My Thoughts On…The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen

I read a great interview with Julianne Moore in this month’s Little White Lies and wanted to watch Boogie Nights as a result. I couldn’t, because whoever I lent it to years ago put Reservoir Dogs back in this case instead. I wasn’t in the mood for Reservoir Dogs.

I decided on Baron Munchausen which went on my Netflix list after Robin Williams passed away and I heard his WFT podcast with Marc Maron. That got me into Maron’s podcast as it happens and is symptomatic of much of my recent viewing choice.

It’s been a mix of things I’m reviewing and films from people I’ve been listening to on Maron’s, Bret Easton Ellis’s and Brian Koppleman’s podcasts. I like listening to people speak about their work and then seeking that work out, seeing if there’s anything to be learned from, evaluating or re-evaluating work with new contexts.

Anyway, that’s why it was on the list and it felt worlds away from Boogie Nights so there you have it. Long enough preamble this time?

Ach.

There are so many incredible physical effects and feats of cinema in this film it’s mind-blowing. Such artistry and dedication to a tactile, visual experience. You feel like you are in the story, always aware it’s a story but never unrewarding in that regard. It’s too long sure, but that’s the only real flaw for me. It’s magical, funny, charming and crammed with imagination and adventure. They don’t make them like this anymore, they use CGI, even Gilliam doesn’t and his work and the whole of cinema is lesser because of it. I don’t think it’s a generational thing, I think it’s a story thing. A physicality that connects us to the source and makes us dream and journey and connect. 

My Thoughts On…What Richard Did

It has a different feel for sure, and you can sense the move to digital but there’s still so much that is in the same ballpark as Adam & Joe and Garage. There’s the light touch that slowly gives way to dread but there’s a different maturity at play.

Things ebb and flow more, they go in one direction and then shuffle to a different path. It’s a step on, away, but part of the same lineage despite a shift into privilege.

It’s deeply unsettling, feels natural and relatable in so many ways and alien and saddening in others.

The lead casting is interesting. It works, just. But feels like it was forced upon the film rather than organic. Still, minor quibbles, another piece of masterful Irish cinema.

My Thoughts On…Only Lovers Left Alive

So much to write, so much to say, so much to drink in. It’s no exaggeration to say a warm feeling came over me as the film unfolded and the long wait was over. 

Despite proclamations regarding the death of American cinema I think it’s been a pretty good year and I knew that this wouldn’t disappoint, and it didn’t. 

It’s drily funny as expected, effortlessly cool but also with a caustic bitterness that feels more direct than previously. Like The Limits of Control it feels antagonistic in its pace and pretentiousness, as if daring critics and audiences to take umbrage, their loss of interest and appreciation seemingly of no great consequence. 

It’s a satire on contemporary society and the access to everything from history instantly culture that still results in apathy and boredom and ultimately an alienation from feeling. There are themes of regret, connection, desperation and isolation coupled with pragmatism, the modern condition(s). There’s a dialogue with the ‘real’, the old, the tactile. Sadness, love, black humour. 

Life, death, the curse of consciousness. 

Love the Stax line, love the visit to Jack White’s house. Love the score.

Love it all.

My Thoughts On…Serpico

In order to get the taste of Smaug out of my eyes I decided to head back to the source, or one of them, of my cinematic formation, Lumet.

The films of Lumet are like old friends in that returning to their presence is comforting and they remind you of what matters, why you do what you do, what this form can be, what it should aspire to be more than it does.

Serpico is one of those films, like Paths of Glory, that makes me angry, because it’s a stark and true representation of so much of what is wrong with the world. The struggle to be good, to be decent because all around you is corrupt and evil. The deafness of power. This alone would be tough were it not for the fear that being decent and good inspires in those wishing to be vampiric and self-interested.

What I love about this film is how it’s beyond a tale of corporate and political and institutional corruption. It’s a film about the threat of difference to established order. It’s a coruscating treatise on the inability to be yourself in a society overrun by people not only afraid of themselves but determined to crush anyone who isn’t. 

Does it make me sad? Yes, and angry. But not unhopeful. Despite so much evidence to the contrary I still believe in movies and I still believe in humanity and I still try whenever possible, to be true to myself.

God bless Lily! Big fan here! @KatieMcCullough

dogsontrains:

Don’t worry! Pug/Chihuahua cross Lily on her first train trip. With @KatieMcCullough on the train to Brighton.

It’s great. Fran’s great. School of Rock is great.

itsfrantastic:

brightwalldarkroom:

School of Rock is beautiful in many ways because it plays out like a fantasy film. Of course it’s not realistic. Of course that’s not how educators should behave. It’s not real, but you want it to be real. I watched School of Rock in my early teens and wanted to be part of it. I wanted music to be as magical for me as it was to the kids in the film. I wanted it to save my life, but instead it became my life. I became a percussion score on a piece of paper.

That’s the thing about rock ‘n roll, Dewey explains. You don’t win at it. You can do a thing called Battle of the Bands and you can win a big check, but you’re never really winning at music. It’s not a competition. It’s about how it makes you feel. For the kids in School of Rock, music is liberating. It opens up a snooty, private school education into something bigger and better that allows the students to express themselves. You learn how to create and build something that is both yours and not yours. Music is about sharing. It’s about giving something away to someone else.”

—Fran Hoepfner on School of Rock

(Bright Wall/Dark Room, Issue #16, September 2014)

I wrote this thing & it was very personal for me.

My Thoughts On…The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Brace yourselves.

This is everything that is wrong with cinema as both an art form and as entertainment. Bloated, self-loving, arduous, boring, riddled with flaws and an unearned pretentiousness that leads to a complete lack of care in the fates of any of the characters.

It’s so long.

Smaug falls for the oldest trick in the book.

Orlando Bloom appears entirely in CGI it seems. Bad CGI at that. In the many pointless action sequences it is like watching a friend play a computer game. That is as dull as it sounds.

Gandalf still does everything really slowly. He talks slowly, he turns slowly. He’s younger than in LOTR but has seemingly forgotten he is a wizard. The movie would be 90 minutes if he turned round at normal pace.

'The desperation of smug' - Peter Jackson is the first face that chomps across the screen with his ego bursting out at 48fps. I wanted to punch my TV.

Everyone still spends the whole time explaining everything. What has happened, what will happen, what is happening now. Constant announcements of what we are seeing or have seen or will see or what happened 1000 years ago. 

Thorin actually says ‘The path turns this way’ before turning. It’s not dark. And none of the dwarves are blind. 

Gandalf says ‘The forest will seek to lead you astray’. Bilbo the village idiot replies ‘What does that mean?’. I MEAN COME ON!

It’s so long.

My Thoughts On…Electra Glide In Blue

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Masterpiece. Pure and simple.

I can’t believe it took me so long to watch it. It was a mythical film to me growing up. I can’t remember where I heard about it, maybe Uni when doing my dissertation, but it’s been a film I have been longing to see for years. I assumed it was still unavailable because there has never been a big fanfare for any release - there should be a Criterion of this film that’s for sure. 

From the opening sequence the confidence is staggering. It’s bravura and utterly its own beast. It has its own world, its own rhythm and every frame and line is perfect.

It’s dirty, sleazy, beautiful. Its use of the iconic Monument Valley to evoke cowboys and Western moralities is effortless.

It’s a sad story of idealism, cruelty, ambition and destiny. It’s funny and gripping with an amazing score - I picked up the reissued soundtrack on vinyl a few years back which only piqued my desire more.

Now, my life is complete. What a movie. One of the best American movies of the 70s. And that’s saying something I know. Cinematic perfection.  

And that end shot. The best.

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My Thoughts On…Julia

The belligerence is almost admirable. It’s a monumental middle finger to its contemporary releases delivered by a member of Cinema’s old guard desperately clinging to his idea of what the art-form is, bellowing it from the rooftop.

Released at the height of the New Hollywood boom this is Fred Zinnemann’s (fingers in his ears  and la la la-ing!) presentation of a filmmaking style that was always arch and complicated, the melodrama, at a time when Hollywood was churning out Jaws, Taxi Driver, Nashville et al.

It’s supposed to be melodrama and thriller. I think. I know it’s neither.

It’s shouty, it’s creaky, it’s slow (without atmosphere, portent or point), it’s horribly self-important and manages to make fascist resistance at the the height of the Third Reich tepid and yawn-some. Goodness knows what Jane Fonda was thinking. Maybe she, like us, expected more from the man who directed High Noon and From Here To Eternity.

Although, what is sadly clear, is that those films are perfect thanks to their context, and this is evidence of a man out of touch with the context and unable to adapt. The result is excruciating and borderline unwatchable. 

My Thoughts On…Glengarry Glen Ross

This film used to mean so much to me when I was starting to write films and plays. I was a young man hot for Mamet’s blistering verbosity and believed that a plethora of words needed to be at the centre of cinematic writing. I’ve since realised I talk too much, verbally and on the page. It’s a habit I’m trying to kick.

Has it diminished my love for the movie? Not a jot. It’s a rollicking tour de force of masculine ego, bursting with amazing performances and brilliant lines. It’s heavy with dread, rage, tension, sadness, failure, desperation and it’s over in a flash but it leaves a scar.

My Thoughts On…Drums Along The Mohawk

There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s earnest, it is perfectly paced, it’s beautifully shot, the performances are superb. As you’d expect from John Ford.

It’s me. I know it. I just never really liked Ford. Maybe I never really loved the classic Western. I love some of them, but Ford’s have often left me cold. This is enjoyable, despite the raft of stereotypes in place of real characters, and especially because of the feisty female characters rising to the occasion as men fight amongst themselves.