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Ten of Barbara Stanwyck’s Best – As Chosen By Margaret Talbot

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Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers in Baby Face

For your next holiday viewing party, a list of ten great films that Barbara Stanwyck shone in…

The qualities that made her great, that made her, as the film critic Nell Minow says, the most eternally modern of Golden Age actresses, were evident from the beginning. Stanwyck believed in being as natural on screen as the Hollywood glamour machine allowed, and it extended to her appearance: as Wilson makes clear, the actress was not vain. She described herself as just “average nice-looking”—no Greta Garbo or Carole Lombard or Hedy Lamar—and felt it was “a good thing” that she could “crack through with honesty.” She excelled at playing women with their own best interests in mind, tough women with hard shells, but she was also gifted at playing on the edge, where anger and defensiveness part to reveal a glinting vulnerability.

Stanwyck was one of Hollywood’s hard-working pros—a trouper who always knew her own lines, and often everybody else’s as well, was always on time, who learned the names of all the crew. She probably wouldn’t have appreciated a lot of psychologizing about her work, but it seems clear that she drew on her own rough upbringing to play many of her finest roles. Born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn in 1907, she was four when her pregnant mother was killed by a drunk who pushed her off a streetcar. Her bricklayer father soon ran off to Panama, abandoning the family. Young Ruby was raised by a shifting cast of relatives, and supported herself from the age of fourteen as a switchboard operator, a pattern cutter, and a chorus girl. “I’ve known women who plodded through life,” Wilson quotes her saying, “but the women I knew did their plodding on the pavement, not the soil. I know very little about the simple life. I’m a product of crowded places and jammed-up emotions, where right and wrong weren’t always clearly defined and life wasn’t always sweet, but it was life.” That life, with all its ambiguity, is what you always see in a Stanwyck performance, flickering across her uncommonly intelligent face like light dancing on water.

“Steel-True” has inspired several Stanwyck retrospectives, including one at Film Forum, in New York, playing through December 31st. It inspired me to make a list of my favorite Stanwyck performances, all of them available on DVD. Here they are, in chronological order:

(click here to continue reading Barbara Stanwyck’s Best : The New Yorker.)

Click through the link to read thumbnails about each of the ten.

I’ve seen: Baby Face; Stella Dallas; The Lady Eve; Ball of Fire; Double Indemnity; Meet John Doe; and There’s Always Tomorrow

and have yet to see: The Miracle Women; Ladies They Talk About; and All I Desire.

Of the films I’ve seen, Double Indemnity is my favorite, I’ve seen it multiple times, but all are worth watching methinks. The links go to Netflix, if available. I was unable to find There’s Always Tomorrow, except at Amazon as part of a collection including All I Desire, and contrary to Ms. Talbot’s assertion that all of these are available on DVD, I could not find several films. Perhaps there are other sources.


Baby Face – Directed by Alfred E. Green

Written by Seth Anderson

December 27th, 2013 at 10:04 am

Posted in Film

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Arrested Development’s 4th Season

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Fox canceled “Arrested Development,” about an absurdly dysfunctional family, in 2006 after three seasons. But it developed a vocal cult audience. Netflix has taken it over and is producing a fourth season as original programming. The twist: As with the company’s other original series, all 10 new “Arrested Development” episodes will go up for streaming at the same time. Mr. Hurwitz is sure some fans will devour the entire five hours in one sitting. “It’s throwing me,” he says.

His solution was to build each new episode around one character. The stories in all 10 episodes unfold simultaneously, overlapping here and there. Unlike writing a traditional sitcom, Mr. Hurwitz says, “we’re sort of driving into the next episode rather than wrapping things up.”

(click here to continue reading Binge Viewing: TV’s Lost Weekends – WSJ.com.)

Can’t wait. 

 

Steve Holt!

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Suggestions,Television

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Netflix Hates Its Own DVD business

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Netflix Has Lost Its Way

I don’t understand this corporate logic:

Netflix has given up all hope that there’s a future in DVDs.

…On an earnings conference call with analysts Wednesday, Hastings said Netflix now has no plans to spend any marketing dollars on its DVD-by-mail service, which lost 2.76 million subscribers during the last three months of 2011.

“We expect DVD subscribers to decline each quarter forever,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Netflix sees DVD business withering, gives up on video games – latimes.com.)

especially when the DVD rental is the bulk of Netflix’s business, and generates most of its profits:

While the streaming business is growing (adding 220 subscribers domestically in the quarter), and the DVD business sis shrinking (it lost 2.76 million subscribers domestically), it’s margins are much worse than the legacy DVD business. The streaming business has an 11 percent profit margin, compared to a very healthy 52 percent margin for the DVD business.

Out of Netflix’s total $847 million in revenues last quarter, $476 million came from streaming and $370 million came from DVD rentals (the remainder came from international). The streaming business also twice as many subscribers: 21.7 million versus 11.2 million. But the DVD business contributed the vast majority of Netflix’s profit: $194 million versus $52 million.

If you break that down, each streaming subscriber is worth only $2.40 in profit each quarter to Netflix, compared to $17.32 for each DVD subscriber. The old business was very lucrative. The new business kind of sucks. The economics are very different. The DVD business had fixed costs, while Netflix is forced to negotiate streaming licenses on a case by case basis with each media company.

(click here to continue reading Netflix Streaming Margins Are 11 Percent, DVD Margins Are 52 Percent | TechCrunch.)

Maybe Netflix can sell its DVD business to someone who cares about it still. From my perspective as a long time Netflix subscriber (since September, 2001, actually), the streaming option is occasionally useful, but most films I want to watch are not available as a streaming option, nor are their “extras” included. Often my streamed film is fuzzy, pixelated, the sound doesn’t sync, subtitles are unreliable, or unavailable, and so on. Unfortunately, there is no other solution, or I would have dumped Netflix over the summer.

Netflix Throttling

There is also the issue with the DVD throttling practice. I returned two films at the same time; one was received by Netflix the next day, the second took an extra three days, presumedly because it was supposed to go to Bloomington, IL first. If Netflix despises its DVD rental business so much, perhaps they ought not to care enough to throttle anymore. There is no limit to the amount of streamed video one can view, why the rental restriction?

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Business,Film

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Netflixed: The Soul of a Man

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Took me a moment to get used to Wim Wenders utilizing Chris Thomas King as a stand-in for Blind Willie Johnson, but eventually warmed to the idea of reenactment filmed in black and white stock. The film covers three of my favorite blues musicians: Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James and J.B. Lenoir, and there is some actual historically significant footage later in the movie which is worth renting just to watch this, especially if you are a J.B. Lenoir fan1.

This disc includes the film “Soul of a Man,” in which director Wim Wenders delves into his personal music collection and takes a look at the histories of some of his favorite artists — including Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir — as told through music (what else?). Footage of James, Lenoir, John Mayall and inspired covers by contemporary artists such as Eagle-Eye Cherry, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt and Lou Reed are featured.

 

(click Netflix Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues: A Musical Journey: Disc 2: The Soul of a Man.)

There is apparently a audio CD containing 20 songs from the movie

The DVD would have been better if the full performances were also available as an extra feature: with so many interpretations of these seminal blues songs by well-known artists, it is a shame that most clips only last a verse or less. I would have enjoyed watching the student film recording of J.B. Lenoir in their entirety as well.

Cassandra Wilson’s Vietnam Blues, Lucinda Williams’ Hard Times Killing Floor Blues, and Bonnie Raitt’s Devil Got My Woman were2 quite good, as was a trio consisting of Eagle-Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer performing a version of Down in Mississippi.

On the other hand, a few performances were cringe-worthy, including Beck’s version of I’m So Glad, and Lou Reed’s Look Down the Road. Beck released a pretty good album, One Foot in the Grave, recorded before he got famous that included a good cover of “He’s A Mighty Good Leader”, unfortunately Beck phoned in his performance on The Soul of  A Man, I couldn’t listen to even the portion excerpted.

From the Wim Wenders website:

In “The Soul of A Man,” director Wim Wenders looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage, the film tells the story of these lives in music through an extended fictional film sequence (recreations of ’20s and ’30s events – shot in silent-film, hand-crank style), rare archival footage, present-day documentary scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys, Chris Thomas King, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Cave, Los Lobos, Eagle Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lucinda Williams and T-Bone Burnett.

Says Wenders: “These songs meant the world to me. I felt there was more truth in them than in any book I had read about America, or in any movie I had ever seen. I’ve tried to describe, more like a poem than in a ‘documentary,’ what moved me so much in their songs and voices.”

The rasping voice of Blind Willie Johnson, who earned his living on street corners and sang the title song, was sent into space on the Voyager in 1977 as part of the CD recording The Sounds of Earth, which had been placed onboard for posterity and/or examination by extra-terrestrial beings.

With the voice of Laurence Fishburne – Morpheus in the Matrix films – narrating, the film recounts the lives and times of the three using both old recordings and archive footage as well as fictional scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Beck.

Because there was no archive footage in existence of either Blind Willie Johnson or Skip James, Wenders used actors to play their roles but shot the scenes with an old 1920s black-and-white camera that lends realism, later using digital technology to fit the music to the pictures.

“I had to use old techniques but new technology,” Wenders said at Cannes. “This would have been impossible in the past.”

In the film, Wenders recounts that he first heard the name JB Lenoir when John Mayall in the late 1960s sang The death of JB Lenoir, a song that impacted a generation at the time.

“I wanted to know who this person was,” Wenders said, who crossed oceans to find information on Lenoir.

Music has long been a mother of cinematic invention in Wenders’ career. The title of his debut 1971 Summer In The City was from a hit by Lovin’ Spoonful and The Million Dollar Hotel was inspired by Bono of U2.”

(click here to continue reading The Soul of a Man/ Wim Wenders – The Official Site.)

Footnotes:
  1. and you should be, if you aren’t []
  2. predictably []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 30th, 2011 at 11:48 am

Posted in Film,Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Netflixed: Claude Chabrol – The Color of Lies

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I know I claimed I was going to be more diligent about recording what films and books I consume this year, but so far, have failed miserably. I’ve read about a half-dozen books and seen fifteen or more films in 2011, and this is the first one I’m actually posting about. Oh well.

If you’ve seen a Claude Chabrol film before, you sort of know what to expect. Low-key murder mystery, set in the French countryside, lots of lies told by the bourgeois characters, and so forth. Not one of his master works, but enjoyable enough to sit through.

A painter by trade, Rene (Jacques Gamblin) adds to his paltry salary by giving art lessons to children in his neighborhood. But when one of them turns up dead, Rene finds himself accused of a horrible crime. His wife (Sandrine Bonnaire) stands by him, but even she betrays him in a moment of weakness with a vacationing celebrity (Antoine de Caunes). Claude Chabrol directs this new wave thriller that draws the whodunit out to the very end.

 

(click to Netflix Claude Chabrol: The Color of Lies.)

French title: Au coeur du mensonge

From the Village voice, a more film-critic-esque description of Chabrol’s style:

In his surest Simenonian mode, Chabrol balances the hidden, the exposed, and the philosophical with little fuss, and the characters are all drawn with a scalpel— including Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s masterfully idiosyncratic portrait of a meek-voiced yet fearlessly confrontational police inspector. (De Caunes’s self-pumped litterateur is a triumphant piece of social satire.) Co-written with longtime Chabrol collaborator Odile Barski, the movie is a deft genre étude and provincial interrogation of a kind Chabrol has made his own.

(click here to continue reading Crime Scene Investigations From an Aging New Waver – Page 1 – Screens – New York – Village Voice.)

Right-o.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 30th, 2011 at 11:19 am

Posted in Film

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A Guide to All 36 Seasons of SNL Streaming on Netflix

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If you have a Netflix account (and you should), and a streaming device (which isn’t that difficult to come by, there are so many options these days), this might be useful to while away winter nights, fighting off insomnia.

With hundreds of episodes from each season of Saturday Night Live finally available on Netflix Instant Watch, we thought we’d put together a few of the highlights to help you get your bearings. Obviously, it’s an overwhelming amount of material that’s available, so this guide will help point you to interesting or historic episodes, notable guest hosts, and where the appearances are of classic characters.

It should be noted that a few of the seasons are still not yet available, specifically seasons 26-30. Netflix will presumably be adding those at some point, and we’ll update this guide when they do. But until then, here’s a somewhat obsessive guide to all of the seasons of SNL currently available to stream on Netflix.

(click to continue reading A Somewhat Obsessive Guide to All 36 Seasons of SNL Streaming on Netflix | Splitsider.)

I notice Splitsider has a link to the infamous Sinead O’Connor episode where she rips up a photo of the Pope. I started watching this episode, but didn’t make it long enough to know if this scene was bleeped out or not. I’m curious because Lorne Michaels had refused this show to ever be broadcast in syndication.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 24th, 2010 at 10:37 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with ,

Lost John Ford movie unearthed in New Zealand

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Cool. Wonder how long until these are released on DVD for Netflix purposes?

Netflix- Watch InstantlyNetflix- Watch Instantly

Collection of 75 early American films, including several that had been considered lost to history, have been discovered in New Zealand

An extraordinary collection of 75 early American films, including several that had been considered lost to history, have been discovered in New Zealand and are being returned to the US.

The cache includes the only copy believed to exist of a late silent movie by one of the giants of American film-making, John Ford, as well as several works produced between 1910 and 1920 starring important female actors such as Clara Bow and Mabel Normand.

The collection had been stored at the New Zealand Film Archive but their significance was not fully recognised until last year when they were dug out by a Los Angeles-based film preservationist. A deal has since been struck with the National Film Preservation Foundation based in San Francisco to preserve the reels and return them to the US.

The batch is being seen as a time capsule of American film from the 1910s and 1920s. Only about a fifth of all US films produced between 1900 and 1940 have survived, the rest having been lost through decay or neglect.

The collection comes from a period when the American film industry was just taking off and, propelled by the success of westerns, had begun to triumph around the world. About nine out of every 10 films shown in cinemas globally in the 1910s were made in the US.

“This is a wonderful group of movies,” said Annette Melville, the NFPF’s director. “About 70% of them are complete, which is extraordinary in itself, and many have their original colour tints.”

The crown jewel of the collection is Upstream, a 1927 film by John Ford, the director who later made such Oscar-winning classics as The Grapes of Wrath and The Quiet Man. Ford made more than 60 silent films between 1917 and 1928 but only about 10 are known to exist in their complete form.

The copy of Upstream found in New Zealand has a little damage from decay to its nitrates at the start of the film, obscuring the credits, which might explain why it has taken so long to come to light. The collection also includes a trailer for another Ford film, Strong Boy, which has otherwise been lost.

(click to continue reading Lost John Ford movie unearthed in New Zealand.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

June 7th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Film

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Netflixed: Fantastic Mr. Fox

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“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Wes Anderson)

Saw my brother-from-another-mother1 Wes Anderson’s new film recently:

Netflix Fantastic Mr Fox

When Mr. Fox’s nightly raids on three nearby farms raise the ire of the selfish farmers, he must outwit the men’s increasingly outrageous plans to catch him in this animated adaption of the Roald Dahl book. As the farmers’ schemes take a toll on his hungry family, Mr. Fox must find a new way to get his paws on the bounty. Wes Anderson directs, and George Clooney and Bill Murray lend their voice-over talents in this Oscar nominee.

(click to Netflix Fantastic Mr. Fox.)

Better than expected actually, if you are in the mood for quirky humor, and adult situations. Not a kids movie, really, though intelligent children would probably grok most of insinuations, just light-hearted stop-animation, like a picture book brought to life.

I quite enjoyed it.

Footnotes:
  1. not really, we just share a last name, and an overlap of being at the UT film school at the same time, probably had some classes together, or sat in some screenings without noticing each other. In today’s hyper-connected world, we might have known each other, in those ancient of days without computers and without social networking, shy folk like myself kept our own company []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 1st, 2010 at 8:04 am

Posted in Film,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Companies Slowly Join Cloud-Computing

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Cloud Computing: buzz word of 2009, and apparently going to be the buzz word of 2010 too.

Sunset number 8704

This year, Netflix made what looked like a peculiar choice: the DVD-by-mail company decided that over the next two years, it would move most of its Web technology — customer movie queues, search tools and the like — over to the computer servers of one of its chief rivals, Amazon.com.

Amazon, like Netflix, wants to deliver movies to people’s homes over the Internet. But the online retailer, based in Seattle, has lately gained traction with a considerably more ambitious effort: the business of renting other companies the remote use of its technology infrastructure so they can run their computer operations. In the parlance of technophiles, they would operate “in the cloud.”

Ah, the cloud — these days, Silicon Valley can’t seem to get its head out of it. The idea, though typically expressed in ways larded with jargon, is actually rather simple.

Cloud providers, large ones like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and AT&T, and smaller ones like Rackspace and Terremark, aim to convince other companies to give up building and managing their own data centers and to use their computer capacity instead.

[Click to continue reading Companies Slowly Join Cloud-Computing - NYTimes.com]

Clouds and meat

I actually do see the usefulness of cautiously outsourcing the creation and maintenance of data centers, as long as certain privacy oversights are part of the process.

Almost every big company is cautiously testing the waters these days. 3M, the St. Paul, Minn., conglomerate, is using Microsoft’s new Azure cloud service to allow advertisers and marketers to tap into a service that mathematically analyzes promotional images and evaluates how visually effective they are likely to be. “It took a lot of the risk out of whether to commercialize it or not,” said Jim Graham, a technical manager at 3M.

But most big organizations say they are wary of placing more critical software and business operations on another company’s computers.

Government agencies are looking at it too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab currently runs various experiments on the computers of Amazon, Microsoft and Google — to avoid committing to a single company, said Tomas Soderstrom, the I.T. chief technology officer there. Among other experiments, the agency is using Amazon’s servers to process vast amounts of telemetry data coming from the rovers on Mars.

But NASA executives also tell of the seven months it took to reach its licensing agreement with Amazon. NASA wanted, among other things, to be able to inspect the hardware it was using; Amazon declined.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 19th, 2010 at 7:07 am

Posted in Business

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Alice in Wonderland with Shrooms

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“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass” (Lewis Carroll)

Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

a clearer photo of the billboard that peeks at me through my office window

Details visible if you embiggen:
decluttr

I probably will see this movie, but maybe not in the theatre. Sometimes my agoraphobia1 is stronger than my desire to see films on large projection screens.

DVDs come out pretty soon these days

Footnotes:
  1. or whatever, agoraphobia is probably a little strong []

Written by swanksalot

March 2nd, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Film,Photography

Tagged with , ,

Netflixed: Daytime Drinking

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“Daytime Drinking (Naj sul)” (Noh Young-seok)

Korea is one of the countries I wish to visit before my life ends abruptly:

After his girlfriend dumps him, Hyuk-jin (Sam-dong Song) spends a night getting drunk with friends, who convince him to go to the distant town of Jeongseon. But when he wakes up at the Jeongseon bus stop in the morning, none of his friends are there. Walking along the road in his underwear, he finds himself on an unexpected journey as he becomes involved in a series of misadventures. Young-Seok Noh directs this Korean drama. [Click to Netflix Daytime Drinking]

shochu iichiko

Loneliness mixed with soju inebriation, a delicious combination. Lots of ennui, lots of silence, and a tale worthy of Holden Caulfield. Though accompanied with several gallons of soju, and some karaoke. And a lot more soju…and some healing booze with arrowroot, garlic, and ginseng…

Sort of a Korean version of Slacker.

20,000 Won is about $20 US dollars, if you didn’t know.

Rob Christopher of The Chicagoist compares the film to After Hours, which is apt enough, but not quite exact

A young man’s oafish buddies convince him to take a bus to the countryside and meet them at a college chum’s guest house, where “there’s lots of booze and delicious barbecue.” Of course when he arrives his friends are nowhere to be found; and getting back to Seoul proves to be an unexpectedly tall order. Among the problems he has to contend with are crappy cell phone reception, con artists, and the constant necessity of being polite by accepting drinks from strangers.

To really enjoy Young-seok Noh’s debut feature you need to know the basics of Korean drinking. First: over three billion bottles of soju, the national spirit, are consumed annually; second: soju is usually between 20-45% alcohol; and three, it’s considered rude to refuse a drink. That’s enough to addle anyone’s brain.

A hilarious and agreeably gentle comedy, Daytime Drinking plays like a Jim Jarmusch remake of After Hours. There’s even a Catherine O’Hara-like character, a flaky woman with the power to help our unfortunate hero but who only ends up tormenting him. Shot on a budget of only $20,000 this film puts to shame most indie American fare, let alone the drek coming out of the studios. It’s the funniest movie we’ve seen this year. The wry ending is particularly satisfying.

[Click to continue reading See These at the Siskel: Daytime Drinking and Objectified - Chicagoist]

Worth a rental

Written by Seth Anderson

February 11th, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Film,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Netflixed: Being John Malkovich

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“Being John Malkovich” (Universal Studios)

I re-watched this Charlie Kaufman / Spike Jonze film after seeing it over ten years ago in a theatre, it still made me laugh with the sheer absurdity even on this second viewing.


When puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) discovers a door that’s, in fact, a portal into actor John Malkovich’s brain, he concocts a plot to sell 15-minute excursions into Malkovich’s mind — and the ultimate head trip — for $200 a pop. Spike Jonze directs this uncommon dramedy from writer Charlie Kaufman, co-starring Cameron Diaz as Craig’s wife, Catherine Keener as his co-worker and Malkovich as himself. [Click to Netflix Being John Malkovich]

Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich

Endlessly inventive film – if you missed it the first time around, or haven’t seen it in a while, give it a viewing. The scene with John Malkovich playing hundreds of dopplegangers is well worth a third or fourth viewing, it’s that much fun.

Apparently, the Steppenwolf Theatre building in Chicago has a half-floor used for storage.

Roger Ebert:

What an endlessly inventive movie this is! Charlie Kaufman, the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” supplies a stream of dazzling inventions, twists and wicked paradoxes. And the director, Spike Jonze, doesn’t pounce on each one like fresh prey, but unveils it slyly, as if there’s more where that came from. Rare is the movie where the last half hour surprises you just as much as the first, and in ways you’re not expecting. The movie has ideas enough for half a dozen films, but Jonze and his cast handle them so surely that we never feel hard-pressed; we’re enchanted by one development after the next.

[Click to continue reading Being John Malkovich :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]

Scott Tobias:

Putting aside the fact that Charlie Kaufman’s insistently surreal script for Being John Malkovich was staked on the actor’s willingness to appear in a supporting role, it’s still a miracle that a film conceived with such brazen disregard for the marketplace ever got made. In description, Kaufman’s lunatic flourishes seem to have emerged from a haze of pot smoke: an ulcerous chimp with feelings of inadequacy, a building designed to accommodate miniature ladies, a production of The Belle Of Amherst featuring a 60-foot Emily Dickinson puppet. But there’s sturdy intelligence and depth behind the material—aided immeasurably by Spike Jonze’s ultra-realistic direction—that keeps it grounded in basic human desires

[Click to continue reading Being John Malkovich | DVD | Review | The A.V. Club ]

David Edelstein:

Being John Malkovich is everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a crazy comedy. It’s close to pure farce, yet its laughs are grounded in loneliness, impotence, self-loathing, and that most discomfiting of vices to dramatize: envy. The action is surreal, the emotions are violently real. The screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, is a genius at finding slapstick correlatives for people’s nebulous sense–or non-sense–of themselves. It’s possible that no one has ever come up with a more absurdly perfect metaphor for our longing to be someone–anyone–other than who we are than a portal into the head of John Malkovich.

[Click to continue reading Insiders and Way Insiders - By David Edelstein - Slate Magazine ]

yadda, yadda, you get the idea

Written by Seth Anderson

February 11th, 2010 at 12:00 am

Posted in Film,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Reading Around on December 29th

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Some additional reading December 29th from 17:09 to 23:39:


“The Philip K. Dick Collection” (Philip K. Dick)

  • Gregg Rickman- The Nature of Dick’s Fantasies – –None of Dick’s 1974 letters to the FBI appear in any of the FBI’s files on him (in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington). He received a polite brush-off response to his first letter, of March 20; it is likely that the FBI ignored his later letters entirely.–There is, moreover, good reason to doubt that many of these letters were ever sent. According to his wife at the time, Tessa Dick, “Phil told me he’d only sent the first three or four letters, and he stopped mailing them, because the FBI had lost interest (or perhaps never had any interest) in the case…” (letter to author, 6/6/91). Asked why, if this were so, so many letters existed not in originals but in carbons, she replied that Dick’s procedure was to “write a letter, address and stamp an envelope, go out in the back alley, and drop the letter in the trash bin.” Dick’s reasoning was that “The authorities will receive the letter if, and only if, they are spying on him”
  • Total Dick-Head: Merry Christmas To Me! – As a scholar I think these letters are a bit dangerous (as is any piece of evidence however small and seemingly innocuous in the Case of Philip K Dick); as they are the ‘Selected Letters’ I wonder who selected them (that’s probably in an introduction I skipped), what was left out, and why. I have lots of questions, like why does Phil refer to Tessa in one letter as Leslie? Who exactly is ‘Kathy’? And why in the world did PKD write that letter to the FBI about Disch’s Camp Concentration?
  • Transcript: Climbing Mount Criterion – Roger Ebert’s Journal – I’m extremely lazy in my film reviews, but Matthew Dessem is not. His blog is in-depth reviews of every Criterion Collection film released. Roger Ebert interviewed him: Here is the complete transcript of my Q&A with Matthew Dessum, in which he goes into much greater detail about his adventure that I had room for in the paper. The photo is by Yasmin Damshenas
  • Is aviation security mostly for show? – CNN.com – “Security theater” refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at U.S. airports in the months after 9/11 — their guns had no bullets. The U.S. color-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

Written by swanksalot

December 30th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Netflixed: Almost Famous

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“Almost Famous” (Cameron Crowe)

Held up better than expected on a second viewing, can this movie really be 10 years old?

Almost Famous is a 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe and telling the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine while covering a rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone.

The film is based on Crowe’s experiences touring with rock bands The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a Rolling Stone article, he talks about how he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his heroes, experiences that are shared by William, the main character in the film. Kate Hudson earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of band groupie Penny Lane, while Crowe won the Oscar for his original script. Jason Lee and Billy Crudup co-star.

[Click to Netflix Almost Famous]

Speaking of the joys of vinyl records, this film’s poignancy partially based on nostalgia for a different era, an era where a suitcase full of records1 can be a talisman. If the film were set in 2009, you could not hand off a loaded iPod with the same emotional resonance.

Some Cameron Crowe maudlin moments, but nothing that gets in the way of the film’s narrative flow. Helps, probably, if the lead character’s personality (outsider, unusual family life, passionate music lover) resonates with the viewer.

There is a director’s cut, called Untitled,2 which adds some 34 minutes of footage, but as far as I can tell, this is unavailable in the US. Perhaps Dreamworks is working on a re-release?

Ebert raves:

Oh, what a lovely film. I was almost hugging myself while I watched it. “Almost Famous” is funny and touching in so many different ways. It’s the story of a 15-year-old kid, smart and terrifyingly earnest, who through luck and pluck gets assigned by Rolling Stone magazine to do a profile of a rising rock band. The magazine has no idea he’s 15. Clutching his pencil and his notebook like talismans, phoning a veteran critic for advice, he plunges into the experience that will make and shape him. It’s as if Huckleberry Finn came back to life in the 1970s, and instead of taking a raft down the Mississippi, got on the bus with the band.

[Click to continue reading Almost Famous :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]

as does the anonymous NYT reviewer:

The power of popular music — its ability to give shape, meaning and intensity to the inexpressible emotions of daily life — is something of a motif in Cameron Crowe’s career as a director. Think of John Cusack hoisting his boombox aloft outside Ione Skye’s window in “Say Anything” or Tom Cruise hurtling down the highway in “Jerry Maguire,” spinning the radio dial in search of a song to suit his mood and happening upon Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” Mr. Crowe has always used rock not merely as soundtrack decoration but also as a window into the souls of his characters.

In “Almost Famous,” a loose, affectionate look back on his earlier career as a teenage music journalist, Mr. Crowe has devoted a whole movie to the love of rock ‘n’ roll. The soul he lays open — a sweet, forgiving and generous one — is his own. The movie follows the adventures of William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a San Diego 15- year-old whose fairy-tale ascendance from nerdy schoolboy to Rolling Stone reporter mirrors Mr. Crowe’s own life story. But Mr. Crowe is less interested in biographical or historical literalism — he freely mixes real and fictional characters and prefers period atmosphere to period detail — than in evoking the joyful, reckless, earnest energy of rock in the years between 60′s idealism and punk nihilism.

[Click to continue reading ´Almost Famous´: With Sympathy for the Devil, a Rock Writer Finds His Way - NYTimes.com]

Footnotes:
  1. IMDb: The old records William looks through at the beginning are actually Cameron Crowe’s, saved from his younger years. []
  2. Cameron Crowe wanted to call the movie this all along, but the studio balked []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 17th, 2009 at 11:18 am

Netflixed: Gomorrah

without comments


“Gomorrah (The Criterion Collection)” (Criterion)

A non-glamourous look at the working class1 of the Naples crime organization. Documentary feel, and based in reality, this isn’t a film celebrating the life of crime.

The intertwining tales of a delivery boy, a tailor, a businessman and two cocky teenagers form the fabric of this gritty and lyrical examination of the influential Neapolitan mob known as the Camorra. Peering into a multitude of social strata within present-day Naples, director Matteo Garrone’s film — a hybrid of melodrama, crime and art-film genres — was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe and a Best Documentary Independent Spirit Award. [Click to Netflix Gomorrah]


“Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System” (Roberto Saviano)

I liked it a lot. I might even pick up a copy of the book, despite not usually veering into best seller territory

From Roger Ebert’s review:

Roberto Saviano, who wrote the best seller that inspired the movie, went undercover, used informants, even (I learn from John Powers on NPR) worked as a waiter at their weddings. His book named names and explained exactly how the Camorra operates. Now he lives under 24-hour guard, although as the Roman poet Juvenal asked, “Who will guard the guards?”

Matteo Garrone, the director, films in the cheerless housing projects around Naples. “See Naples and die” seems to be the inheritance of children born here. We follow five strands of the many that Saviano unraveled in his book, unread by me. There is an illegal business in the disposal of poisonous waste. A fashion industry that knocks off designer lines and works from sweatshops. Drugs, of course. And then we meet teenagers who think they’re tough and dream of taking over locally from the Camorra. And kids who want to be gangsters when they grow up.

None of these characters ever refer to “The Godfather.” The teenagers know De Palma’s “Scarface” by heart. Living a life of luxury, surrounded by drugs and women, is perhaps a bargain they are willing to make even if it costs their lives. The problem is that only death is guaranteed. No one in this movie at any time enjoys any luxury. One of them, who delivers stipends to the families of dead or jailed Camorra members, doesn’t even have a car and uses a bicycle. The families moan that they can’t make ends meet, just like Social Security beneficiaries.

[Click to continue reading Gomorrah :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]

Terry Gross and John Powers piece on NPR from February, 2009:

“Gomorrah” is based on a powerful book by an ambitious, young Neapolitan journalist named Roberto Saviano who saw his own father badly beaten because he called an ambulance for one of the mob’s victims. Fueled by righteous anger, Saviano did undercover reporting on the docks at an illegal textile factory, and he even waited tables at Camorra weddings. The result was a passionate, highly personal expose whose visibility annoyed the mob’s bosses, who are evidently not avuncular old fellows like Marlon Brando. These dons issued their version of a fatwa back in 2006, and three years later, Saviano, just 29 years old, is still living a life of bodyguards, armored cars and safe houses.

While Saviano’s book burns hot, he’s implicitly his story’s crusading hero. Garrone’s approach is cool, detached and almost anthropological. He knows that in a movie, Saviano’s feverish style would make “Gomorrah” exciting in the wrong way, turn it into operatic melodrama or pulp fiction.

Featuring no heroes, Garrone’s movie is pointedly anti-mythological, never more so than in its treatment of murder. “Gomorrah” is actually far less violent than “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” but it seems more brutal for Garrone offers no cinematically cool deaths and nobody softens the blow with catchy lines about killing not being personal, only business.

[Click to continue reading The Gritty Gangsters Of 'Gomorrah' : NPR]

Manohla Dargis concludes the NYT review:

I don’t want to overplay the film’s violence — it has a lower body count than the average Hollywood action flick — or underplay Mr. Garrone’s artistry. But part of what’s bracing about “Gomorrah,” and makes it feel different from so many American crime movies, is both its deadly serious take on violence and its global understanding of how far and wide the mob’s tentacles reach, from high fashion to the very dirt. There’s a heaviness to the bloodletting here, which has pressed down on this world and emptied its faces, halls and apartments of life. This is a world in which no one laughs, populated by men who are so busy killing one another that they don’t realize they’re as good as dead already.

Though Mr. Garrone doesn’t point a finger at the audience, he doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Toward the end of the film, the tailor accidentally catches sight of Scarlett Johansson on television as she smilingly promenades on a red carpet in one of the gowns he helped to make. As the announcers chatter about the gown (“an apparent simplicity, but in reality, very elaborate”), and the paparazzi scream for the star, the tailor smiles wistfully at his creation, which he and a roomful of women painstakingly hand-sewed in a gloomy factory for too many hours and too little money. It’s a cream-colored dress with a nice drape and satiny sheen, and while you can’t see the blood that went into every stitch, it’s there.

[Click to continue reading Movie Review - Gomorrah - Lesser-Known Mobsters, as Brutal as the Old Ones - NYTimes.com]

Footnotes:
  1. for lack of a better term []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 1st, 2009 at 1:10 pm