Was it the weather or is it the shitty inconvenient way films are released in theaters these days? Or does it depend on your geography or disposition? Or a little bit of everything? In short, we didn’t get to the “main releases” (of boats in storms or feminist westerns) this week and instead opted for some VOD experimentation with Vincent Cassell in Partisan. A solid film with problems is the verdict. The Watch List is fairly eclectic this week but a whole lotta witchin’ going on. From Winona Ryder to Vin Diesel, we cover the gamut. Andrew and Kurt also spend some time in the kitchen cooking up some spaghetti westerns before heading to Southeast Asia for a thriller and some kung-fu. Like a snake in the eagle’s shadow, there is no escape for the good the bad or the ugly; there most certainly will be blood inside Llewyn Davis.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.
La Bataille Du Rail
1946 France. Director: Rene Clement. Starring: Jean Clarieux, Jean Daurand.
Thought those train crashes in “Lawrence Of Arabia”, “The General” and “Bridge On The River Kwai” were pretty awesome because of the fact they actually crashed real trains? Well you’re right. And now there’s another film to add to that list: Clement’s almost documentary-like take on the French Resistance struggle against the Germans via the railway system. “La Bataille Du Rail” (“The Battle Of The Rails”) shows how a core set of resistance fighters work on the railyards and lines chipping away at the German plans by delaying trains, helping people escape, passing messages along, etc. As the Germans make several final efforts to bring forth some major artillery, the various team members pull together to risk everything to stop its passage. The derailment of one of the trains makes for a spectacular moment as it careens off the tracks and spills its military payload indiscriminately over the countryside. As devastating a crash as it is, it’s less jarring then you might think because of Clement’s very neo-realist approach to the making of the film using many non-professional actors and avoiding sets. It stays away from the melodrama and lets the situations themselves build the tension. Made shortly after the war had ended, it feels like an important document of the Resistance’s role. Not to mention a riveting watch. -BOB
We are good friends around here with the Film Junk folk, and always like to keep up with the work of Jay Cheel. Even if he is goofing off with his good buddy Reed Farrington by updating a decades old DIY cooking video made in the late 1980s and incorporating the signature FJ Poutine into the mix, well our attention is there. When the whole piece is edited into a Lynchian slash Norman Bates crazy show, complete with Sergio Leone close-ups of eating (see: Duck You Sucker!) with creepy zooms and unsettling music, it flirts with transcendence. The result is a solid and entertaining piece of work, and a great accompaniment to the sporadic Cantankerous podcast.
The full episode of Cooking with Gerry is tucked under the seat.
Dennis Cozzalio on the Memorable Lee Van Cleef “And because of the angularly unique sculpting of his features— an arrow-shaped head complemented by hawk-like nose, a smile that could seem warm and sinister almost simultaneously, and yes, those eyes—Van Cleef seemed destined, from the beginning of his movie career—a small part in Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon– to be typecast, albeit memorably, as a bad guy.”
Actor Idris Elba, Generating His Own Buzz ““In this day and age, actors can’t afford to be pompous,” the 37-year-old Mr. Elba said, discussing a career that first caught fire with “The Wire” and peaked with last year’s popular but critically reviled potboiler “Obsessed.” “You can’t afford to turn your nose up at things. Audiences want to see you a bit more dynamic. We know you can act, Daniel Day-Lewis. That’s fantastic. Show us a bit more. We want to be entertained.””
“Video games can never be art” – Roger Ebert “…nevertheless, I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say “never,” because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.”
Better-Late-Than-Never: Another analysis of Starship Troopers “The business of satire is a risky one. When the concept is applied in literature, theatre, film or any other medium there is always a risk that it will be misunderstood. Satire is an ironic and sometimes sarcastic means of making an indirect social or political point, often leaving the author open to attack from those who were simply unable to distinguish their tone. Occasionally the reader/viewer will miss the point entirely or they’ll be convinced that the author believes in what they are satirising. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film Starship Troopers was not immune from the dangers of the audience misreading the films satirical content.”
Matt Brown on Kick-Ass “This is also why Kick-Ass is properly fantasy, and damned successful fantasy at that: because in the end of it all, Dave designs, and realizes, a complete revolution of the self. It’s a revolution which could never occur in the real world in the death-and-spraypaint comic book terms expressed here, but it’s a revolution which needs to happen for kids in the real world in some terms expressable somewhere. And baby, revolution’s afoot.”
You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:
The subgenre of Spaghetti Westerns has a ridiculous number of titles beyond the usual few that have been canonized and cherished. Until revisionist westerns like The Wild Bunch or urban crime and giallo films put the genre to bed, from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s there were enough films made to keep a fan of the genre occupied for years. Still, it is hard to not keep coming back to the Sergio Leone pictures. Even the ones that never got their due like the World War II allegory Duck You Sucker are visually and tonally brilliant. And here we have My Name is Nobody, a goofy elegy to the idea of the Spaghetti Western as both ridiculous and as ‘theatre.’ Produced, co-directed (without credit) and based on an idea from Leone, his stamp is on the film, even if it never quite has the ‘epic-ness’ associated with is earlier works. But it does a a very serious and graceful performance from Henry Fonda, not the evil villain from Once Upon A Time in The West, but rather the best-of-the-best in terms of gunfighters, a retired lawman named Jack Beauregard who now has trouble taking a shave because other gunfighters want to prove themselves by killing the good-guy legend.
There is a group (a “Wild Bunch”) of a hundred and fifty odd thugs roaming the west hunting for him, mainly due to Beauregards brothers involvement with a dodgy gold-mining scheme, which impedes his getting to a ship to Europe for some peaceful twilight years. Enter a blonder, more blue-eyed “Man With No Name,” played by Spaghetti Western stalwart Terence Hill (a star of many comedy takes on the form) who is not serious or intense like Clint Eastwood, but rather a Loki-like trickster. Hill’s goofy, mugging-for-the-camera character goes by the name (or rather lack of a name) Nobody, and does his own brand of ‘good’ by way of highly convoluted schemes and double-cross. Nobody idolizes Beauregard in his own fanboy kind of way and stalks him on his way to catch the steam-ship all the while attempting to make Beauregard into more of a lasting legend, a name for the ages in the Wild West by forcing Beauregard into a 1 vs. 150 man showdown with The Wild Bunch.
The film culminates however in a more traditional showdown between Beauregard and Nobody. Not in the middle of nowhere, but right in the middle of a city with a large crowd of curious onlookers, including a photographer, in attendance. Calling attention to the popularity of Spaghetti Westerns and the rumblings of the death knell of things by 1973, the gunfight is staged (on several levels) and framed upside down in the glass plate negative capturing in the topsy-turvy fashion of the film itself. The Morricone score, another masterful piece of music from the man who invented soundtrack for the genre, is perhaps more epic the than film deserves, but it is charming and driving as well, enough that Joe Dante appropriated it for his own goofy moment in the 1989 comedy The ‘Burbs.
Below is the penultimate scene of the film (before the screenwriters go and bluntly explain everything to even the slowest person in the room) is a great tribute to a genre this is often remembered for its showy framing, macho posturing and a romantic simplification of the era. Like Henry Fonda’s lawman, even after it is gone, it is still, uh, quite ‘well regarded.’