Monday, May 23, 2022

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Remaking Metropolis by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks

Once again, David Kalat blows me away with one of his wide-ranging and highly informative posts. This time, he approaches the Complete Metropolis with some trepidation – not because the restored version of the film isn’t amazing (it is, and he agrees), but because the push to market it as the full version of what we’d only known in part before downgrades the earlier cuts unfairly. After all, that shorter cut is what most people have known and fallen in love with for the past 75 years. On his way to this argument, though, he also details the production and troubled distribution of the film, discussing in detail how the cuts got made in the first place and why, and the seemingly subtle but actually quite significant changes to the story that resulted from them. Probably the best post I read all week.

A Meditation on Mad Men by The Lady Eve at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series of excellent posts about Mad Men on her blog (most of which seem to be relatively spoiler-free, discussing the overall aesthetics and appeal of the show rather than specific plot details – which is good for me, since I’m still back in S3 somewhere), and this collection of thoughts from the Lady Eve herself captures a lot of the major themes of the show – the sense of nostalgia that calls us to a show about the ’60s even as Don Draper uses it to hearken to an even earlier time in his ad campaigns, the search for identity that haunts Don and his family and to some degree the ’60s as a whole, and of course, the exquisite detail of the production design and scripts that seem to bring not just the look of the ’60s, but the hopes and fears of that era into startling reality.

The Psychology of Betty Draper Francis by Terry Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts

Yes, another Mad Men-related post. What are you gonna do about it? Just please don’t take this opportunity to spoil me on what was apparently a brilliant episode last night, because I am a season and a half behind. This post pulls some stuff from season 4, I think, but not enough to bother me. Betty is pretty much a shoo-in for least-liked character on the show, and Canote certainly doesn’t whitewash any of her frankly horrible behavior throughout the show, but he does take the opportunity to psychoanalyze her a little bit, in terms of her family background, life with Don, and the social atmosphere of the ’60s. I don’t always agree with psychoanalytical approaches, but this one manages to discuss an awful lot about the show in general, and the way the writers have set Betty up to be the person she is.

Memories of Midnight Movies by Will McKinley at The Cinementals

A simply delightful post, relating Will’s experience with midnight movies on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s. He discusses the midnight movie phenomenon in general, even though he was too young at the time to really be a part of it, and the first time his dad took him to a midnight movie – not Rocky Horror Picture Show or Eraserhead, though those were two of the films to popularize the concept in the late ’70s – but a midnight screening of classic Three Stooges movies. I guess we know why Will’s a Cinemental!

Pioneers of the Corman Film School by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

Alex reminds us that without Roger Corman, we’d be unlikely to have the many of the most talented directors of the past few decades, and New Hollywood itself probably would’ve been a very different time. Known for his low budget, quickly shot B movies, Corman used his studio AIP to give young directors a shot at making films the same way he did – quick and dirty. But by giving them the freedom they needed, he ended up launching careers for people like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and more. Alex runs through a bunch of these directors, talking a bit about the films they made for AIP and what they went on to do later. Thank you, Mr. Corman, for your contribution to American cinema.

Playing by Different Rules: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray by Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films

Classic Hollywood loved to pair the same actors together over and over again, with many costarring teams becoming almost inextricably linked – Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Marilyn Ferdinand points out that Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray costarred no fewer than three times together (not quite as often as those other teams, granted, but still a decent amount), and yet all their films are so decidedly different that it’s tough to consider them a “team” in the same way as some of the others. She takes a look at these three films and at Stanwyck and MacMurray’s performances in them.

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Noteworthy News

  • Nicole Kidman will play Grace Kelly in an upcoming film from Olivier Dahan (La vie en rose) – if you don’t believe that’s great casting, just watch her in The Others and get back to me
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t be in Django Unchained after all; he has a scheduling conflict due to his directorial debut. That’s a good reason, I think, but still.
  • Apparently Greta Gerwig is a director now, with a surprise film headed for festivals this fall
  • David Michôd’s debut Animal Kingdom turned a lot of heads, including in Hollywood, but he’s following it up with another small Australian film – good for him, and I’ll be there to watch it
  • Vincenzo Natali is set to follow the underrated Splice with backwards ghost story Haunters, with Abigail Breslin in the lead

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The Golden Age of Inappropriate Behavior in Movie Theatres by Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running

With a recent study coming out suggesting that over 50% of young theater goers would like to be able to text in movie theatres, a bunch of film blogs have offered their opinions on the subject, mostly aghast at the idea. Glenn Kenny doesn’t directly disagree, but offers a very entertaining account of attending rowdy second run theatres in the ’70s as background for why he can’t get very worked up over the whole texting thing. He does bring up an interesting point, insomuch as our tendency to complain about current audiences implicitly suggests that audiences used to be much more polite and respectful, which my research doesn’t bear out any more than Glenn’s experience, but I still think there’s a difference. The audiences he’s describing (besides being at second run theatres) are at least still engaged either with the movie or with each other – it maintains a communal experience that clearly generates memorable stories. Texting on the one hand isolates the texter from the audience around them and imposes the texter’s non-movie, non-communal activity on those around them, and generates nothing memorable in return. Still, Glenn’s point that there is no mythical “golden age” of perfect cinema audiences is well-taken.

The Films of Billy Wilder: A Retrospective by The Playlist

Billy Wilder is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’m far from alone; as The Playlist mentions in the opening paragraph, The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius thanked only one former filmmaker in his Oscar speech, and that was Billy Wilder. The man made a few mediocre films, but he has an extraordinarily consistent output of great films, and The Playlist goes through them all chronologically, with a well-written and informative paragraph about each one.

The Cinementals Episode 3: Scott McGee by Carley & Will at The Cinementals

I’ve known Carley before thanks to her blog The Kitty Packard Pictorial, and Will on Twitter, and now they’ve joined forces with some other classic movie fans to create The Cinementals, what looks to be an invaluable classic film site. They’re already off to a strong start with one of the best classic film podcasts I’ve heard, and this episode is particularly solid thanks to special guest Scott McGee, a producer at TCM (he produces a lot of the promotional and tribute videos that play between films on the network). With the TCM Classic Film Festival looming, they talk a bunch about that, but also about Scott’s experience seeing the Napoleon restoration in San Francisco, the fight to save Pickfair Studios, and more.

Perils, Pitfalls, and Predicaments Galore: The Silent Serial Queens by Brandie at True Classics

A major stereotype of silent film serials is the damsel in distress threatened by a mustachioed villain – as parodied in Dudley Do-Right, for example. But actually, an awful lot of early serials had female heroines, who were often quite capable of taking care of themselves. Brandie runs down a few of the most prominent (the only one I’d heard of before was The Perils of Pauline) ones. Of course, there were also plenty of male-centric serials in the teens (Les Vampires, etc.) and even more into the 1930s, when comic strip-type adventure heroes took over. But that’s a topic for another time.

Veneration and Its Discontents by Doug Dibbern at MUBI

It’s old news at this point that film studios are planning to go all-digital in the near future, but many cinephiles are still conflicted about the inevitable shift from film to digital. I’m conflicted myself, and Doug Dibbern does a great job of articulating the myriad of feelings we have about this. Taking the occasion of a demo of a DCP film shown side-by-side with its 35mm counterpart, Dibbern points out that part of our concern is an irrational veneration for physical, as if “the film” (in a Platonic sense) exists there more purely than anywhere else, as if different prints and different screenings weren’t already unique due to many different factors. As he says, DCP projection is often excellent, and it’s hard to find rational reasons to complain…but as he finishes in a more elegiac tone: “I know it’s not rational to revere film as a manifestation of a Platonic ideal, but that misplaced reverence, irrational as it is, may be why we were all drawn to art in the first place.”

The New Cinematic Dystopia of The Hunger Games by Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

Holding Out for a Hero: Katniss and the New (Female) Role Model by Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg at Twitch

I’m putting these two together, both very worthwhile articles about the newest box office blockbuster, The Hunger Games. I finally saw it this weekend, so I got to read all the articles about it. These do both contain spoilers. Palmer points out that while many dystopian stories go from ignorance to knowledge to action, while The Hunger Games eschews the ignorance portion – even with the prevalent and misleading media, Katniss knows that the system is bad, she just needs a call to action and an opportunity to take it. Meanwhile, Rowan-Legg talks about Katniss the character as a hero, specifically in the tradition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, suggesting that it both does and doesn’t matter than she’s female. It’s a good, strong reading of a well-written and well-played character.

More Links!

  • Dan at Public Transportation Snob catches up with In the Mood for Love, and gives it an extremely solid review
  • Ed Howard at Only the Cinema highlights Castaways from Turtle Rock from overlooked New Wave director Jacques Rozier – I admit that I’ve not heard of Rozier, but I’m intrigued now
  • Bilge Ibiri at They Live by Night reprints an article about Jacques Rivette’s notoriously difficult to find 13-hour film Out 1 – and makes me want to seek it out myself
  • Steve at 1001 Plus gets to Magnolia, which is easily my favorite PT Anderson film – Steve liked it too, though his commenters are mixed. πŸ™‚
  • Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films liked John Carter quite a lot, and writes it up in his usual extremely compelling way – I was already curious, but now I actually really want to see it
  • Tyler at Southern Vision writes up INLAND EMPIRE as one of his all-time favorite films, an estimation I agree with whole-heartedely
  • Emil at A Swede Talks Movies picks 9 Director-Actor Teamups he wants to see – great choices all across the spectrum; who would you want to work together?
  • The Playlist picks out both actors and actresses they think are on the rise in 2012 – lots of these people I haven’t even heard of, but I’ll be looking out for them now!
  • Martin Scorsese recommends these 39 foreign films to an aspiring filmmaker. I’ve seen 23 of them; how about you?
  • Stevee Taylor of Cinematic Paradox bemoans the state of current DVD shops, from an insider’s persective
  • Over at Comic Alliance, Lauren Davis wonders if Batman has a moral obligation to kill the Joker (in the comics) and brings in noted philosophical positions to argue it out

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