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Thread: Oscar's Cinema Journal 2005

  1. #1
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    Cinema Journal-2005

    Happy New Year to you all. The purpose here is to keep a diary of all my activities related to cinema. I watch a lot of movies and I want to keep track of the ones I watch, where (theatre, video, TV), dvd purchases, etc. Why do it? Because I want to figure out how many films I watch at home vs. theatre, english vs. foreign language, first time vs. repeat viewings, etc. Why post it? Because I'll motivate me to carry it through and most importantly, because I hope the thread will be interactive (I hope to get replies, at least once in a while). My posts here are likely to contain poor grammar and misspellings, what matters to me here is consistency. Comments about films will likely be brief, especially current releases discussed in other threads.

    Saturday Jan. 1st
    Got home from a party at 2 a.m. and Chelsea asked me to stay up to watch Pretty in Pink on TNT. She liked The Breakfast Club and wanted to watch another Hughes-penned 80s teen flick. An American teen flick dealing with class issues is an anomaly, but it's really all on the surface and Andrew McCarthy is truly horrible. Molly Ringwald was good in this kind of role though. Chelsea and Dylan thought the clothes and hairstyles were awful! The Aviator, A Very Long Engagement, and Beyond the Sea await at theatres. Seen everything else playing.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 01-03-2005 at 05:03 PM.

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    Sunday Jan 2nd
    Midnight viewing of The Man with Two Brains. "Steve Martin's delivery of the line "To the mud, slime queen!" is alone worth the price of admission" (Rosenbaum), which in this case was $5 for the dvd. Cast includes a very sexy Kathleen Turner, the voice of Sissy Spacek and a cameo from Merv Griffin.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 01-03-2005 at 05:02 PM.

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    Monday Jan 3rd
    Turner Classics plays silents at the start of every week (Sundays at midnight). No other channel does. Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates(1920) is the oldest "race" feature in existence. It's about a woman who travels to the South after a breakup, learns about how few "Negro" kids have access to an education, and returns to Boston to raise money to fund a school. Within Our Gates is chock full of character and incident, with choppy narrative and very good comand of film technique. Micheaux's The Homesteader, his first feature, no longer exists. Before Our Gates is available for our viewing because a lost copy with Spanish intertitles was found in Spain and carefully translated back into English. It's included in the "Origins of Film" dvd boxset from the Smithsonian Institution. Micheaux went on to direct several recommended films including Body and Soul, Paul Robeson's debut.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 01-03-2005 at 05:02 PM.

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    Two things I dont really know much about - race films and the dvd on the origins of film. Thanks Oscar, I will look into both.

    That's fantastic that TNT starts out with silent films.
    P

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    No prob. It's actually Turner Classic Movies or TCM. This race movies were made exclusively for Northern blacks. Many have been lost. Prior to last night, I had only seen jazz shorts made in the 30s, "Within Our Gates" was a first for me. The "Origins of Film" includes two of the first features by women directors and intersting shorts. For future research: "Treasures from the American Film Archives", "More Treasures from...", "The Movies Begin" and "Landmarks of Early Cinema". If interested in silents from across the pond, "Cinema Europe:The Other Hollywood. All are dvd boxsets.

    Greendale on rental dvd. This is the third or fourth film directed by Neil Young under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey. There's no dialogue, only songs by Young and Crazy Horse which are lipsynched by characters who reside in the titular small Northwest town. Filmed in super-8 and video, the film has a strong anti-Establishment, environmental message. As a filmmaker, Uncle Neil is adequate, but if you're a lefty Young fan like me you'll love it. Makes you feel there's a way out of this Dark Age.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 01-03-2005 at 05:04 PM.

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    Tuesday Jan 4th

    "This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top. I wish we could be over the rainbow." (Lula to Sailor)

    I consider David Lynch's first (Eraserhead) and last feature (Mulholland Drive) undeniable masterpieces. Most of the in-betweens are accomplished works that elaborate a singular vision. The one Lynch film I cannot stomach is Wild at Heart. I decided to give it an honest chance on the ocassion of its recent state-of-the-art dvd release (Lynch states in the intro that he went over it frame by frame doing "color check", a 1 1/2 year process).
    I'm still convinced this is Lynch at his most literal and tendentiously neo-con. I suggest that whatever it is you like about it has been done better by Lynch before or since. I'm going to let Armond White bat for me, since I rarely get to quote him.
    "No matter how inflated with esteem Lynch becomes, his art isn't so great that it transcends vicious, regressive, conservative meaning. His white working-class identification masquerades as chic nostalgia for fifties-era inhibition and repression. As Lula and Sailor wheel across the Southwest encountering gimpy prostitutes, odious mobsters and porn stars, they're haunted by images out of The Wizard of Oz. Lula and Sailor are trying to get back to the way things used to be; they envision a sentimental, Boy Scout, pop-music America. Lynch retreats into the isolation of fantasy and erotic immaturity where adults are unclean, lecherous monsters."

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    Glad to hear about Greendale. While I havent seen any of the other 3 Young films, I am a big fan of the music (who isn't?) and the message. He's a great dude.

    P

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    Wed. Jan 5th
    Rust Never Sleeps, which he directed, and Jarmusch's Year of the Dog are musts for Neil Young (and Crazy Horse) fans. Both include concert footage and much more.

    Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
    Pleasure dolls called gynoids appear responsible for a series of gruesome murders. A cyborg detective and his new partner's investigation lead to clashes with the yakuza and an evil corporation, which apparently has been dubbing stolen souls onto robots. The line between orga and mecha, to borrow terms from A.I., is blurred like never before in Mamoru Oshii's superb sequel. This visually ravishing sci-fi adventure adds philosophy and poetry to the usual techno violence characteristic of the genre. Not quite "the best anime I've ever seen" (J. Hoberman, Village Voice) because of some deficiencies in narrative/storytelling. Also, I wish there was an English-dubbed version to make it easier to get lost on the state-of-the-art imagery. Still, this is quite an accomplishment. Better than Akira or Ghost in the Shell, fanboys.

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    Thanks for starting this thead, Oscar. You've made it through 5 days now...hope you don't burn out (or fade away) as the year progresses. Your film knowledge and appreciation is valued by many here.

    I just got off my ass and ordered "Greendale" off Netflix. Also have "Year of the Horse" in my own small DVD collection. Young and the Horse kick ass. My college roommate was an obsessive fan, and so I was introduced. I now consider Neil, Dylan, and the Beatles to be the holy Trinity of 20th century pop music. Rust never sleeps...I'm still livin' the dream.

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    Very inspirational post Justafied, and thanks for the interest and encouragement. Can't go wrong with Beatles and Dylan (named my boy after him). I listen to music a lot, mostly Rock, Jazz and African Pop. A music thread in the lounge section may be a good idea...

    Watched The Five Obstructions on rental dvd tonight. Lars von Trier summoned his mentor Jorgen Leth from retirement in Haiti and challenged him to remake his 12 min. 1967 film The Perfect Human under five different sets of conditions. For instance, the first remake had to be set in Cuba and contain no shots longer than half a second. Trier's stated purpose is to shake Leth out of his detached, clinical style to attempt to conjure up the messy, pained, imperfect human beneath the surface. We watch the directors discussing each obstruction, a bit about the making of each remake, and finally the finished product and Trier's reaction to it. Excerpts of the original short are interspersed. A revealing film about creativity under pressure and constraint, and about the personalities and esthetic proclivities of both Leth and Trier. The dvd contains The Perfect Human in its entirety and director's commentary.

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    Thursday Jan 6th

    "The viewer of a Stan Brakhage film must learn both attentiveness and openness. The viewer needs to be ready to receive a variety of images and rhythms and able to see fast. Most of all, the viewer's role needs to be reimagined; not as a passive receiver but as one who meets the film halfway, actively plumbing the depths of its imagery and the various themes and ideas suggested by its subject matter_imaginatively dancing with its flickering rhythms."
    Fred Camper, from the liner notes of BY BRAKHAGE on Criterion.

    Window Water Baby Moving (1959)
    This shows the home birth of Brakhage's first child. Though it shows the chronology of the birth (mostly via closeup shots), Brakhage disrupts it frequently by intercutting images from before the birth into the ending, inserting diverse feelings at each moment of the process. It's become a personal favorite.
    Mothlight (1963)
    "What a moth might see from birth to death if white were black and black were white" (Brakhage). Mothlight was made without a camera. Brakhage collaged objects like grass blades and insect parts directly onto perforated tape the same width as 16 mm, from which projectible prints were made. The resulting rapid burst of imagery has a highly controlled musical rhythm.
    Other shorts watched include: The Garden of Earthy Delights, a rare 35 mm tribute to Hieronymus Bosch's painting of the same name, and Kindering, featuring Brakhage's grandkids.
    Not in the mood tonight for his famous The Act of Seeing With One's own Eyes, shot at the Pittsburgh morgue.

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    Window Water Baby Moving is really gorgeous. Thanks for bringing it up. If I recall correctly it is sort of bathed in a sepia/goldenroad tone that is quite nice. Nathan Lee wrote a nice review of the dvd in the Times that should be read.

    Oscar this is turning into a full blown blog which I think is great. I propose a blog function to the site and will get to work on it right away. Should be able to have something workable by next week.

    P

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    Glad you think so, pmw. I don't know much about blogs though. It's just nice of you to provide me with this forum to document what I watch and how I think/feel about it.

    Festival Express
    In the summer of 1970, Janis Joplin, The Band, The Grateful Dead and other groups boarded a chartered train in Eastern Canada and traveled west giving concerts at major Canadian cities. Thirty four years later, a documentary of the event was finally released, and what a revelation it is. In Toronto, a group incited people outside the entrance to demand to be let in for free ("it's the people's music"); there were squirmishes that resulted in the near-death of a cop. The promoter agreed to stage a free concert at a park nearby, but press reports of the violence resulted in very poor sales for the upcoming concerts. The promoters decided to absorb the financial loss and let this show on wheels go on. The well equipped (and stocked) CN train provided a perfect environment for the musicians to interact. A mobile commune.

    Why do I love this film? Three pieces of evidence; you decide if Festival Express is for you.

    *Three months before her fatal heroin overdose, Janis performing "Cry Baby" with such unbridled passion and musical chops that it's all the proof you'll need that she was as talented as Aretha, her only competition. Thing is, Janis was a much more generous, unguarded performer. She'll take your breath away.

    *The promoter relates how the Mayor of Calgary walked into his office cussing and demanding that "the children of Calgary pass thru the gates for free". The promoter says something about letting his knuckles do the talking for him.

    *During a sort of Haight-Ashbury reunion, members of the Band, The Dead and Janis do a rendition of "Ain't no more Cane" inside a crowded train car. Then Jerry Garcia, at a volume somewhat higher than the other voices and dripping sincerity, says "Janis, I've loved you since the first time I saw ya". Bashful and surprised, Janis hesitates then says: "That's God's cop-out, man!" and breaks into a laugh.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 01-06-2005 at 10:50 PM.

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    Coupla Quick Comments

    Re: David Lynch. I've been planning to revisit "Wild At Heart" for some time now; I haven't seen it since its original release. I think it's underrated Lynch but not what I consider a masterpiece. Still, I remember Dave Kehr enjoying the distinct contrast in style and color it provides to "Blue Velvet".

    I do however consider "Blue Velvet" (a film I've seen only once--on the big screen the weekend it opened, which will be the only place I'll ever watch it: it demands the collective viewing experience) and "The Straight Story" to be his masterpieces. In fact, I think "The Straight Story" is a great place to begin talking about Lynch: it's a near-perfect representation of his dominent themes--the hidden American life, the drawing together and coming apart of individuals randomly selected, the mysteries of eternity and our search for our place in it, all presented with a sense of love and awe of humanity.

    Don't ask me why--I wanted to love them--but I think "Lost Highways" and "Mulholland Drive" are warmed-over rehashes of his other movies. Lynch stopped being original to me after "The Straight Story". But this isn't to suggest they were bad films; even his rehashes are well worth watching.

    Re: "Greenville". I saw Neil Young perform it in its entiriety in March, 2004. He performed it exactly as it is on the album. He had to: on video displays on the sides of the stage, the film was projected and he sang the lyrics as they came out of the character's mouths. Coming from someone who's "Tonight's The Night" tour of Europe was staged with only a single light bulb (and was called the "Everything Is Cheaper Than It Looks" tour), this was a technically proficient achievement.

    "Greendale" the album is one long low-level boogie chug (with an acoustic song smack-dab in the middle) and if you don't normally like him, you'll hate him here. Fortunately, like you, Oscar, I'm also a "lefty Young fan" and I think his anger about the media, the DEA and the rape of the environment is, even at its moldiness, relevant and sincere. He, like Bob Dylan, marches to his own drummer. (Dylan, by the way, after reading "Chronicles", seems almost like an idiot savant in his ability to remember forty year old details about what was on friends' bookshelves or the type of furniture they had, yet he displays a distinct lack of interest of telling us anything even remotely private--LIKE HIS WIVES" NAMES! "Chronicles" is a fun read--I mean it sincerely.)

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    Thanks for your reply, bix. It's been a while (Ararat) since your posts force me to present an alternative point of view, which I enjoy doing. We've been mostly "on the same page" lately (Kinsey, Sideways, Life Aquatic, Hero, Collateral, Ladykillers).

    Re:"Greendale" the music.
    Flipping thru my record collection, I find at least a dozen Young albums better than "Greendale". It ain't no "Rust Never Sleeps" or "After the Gold Rush" fer sure! But I don't think anyone would "hate" it, and "low level boogie chug" sounds harsh to me. (I'm still humming "Devil's Sidewalk" and "Be the Rain"). It's still Talbot and Molina keeping time behind Young's lead and like you wrote, he's still sincere and relevant. I know it's not enough. Dylan released his masterful "Love and Theft" at 60. (I'll read "Chronicles" as you recommend). Maybe Young will match Dylan's feat when he reaches his sixth decade.

    *There's no denying we have different takes on Lynch. It's been clear since your opening post for the Mulholland Drive thread two years ago. I don't think any of several pro-M.D. posts that followed changed your mind. But if I may be so bold, I propose it's the Lynch film that most rewards repeat viewings. I see why you say the "primary issue here is shifting identities" but I suggest approaching the film from a different perspective. I view it as a variation on Lynch's theme of Innocence Corrupted and a critique of Hollywood's "star-making machinery". But most importantly this is Lynch's highly (unusually?) empathetic presentation of a woman experiencing the painful (and destructive in Diane's case) consequences of unrequited love. Because what we watch for the first 80 minutes is her drug/alcohol fueled, fevered dream/fantasy, it's useful to analyze M.D. as a psychoanalyst performing dream interpretation. Of course I think it's a masterpiece and I don't expect everyone to agree. But I think, with all due respect, that your take on it would expand with a careful repeat viewing from a fresh perspective.

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