Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE"

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991)

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Kieslowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz




One of my favorite directors to analyze is Krzysztof Kieslowski. His name in America doesn't always get mentioned among the Bergman, Fellini, Tarkovsky, or other great literary poets of film, but he is one of the most natural artistic filmmakers ever. His works are usually character-driven, and often deal with much simpler stories, at least character-wise, but his films are never boring, and in fact, within these simple tales lies very complex ideas on how luck, chance, fate, coincidence, and destiny seem to affect our lives. His most famous works include “The Decalogue,” a 10-part series of 1 hour films originally made for Polish television that found it’s way to theaters where each section deals with the 10 Commandments, in quite unusual ways. (It’s often unclear just what Commandments match with each film.) And his most famous works, the Three Colors trilogy, “Blue,” “White,” and “Red.” The titles represent the colors on the French Flag which represent liberty, equality, and fraternity respectively, and shows us how liberty can be found inward for a woman after her husband and son are killed, and equality in a man returning to Poland post-communist reign and becoming an entrepreneur, and “Red,” his last film, gave him his only Oscar nomination, involves a woman who runs over a judge’s dog, nurse’s him back to health, to find the judge as someone who spends his days listening on the radio to the phone calls of others, as his radio has crossed signals. I've written Canon of Film entries for each of the Three Colors Trilogy, and eventually I'll post one on "The Decalogue", but both of those are not only for the advance class, they're relatively ungainly to go through, especially if you don't have a prior base of Kieslowski to use as a guide. People should be introduced to him though so I usually recommend people get their first taste of Kieslowski by watching “The Double Life of Veronique,” but don't get that confused with it being a weaker film of his, it's not; it's just as amazing a film he’s ever done.  

Weronika (Irene Jacob), is a Polish choir singer in Krakow, who was taught to look at the world upside down and has always had a nagging feeling that she isn’t alone in the world; she can’t explain it though. She's visiting Krakow getting discovered and preparing for a major performance, but on a day out, she thinks she sees something, or maybe she didn’t see it, or maybe she doesn’t know what she saw, but she sees somebody who looks just like her going onto a bus and snapping photographs. We don’t know if the other girl saw her, or for that matter what might have happened if they met each other. There's been a lot of use of dobblegangers in film recently, and there's a rich history of them being used all through literature, but the way they're approach here, is unluck any other.  Eventually, we meet the other girl, a French music teacher named Veronique, who was taught to look at the world real close, and who, like her counterpart, has lived life with the same feeling that she isn’t alone in the world. There lives don’t cross sort-of-speak, but are parallel, even if they aren’t aware of it. This movie isn’t about any kind of science or fantasy or the how of it, but about how spirit and souls can seem inherently connected, the metaphysics perhaps. Movements, like placing a ring to your eyes, to put down eyebrow hair, or the twist of a string around a finger. When I was young, whenever I’d hear someone yell my name, when nobody did, I was told it was a guardian angel warning me. This movie feels like that, it protects us, but invites us to new unique possibilities and worlds. “They both had dark hair and brownish-green eyes… one of them burned her hand on a stove. A few days later…” pontificates Veronique's eventual boyfriend Alexandre (Phillippe Voter); I’ll leave it to you to find out the rest of the line.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "PEEPING TOM"

PEEPING TOM (1960)

Director: Michael Powell
Screenplay: Leo Marks based on his story



Michael Powell is arguably the greatest British Director to ever live, famous for such masterful films as “The Red Shoes,” “Black Narcissus,” and “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,” but after he made “Peeping Tom,” his career, for all intensive purposes was over. The movie opened and closed in a week, got horrific reviews from pretty much every British journalist, and was practically forced to leave the country in order to find any work at all, and he didn’t find much. Coming out the same year as Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” which solidified its director’s status, this film which may even be somewhat creepier, destroyed the man behind it. Now, the film is considered a classic, but it was controversial, at least among the film industry because of its implication that a filmmaker would want to kill its audience (And maybe moreso that the audience was a willing witness).

The movie follows a man named Mark Lewis (Karl Boehm) who carries his camera around like an extension of his body, as he claims to be filming a documentary when not taking cheesecake photographs at the local sleaze book store, or working as a focus puller at a major film studio. (A focus puller is also known as the 1st Assistant Camera or 1st AC, and his job is to be the lens guys for the camera, including adjusting the focus of the lens while the shot is going on [and usually they're doing that, without seeing the image that's inside the camera]; it's actually one of the most difficult jobs on a film set and requires very extensive and intimate knowledge of cameras, often more than a cinematographer even.) But, Mark’s camera is also his weapon of choice, having refashioned his tripod as a weapon that enables him to kill the people he photographs, and then makes them watch their expressions as they see what their fear looks like. One victim, Vivian (Moira Shearer, who starred in Powell’s “The Red Shoes”) is killed after getting up to his apartment under the impression that he was photographing her dancing.

He’s a son of a famous research psychologist who studied the effects of fear by bugging his entire house an photographing every moment of his kid’s life he can imagine, up to and including the moments where he continual scares his son so as to document his findings. It’s like that behaviorist that took a baby and put him in a room with a white mouse, and would then slam a hammer every time the mouse came near the kid, so the now the kid, as a grownup, has an irrational fear of white mice and doesn’t know why (That’s an actual study I just listed by the way). Now, Mark, when not looking through the window of his neighbor’s apartment he spends his days watching his old childhood films, as well as his own experiences on how to truly capture fear on camera. The movie opens on a street where we eventually see the point of view of his camera as he notices a plainly dressed prostitute on the street-corner, which we continuously follow behind her, until she becomes his first unsuspecting victim. Meanwhile, his young neighbor Helen (Anna Massey) seems to have taken a fascination with him, and forced her way into his life, even at one point, allowing her to take his camera and store it for a night out, which he eventually regrets. Even after kissing her after one date, his immediate reaction is to kiss his camera when she’s not looking. Austrian actor Karl Boehm, was not the initial choice for the role of Mark, but that disconcerting accent of his that could easily be confused for Peter Lorre if your eyes were closed, gives his character an added sense of fear, fright and danger. Martin Scorsese, a great admirer and historian of Powell’s has claimed that “Peeping Tom,” and Fellini’s “8 ½” are the two films that totally exhibit the inner workings of a filmmaker. Hmm, I think “8 ½” is a little closer but this movie does, capture a filmmaker’s subversive nature. Nowadays, the implications made from the hyperbole and outrage over the film seem distant to the film itself. Powell’s films were usually more epic and luxurious in appeal, and you do get that sense that he’s a great filmmaker who’s playing with a different filmmaker’s tools and themes at times. Perhaps the shock that it was Powell who made “Peeping Tom” is what shook everyone at the time. Today, it seems to foreshadow the more voyeuristic sides of our nature, the one that would say, helps us appeal to the more questionable aspects of reality television. Without those symbolic implications though, “Peeping Tom” remains this creepy profile of a tortured villainous murderer, that’s got an air, like many serial killers, for the artistic, in both life, his crimes, and inevitably his death. "Peeping Tom", is the ultimate look deep inside the most depraved thoughts and desires of the filmmaking, and possibly the film viewer as well. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

REDBOX INSTANT SHUTDOWN: THE STATE OF STREAMING, AND THE NEW BATTLE FOR THE STREAMING MARKET IN LIGHT OF REDBOX'S FAILURE TO INFILTRATE AND STREAMING LANDSCAPE.



On one of my more infamous early blogs, I talked about how Streaming was essentially just a temporary fad, and wasn't gonna to ultimately succeed as the main source of viewing movies, over a hardware source, like DVDs. That blog is at the link below:


In fact, I've talked about streaming movies several times since then, and many are surprised that I've stuck to that declaration that ultimately streaming will not win out, despite the rampant popularity of it, as well as the constant and continuously growing use of it. Well, frankly, I'm still sticking by it, 'cause I've always seen it from the long distance perspective, and last week, was the first big news about the downfall of streaming supremacy. Not that I ever used it, but I just deleted Redbox Instant Video from my Roku, as it no longer exists. Redbox in collusion with Verizon had started a Streaming Video option as an offset of their Redbox machines, which succeeded as some major video stores chains failed to compete with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu (Which was mostly their mismanagement for their inability to compete and survive, not the rampant popularity of streaming as some believe [Cough, Blockbuster, cough]). Redbox machines will still be running regularly, but this failure is noteworthy, they were attempting to position themselves as one of the major players in the Streaming market, and now they're failure signifies that it's not simply a move to streaming that gonna inevitably be where the future of home viewing lies. 

I've been saying this for years, and I am tooting my own horn here, because inevitably, streaming is gonna end up the way video stores ended up, two or three big players competing with each other, and then a bunch of other unimportant players trying to hold their ground, and failing miserably. Ultimately, it will never completely take over because there's just no way that a single streaming outlet or site is gonna get every studio, production, distribution, etc. company together in the same room and be able to strike a deal over how to handle and divide the money earned through streaming, that will simply never happen, no matter how badly some will try. That's why Netflix has deals with certain studios and Hulu has the Criterion collection, and so and so and so and so, and frankly, buying subscriptions, permanent or temporary to all of those sites, is just not realistic and it just won't happen. That's the only way that streaming could ultimately work, and let me put it this way, that would be the equivalent, of getting every museum in the world, to be convinced to put all the art they have on display into the Louvre, and no where else, and that's the only place anybody could go to look at art in the world. Like I said, it wouldn't work.

So, what's happened with the Redbox streaming failure is that, ultimately, the battle lines have now been drawn and Netflix and Hulu are essentially now Coke and Pepsi, and Amazon is Dr. Pepper, and Crackle is RC or something, and MGo is Tab or whatever, and Youtube is still, the stuff that didn't make it on "America's Funniest Home Videos" twenty years ago. (Is that still on btw? Does anybody know? [Shrugs]) Streaming is now a market, the way DVDs are now a market, and their gonna be battling over everything in order to get the streaming consumers, us, to subscribe. This is the format in which ultimately streaming will survive, not as the main source per se, but as, a source, of home viewing that will predominantly be controlled by one or two major sites or companies, and they'll ultimately be competing with each other for pretty much everything now. it's still, pretty much gonna cost an arm and a leg, to get everything, that's the bad news. And they're not gonna replace DVDs, Blu-Rays, or whatever the next generation of that is. They may, like Netflix, be a major player in that game too, but it's not the end.

Redbox Instant, didn't survive, couldn't compete. They weren't good at advertising their product, their streaming service didn't have enough titles, yada, yada, yada. I mean, they place themselves, first, not as an online presence, but as a vending machine presence. Which btw, that's not a new or novel idea either, it just finally found it's time. The President of Redbox was the inventor of the Video Droid. Never heard of it? How about Videomat? they didn't last long, but they were vending machines for VHS's back in the '80s, believe it or not, this idea much's older than most people realized. They suffered some of the same problems, limited selection, people can take their product easily, (Although with the advancements of debit and credit card technologies, there's easier to catch and get the money from them if they do now.) but, big issues, VHSs were big and bulky, and having them drop down to a vending machine, wasn't the safest thing for them, and video stores were a better, more adequate way of showing a wider selection. The machines were also, more expensive to keep up and restock, and ultimately, video store chains ultimately won that battle out dramatically. With DVDs, a more suitable technology for them, and the advancements of vending machine technology, and a sudden dropping of video stores and the rise of streaming popularity, they were able to fill a void that had primarily been ignored. It seems trivial and natural that they could swing their way towards streaming as an option, but considered Netflix, which started as an online presence, or Hulu, which was created by three of the major networks who had long already been experimenting with streaming services, and had a major online presence themselves, they had multiple distinct advantages. Even Amazon, was always an online presence. Picture an online universe, those three are huge brick and mortar operations, they have many stores and have established themselves within this community, and have relationships with the studios and distributors that supply the product they sell. Now, look at Redbox. Or does anybody get Target streaming or something else? No, no you probably don't. They're not huge, they're what they are in the real world, they're little machines, outside of 7-11s and McDonald's. A limited selection compared to the big store chains, an upstart that took 20 years to catch a break, and well, look what happened when they tried to zero in on their business. 

They got their little niche for now, maybe they'll figure out how to expand and get after that market that people who still miss video stores, (Moi) would want, but maybe not. Something will probably compete with them in the future, might be something like a UV codes store, but I hope not; I'm not really big on those things picking up steam. Anyway, streaming is still not perfect, and full of problems, and better for certain things than others, but it will be a part, of the future of home viewing, and that part at the top is now in a constant battle for supremacy. Steaming is now officially the limited space that I foresaw it to be. It's not the game changer, it's not the future, totally, just the soft drink aisle, next to the juices, the spirits, the beers, the milks, and all the other ways we quench our thirsts, even water's got a huge section of competitors now.  Streaming's here, DVD rentals' here, DVD purchases, On Demand, aisle five, next to the TV Guides, and HBOGo. Movie theaters, in the back, where the best seats still are. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

TV VIEWING 101: CLASS #5: DRAMA SERIES STRUCTURE



Book 'em Dano. No, Dano here? Alright, the rest of you, take your notebooks out, there are eight million drama series in television landscape, and we're gonna go over all of them. I'm kidding, that's from "Naked City", which was one of the first TV shows, to be adapted from a movie. It's also a classic procedural drama series.

Now, before we move onto structure, apparently a lot of people, have found it difficult understanding, what exactly a drama series is. I know, the Academy has run amuck with this, and has got to start getting a great hold on a better definition or two or three, and people seem to think that many shows nowadays lie somewhere in the middle between comedy and drama, but that's not how we're describing drama series here. Now, if you remember last class, we talked about how 99% of sitcoms essentially can be described as either workplace or family sitcoms? Okay, and then I talked about two words that describe most drama series, what were they? Who wrote it down? It was continuous, or serialized, drama series, which means, the focus is on a continuous storyline, sorta like a soap opera, or the other was procedural drama series. Okay, now I talked about this, but I didn't quite specify the other aspects of a drama series. Now, what I didn't properly is define the characteristics of a drama series, compared to a comedy. So we're gonna do that, 'cause apparently this is confusing because, while comedy could be all-encompassing, like action-comedy, or sci-fi comedy, even in television, there's a few like "Futurama" or something, or "Spaced" which combine genres with comedy, sitcoms are still, based around that idea of workplace or family, in some manner, often in both manners. Dramas are all over the map.

For instance, this is how this came up, I asked a trivia question on FB about which Drama Series finale episode, was the highest rated, anybody gotta a quick guess? No, no, no- If you don't know, don't guess, 'cause you'll never get it unless you actually looked it up; it's "Magnum, P.I." the answer btw. And somebody yelled up, "That's not a drama series, that's an action series". Um, no, it's a drama series, yes it has some action in it and that action, is the base of it's drama, so drama series. BTW, about 100 people, after seeing that question, guessed "M*A*S*H", which isn't a drama series. It's a sitcom. I know, it's the one that pushed the line, and many episodes are dramatic, it's a dramedy, but here's the thing, comedy and sitcoms in particular, are a very particular structure, and it's not about making you laugh. It really isn't, It's the following of the tone and structures of comedy, as well as the taking a comedic approach to the material that makes it a comedy. If I told you a story about anti-semitism, and loansharking, and a runaway daughter, and love and a threaten of violent death, from a petrified old man who's slowly going crazy as he loses everything and everyone around him and is looking for revenge, and literally out for a pound of flesh, you wouldn't think, comedy. And if you saw the version of "The Merchant of Venice" with Pacino as Shylock, you really might not think comedy, 'cause they a different inflection on the material, but the actual play, it's a comedy. That's the real difference, so this is why "M*A*S*H" and a few other shows are comedies and not actually drama, no matter what the Academy let's them call themselves that. Now, back to "Magnum, P.I.", it's an hour long, which most dramas are, not all, but, it's also not skewing towards the comedy, it's taking it's material in a dramatic manner, although there's some comedy involved, and most importantly, it's a procedural, as opposed to the other kind, serialized or continuous drama series. It fits easily into procedural. In most episodes, Magnum, a private investigator has a new case he's investigating on, and by the end of most episodes, there's a conclusion to the case. It's a very traditional procedural. Even then, frankly, it wasn't particularly new. It also had long-term storylines as well, they were told, more at the corners of the screen however. Is Higgins the mysterious millionaire or whatever, and many shows, from the beginning of television, have a little bit of both. Lawyer shows, like "L.A. Law" or "The Practice" or "The Good Wife", they're great examples of doing both, a long-term storyline but essentially, most episodes, are procedurals. One or two cases they're going to court over, and struggling to win, and then there's other stories along the edges of the screen, about how the cases effect them, or not, or their own personal lives, outside the courtroom. They do both, but episode structure-wise, most episodes, procedural. Even "Dexter" essentially, each episode, he'd investigate somebody, tries to capture the guy then, usually he kills the guy when he finds the culprit. Reveal the murder at the end, kill the murderer at the end, not that much difference. Then, other shit would happen occasionally, through him often as a subset of his behavior during the procedural part. He got married, had a kid, etc. etc., kinda lost some of the procedural focus, although not really though, 'cause it still essentially was investigate, find then kill, just spread out over a season and not an episode, but good dramas do a little of both. Think, "The Fugitive", probably the earliest, or most famous of the early ones that do this; it seems like a serialized drama, with a continuous ongoing storyline, but look closely at it, most of the episodes, involve Dr. Richard Kimble, hiding from Police of course, investigating his wife's killer if he can, but he's usually in a new town or a new situation to hide, effect change in some way, and then leave. There's a formula to most of the episodes, a structure. First commercial, cold open, shocking event, second commercial, new revelation one event, third commercial then, Dr. House finally thinks he's right, but then talks to someone, and realizes he's wrong, and it's a new diagnosis, etc. etc.  Procedural dramas. "Star Trek" is a procedural drama. Each week, the cast and crew come across something new, then they investigate and deal with the something new, whether it Klingons or Tribbles, and then they solve the problem, and then, they're onto a new problem next week. Drama is conflict, that's what the real definition of drama is, but it's watching a show, and things constantly happening that makes the audience go, "Oh fuck!", instead, "Hahaha, uh-oh." That's your difference between drama and comedy, and all of the dramas series, they follow this formulas, and that's a good thing, 'cause when they drop the formula, and do something, slightly off, usually you remember it. The one case Perry Mason lost for instance. "Bonanza", not just a western, it's a drama series. "The X-Files", not a sci-fi show, drama series, they're both procedurals too. "The Twilight Zone", anthology shows are by definition procedurals, there's nothing else there except what happens that episode or nowadays, that season, "Dallas", now we're into, serialized shows. Even those shows have the same dramatic beats, per se, it's gets a little tricky when we start thinking of cable drama series, which don't need those, something interesting happen at this commercial here, points, but still, you'll notice the tonal pattern episode by episode if you study enough of them, but the real difference, the focus isn't a rigid pattern of actions like a procedural, it's focus is the long-form narrative story of the characters. These are the "Previously on..." shows. Those ones that begin with "Previously on..." and show a few clips usually, 'cause most everything, is connected, and their character arc that go over episodes, and it's as much a focus or the primary focus of the show, these characters and what they're doing. 

I hope that clears up, the procedural versus serialized show, and the drama series vs. comedy series debates; that second part, really shouldn't have been a debate, but oh well. Alright, now, episode structure of a drama series, and again, eh, cable dramas can break from this a little more easily especially premium cable like HBO and Showtime, channels, they're not burdened with commercials, so they have a free reign to stray more often, but essentially, eh, well, since I brought it up, let's take "House, M.D." as an example, a typical "House," starts with somebody we don't know, getting sick, unexpectedly. This is the cold open, every show has a version of this. The previously on... can be the cold open sometimes, sitcoms, open cold, like "Mad About You" had great cold opens for instance, usually before the opening credits and theme son, even with dramas, they've actually been opening before the theme, probably since "Dragnet," maybe earlier. Now usually, this case, the major plot/problem of the episode that needs to get resolved, is the main plot, now while most comedy series, usually have one, subplot an episodes, dramas probably have two, maybe three per episode on average; it you're a serialized show, it could be as many as five or six sometimes, like "Big Love", or "Dexter", often had way too many subplots going at once, during some of their more chaotic seasons and episodes, but usually there's two. Now, "House" is a good example, there's usually two major ones per episode, like one involving, his subordinates trying to help him solve the patient's case, sometimes arguing with each other, with House himself, doing the procedures they decide on, etc. Then, there's often a second subplot, that's more comical in nature. This usually in "House" involves Dr. House pissing off one of his bosses, or equals, and undermining them at every turn, while they try to get back at him somehow, or House tries to get back at them for underminding him. Think of like, the great disaster things that would happen in like "The Sopranos", like Paulie Walnuts and Christopher stuck in the cold forever or something like that, this is really classic Shakespearean structure, the foibles of the lower class in some way undermine the seriousness of the upper class, or the more relevant main plotline. With "House", usually by the first commercial, they've tried to resolve the main problem, and it doesn't work, and usually, this causes a bigger problem, and that goes to the 2nd commercial, while the other subplots also evolve. This is usually repeated one more time to make the main problem even worst, and then, inevitably, somehow the problem becomes resolved at the end, with the other subplots, either fluttering away, or sometimes, they might also be perpetuated to continue and inevitably become a later main plot. It's really not, that different than all the other writing structures, beginning, middle, end, and whatnot. Even in serialized dramas though, this format holds up. Think, eh, hmm, let's find a recent...- oh, "Breaking Bad", let's take the "Dead Freight" episode, that's a good example. A very serialized series, but in this episode, there's a main plot, involving Walter White, robbing a train. They find out about the train, they then plan the heist, and Walt uses his science knowledge and the skills he has, to steal the methylamine from the train, without anybody realizing it. Now, it does get resolved, this train robbert, which is the main focus, there are a couple subplots involved too, but the only real big difference is that, as an episode, it's one part, telling one side of a major whole story. So while, there's a resolution to the main story, of the episode, it simultaneously, sets up another problem, that has to be dealt with later, and we expect it to be discussed or mentioned in the next episodes somehow, sometimes it'll be the plot. You don't have to make it, entirely obvious or even set it up well, or at all, sometimes, but the main distinction with a serialized series is that the resolution, inevitably leads into the next episode, in some way, setting up the conceit of the long-form narrative of the series. The fact that this episode occurred inherently impacts the actions/results etc. of the next episodes, and so on and so forth continuously. That's a serialized series, and in this instance, a serialized drama.

HOMEWORK: And after last week's everybody having so much trouble, I'm a little reluctant, but here we go. Take a drama series, favorite of yours, you should know, by now, whether it's a procedural or a serialized drama, and I want you to single out a few favorite episodes, and look them up, rewatch, be careful, 'cause you might remember certain parts of the episode much more clearly than you would, the reason you recall it being a great episode, ("18th and Potomac" for instance of "The West Wing", I can barely remember anything that happens before the last 90 seconds of that episode) and we're gonna analyze these, what kind of show, procedural, or serialize, but we're doing it, with the episode, how are these episodes structured? Is this a typical episode structure for the series? If not, what makes it atypical? You know, break it down, really identify the parts of the episode, the structure, etc. And we are gonna do, the reverse game, take a series, and consider how it'd be, if it switch from a predominantly serialized show to a procedural or vice-versa, but do this exercise, in particular, with your favorite episodes you're picking. Consider how they would change. How much? How little? In what ways...? Could the episode work doing that? Could the show work doing that?

Okay folks, who loves ya baby? Well, not me, if I did, I would've let you out earlier. Alright, take care everyone, and don't hit the moose that's walking around outside.

In case you guys missed an earlier class:
CLASS #1
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/08/tv-viewing-101-class-1-syllabus-intro.html

CLASS #2
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/08/tv-viewing-101-class-2-sitcoms.html

CLASS #3
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/09/tv-viewing-101-class-3-sitcom-structure.html

CLASS #4
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/09/tv-viewing-101-class-4-sitcom-wrap-up.html




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #96: "ENEMY", "TWO LIVES", "LE WEEK-END", "7 BOXES", "REDWOOD HIGHWAY", "GO FOR SISTERS", "THE PUNK SINGER", "FIVE DANCES" and MORE!

Sorry, I'm late again for this, and no, I'm not trying to make it a habit, I just often have to finish things at a different pace than I prefer/planned. Anyway, not a whole lot was happening, and I'm including Premiere Week in that statement, until suddenly the pastor from "7th Heaven" turned out to be a pedophile yesterday. I'm not trying to be flippant about it, but this sorta shook everybody. What's really somewhat shocking was the reactions about it. Collins was immediately fired from a cameo appearance in "Ted 2", and even more noteworthy though, UP TV, pulled "7th Heaven" from it's schedule. I've heard of networks, firing a popular actor from a currently-running show if for some reason there offscreen behavior brought down the show's credibility, Sasha Mitchell's firing from "Step By Step" comes to mind, but canceling reruns; I guess it was inevitable but that's a new one. I definitely knew about Steven Collins's work, saw him in a few things, he was always good, although I never saw the show, don't really plan on catching up with it either, but I might; I remember it won the TV Guide Award for "Best Show You're Not Watching" once. Collins always came off to me, a little wittier and odd as himself  remember, but this...? And lord knows, with the numerous tales of the Hollywood underage sex rings going around, who knows where exactly this is heading for him and Hollywood. (And how did TMZ actually get ahold of this, come to think of it?) We're gonna be keeping an eye on this one.

BTW, if you follow me on Twitter (And if you're not, why?) , you'll notice I started a new regular feature I call Today's "RANDOM OBSCURE REFERENCE"! #RandomObscureReference. Each day I've been tweeting one Random Obscure Reference from some area of pop culture, film, television, history, something along those lines. I consider it a nice little fun thing to do, see if you can recall or know what I'm talking about or referencing. Or it's just something to look up if you don't know it. Hopefully it'll be a nice little thing to pass around. My Twitter is @DavidBaruffi_EV, and it's like is at the top side, along with the blog's FB page. I'll start putting those obscure references there soon too.

Oh, and if you're in the Vegas area and interested in Creative Writing of any kind, check out the Black Mountain Institute; their website is at the address below:

http://www.blackmountaininstitute.org/

They're associated with the UNLV Creative Writing program, and they're promoting and cultivating many writers and artists now, so if you're an inspiring writer of some kind in the area, they're a good place and group of people to check out, and become associated with. I know a few people working with them now, they're very talented and know their stuff.

Well, that's enough news for the day, let's get to this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


ENEMY (2014) Director: Denis Villeneuve

¶¶¶



In his review of "Enemy" on rogerebert.com, Godfrey Cheshire makes an interesting observation about the use of doubles:


"...Stories of doubles, with their long pedigree in literature and cinema, inherently belong to the realm of the fantastical..."

Inherently belong? Considering my favorite film about dobblegangers is Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Veronique," I'm not sure I entirely agree with that. I actually always preferred taking the idea of doubles in a much more literal and realistic sense, specifically because they're a fantastical element (Although not that fantastical, really), it's more interesting to me to place them in the reality of modern times, the way Charles Dickens once did with "The Prince and the Pauper". Has anybody ever read that and thought how fanciful or surreal, 'cause, while it is a fantasy, the best fantasies are about changing the world around you and me. That's not to say I'm against it used in a surreal manner like in Denis Villeneuve's "Enemy", but overall I tend to think it's a cop out. In fact, I know it's a cop out, 'cause I've used that one in my screenwriting myself before, and when I used it, it was an absolute cop out to get me out of a situation I didn't know hot to get out of naturally. (Needless to say, I never submit or send out that script anymore.) Based on the Jose Saramago novel, "The Double", "Enemy" was shot between Villeneuve's most famous films, the Oscar-nominated "Incendies", a great film and "Prisoners," a film I admired more than I liked, but it didn't get released until after "Prisoners" and originally debuted on the internet earlier this year. Taking place in Villeneuve's native Canada, Jake Gyllenhaal is incredibly good with the double role of Adam, a lowly and bored college history teacher, and Anthony, a moderately successful third tier local actor, who Adam sees in a movie one night, watched at the suggestion of a fellow colleague. he's startled to see his exact duplicate and begins trying to track him down. When he calls him, his pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) answers the phone, and believes it's Anthony and he constantly gets confused for him as he's searching for him. He finally contacts Anthony and eventually they agree to meet, but his wife, who's convinced Anthony's possibly setting up some kind of rouse to hide his philandering, goes and see Adam for herself. After a brief discussion, we see her call Anthony's cell phone as Adam is walking away. Conveniently, he dips behind a wall before Anthony answers. That's not a hint to us of anything it turns out (Thank God) but just more things for Helen's mind to worry about. That's what the movie is ultimately about, this trouble with their identities, and how one can be assumed or another erased. Inevitably, they do seem to be able to switch lives, not because either one or them wants to; it's almost because it's destined or essential that they do, and Anthony does seem to be a philanderer when he ends up in bed with Adam's girlfriend Mary. (Melanie Laurent, who happens to look similar to Sarah Gadon) Overall though, there's better movies and better ways of going about this, and whatever you want to make of the ending shot-, well, if you can make anything out of it good luck, they give us a key, but they don't exactly open anything, let me put it that way. This was more of an experimental filmmaking exercise from Villeneuve who is better when he takes these ideas and struggles about identity and places them in more frightening realistic worlds. "Enemy" feels like a dream he had, the kind that would've only inspired his other works previously, and not literally tried to recreate it. I wouldn't say his experiment failed, but he didn't exactly succeed either. Eh, I'm back-and-forth on this one; I'll recommend it, so everybody else will make up their own minds. 


TWO LIVES (2014) Directors: Georg Maas and Judith Kaufmann

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Germany's Oscar submission into last year's Foreign Language film category has one major objective and then a more subtle smaller one. The major one is to be able to tell a new story about the actions of East Germany,- actually, it begins during WWII, but like much of Communist-controlled Germany at that time, paranoia and control were running roughshot through the Stasi government (If you haven't seen "The Lives of Others" you should probably do that now.) and we're still learning a lot of their actions and the repercussions of them. The other part, is to make a surprisingly intense thriller and complex personal drama, within this world of espionage. I'll try to start at the beginning. with a Nazi program called Lebensborn, that in the '30s was created in order to propagate more members of the Aryan race by matching members of the SS up with women with dominate features. Strangely, this actually often included members being with Norwegian girls, because of their Viking background, it was thought they were considered a perfect breed for them, and once German took Norway, they would impregnate the women, and then take their babies away and taken to orphanages in Germany. In the 1960s, some of the children of the Lebensborn tried to escape back to Norway once they found out about their identity, and headed north, usually by small boat, trying to reach Norway, or at least a free country like Denmark to inevitably make it to Norway and find their real families. The Stasi's tried to combat this, but we go into "Two Lives", in Norway, right as Berlin Wall and Communism is about fall, and Katrine (Juliane Kohler) is one of those lucky children who struggled up the North Sea, and made it to Norway and found her family and started a new life there, much to the joy of Ase (Liv Ullmann), her mother who like many of Norwegian women who participated in the program, they were heavily ostracized for it. Now that the end of the GDR is upcoming, these stories about Lebensborn are beginning to come out, and Katrine's called upon to tell her tale, one that's her and her mother have mostly kept private most of their lives. Even their family, only have scant pieces of knowledge of the events, but as the end of the reign comes closer, the Stasi struggle mightily to keep their stories quiet, for reasons I'm not gonna explain, even as the last days come closer, the more that gets revealed of the story, the more shocking it becomes and the deadly it could possibly be for them. "Two Lives" is a surprisingly strong story about a part of the recent past that we're only now beginning to know about and even understand. It's a complex film, and it requires paying attention to fully understand as the ways of the old world, still struggle to clean up the messes they created before making ways for the new. It's also really shows the struggles of identity within the German people over these many decades, particularly in East Germany, and everywhere else that the battlefields of World War II took place on, and those battles after the war as well. Very powerful film.


LE WEEK-END (2014) Director: Roger Michel

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I've seen other comparisons to "Le Week-End", although strangely the film I seemed to run through my head with Roger Michel's latest was John Huston's last film, "The Dead"; it almost felt like that film but in reverse for me. Or, maybe moreso like an afterwords to the events in that one. That movie, based on the James Joyce short story, began with a gathering at a party, and ended with a couple, and a revelation by Angelica Huston that alters what potentially both people in the marriage, perhaps see in each other and about themselves, but yet, leaves what will happen later open-ended. Michel reteams with "Venus" writer Hanif Kurieshi for "Le Week-End" and follows an aging couple, Nick and Meg Brewster (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) two academics who are spending a weekend in Paris to try and relive their honeymoon on their 30th anniversary. They go to the same hotel, and then to a better hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower, Nick's particularly grabby, hoping to get laid. They head through the streets, and back in the hotel room, where inevitably, they face real questions about their life.  Their kids are grown up and moved out and screwing up their lives on their own. Nick floats the idea of retiring early and then moving to Paris, but Meg, is strongly considering leaving Nick. She even says tells him at one point, but don't let that bluntness seem like this a new George and Martha, they have their moments, like dining and dashing out of restaurants and making out in the alley when they escape. The film has some feel reminiscent of "The Before Trilogy" but the main speech at the end, when they unexpectedly get invited to a book release party thrown by and for a former student and colleague Morgan (Jeff Goldblum) as well as a few other party influences, do we really get the sense of loss time approaching quickly, and the looking back on one's life that I really think makes "The Dead" the appropriate comparative film. This looking back on one's life, their own actions, and as a couple, recognizing the possible mistakes and errors while contemplating your next moves and what they could possibly be, the notion of being madly in love for someone for half your life only to realize that perhaps you don't really know them at all. It's a lot to pack into one weekend, even that last hurrah or new beginning that an anniversary trip to Paris may bring. Michel's been a bit erratic as a filmmaker, but when he makes a good movie, like "Venus" or "Changing Lanes", it's memorable, and usually centers on the struggles of people with separate problems being unable to get together. "Le Week-End", is essentially that narrow struggle, spread out over an entire marriage, just crammed into the weekend for contrivance and conceit, but there's weekends like that as well, everyone's had those. The Brewsters might have had a few before on those quiet campus weekend nights, and might have many more to come. Alone, together or apart.



7 BOXES (2014) Directors: Juan Carlos Maneglia & Tana Schembori

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I'd have to double check to be completely sure, but I believe "7 Boxes" is the first feature film I've seen that comes from the country of Paraguay. So far, I'm impressed by the country's film production with this, the second feature film from the directing pair of Maneglia & Schembori; who are just as well-known in the country for their short films and television work. The movie is fairly simple on the surface, but it brings us into the world of the Asuncion street market, through the eyes mainly of Victor (Celso Franco) a teenage boy who makes money by transporting items on his giant wheelbarrow from one place to another. It's a lively and chaotic place, filled with vendors, pickpockets, police, even a Korean restaurant. It's also a hot and poor place, where everything is essentially currency, and the only thing worth more American dollars in 2005, is a cell phone, with a camera, some of them at the time, going in the thousands. Victor hasn't seen that much money, and for a kid who's fascinated by the TV, the offer of delivering seven boxes from a skeezy butcher to another location, is well worth the risk of possibly his life. What's in the boxes, I won't reveal, although, we later find out that A, the boxes don't have what even the bad guys wanted in there, and B. Victor wasn't supposed to deliver the boxes, and the messenger who has come to deliver, wants his payment, and now, the 7 boxes are the biggest MacGuffin in the film, as everybody's out looking and chasing for them. It begins to get convoluted once more people come in to the picture, and it starts to get difficult even figuring out who wants it and why, and no the mention the geography of the crowded market; the less you try to keep track, the better the film inevitably becomes. More kinetic and thrilling. I'm definitely recommending "7 Boxes" for it's thrilling moments, it's really great set-up, and the look and style of the film, as well as the look at this rare part of the world that we haven't seen much of before. I tend to think of Paraguay as a landlocked desert country in the middle of South America, not too much different than say the Bolivia that Butch and Sundance tried to escape too, but it's nice seeing this laws and ways of the old conflicting within the trappings of modern society and how technology really changes the world. It's a world where a cell phone is a currency that even the police tell the suspects to sell before they confiscate it, suddenly everything can be seen be everyone now on the nightly news, even the seedy underbelly of the Asuncion, Paraguay markets. 


REDWOOD HIGHWAY (2014) Director: Gary Lundgren

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I've seen a few films lately about elder people going on long journeys for one reason or another, Emilio Estevez's "The Way" comes to mind as a good one, but "Redwood Highway", which barely got a limited theatrical release earlier this year, is not one of them, despite some good intentions the film always felt contrived and could never really get out of that mode. It's a touchy area. You want the elder person, in this case an older mother Marie (Shirley Knight) who's beginning to suffer from the early signs of Alzheimer's, to not be too out-of-touch or place to be able to perform the heroic feat, which is an 80 mile trek on foot, across the state of Oregon on the "Redwood Highway", to eventually see the ocean and arrive in time for her granddaughter's wedding, but you don't want her too clear-headed and sharp, or else, even an aged person making that trek, would still be relatively conceivable and realistic. You have to really give her a few scenes of real danger, like walking around steep corners on a highway, where a driver might not be able to see her, or falling back and opening her head, after trying to swing a line for fish. Thankfully, when things get tough, she's got the kindness of strangers to rely upon, while somehow the police are unable to track her from the moment she left the rest home, she stayed at, and her son Michael (James Le Gros) had just visited her. I don't quite know the genesis of the story, it seems to be a complete work of fiction from Director/Co-Screenwriter Gary Lundgren; it's only his third feature film, in the last eighteen or so years. After his debut "Lithium" he primarily made shorts and directed episodes of the kids animal detective series "Critter Gritters", whatever-the-hell that was before making "Calvin Marshall" a few years back, and he seems inspired by these uplifting tales of accomplishment, and peppers his recent films with unusually nice enough people who help his protagonist along the way. They're not all nice, but when you thought back on "Redwood Highway", I had a hard time caring about Marie, or even any of the friends she ran into, including Tom Skerrit as a craft shop owner. Everbody and everything seemed like a cliche or a contrivance, and even at it's best, "Redwood Highway" is ultimately instantly forgettable. A somewhat misguided old woman on a misguided and unnecessary journey, even when she revisits past places she hasn't seen in years,- Shirley Knight really does help this film, thicken up the lack of real drama with a good performance here, but those moments were few and far between, and were not really enough to recommend the film.  


GO FOR SISTERS (2013) Director: John Sayles

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"Go for Sisters" feels like John Sayles took a page from the Coen Brothers' playbook and decided to do his own version of "True Grit". He set it in modern time, but it's essentially a similar enough tale, a young woman is in search of someone and needs to find an old cagey retired veteran, and a convenient and somewhat trustworthy friend to help her navigate difficult terrain of a wild west she's unfamiliar with. It's an interesting take on a classic story, a perfect kind of story we'd expect from Sayles, arguably the most independent of independent filmmakers. Always outside the Hollywood mainstream, Sayles' paced narratives and his willingness to drift into the lives and worlds of his characters instead of forcing a plot through make his movies somewhat hard to stomach for the mainstream audience. They're rarely full of quick cuts or kinetic energy, half the time, he strips so much back as a filmmaker, he practically strips a film of plot. The title refers to the two childhood friends, Bernice (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and Fontayne (Yolanda Ross) who's paths have re-crossed each other in adulthood, as Bernice is now Fontayne's parole officer. When they were kids they often would pass for sisters they were so close, but Fontayne got caught up in the drug world, and struggles to keep herself sober working middle-of-the-road jobs. It's a little "Angels with Dirty Faces", but Bernice is now in worried about her son Rodney, who's a suspect in a murder, and she hasn't seen or heard from him in months. All she knows is that he's gone down to Mexico and found out that he's involved in some kind of illegal smuggling operation, involving getting Chinese people, strangely enough, across the Mexican border to America. Bernice has more connections down there, and while Bernice has some training, she was never a cop, going straight to social worker out of night school, so they enlist an aging and blind ex-detective, Freddy Suarez (Edward James Olmos) to go with them and locate Bernice's son, if he's still alive. They go into Mexico disguised as an wedding band of all things (Olmos plays a mean guitar at one point) and into this unusual underworld they go, as Fontayne and Bernice begin reconnecting through the experiences. "Go for Sisters", like other investigatory films from Sayles, isn't so detailed about the investigation, (In hindsight, I have a hard time recalling exactly how they found out or were able to find out as much as they could, but the journey itself is the key to the film, and that's when it's most rewarding. As with all John Sayles, usually for the most educated of viewers, but worth the journey.


THE PUNK SINGER (2013) Director: Sini Anderson

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One of my closest friends, a musician named Melissa is, still in the Riot Grrrl movement. I think it's fair to say that about her, and don't think it's died down; in many ways it's still catching on. The masked girls of Pussy Riot, actually dawned their masks in honor of the subject of "The Punk Singer", the great Kathleen Hanna, who dawned a ski mask early in her career, as she had set a self-imposed media blackout and would only even appear on a friend's documentary, wearing a ski colored ski mask. She was a former poet and art student in the Olympia, Washington area, who formed her first band, "Bikini Kill", the leaders of the Riot Grrrl feminist movement, which spread across multiple art forms, most important, something called fanzines, (Which I'm a little surprised just now that my Microsoft Word, just took for an actual word on one shot) which are simply fan-made magazines that distributed personal material on anything, although they thrived in this feminist rock underground movement, and the term "Riot Grrrl" was never trademarked, so it can still be used for the movement, (Hence my argument that the movement is still continuing.) "The Punk Singer" takes a look an Kathleen, who, after her 2nd band, Le Tigre disbanded in '05, she suddenly dropped out of sight, once declaring that she had said everything she needed to. This from the most aggressive feminist the rock world had seen, seemed shocking at the time. A woman who openly talk about rape, abortion, (Her owns) her past as a stripper, and pretty much every topic under the moon, the girl who inspired Kurt Cobain (Who also came out of this movement, and not the Seattle-influenced Hesher rock movement most used to credit him with being apart) by spray-painting "Smells like Teen Spirit" on his wall. In "The Punk Singer" we finally get an answer as Hanna reveals that she's been seeking medical help for years, with a constant illness that spreads throughout her body. It was after six years that she was finally correctly diagnosed as having Lyme Disease, and is now in the late stages of it, where it's basically incurable. He most recent tour, which started after this documentary was complete, with her new band The Julie Ruin, named after the title/alter-ego of her classic solo album she did in the '90s between bands, ended prematurely as she wasn't physically able to continue, and had to go in for three months of physical therapy. "The Punk Singer" is an incredibly inspiring and Hanna reveals herself as this mature but rebellious girl who lives on the cutting edge of society, a true artist, one who expresses herself not just through her art, but through her life. In the beginning of the movie, we see a pre-Bikini Kill Hanna, in old video footage, doing a spoken word performance, a poem she screamed with two repeated phrases, "I'm never gonna shut", and "I'm gonna tell everyone", like a rebel call to all, mankind, that women will not be silence. At the end of the movie, a more mature Hanna, in her forties makes a more astute a quiet quote, that I distinctly remembered to write down: "...I just think there's this certain assumption that when a man tells the truth, it's the truth. And when, as a woman I go to tell the truth, I feel like I have to negotiate the way I'll be perceived. Like I feel like there's always the suspicion around a woman's truth, the idea that you're exaggerating. If I don't just sit there and be like, 'this, this, this, this, this,...", there's this whole fear that I'm gonna have finally fucking stepped up to the plate and told the truth, and someone's gonna say, 'Eh, I don't think so.'" Interesting, both of these quotes are in a context of sexual assault/abuse, including her own. Whatever it was to cause Kathleen Hanna to become this angry young woman, a personification of the next wave of feminist, thank god she's around. She's no where a shell of her former self; I'd bet she's just as likely to get in a fight with Courtney Love now than she was in the '90s, but to her now, to have to be limited in her abilities through illness is strange. For someone that rebellious to have not said anything for eight years.... That must've been painful; nothing worst than an artist unable to express her art.  


FIVE DANCES (2013) Director: Alan Brown

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There's a couple things I thought about after watching "Five Dances", the first was how much I really love modern dance and musical theater and yes, I'm even finding myself more and more appreciative of ballet over the years. And I love watching dance on film, and I did during "Five Dances", a movie that not only is about dancing, but stars dancers, not actors, dancers, practicing, performing their routines, struggling, suffering through their lives. Youth, homelessness, homosexuality, love, marriage, and of course, dance. And yet, I couldn't help but think of the great speech, in the deleted scene of "Dogma", involving Salma Hayek, talking about being a muse as how dance was the only art form in which the second you create it, it's gone. That's why movies like these should be made, because dance needs to be filmed in order to be preserved. That said, there's been some special movies about dance lately. Robert Altman's "The Company", one of his last films, also about the production of a show, "Pina" the great Robert Altman documentary. Compared to things like that, "Five Dances" feels even smaller and more miniscule. Clumsy even. The five dances that open each section of the film, are all in a rehearsal space, we never actually see the big production and show they're training to put on, really. It's not that the dancers, aren't actors, in fact, they really are. It only takes a few episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance", to understand that it's not always the most technically sound or skilled dancers that win the show or give the greatest performances; it's often the ones who make the biggest emotional connection to the material and the performance and the audience that people actually remember. And, it is a performance too, you just can't shoot the dancers in their spandex, practicing all day, it just looks like behind-the-scenes footage from "A Chorus Line" after awhile. It basically is "A Chorus Line" actually. Five dancers, performing dances, we see the problems with their homelife, little snippets here and there, and then more dancing, it's basically that, without the headshots basically. The farther away from "Five Dances" I got, the less I liked it. It's from director Alan Brown, who did "Private Romeo," a film I say recently that took "Romeo & Juliet" and placed in a male military school, and there's some sex scenes, both, straight and gay here, although he's probably more considered an LBGT director, whatever that is. I didn't care for "Private Romeo" much, and he uses a lot of the same disjointed storytelling techniques here, and it really takes the energy out of everything you're watching before, and it doesn't really make you care about the characters . There's better movies about modern dance, and as talented as these people are, I think I'd rather wait to see the finished product on stage next time. Maybe I'll film it then; legally, I'll ask permission; don't want that rumor started, but still, for "Five Dances", can't really recommend it.


TOP HAT (1935) Director: Mark Sandrich

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Trying to explain the idiot plot of "Top Hat" is beyond pointless. It's harder to explain why there's any plot at all in these Astaire & Rogers films. Last time, I reviewed, what I imagine is their very best film, "Swing Time". If that's their best and more important and essential film, a close second is probably "Top Hat". Basically, for reasons that are so impossible and ridiculous, Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) has confused Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) for her best friend's husband, and they inevitably have to go all through Venice, to figure out the misunderstanding. (And not like, real Venice either, just an elaborately staged movie Venice. The film got four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and it's main objective is to string together a plot and story enough to showcase Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Irving Berlin songs are the unique focus in this film, and "Cheek to Cheek" in particular is special. The best dance numbers involve Fred and Ginger, Ginger in riding boots not high heels, under a gazebo, as they argue with each other over whether they can be trusted. There's a few other great sequences, and some of the comedy in between is actually quite sharp and funny; it's always been a little sharper than people recall it to be, like one exchange where Astaire gets away with pretending to be Ginger's rider, and talking about how the horse was the sire of Man-o-War. Another great one involves a butler Bates (Eric Blore) getting arrested after an Italian cop pretends that he doesn't understand English, this after already spotting him disguised as a gondelier. There's a lot of mistaken identities, and disguising as others here in "Top Hat", and that's fun for them. This is second-tier screwball mostly, but "Top Hat" has enough great dancing sequences to make it an essential Astaire-Rogers film to watch, It's not the best of their combinations however, some of those incredible dance sequences, are more than worth a viewing, that's all these films are really for anyway.


REEFER MADNESS
(1936) Director: Louis Gasnier


¶¶¶¶, I guess?



(Shrugs) I don't know; it's "Reefer Madness", how many stars are you supposed to give a movie like this? I don't know. Alternately titled "Tell Your Children", "Reefer Madness" is a famous propaganda movie that was made to inform people of the dangers of marihuana, misspelling intentional. It didn't exactly work much as a propaganda film, but as a cult classic, the kind you make fun, probably while you're under a few influences of funny things. Now, I'll be honest and say that despite my long hair, and my occasional wearing of Greatful Dead t-shirts, believe it or not, I've never smoked marijuana. Although I'm pretty sure I got high from watching an Ani DiFranco concert DVD once. I've also never taken any illegal or questionable substances, intentionally. I still have suspicions that my high school friend Falcon put something on a candy cane she gave me one after-school, impromptu Christmas get-together, but I haven't completely proven it, but I have very strong suspicions; she always tried to be a bit of a bad influence on me. Anyway, that said, let's- let's be clear, I'm in favor of legalization marijuana, but I always get irky and my friends that are always posting pot logos or bongs, or news announcements about marijuana curing cancer. Yes, it's got a lot of uses, it's not great for you though. I mean, no it won't kill you, but it does kill your brain cells, and it can be addictive, and usually by the wrong people, it impairs you, it is essentially a mild form of LSD, and despite some thought, it's not healthy for you. If you light it on fire, and put it in your mouth, it's not completely healthy, just a general rule there. I mean, do what you want, Now that said, "Reefer Madness" is pretty damn laughable. Basically, the kids are corrupting by marijuana, which goes hand-in-hand with criminals and jazz music at this time, and it can also lead to multiple kinds of murder, and other kinds of behavioral shifts and changes, some realistic and plausible, other are just preposterous. Although the jumping out of windows thing, that was a reason LSD became illegal, too many people hallucinating on skycrapers thinking they can fly, and nobody noticing they couldn't. Of course, the true effects of marijuana are somewhere in between, and it took a long time before people realized that a grumpy old school guidance counselor that looks like he came out of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" painting isn't the best person to be telling the youth of America about the perils of marijuana. (Or the perils of anything really, of course, thinking back to those D.A.R.E. cartoons I had to go through, with the junkie Trix Rabbit knockoff) It's an essential film to view for all cinephiles, a relic of an earlier, misguided and unknowing time. Some people thought it was worthy enough to make a musical out of it, eh, I don't know if I'd go that far, but alright, anything to make it more ridiculous I guess, should probably be a plus. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB"

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern & Terry George based on the novel Red Alert aka Two Hours Until Doom by Terry George)




Look up “satire” in the dictionary and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a picture of Peter Sellers as the title character rolling from his wheelchair in the infamous war room from Stanley Kubrick’s great film, “Dr. Strangelove…”. (Or better yet, the shot of him getting up from the wheelchair) We do however, need a brief history lesson before going any further. During the ‘50s and to some degree lasting all the way up until the 1980s, the U.S. and Russia were in a Cold War, and one of the things they happened to fight over was who could make the bigger weapon of mass destruction. This was also the time of McCarthyism, and the Domino Theory that Communists were eventually going to infiltrate America, and this was two years past the Cuban Missile Crises and apparently do such horrendous things as… Well, if I go on about this too much, I’ll start writing my own comedy film. But, when Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden, coming out of retirement for the role) talks about his belief that Communists were trying to put fluoride into our drinking water, although this plays for comedy now, this was actually at one point a very popular belief. (I wrote a paper on fluoride once, so I know).

This is why the diluted Gen. Ripper sends over planes with nuclear weapons to bomb Russia. With the renegade on the loose the President (Oscar-nominated Sellers, in one of his three roles) is called to action to figure out what to do, and consults his advisors in the war room. One of the advisors, Gen. Buck Turgidson,(George C. Scott) is exceptionally entertaining as he continually concludes that the best thing to do is for them to do is for the planes to continue on their mission. Meanwhile, up in the plane, they have absolutely no knowledge of what’s going on down below, and are continuing to go forward with the attack piloted by Maj. T.J. Kong. Kong was supposed to be Sellers 4th role in the film, but wasn’t sure about a Texan accent, so Kubrick hired Westerns veteran Slim Pickens to play the part. (I don’t believe the myth that Kubrick didn’t tell Slim that the film was a comedy.) 

Kubrick, who I’ve studied more than most directors, was an extreme perfectionist in his work. (Pick any of his films, I can point out all the exactness in the details.) This film however, he cheerily has let some of his actors go at it on their own, and kept a few blunders into the film, including a famous one where George C. Scott fell down unplanned, but stayed in character well enough that is played as funny. The great final scene with Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb to the ground is the greatest display of phallic humor ever conceived. It’s weird for Kubrick to have done such a straight comedy, in fact, he originally intended to make a serious film about nuclear annihilation, but inevitably, as the script was being conceived, they just kept laughing and making jokes, and finally they just started putting the jokes in. In fact, with the film opening before Sidney Lumet’s cold war thriller “Fail-Safe”, it actually ruined the effect of that film, which is also a classic, but didn’t catch on with audiences after essentially the parody was released first and was so outstanding, it made “Fail-Safe” seem melodramatic by comparison.

The infamous original ending of the War Room dissipating into a literal pie fight, not withstanding, watching the film now, reveals eerie parallels to some recent modern events, and some major political figures of today can easily be compared to some of the characters in “Dr. Strangelove…” (Tell me you can watch Capt. Turgidson and not think a little bit of Donald Rumsfeld) That said, there’s always been a little bit of absurdity in war, but let’s not debate such a classic farce, and just enjoy the pure humor of it. I believe I may have already exceeded my authority anyway. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS! THE MUSICAL: PART IV: THE TRILOGY: PART II: THE NEXT NEXT NEXT GENERATION! SUS-SUS-SUS-SUSSUDIO!

(DAVID, walks out onto an empty stage, with a large broom, sweeping it up after what seems to have been a long night.)

DAVID/ME
(Mumbling to self as he sweeps, completely out of rhythm, not singing)
There's, no business, like show business, like no business, I know-ow-ow-ow.

He looks around, and sees the theater empty, no one around. He starts twirling his broom using his fingertips in circles.

ME
(Singing slightly more rhythmically, into broom like it's a microphone)
Like no business, I know.

He twirls his broom again, this time tapping the end onto the stage which immediately turns into a cane, and his clothes, magically turn into a classic suit-and-tie

ME
(In tune to "It's a Wonderful Time for Oscar")
It's a horrible week for tel-evision
Tel-e-vision, what will suck!

(Stop songs)

ME
You didn't think I wasn't gonna do this did you?
(The theme from "The Facts of Life" starts, starts singing again)
You skip the good, you watch the bad
You Hulu the rest and then you had
It's premiere week! TV premiere week.

(Music continues, but singing has stopped)
For those who don't know what we're doing, we have a bit of a tradition here, where every Premiere we-eh,

(Music stops, finger quotes)
"Celebrate" sorta, the shows of Premiere Week, with a Musical production about them.

(Music continues)
Premiere Week, of course the first week of the year, when all the new shows start debuting on the major networks. This year, is no different. So, "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews" is proud to bring you.

(Music stops, drumroll, huge billboard behind Me appears with dancers revealing the Billboard with the name, "Premiere Week Sucks! The Musical Part IV: The Trilogy Part II: The Next Next Next Generation, Sus-Sus-Sus-Sussudio!". It is abundantely obvious that it's last year's billboard with a few extra words and numbers change with white paper and marker covering over the rest of it.)

"Premiere Week Sucks!: The Musical Part IV: The Trilogy Part II: The Next Next Next Generation Sus-Sus-Sus-Sussudio!"

(Audience, which has suddenly appeared out of thin air, applauded and cheers)

Hit it.

("My Opinion-ation (Theme from "Blossom)" starts playing, singing)
Don't know about the future, that's anybody's guess
But how exactly was it, did that Jane get pregnant.
I heard what she is claiming, but I don't think it was immaculate.
And in my opinion-ation, Pretty sure Jane's telling a lie.

(Music switches to "Thank You for Being a Friend (Theme to "The Golden Girls")")

(Talking)
Matthew Perry, this is for you!
(Singing)
Thank you for being a "Friend."
Glad to see you back on TV again
On something new
Well it's "Odd Couple", so it's old, and I guess it's new.
And I loved your last show "Go On"
I love "Mr. Sunshine" and "Studio 60..." too.
But you will see, those shows were really just for me
And everyone else will just say
Thank you for being a "Friend."

(Music switches to "Save Me (Theme from "Smallville", tries singing but struggles)
I- I want you to saaaa--aave me
From- This, so, you won't- Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop the music.

(Music stops)

What the hell was that?!

(Off camera STAGE DIRECTOR yells from behind the camera.)

What was it, the theme from "Smallville"? That's what that was? That wasn't a theme song, that was a Bono-wannabe screeching! Jesus! No wonder we couldn't write anything with that. No give me something else, something you can actually sing and dance too. No, not "Spider-Man". Alright, if it has to be a WB one, than at least do the one with the good theme song. Yes, that's a good theme song! The show sucks but- I grew up during Lilith Fair, we're playing that one, I like it!

(After a delay music reluctantly comes on again; Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait" aka "'Dawson's Creek' Theme")
Do-do, do, do-do, do
Do-do, do, do-do, do
Do-do, do do-do, do
They had one baby, he was a kid when they were gone
Victims of the "Gotham" night
Every pain he would stress
Every moment of unrest
Until he be became the Prince of Darkness
Oh, but not what, "Gotham" is about.
I don't want to watch
All this boring origin
I want to watch him be Batman now
Not this depressing shit that I could've skipped through.
I don't want to watch
ten years to the most boring
part of the Batman tale, sorry?
Do-do-do, do-do-do...

(Music switches to Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help from Our Friends" (Theme song from "The Wonder Years"))
What do you do, now that "...Mother"'s gone too.
There's hardly anything good to watch on TV
So you hope and you try, and you write a new show
And hope it's as good as the first could be
Oh baby,
"How I Met Your Dad"
It didn't even make the schedule
"How I Met Your Dad"
Might not even be a replacement in Summer
"How I Met Your Dad"
I was looking forward to it too
Booo-hoo-hoo, hoo
Ba-hoo, hoo.

(Music switches to "ABC-DEF-GHI Song" from "Sesame Street")

Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
That's what you might as well call "A to Z".
Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
You'd think Millioti'd got a better show to me.
It seems like any sitcoms that I have ever seen
Oh, yes I saw the pilot, it was just OK for me.
Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Sadly "A to Z", is one of the better shows you'll see.

(Outburst soon stops music!)
Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!
(Pause)
I've grown to accustomed to her "Selfie"

(Frederic Loewe's "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face/The Ending" from "My Fair Lady" plays briefly, singing)
She almost seems familiar
Like I'm accustomed to the tale
That she points and clicks and zooms
Her likes, her fails
The plot, it's doom
to seem familiar to me now
(Not singing)
So familiar

(Awkward pause goes to music changes to "The Patty Duke Show")
Meet Andre and his family
And their nice big house, in the 'burbs of L.A.
But he used to come from the streets of Compton
And that part of himself, seems to have gone away.
They're now just "Black-ish"
They're just "Black-ish", not really white
One weird strange conundrum
He's living with every day.

(Music changes to "Movin' On Up (Theme from "The Jeffersons)" Talking)
Oh, and the big show doesn't go on yet.

(Gospel choir begins walking out on stage, and David stands on an elevated pedestal.)

Oh, that man, Stephen, has hit the big time!
(Singing)
Oh, he's moving on up!

CHOIR
Movin' on up

ME
To the CBS eye
To that legendary timeslot, in late night
Oh, he's movin' on up!

CHOIR
Movin on up!

ME
To the CBS eye
He's earned his giant slice of the pie
No more basic cable
No more "The Daily Show..."
He's got to contend with Fallon
But no character he has to will
He's got a whole lot to live up to
Letterman's old shoes to fill
He's got time to prepare,
Colbert will be ready
And no Stewart to support him here
He's movin' on up!

CHOIR
Movin' on up

ME
To the CBS eye
He'll tell the Report, Good-bye!
Movin' on up!

CHOIR
Movin' on up!

ME
To the CBS eye
It's the next generation of Late Ni-iiiiiiiiiight!

(Music stops. David has returned to his old clothes, and the broom, which had first turned into a cane and then a microphone, is not back to a broom.)

ME
(Sweeping up as he head exits stage right, humming to self)
There's no business, like show business...

(He keeps humming the tune, but words are spoken loud enough to decipher as he quietly exits, leaving the stage dark and empty again.)



To view past years blogs on "Premiere Week Sucks!" go to the links below:
TV PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS: THE MUSICAL!...
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/09/tv-premiere-week-sucks-musical-and.html

PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS! THE MUSICAL II: THE SEQUEL!!!!!!!!
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/09/premiere-week-sucks-musical-ii-sequel_18.html

PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS: THE MUSICAL III: THE TRILOGY!!!!!!!!
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/10/premiere-week-sucks-musical-iii-trilogy.html