trip would always center on the orca show – usually ending with a big fight over whether we would be allowed to sit in the splash zone or not (I believe that the kids only won this battle once). The last time I went to SeaWorld in San Diego, I was probably around ten to twelve years old. Continue reading
I first saw Pink Flamingos when I had just turned 14, and it changed my life. There was a sensibility to it and a humor that had existed only in my head before that, and seeing it externalized was a revelation. Its influence on my teenage life was enormous, and has a huge role in my sense of humor and who I am today. It’s also almost singularly responsible for my obsession with movies. Naturally, John Waters was my favorite filmmaker for years, and even now, I’d say no other artist is as important to me. So basically, devoting a month to watching his films (June Waters) was unnecessary because I had already seen them all, most of them multiple times. But it’s good for me to revisit those favorites every few years, and this was an excuse to do so, as well as revisit the ones I hadn’t seen so often, like his last two films (Cecil B. Demented and A Dirty Shame), and Hairspray, which had been too saccharine for me in high school, but I was now able to appreciate as one of his best works. I had also never watched each of his films in a short period of time, in order, which is always a fascinating way to explore the arc of a director’s career. So that’s what I did, starting from the surprisingly entrancing Mondo Trasho, and including every documentary made on Waters, special features, audio commentaries (his are among the greatest I’ve ever heard), and even some movies he didn’t direct that feature Divine or Edith Massey. Continue reading
This year, over the course of Brian De PalMarch (which stretched into Brian De PalmApril), I watched every single one of Brian De Palma‘s films, including those I had seen before, his early shorts (the only two that weren’t impossible to find), and his disappointingly ordinary music video for Bruce Springsteen (the music video that shows up in the middle of Body Double, from the same year, is far more impressive), and I watched them all in order. I also read The De Palma Cut: The Films of America’s Most Controversial Director (which covered his work up to The Untouchables) by Laurent Bouzereau, who also directed the many exhaustive Making-Of documentaries I watched.
De P’s progress as a visual storyteller was fascinating, as was the recurrence of his many prevalent themes and techniques. Many are already associated with his work, like peeping/voyeurism, doubles (twins, doppelgangers, multiple personality, etc.), split-screen, long tracking shots, swirling cameras, and split-diopter (a device, wholly unique to De Palma, that keeps both the foreground and background simultaneously in focus). But there were other little things that would pop up, too. Like, he shoots a TV screen (or film screen, or monitor) in almost every single film. Or that three of his films (Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out) open with a shower scene (Body Double was supposed to as well, but the scene (which now plays over the end credits) didn’t work at the beginning). Also, he’s like really into peeping and voyeurism.
He’s a brilliant director, and a fairly weird one, without a single true mis-step (I didn’t like Dionysus in ’69, but that was more something he filmed and presented than “directed”). His strongest period was in the 70s and 80s (whose wasn’t, when it comes to directors of that period who are still around?), but his later stuff is worth exploring as well, and he has definitely cemented himself as one of my favorite directors. Love you, BDP.