Thursday, July 28, 2011

Golden age roundup

Mad Men
is my favorite show on television. Looking forward to watching 1-4 again with some whiskey and a carton of cigs.

In all honesty, I've realized that I have little to no interest in watching Black Death. However, I will try to watch it this weekend. If I don't, you guys can officially kick me out of Black Death club. I'll just have to deal with it.

Ben, yes I've often considered watching Ma Mere, but have never gotten around to it. I love Bataille a lot. I'd say he had a bigger influence on guys like Foucault, Blanchot, Deleuze, and Klossowski. He was basically a Nietzsche disciple who championed the man's work when no one else would. He wasn't really a philosopher, more a writer who believed in being honest, telling jokes, and transgressing boundaries. The Story of an Eye is all kinds of nasty, but it's meant to be transgressive and ridiculous. If it's a joke, it is meant as one. Bataille refused to take himself seriously.

Interestingly or not, I also find Derrida and Baudrillard lacking in terms of philosophical insight, but I think Lacan is actually quite insightful, just a bitch to read. If you ever want to talk philosophy, Ben, I'm always down. Who cares if the shit is film related or not? Just say the word auteur and bring up Howard Hawks every now and then and we're set. Ben and I are starting are own philosophy club. No squares allowed.


Now onto film talk.

I guess I was mislead by TCM on The Thing From Another World. They presented it as Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World and discussed all of its Hawksian traits as if he were the director. I didn’t research the film beyond watching it, but noticed all the Hawksian traits, so I just assumed he was the director. I probably should have looked up the film to realize that he wasn’t even credited as the director. I’ll give credit to Christian Nyby now though. If he did indeed do most of the directing, he does a pretty meticulous Hawks impression. This is from IMDB:

“It is generally believed that Howard Hawks took over direction during production, and it has always been acknowledged by director Christian Nyby that Hawks was the guiding hand. However, in an interview James Arness said that while Hawks spent a lot of time on the set, it was Nyby who actually directed the picture, not Hawks.”


“As opposed to that interview with James Arness, the film's Star, Kenneth Tobey has maintained in many interviews that it was indeed Hawks who directed the film. Tobey said that he had worked with Nyby after this film on many occasions and he was a fine director, but Hawks did call the shots on most of the film.”

Who the hell knows? Anyway, if you were the director, Nyby, I apologize. Me and TCM done you wrong. Fucking Bill Hader.

I've watched Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, Lang's Fury, and Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident all within a week of each other. Totally fascinating triple feature. They share a lot of the same themes about justice, mob rule, and order/chaos.

Young Mr. Lincoln is one of the numerous masterpieces of 1939 (and one of two masterpieces by Ford in the same year). Fonda owns every frame he's in. He stands tall and proud, and has the charisma that some only ever dream about having. And Ford calls all the shots like the expert he was. I have high hopes that Spielberg's Lincoln will be a more than worthy companion to this film. I'm stoked for that one.

Fury is Lang doing what he does best–looking down deep into darkness and never blinking once. This one's a little more redemptive than you'd imagine. And it's thoroughly fascinating cinema. How great is the moment when the fiancee arrives on the mob scene and sees Spencer Tracy hanging onto the jailbars in the window with flames surrounding him? Her reaction is pure horror. And then the cuts to the joyous faces of mob members surrounding her as her loved one is left to die. There's another The Wicker Man comparison if there ever were one.

Is it weird that I'm all about preaching non-violence in real life, but love revenge movies? I was kinda hoping Spencer Tracy would come back to that town and shoot everyone up Dogville style (I bet the Code would love that one). I guess I get all my violent fantasies out through movies. Sublimation, baby. I still think torture and excessive gore are icky though even if I am a big fan of violence in movies.

The Ox-Bow Incident is like a Twilight Zone episode (I bet ya Rod was a fan of this). Right down to the ending too. It's an incredibly condemnatory film, and I thought it was as terrific as it was haunting. It's got all the themes I love in westerns. This one needed Fonda to don his Lincoln hat and save the day.

Hawks and Rossen's Scarface (there I gave both credit. You happy now? Mr. I grew up on classic films blah blah blah) would be a propaganda film just like you mentioned. It makes itself clear with a little PSA at the beginning. It's supposed to be an anti-gangster picture (and anti-governmental complacency), but I wonder if it actually ends up succeeding in making gangsters like Muni into heroes? It's like Jimmy Stewart's comment in Destry about how shootouts with the bad guys end up making em all look big instead of small behind bars. Angels With Dirty Faces seems to comment on this too. I don't really know the answer, but I know that this film is violent and deliberately excessive and I thought it was awesome. How does Ebert have De Palma's Scarface in his great movies list instead of this? I guess he thought the original needed more blow.

Sherman's She Done Him Wrong was my first date with Mae West, and boy was she a confident, saucy gal. The movie's only like an hour long, so it's pretty quick and easy entertainment. I had fun.

Cukor's Dinner at Eight is a film that owes a lot to Grand Hotel, but it surely holds its own. It's a testament to Cukor's talent to balance all the stories and characters and pack a lot into each scene. It's smart by being comedic and tragic precisely when it needs to be, and ends the only way it should. For a film titled Dinner at Eight, it certainly is interested in much more (there's my rotten tomatoes review tag-line).

Stevens' Swing Time is considered Astaire and Rogers' best film together. I thought it was a breeze. Light and enjoyable, with some incredible tapping (Ooh and black face! Yay!) Everyone, I'm just gonna throw this out there and if you don't like it just send it right back. It might be too bold and inspired to say this but...Fred Astaire was a really great dancer. Give that one a moment to sink in.

Brown's adaptation of Anna Karenina knows it isn't going to match the novel. So, it sets out to focus on telling the meat of the story and telling it very well. I love Garbo. I could look at her in this all day, even with her ridiculous mullet-esque haircut.

John, you're a little behind on our 30s quest. I expect no less than 1,000 words each on The Rules of the Game, M., and Scarface. Didn't you see how extensive and completely non-vague my own reviews of those films were?

If you are interested, I'm watching Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky next. If not, just write back to me with, "Alexander Nevsky? More like Alexander Never-sky," (Also, a great rotten tomatoes review tag line).

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