Cinecast Episode 216 – Be Excellent to Each Other

There is fair bit of meat on the bones of the multiplex this week and Kurt, Andrew along with a sneezy and congested Matt Gamble tackle Terrence Malick, Woody Allen and the current state of the X-Men franchise. Everyone seems to have a different stance on these films, and the discussion is pretty lively. Beware of spoilers but stick around for some important tidbits and caveats regarding Midnight in Paris. The segment re-naming contest continues another week, free DVDs for everyone, Yummy! In the meantime, we do go through 3 or so What We watched each (Drew does Zack Snyder, Kurt does Terrence Malick, Gamble does a couple of upcoming feature films (and warns us off of both of ’em) as well as more HBO. Gamble takes off but Kurt and Drew soldier onward past the three hour mark along to DVD picks, Netflix Instant arrivals and departures. Plus, all the free trimmings you are accustomed to from the this third row podcast: Do you want to find out answer to life, the universe and everything? Is it true that if Bill and Ted had a Ménage à trois with Audrey Tautou, you could get a perfect film? These pressing issues and more in this weeks show. Cheers.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Badlands (1973)


[repost for the TIFF Lightbox Malick retrospective]

Badlands will probably go down as the only Terrence Malick film to feature a car chase. It is a curious work in his repertoire. When it premiered in 1973, Malick’s signature style of freeform editing was still years away, the melodramatic earnestness, unconsidered. It would not be until Days of Heaven that Malick confidently broke free of the literary conventions of movie-making, all but excising the entirety of the dialogue of his screenplay, thus privileging the visual to emote what was left unsaid. While I agree with those that consider Badlands a minor work for this director, it undoubtedly remains a significant work for cinema history. More absurdist theatre than fine opera, what Badlands does provide (and something I all but erased from my memory until this last revisit) is a rare glimpse into the filmmaker’s wicked sense of humor.

Based loosely on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950’s, Badlands is about two wayward youths, the James Dean lookalike, Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen) and the 15-year old Dakotan tagalong, Holly (Sissy Spacek), as they pinball across the American frontier one murder to the next, with little purpose or destination. As with all of his films, the Edenic myth of a foregone paradise now overrun by the pestilence of man is hardly concealed on the surface of Badlands. The film lingers in the familiar twilight hour glow on small town America before the first crime is committed. When the title appears we see Holly in the front yard of her home like a Norman Rockwell vision abruptly intruded upon by Kit as he slinks into frame towards her like a lumbering agent of doom. He is charming and good-looking, a romantic ideal to which the film takes a certain gleeful pride in undoing as the story progresses.
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Sunday Bookmarks: Terrence Malick Edition


Yes, these Bookmarks posts have been rather sparse for the past couple weeks, and yes, they will return to normal, soon. But for now, this series by Matt Zoller Seitz on the filmography of Terrence Malick, ALL THINGS SHINING. I’ve always enjoyed these pieces that Seitz puts together for the Museum of the Moving Image, but here he has outdone himself by an aesthetic that treats the editing and construction of the multiple essays in a similar vein as to Malick builds his films. Lots of insight and a gorgeous precis of imagery of the Malick’s filmography which are a (fully intentional) lead-in to the culmination of Malick’s career, Tree of Life (Kurt’s Review). Currently the series is up to the first half of The New World, with presumably one more episode for the directors Pocahontas tale and possibly a pair for Tree of Life (I’m not sure about this however, it takes a long while to properly process these films, and Tree of Life most of all.)

All current episodes are tucked under the seat.

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Film on TV: January 17-23

Black Narcissus, playing Sunday on TCM.

Keep an eye out this week for gung-ho adventure Gunga Din on Tuesday, acclaimed Angry Young Man drama This Sporting Life on Wednesday, Tony Jaa’s martial arts extravaganza The Protector and first-class homage Murder by Death on Thursday, class gangster flick Scarface on Friday, and most of all, Powell & Pressburger masterpiece Black Narcissus on Sunday. Sundance also has the full Red Riding trilogy late Thursday/early Friday, which is nice to see after they’ve just had the first one playing periodically for a few weeks. Also, if you’re into silent comedy, check out TCM’s tribute to the Hal Roach studios on Wednesday, starting with a bunch of Charley Chase shorts – I’ve seen a few of these, and they’re definitely worthwhile.

Monday, January 17

8:15am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 3:15pm)

1:15pm – TCM – The Defiant Ones
Convicts Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape, but are chained together and must learn to work with each other to evade the authorities. Made in 1958, just a few years into the Civil Rights Movement, it probably falls squarely into the message picture arena, but sometimes those are needed.
1958 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel.

3:00pm – TCM – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Interracial marriage may not be quite the hot topic now that it was in 1967 (although if you check some parts of the American South, you might be surprised), but at the time, Katharine Houghton bringing home Sidney Poitier to meet her parents Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film) was the height of socially conscious filmmaking.
1967 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway.

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Film on TV: September 27-October 3

Badlands, playing on TCM on Saturday

Not a lot of newly featured ones this week, but a lot of good stuff nonetheless. TCM kicks off October with a set of Hammer Dracula films on Friday night, then has a really nice quintuple feature of “young lovers on the run” films on Saturday, hitting everything Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands to Gun Crazy, They Live By Night, and Boxcar Bertha. It’s such a cool set of films I wish I’d thought of it for the Row Three Rep series! Also enjoy a look back at the Coen Brothers’s debut feature Blood Simple on Sunday.

Monday, September 27

6:00am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.

8:05am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 1:35pm)

6:45pm – IFC – Thank You for Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 28th)

12:00M – IFC – Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film (Pi remains a cult favorite) follows a quartet of people as their lives spiral out of control due to drug addiction.
2000 USA. Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans.

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon



My largest and most glaring gap of cinematic knowledge, at least of American film, is easily the 1970s. I grew up watching the films of the Hollywood studios’ golden era, the 1930s-1950s, and of my own generation, the 1990s-current, but have only sporadically caught the films in between. Given that many of the greatest and most iconoclastic American films of all time come from the 1970s, I have decided that enough is enough, and this year I am going to eliminate my New Hollywood list of shame, which includes: The Godfather Part II, M*A*S*H, The Exorcist, Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Badlands, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, and others.

easy-riders-raging-bulls.jpgBecause my knowledge of the whole era is a little superficial, I’m reading Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood to give myself a background in the history and temperament of the era, and watching the films he discusses while I’m reading. And I figured, might as well share my journey through New Hollywood as I go. The list of films you’ll find after the cut is culled from Biskind’s book and Wikipedia’s entry on New Hollywood, leaving out some that I have already seen.

One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are – drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.

This quote from Biskind’s introduction I think sums it up nicely:

[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work — work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. […] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which today’s news is tomorrow’s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, ’70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. […] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heaven’s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

And it wasn’t only the landmark movies that made the late ’60s and ’70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, “It was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.” Film was no less than a secular religion.

A few Row Three contributors have already shown an interest in writing about some of these as well; if you’d like to watch and share your thoughts about any of them, please do! See also the list at the bottom, which includes several films I’ve already seen and don’t intend to rewatch and write about, but someone else certainly could. If you’re not a R3 contributor and would like to join in, just email me and I’ll post your reviews with credit.


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