Thursday, July 2, 2015

SPORADIC RANDOM THOUGHTS ON LIVING WITHOUT THE INTERNET PART II: THE QUICKENING

Alright, computer is in the shop, internet down anyway and 500,000 pens in the house, not a goddamn one of them has ink in them. 'Cause that's what my shitty handwriting needs.

Ugh, I wish I knew what was on half of these channels, and what was on later. 15 religious channels on digital that are free, for some reason, no TV Guide channel? Hell, I'd watch the PREVUE CHANNEL if that was still on. 

Oh, good God, who are these morons who take time out of their day to make a video about their thoughts on Tyga, whoever-the-fuck that is, to be on "TMZ Live"?!

Why does "TMZ Live" let them talk!?!?!?!

I did this once before, which is why this blog is called Part II. The first one was better though, and like most sequels, this is disappointing. . 

Madeleine Kahn was on "Cosby"!? I didn't even know she was alive for that show. 

No, it is not hypocritical of me to be appalled at Bill Cosby's date raping and still watch his shows. And yeah, to some extent, I always liked "Cosby" a little more than "The Cosby Show". Let's see which of these opinions gets a more shocking reaction.

Ugh, my hand is tired of writing these down, this isn't natural! I NEED TO TYPE! UGH!!!!!!!

IDEA FOR A SITCOM: Modern-day Carrie Bradshaw but earty-to-mid twenties in Las Vegas bur a more 1st person perspective/focus, but still focusing on admittedly exaggerated adventures, sexual and otherwise. She and everyone else will have fake names and each episode will almost always be told through her article. Should have other work, waitress/webcam model/whatever. Broke Girl but for real, husting in sex life, work life, and dad-to-day life. Actually, this could be a movie... hmm. 

UGH! Why am I always without a computer when my good ideas come to me?!!!

Oh god, why isn't channel 31.4 working now? That was HOT TV, I've been watching that channel for two nights in a row. I was looking forward to another episode of "Life with Elizabeth'. Hey, it's still funny. It is, go watch it.

Man, if you ever just want to see some weird stuff, if you have PB&J, turn to that channel once in a while. More often, I saw "What the fuck is this?!" at that channel than any other. No wonder my mother only sees animation as children's stuff, if these were her Saturday morning cartoons, boy they really gave no effort to some of these. 

Really, just these old "Archie" episode are weird. Like, I thought Betty was the slut, but clearly Veronika's got the Charlene Tilton thing going, but that doesn't make any sense, why are they letting the ditzy blonde play tambourine if she isn't blowing any of them? And why don't they give Veronika a chairVeronika a chair? I know it's a keyboard, not a piano, but who plays a keyboard with a foot petal, standing up?

Did Gumby just say "This guy's no beatnik; he's one of George Washington's soldiers? Seriously, PB&J is weird fucking shit!

When the hell did ABC start doing TGIT?! Thank God it's Thursday!? WTF? Really? REALLY!?!? UGH! That's so wrong on, so many levels...-, my head will explode if I think too deeply about it. 

Let's see,  finish this stupid, frustrating, "I Origins" movie, or a rerun of "Hill Street Blues"? AGH, I have to watch this movie so I can send it back on my Netflix! Maybe if a watch the film during commercials, it'll be more tolerable? 

Nope, that didn't work. Didn't work at all. 

Why is it called "Inside Edition"? I never thought about that before, but that title doesn't really make any sense. I don't think it does anyway.

Why is CBS just airing "Hawaii Five-0" reruns at 11;30pm? Can't they just air Letterman reruns 'til Colbert premieres? And why "Hawaii Five-0" anyway, do they still think people watch that?

Dear Escape Channel, don't tell me that "Forensic Files" is on later. "Forensic Files" is always on your channel later. Instead, tell me what's this movie I'm watching that actually seems interesting. 

Why are there really fake women on a show called "The Real"?

Keirsten Warren was really underrated on "Saved By the Bell: The New Class"! Actually, I always thought Alex was a better match with Slater than Jesse ever was. Actually, I always thought Jesse should've been matched with Screech. There were both smart, her political protesting edge could've given Screech more of a down-to-Earth backbone and expanded him greatly; they could've made a powerful antithesis for Zach at times, plus there's conflict within the group, and it'll split Kelly and Slater's allegiances at times. It makes more sense than pairing him with Lisa who was just a rich, spoiled brat and she never came around to him anyway. Okay, I just realized that I thought way too much about this. 

Ugh! It's really hard reading my handwriting and then typing it into this. I NEED MY COMPUTER FUCKING FIXED!

Okay, this has always annoyed me, there's two TV shows that changed their original opening title themes to the point where they never air their original titles/themes. "Grace Under Fire" had a completely different theme song and opening originally. No, it's not as good as the later one, but it was still pretty good; I don't know why they don't air any of those episodes with that original theme. But, the worst, worst of these, is "Ellen". The first season of that show, was not called "Ellen", it was called "These Friends of Mine". Don't believe me? Go to the 22:04 mark of the video below.



See it. On the slate, it clearly says the show is called "These Friends of Mine"! Yet, even this episode's opening credits, call the show "Ellen". They changed it the second season, but since they kept the opening credits sequence that season, they just changed the title in the sequence, and when it went into reruns, they just kept it. I have no idea why they don't bring this up; I can't even find an original opening sequence of the show on Youtube, where it says the title is "These Friends of Mine", but go look on the Neilsen ratings for '93-'94 and one of the Top Five shows, is "These Friends of Mine". And that's another, this was a Top Five show, and CHANGED THE TITLE?! Can you imagine that ever happening today? Granted,"These Friends of Mine" is a weird title and in hindsight, kinda makes sense that someone like Ellen DeGenerous, before she came out, would try to push the focus on, the people around her and not herself, that's odd. Yes, "Ellen" is a far better title, but it's still, so strange and it's been completely erased from most everyone's memory, except mine. I distinctly remember being confused that that show I liked wasn't on the air anymore, until I saw it under the title "Ellen" the next year. Odd.

Hey a foreign movie on THISTV, oh, "Osama" and it's a good one too. They don't put enough of those on.

NBC fired Donald Trump. Well, about time and, du-uh! They're keeping "The Celebrity Apprentice", fine let me know when they cancel "The Biggest Loser", and "Undateable", and about 6 other shitty reality shows. Oh, nevermind, just let me know when they bring back "Seinfeld".

BTW, in terms of beauty pageants, I was going to write about them at one point, but John Oliver did that piece on Miss America and pretty much said everything I was going to, and he did is better than I would've. I genuinely have no idea why beauty pageants still around.

What's this "Secretos"? This must be like the Mexican "Cheaters" or something, pretty strangely awesome.

I still can't stand Sheryl Underwood on "The Talk" I miss Leah Remini, she was funny and witty, Underwood forces every joke, she doesn't really participate in the actual talking. Granted Julie Chan's annoying, but I can live with her, but Underwood's just annoying. She's never funny and when you got Aisha Tyler up there, who really is funny as hell, it really feels forced.

Okay, I watched 15 minutes of "Celebrity Wife Swap", but it was just to see what was in Margaret Cho's dungeon. She is so awesome!

I guess you realized that most of these complaints and thoughts have been about television, well, it's all I really got right now, although I am watching movies, but I'm trying to catch up on television for the Emmys. Except none of the Emmy shows are on in reruns anymore!!!! WTF? How many "American Ninja Warriors" can you have? Damn networks, going all to hell. Cable should be fucking free to all! That should be the next civil right we challenge the Supreme Court over.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "THE GREAT ESCAPE"

THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963)

Director: John Sturges
Screenplay: James Clavell and W.R. Burnett based on the book by Paul Brickhill



What is it about John Sturges's "The Great Escape" that makes it so inherently watchable? It's a bit of an anomaly when you really look at it. It was made right in that last era of the classic Hollywood film yet feels like a movie made out of time. Some say it solidified Steve McQueen as the epitome of cool, his rebellious Hilts, a renegade loner rebel, forever in the cooler playing catch with the wall thinking up his latest escape attempt. I don't know though, I never fully understood that appeal to McQueen and the movie doesn't really revolve around him. Actually, the film probably has more in common with something like "Seven Samurai" or one of those movies that has a group of people brought together to achieve a goal. (Which makes sense, Sturges's other most well-known film was "The Magnificent Seven" the western remake of "Seven Samurai") Yet it's also a war movie, a POW WWII movie, putting it in the same league as Billy Wilder's masterpiece "Stalag 17" and it's got some of the same comedic slice-of-life aspects as that film, but it also boasts it's accuracy, mentioning in the beginning how the details of the actual escape are completely accurate despite the composite characters.

Actually, the film is more accurate than it lead on, and that's the other thing, most of the escapees, end up getting killed, either trying to escape or after they get caught. Sorry if that's a spoiler there for you, but the movie isn't about the result, it's mostly just in awe at the accomplishment and the details therein. It starts with how truly difficult it is to escape and how even after an escape, it's almost impossible not to get caught and immediately brought back as POW camps were too far from the front and it's very easy to slip up on any fake persona they can come up with. But, officers and required to try to escape, so with that, we see the multiple ways they tried to escape, the escapes that were themselves distractions to the 3-tunnel approach, even the Nazis themselves in charge of the camp have a begrudging respect for the officers and their attempts however faulty or flawed.

Perhaps the real genius of the film is that it promises a great escape and it is. It's an elaborate, meticulously shot and detailed and deserves to be the three hour tragic, heroic epic, disguised as the prototypical man's man movie. For an epic, there isn't much more than that, and yet, you get so inherently engrossed in the struggle nonetheless, whether the amazing rebuilding of the escape tunnels, the tracking shots in those tunnels, or just those moments in between strategizing and preparing to escape to just see Steve McQueen being all Steve McQueen. "The Great Escape" is big, bold, action-filled, and yet, it carefully reconstructs, pretty factually, a real amazing escape from a German POW camp that cost nearly everybody involved their lives. It's a hard film to describe it's greatness, and yet, when watching it, there's no question of it, this was the kind of story that cinema was made for.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

MOVIE RATINGS: "THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING", "SELMA", "STILL ALICE", "MR. TURNER", "INHERENT VICE", "UNBROKEN". "THE COBBLER", "BIG EYES", "CAKE", "A MOST VIOLENT YEAR", "THE CAPTIVE", "STARRED UP", "300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE", "I ORIGINS", "ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON THE ICE" and MORE.

Well, Obamacare is still the law and gay marriage is legal everywhere, Congrats Supreme Court for doing a couple things good this week. What the hell is it gonna take to make Scalia suddenly drop dead of natural causes? (That's probably the nicest way I could put that without something being added to my FBI file)

Well, as promised, I'm giving you a list of my..., ratings for movies I've seen. (Frustrated sigh) Believe me, this is as frustrating to me as it is to you. As promised, I'll write reviews for, as many of these films as I can, when I can and as soon as I can. Especially the major films. But, without regular internet availability, I'm just not able to do that at the moment. I wish I could, especially with some of these movies I really want to talk about more thoroughly, but there's too many movies and frankly, I just can't do that at the moment. I'll still be writing commentaries on other issues whenever I can, but that's about all I can do until further notice. Hopefully this'll be the only one of these posts, where I just write the ratings I give the movies, and maybe a word or two, I fear that it won't and if/when I post that blog, i'm sure you'll hear more complaining and frustrations from me then.

Anyway, I'll try to at least, sorta explain my reasons for some of these ratings in a sentence or two, some I won't especially the older films, which I probably won't get around to reviewing, 'cause, why bother at this point, but if you're curious about some of these reviews and my additional thoughts, please, contact me, either comment on this blog, or through FB or Twitter and whatnot, and I promise I will respond in due time. For now, here's how I at least rate movies on my 0-5 STARS scale.


THE THORY OF EVERYTHING (2014) Director: James Marsh

3 STARS



While I was impressed with the performances of Redmayne and Jones as Dr. Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane, who's really the main character of the film as it's based on her novel about living with and dealing with Hawking as the genius of our generation disintegrated from Lou Gehrig's Disease, but I must admit to having a hard time feeling much for this film. For a mind like Hawking, I never really felt much sympathy for him, and I think the movie tried too much to do that.


SELMA (2014) Director: Ava Duvernay

5 STARS



Yeah, "Selma" was hard to watch, but it's definitely a masterpiece. A movie that really details the Civil Rights struggle, especially from the behind the scenes aspects of it and it shows a believable rare look at the more political side to Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as a personal one. It's definitely one of the most powerful films of the year.


STILL ALICE (2014) Directors: Richard Glatzner & Wash Westmoreland

5 STARS




All films on Alzheimer's are difficult to watch, but this is the first one I've seen that truly felt like it was from the perspective of the person going through it. Julianne Moore's Oscar winning performance was the star of the movie, but the film's directing and especially the screenplay are impressive as well. Richard Glatzner, the late co-director along helped make the film along with his longtime director partner and husband Wash Westmoreland partially based on Glatzner's experience dealing with his Alzheimer's and it's truly a sad and heartbreaking look at a once great mind, losing her capabilities. Definitely one of the more emotional films I've seen this year.


MR. TURNER  (2014) Director: Mike Leigh

4 1/2 STARS



Mike Leigh's can never make a bad movie and Timothy Spall's amazing performance as W.M.D Brown the great British seascape painter is quite marvelous and Marion Bailey's performance is also quite amazing. I still, my one hangup is that, at some point, the movie kinda seemed a little too much like a regular biopic, which is a bit of a shame coming from Leigh, but still, very minor issue.


INHERENT VICE (2014) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

4 1/2 STARS



"Inherent Vice" is confusing, nonsensical, circular, mess of a Chandleresque mystery that constantly introduces new twists and new characters at will and random. In other words, it's a Thomas Pynchon story/Paul Thomas Anderson film. Leave it to the most audacious filmmaker around to attempt to adapt the most unadaptable writer out there. It's basically what it sounds like, and I enjoyed it as that mess that it is.


UNBROKEN  (2014) Director: Angelina Jolie

4 STARS



I think I got what Angelina Jolie's doing here. Despite some, questionable storytelling ideas and choices, I think her main objective was essentially, to make go through the emotionally-draining experiences that Louis Zamperini went through. Jack O'Connell does is very good as Zamperini a former Olympian who eventually becomes a Japanese POW in WWII. Miyavi is quite interesting as the vicious sociopath that runs the camp. It's more emotional than plot-based, but still, I appreciate "Unbroken".


THE COBBLER  (2015) Director: Thomas McCarthy

4 1/2 STARS



This is one of Adam Sandler's best films, and it's another great and interesting film from Tom McCarthy, the man behind "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor". Sandler's a 2nd generation cobbler who finds out that he can use one of his father's old tools and put on his customer's shoes and transform into those people by wearing his shoes. There's a lot of good jokes and situations here and some interesting good performances. Strong film here.


BIG EYES (2014) Director: Tim Burton

4 1/2 STARS



Amy Adams, once again gives an amazing performance as Margaret Meade, the painter of those famous Big Eyed children, and how her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) essentially stole her art work. Yes, this is a story about art theft, as Margaret's work gets credited to the outspoken and outlandish Walter who begins to publicize the art and make it available to the public. This is Tim Burton's most interesting work in years.


CAKE (2014) Director: Daniel Barnz

4 STARS



Another strong film and performance, this one by Jennifer Aniston as a suicide-obsessed L.A. suburbanite who's recovering from a car accident that she's still recovering from a car accident that severely injured her back, and lost her child. I'm a little surprise by some of the mix reviews 'cause I thought most of the movie worked pretty well as an emotional journey through a complex character.


A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (2014) Director: J.C. Chandor

5 STARS



This is Chandor's best directing job yet, and is really developing into one of the top American writer/directors out there. He constantly has good ideas and this is a great film. Great performances from both Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac as a husband and wife who have differing views on how their heating business should be run. Great movie, one of the year's best.


THE CAPTIVE (2014) Director: Atom Egoyan

4 STARS



If you like Atom Egoyan's typical films, then you'll probably like "The Captive". It's not anything special for him, but "The Captive" is still very frightening and intense thriller a la, "The Sweet Hereafter" about a kid who's kidnapped and held captive by a whole ring of pedophiles as she ends up being used to recruit other kids. It's disturbing and intoxicating, just like Egoyan at his best.


STARRED UP (2014) Director: David Mackenzie

4 1/2 STARS



A British film about a father and son who both find themselves behind bars in prison, it's one of the better prison movies I've seen in a while. Great performances by Jack O'Connell and Ben Mendelsohn


300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014) Director: Noam Murro

2 STARS



I actually liked the first "300". I can't remember why off-hand after watching this unnecessary and over-the-top remake, which was mostly just boring. We're not getting into the films that I will probably not be writing reviews for in the future.


I ORIGINS (2014) Director: Mike Cahill

ZERO STARS



Although I might find time to review this piece of shit. Mike Cahill should really let Brit Marling lead the writing next time; this film just annoyed me from one moment to the next, even from conception. If it didn't take itself so seriously and disturbingly so, maybe I could've forgiven it a bit, but, eh, they don't do that.


ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE (2014) Director: Anthony Powell

2 1/2 STARS



Eh, I think I understand why in Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World", why he'd rather stand over the edge of a volcano than hang out with the people living there. There's some interesting stuff here, but I kinda just felt like the movie was dragging on a bit.


THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995) Director: Sam Raimi

3 STARS

SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) Director: Barbet Schroeder

4 STARS

Alright, I'm running out of time at the library, so no photos for these two, but they're a pair of outlandish films that satirize and subvert their genre and I liked both of them.














Wednesday, June 24, 2015

DEAR PATIENT READERS: A MESSAGE ABOUT CURRENTS AND ONGOING DELAYS, AND THE TEMPORARY MEASURES WE'LL BE TAKING.



Dear Patient Readers:

I'm saddened to report that at the moment, I will not be publishing blogs on any kind of regular basis in the near future. I'll try to publish whenever and if I can, but not at any regular interval, nor will I be going out of my way to post in the immediate future. There are personal and private matters that I fear I must place the majority of my attention to and while I'll continue to do whatever I can to keep this blog going, for the time being I fear there is no immediate resolution that will satisfy both me and you, the readers, in bringing a continued level of quality and quantity that I normally expect to, and desire to produce, so, I've decided that the best thing for me at the moment is not to do so, at least until I'm capable of doing so again. This is not an end to "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews", far from it, merely an act break, an intermission if you will, a stopgap measure perhaps. And any of these posts that comes between now and whenever I officially announce that I'm back, well, I don't know what you should consider them, but I'll leave an obvious signal that they're an anomaly, or I don't know, a reminder that I indeed am still here and not going anywhere soon.

For example, the biggest and most notable immediate change you'll notice is that I won't be writing or publishing movie reviews for awhile. I'll still be watching films of course, and my next post will simply be a list of the films I've watched and the ratings I gave them and maybe a sentence or two of what I thought and why if possible and when I am more capable or reviewing these films I'll write more proper reviews, especially of the major films I'm unable to review.

This is hopefully a minor setback and I'm hopeful that I'll be working at full capacity when the Primetime Emmy Nomination Announcement are released and I swear by hell or high water, I'll have my usual extensive Emmy Nomination Analysis posted as soon as I can after those are announced. It may be later than everybody else, but it'll happen.

In the meantime, expect more commentaries and whenever possible, Canon of Film posts, some of those might be newly-written ones, so keep an eye out for them, and whatever else I can and/or think of to post on, when I can, at least until I resume my more traditional, regular posting patters. Sorry again for this but, hopefully this is temporary and we'll be back to normal ASAP. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
David Baruffi

P.S. If anybody here has gone on or started using Patreon, let me know what you think about it, whether or not you think it works or might work for me. I'm thinking about it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

BRIAN WILLIAMS, EH, SA-GA? REALLY, IS THIS NEWS WE'RE ACTUALLY GIVING A SHIT ABOUT?



I've been noticeably absent from mentioning anything about Brian Williams and I'll be honest, I'm kinda surprised it's a big deal, at all. Not that the crime or the penalty are off in some way, but..., are we still in a "Broadcast News" world where this even matters? Is this relevant? I mean, symbolically I guess and yeah, it's one of numerous bad decisions NBC News had made over the recent years, you know, the kind of dumb things that Media Matters gets a hard-on for bringing up, like David Gregory's wretched reign on "Meet the Press". And yeah, Brian Williams is a bit more of a showman than an anchorman. We've all read some of the stories, how he loved going on the talk shows and guest appearing on "30 Rock" and other shows, submitting his name to replace Jay Leno, seriously (Well, seriously to him anyway) and the worse of his actions was how he apparently squashed some major news stories in favor of more light-hearted entertainment pieces. (Hey, I'm an entertainment blogger, not the "NBC Nightly News")

Really though, is this really important? A trust issue of all things with the "Nightly News", in this day and age? Hey, I know that "The Newsroom" was the best show on TV until it was canceled as well but-eh, I did regard that show as a romantic ideal of what a news show should be, but maybe it is more realistic. (Will McAvoy was purportedly loosely based on Brian Williams) That said, he exaggerated a few things, and they weren't even parts on the news, as far as I've noticed. He told lies on talk shows. Honestly, I don't think he did much worst than what Hillary Clinton exaggerated about during the '08 campaign, remember that? No? Exactly. She added drama to a story that was relatively benign and she got caught for it, that was it.

And yeah, I generally always liked Brian Williams as an anchor. Oh, don't worry I think he's earned losing the job to Lester Holt, who I like more but I also enjoyed watching him. I thought he was the natural choice and successor to tom Brokaw and I wish NBC had done more with his "Rock Center" brainchild, which was an interesting and insightful Primetime news magazine show; I'd rather see that than the other shitstain on NBC News's repertoire of shows, the goddamn insufferable "Dateline".

I'll admit also to being generally, NBC bias; I can't help it. I grew up in the two decades of MUST SEE TV where they absolutely ruled Primetime, so I always turned to their news programs first the way I turn to NBC first for everything. (Admittedly nowadays, I now change the channel after turning to them most of the time.) Still though, this is a day and age when MSNBC is a more relevant news source than NBC. Hell, Comedy Central is a more relevant news organization these days than NBC News. I don't know who really get their news on network these days. That's not something i think of as something prideful of this modern world; I like the idea of a nightly news broadcast, being an overall collective of the day's news, formatted like a newspaper. Headlines, politics, weather, stocks, sports, special interest, etc. etc. It's bad enough that most of my news (Annoyed chuckle, "My news")  comes from my Facebook wall, but it's worst that that news is filtered through my so-called "Preferences".

Anyway, I guess what I'm mostly wondering is-eh, well, how big a deal is this really? Okay, Brian Williams got caught in a few lies, but, to paraphrase Frank Fontana, "It's Brian Williams, Murphy! Forget about it!" that's what I think about this mostly, and yet, the media's covering it like it's really a major story. I mean, NBC is suddenly having issues with who should be in control of a flagship program, big fucking shock! (Eye roll) I know, it's the media covering the media and everybody's head is up everybody's asses but can we all stop pretending that this is, in any sense of the term, a "real news story"? This ain't the age of Edward R. Murrow, let's move from caring about the pretenders of the throne and care about actual news? I know, I'm sounding a bit hypocritical here, but, I mean, even in the entertainment world news, this story's relevance, ran out like, a decade ago at least.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "ATLANTIC CITY"

ATLANTIC CITY (1980)

Director: Louis Malle
Screenplay: John Guare



I’ve noticed that a common theme in many Louis Malle films is that the coming together of characters or in some cases, people, and the reasons for how they end up together. There's always different reasons. Many times this is sexual, oftentimes it can be trivial, sometimes even taboo. Malle hardly ever gets mentioned when putting together a list of even the best French Directors. He was a French New Wave filmmaker with films like “Elevator to the Gallows,” and “The Lovers” that pushed the boundaries and standards of the time, although seem tame by today’s (and to a certain extent, their own) time. He also, unlike contemporaries like Melville and Godard, he was a minimalist, and oftentimes, his films have only the bare essentials of directing. I’ve written on his autobiographical film “Au Revoir, Les Enfants,” one of the last films he made in France, but that might be the exception. He made famous documentaries about India that eventually got the BBC banned in India. He went onto America where he would make “Pretty Baby,” with Brooke Shields, and possibly his best film “My Dinner with Andre,” a film that’s an entire dinner conversation between two New York playwrights who are basically playing variations on themselves. His last movie was "Vanya on 42nd Street" a part-documentary, part-theatrical production about a group of actors who every year, book a theater or 42nd street for a week and perform Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya".  

Sometimes its dinner that brings his characters together, other times it’s a play, while other times, his characters come together for reasons that aren’t as literal. In “Atlantic City,” all the characters come together out of desperation. Desperation also drives the plot of the movie. Shot just  a couple years after gambling had been legalized in New Jersey, the movie depicts an Atlantic City as a dying and decaying tourist town, standing, barely, side-by-side with a new Atlantic City that’s trying to emulate the Las Vegas Strip along the Boardwalk, a desperate attempt to bring tourists. Lou (Burt Lancaster) is an old, old-time numbers runner for the Mob, but now his job is not only dying out, it’s becoming legitimate. Left with nothing but memories of the old days, and one annoying downstairs relic, Grace (Kate Reid) who he waits on hand-and-foot, at least somewhat loyally. Sally (Susan Sarandon) is his next-door neighbor who he sometimes peers at through his window as she rubs lemons over her body while listening to French music. She works at the oyster bar at the casino, although she’s studying to become a blackjack dealer, hoping eventually to move to Monte Carlo. Her baggage shows up looking like Joseph and Mary searching for a room, but it’s her husband from Saskatchewan and her pregnant little sister who he ran off with (Robert Joy and Hollie MacLaren). He’s also gotten a hold of some cocaine, and through a coincidence, hires Lou to work as his dealer for a client. After he gets killed, Lou finds that he’s inherited small fortune in cocaine, and has every intention of selling and becoming like the big-time mobsters that he only worked for before. We get drawn into these characters the same way they keep getting drawn into the lore and promises of Atlantic City. They steal but they’re not thieves. They manipulate, they hustle, and they do almost anything to get what they want, always failing, always trying again; always getting caught up in their own dreams. It’s hard to completely call the movie unpredictable, but the characters certainly can be. That’s because the actors aren’t caught up in a movie about a drug deal gone bad, they’re people caught up in their own lives, which happens to include the drug deal gone bad. They come together out of geographical convenience, coincidence, and out of necessary desperation. I’ve used that word a lot in this article, “desperation;” it’s reserved for characters such as these who live on the fringes of society. If they were rich, the word would be greed or single-mindedly obsessive, cause they’re acting of out want and these characters act out of need.  

It’s a film that seems strangely relevant to today’s Las Vegas (My hometown) as we work to reinvent and restore our town. Two timeless characters who are simultaneously of their time and place and also capable of living and occurring anywhere and anytime, I think that’s probably the other motif in Malle’s work.Timelessness. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER'S APOCALYPSE"

HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE (1991)

Director/Screenplay: Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper     
Director of Documentary Footage: Eleanor Coppola



I think I have to explain something about filmmaking before I tell you about “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” and that is that, you don’t just point a camera and click on and tell your actors to read from a script, there’s a lot more going on. You’re working 8-16 hour days, and you have to get all the crew together, the sets have to be built, the props have to be made, or brought in, the actors have to be paid for working specific days and times, special effects and stunts have to be coordinated, the script is often rewritten continually and sometimes will look nothing like its original form, and that’s just some of the dozens and dozens of things that have to be prepared before shooting, and that’s if nothing goes wrong, which something always does. For every filmmaker, you don’t just make a film, the way a painter may draw a painting, every film is a true experience, and therefore the experience will then be with you as you go into your next project, and than your next project… and so on and so forth. You than, must realize the state of mind that people who are in that situation day after day, week after week, and sometimes month after month will be in. This movie, which originally aired on Showtime, and than got a theatrical release, documents Francis Ford Coppola’s 3 year odyssey in the making of “Apocalypse Now.” Shot by his wife Eleanor, while on location in The Philippines while she secretly tape recorded conversations between her and her husband while he was going through a Kurtz-like odyssey himself.


The shoot was a nightmare. After location scouting, he made a deal with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to use his Army’s helicopters for battle scenes, only to have his helicopters go and leave to fight rebel armies every other day in the middle of shooting. He then replaced his leading man early in the process and had to fly back to L.A. to cast Martin Sheen, who was drinking and smoking heavily at that time. He than casted Marlon Brando for the part of Kurtz, 3 weeks of work for $3,000,000 dollars, including a $1,000,000 advance, which he threatens to keep and leave the project later. Sets are destroyed and submerged after typhoons hit, and Coppola urges to keep shooting, and encourages the crew at almost every second. He does begin to lose it while shooting a scene at a French rubber plantation that didn’t make the cut in the film, as he wasn’t satisfied with his actors. Then Sheen, at age 35, had a heart attack soon after shooting his scenes in the hotel room, where he cut his hand, and did karate moves, all while being so drunk, the crew thought he might actually attack Francis. They then shot without him for some months while he was recovering in the states. All while talking discouraged writers and producers into believing the film will be so great it will win a Nobel Prize, he reveals to his wife, who shot most of the footage and secretly videotaped her conversations with him,  his fear that he’s making a bad film and might kill himself. When they get to Kurtz’s compound, Dennis Hopper is so stoned, he can’t remember any of his lines, and Marlon Brando insists on spending his three weeks talking about the character, as Coppola slowly realizes that he hasn’t read the book, and probably not the screenplay either. Which only adds to the increasingly urgent fact Coppola doesn’t know how to end the film, and is continually rewriting and shooting improvisations as he goes along. The 4 month project that was to cost $13,000,000 was over budget 3 months in, and finished 2 and a half years later, nearly bankrupted Coppola literally and metaphorically, and shows that Willard’s journey upriver into the heart of darkness wasn’t the only journey. 

It was Truffaut I believe who said that he was only interested in two things when watching a film, the joy of filmmaking and the agony of filmmaking. This film shows arguably more than any, the agony in filmmaking. Coppola descending into the madness that he's creating, terrified that it's all for naught, that he bit off more than he could chew and shows filmmaking as a continuously ongoing project, from both an artistic and business perspective, and all the ways that everything has to be negotiated around, to keep the project going, to keep the film going, to make sure everyone's happy. In my mind, there's three great documentaries about the perils of filmmaking, and along with Les Blanc's "Burdern of Dreams" about Werner Herzog's unbelievably even more surrealistic and disastrous shoot for "Fitzcarraldo' and Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's "Lost in La Mancha", about one of Terry Gilliam's numerous failed attempts to bring "Don Quixote" to the screen. Seeing all three of these films could probably deter almost anybody from filmmaking, but if you can survive that, you also see all the positive aspects of filmmaking. Storytelling, determination, passion, desire, and just how much, skill and luck is needed for everything to go right. It makes you appreciate the film they were making even more.