Cinecast Episode 217 – Capraesque!

 
 
With no Matt Gamble to be heard this week, we decided we needed someone to take the feminine point of view on the Cinecast this week. Row Three contributor Jandy Stone stops by to give some schooling to the boys on the MGM musicals of the 1940s, Yasujirō Ozu and Agnès Varda. We dig into Super 8, that accomplished and elusive Spielbergian zone of nostalgia known as the ‘Amblin Film,’ and whether or not the Rubik’s Cube was popular in small town America in 1979. Do we think it is a Goonies or merely a *batteries not included? Basically, Kurt continually bags on the JJ Abrams whilst confessing to really like Super 8. We also have a look at the state of 3D as the summer gets underway in earnest, and we might not see eye-to-eye on Braveheart. Lots of DVD picks and a few tears are shed as more Criterion titles gently slip through the tight grip of Netflix.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_217.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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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: November 22-28

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Limelight, playing on TCM on Saturday

Not too many new ones this week – in fact, almost all of the ones programmed along with TCM’s next installment of Moguls and Movie Stars are ones we’ve seen a bunch before on TCM, but that’s okay – moving into the history of sound era with Warner Bros gangsters, classic musicals, and the Marx Brothers is A-OK with me. TCM has also got one of Bette Davis’s first big films Of Human Bondage early Thursday morning, Chaplin’s last American film Limelight on Saturday, and Sundance has the first part of the Red Riding trilogy on Sunday. Among previously featured films, check out the Hitchcock triple feature on TCM on Friday.

Monday, November 22

7:00am – TCM – Kiss Me Deadly
Fairly iconic noir film, with hard-boiled action, nuclear paranoia, and one of the more memorable non-Hitchcock McGuffins in movie history. Plus some great LA locations. I didn’t quite love it as much as I wanted to the first time I saw it, but I’m due for a rewatch, and it definitely needs to be seen at least once, especially if you’re a noir fan.
1955 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman, Marian Carr.

8:15am – IFC – Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is likely my all-time favorite book or very close to it, and it’s a book that you’d never expect could be made into a good film. It depends an awful lot on stream of consciousness, internal monologue and memory, and a subjective experience of time – all stylistic and narrative elements that don’t translate well to film. However, this 1997 version of the novel with Vanessa Redgrave perfectly cast as the older Clarissa Dalloway and Natascha McElhone (why the heck isn’t she in more stuff?) as flashback-Clarissa comes about as close as I think is cinematically possible. It doesn’t come close to matching the book for me, but it is a solid film and captures a lot of Woolf’s spirit.
1997 USA/UK. Director: Marleen Gorris. Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, Lena Headey, John Standing.

2:00pm – Sundance – The Darjeeling Limited
Not perhaps my favorite Wes Anderson film, but that’s not really that much of a negative statement for one of my favorite directors. Certainly the central image of the train is a fitting one for his flat, widescreen visual style, and the Indian setting allows for great use of color, so if nothing else, it looks freaking gorgeous.
2007 USA. Director: Wes Anderson. Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Angelica Huston.
(repeats at 5:25pm on the 25th and 1:45am on the 26th)

8:00pm – TCM – Moguls and Movie Stars: Brother Can You Spare a Dream
This week Moguls and Movie Stars jumps out of the silent era and into the 1930s, showcasing the films that Hollywood made during and just after the Depression Era – and the films programmed to go along with it tonight are apropos: Warner Bros. backstage musicals and gangster films.

8:30pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
1999 USA. Director: Mike Judge. Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston.
(repeats at 1:35am on the 23rd)

9:00pm – TCM – Footlight Parade
Other Busby Berkeley-choreogaphed films are better known than this one (42nd Street, the Gold Diggers series), but this one is one of my favorites, with James Cagney taking on a musical role and giving the film that extra burst of energy that he brings to everything. Though known mostly for his gangster roles, Cagney was actually a song-and-dance man before he came to the movies, and it’s fun to see him hoofing his stuff.
1933 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – TCM – The Public Enemy
Famous for the scene where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face, this is one of the gold standards of early gangster films, along with Little Caesar and Howard Hawks’s Scarface.
1931 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell, Mae Clarke.

1:30am (23rd) – TCM – Little Caesar
One of the classic early 1930s gangster films, the one that essentially typecast Edward G. Robinson in the role of the cigar-chewing tough guy. It’s a little more abrupt than some of the others in the genre, but still worth watching if you’re a fan.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell.

3:00am (23rd) – TCM – I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson.

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Film on TV: September 27-October 3

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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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Film on TV: March 1-7

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Contempt, playing on TCM late Sunday/early Monday

 

Of the new ones this week, I’m most excited about catching Days of Heaven myself (Monday on TCM), since it’s part of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls marathon. Don’t know if I’ll watch it right away, though; I’m trying to keep in somewhat chronological order watching those. Other notable newly features ones: West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause on Tuesday, Alien on Wednesday (I’m long overdue a rewatch on that one), All the President’s Men on Thursday, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt late Sunday/early Monday.

Monday, March 1

8:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly.
2003 USA. Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

10:15pm – TCM – Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick has made his reputation on only four films; this is his second, some five years after debut Badlands. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Marathon list, so I will be before long – and judging by the screencaps I’ve already seen, I’m expecting to love it.
1978 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard.
Newly Featured!

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon

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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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