Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood

I never understood Clint Eastwood. He was a Republican, a member of Young Celebrities for Nixon when he was in his 40s. Now he's endorsed Mitt Romney and gave a bizarre, rambling speech at the Republican convention.

But Eastwood has always been incredibly foul-mouthed, and for a long time I noticed that nearly every movie he directed had a rape scene. How many times was his girlfriend, Sandra Locke, raped in his movies? Dirty Harry was initially given an X rating. They had to make cuts to get an R rating.

I don't think the fact that he's 82 had much to do with it. He's not a comedian. He doesn't do improv. When has he ever ad libbed? When has he even appeared on stage? Speeches aren't his thing, and he decided it would be a good idea to do something "creative".

I looked at Google news this morning and Clint Eastwood's appearance was the top story, not Romney's speech where he called for war with Syria and Iran and threatened Russia. He ridiculed global warming and called for the US to be even more servile to Israel.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rubio's father was an idiot

Marco Rubio is on TV as I write this, introducing Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention.

Rubio is talking a lot about his Cuban parents who, he falsely claimed, fled the revolution there.

His father had polio as a child. He couldn't perform manual labor. So his parents sent him to school. He was the only one in his family who went to school. He was the only one who could read. Then he came to the United States where he had to work two jobs and would come staggering home exhausted each day.

And, therefore, we should hate Castro?

How is this story of his father growing up in abject poverty in capitalist Cuba an attack on Communism? How was he doing anything but making a case for Communism? Is that what Rubio and his ilk want Cuba to go back to---child labor and illiteracy? How is his polio-stricken father working 18 hour days in Florida praise for corporate capitalism?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tom Cruise is awful

Tom Cruise is a very bad actor. I can't stand him and don't watch his movies, so I forget how really awful he is. But today I saw him for a minute or so in A Few Good Men where he does his trademark scientologist thing---he throws a tantrum and starts yelling "funny" things.

And according to the comments on the YouTube clip, the rubes think this is fine acting.

He does this crap in all his other movies. Did he do it in his blowing-up-Hitler movie, too?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Prince Harry

"Prince" Harry was photographed naked in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

Well, it's none of my business.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Don't have much sympathy for Pussy Riot

Finally bothered to watch a video of the punk rock "band" Pussy Riot desecrating a Russian Orthodox church. Hooliganism is the right word for it. What a repulsive group. Claiming that they weren't trying to offend anyone is absurd. They went in and filmed this thing for YouTube. Women in the church resisted being filmed while a man was politely asking the "band" to leave the altar. One gets on her knees and crosses herself. And now they've put this out as a single, their one and only CD. How many gigs has this "band" ever played? Not even their apologists refer to them as "musicians".

The Nation magazine defended them on the basis of political statements they made in letters from jail. It's possible that Pussy Riot is made up of brilliant political intellectuals, but that has nothing to do with it. I'd have more sympathy for them if they were dullards. 

Defenders of Pussy Riot get mad if you compare them to the Dixie Chicks and the actions taken against them because they spoke out against Bush. It's completely different, they say, because the Dixie Chicks weren't criminally charged. Of course, that was because the Dixie Chicks didn't commit a crime. Pussy Riot did.

I knew two people in Oregon who were on trial, facing 20 years in prison, charged with first degree arson for burning a strip of yellow cloth as part of a political protest. The judge ruled that this constituted arson because the scrap of bedsheet was a "thing of value". In fact, if they had burned it in their fireplace at home, it still would have been "arson". Burning a scrap of cloth was no different from burning down a building.

A Pussy Riot supporter wrote write an article on the Counterpunch website. He wrote in response to an earlier article pointing out the hypocrisy of the U.S. press defending Pussy Riot when they don't do the same for people in the U.S. The original article was narrowly focused on the US press, but the Pussy Riot supporter took it as an attack on the "band". He said this was "ignorant" and that the history of Russian punk rock was somehow relevant to whether invading and desecrating a church was a crime.

"The band members have been pulling stunts like this since their teens," the guy wrote, "their most infamous previous stunts include filming themselves kissing subway police and a media-invitation public orgy." He didn't mention that these "feminists" also filmed a woman performing a sex act with a frozen chicken in a supermarket.

What clever girls.

As they were being led from the courtroom, one of the girls said "We are happy because we brought the revolution closer!"

"Well done," the cop said.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

All those camera at the Olympics

There was a Richard Pryor concert movie. It started out with a guy walking back and forth in front of the stage with an instamatic camera taking picture after picture of Pryor who was on stage yelling at the idiot to sit down. Pryor told him he'd go to his friends and say, "I got pictures of Richard Pryor!" and they'd say, "So what?"

I started to realize that snapshots didn't make sense. Why take pictures of things like celebrities and landmarks when you can see infinitely better, commercially produced pictures of the same thing?

When my sister and mother dragged me off to see Bill Clinton back when he was running for president, they demanded that I bring a camera and take a picture of him.

"What for? There are thousands of pictures of him. Millions."

But they insisted. I got a picture of his hair. There was a big crowd there and I wasn't going to push my way to the front.

It's a lesson those Olympic athletes should have learned. You watch the opening of the games, most of the athletes and most everyone else involved walked along carrying a cell phone camera or a little video camera. I've never been able to get very good footage while walking. I think they should have designated one athlete as videographer or exchanged cameras. Each athlete would film on another athlete's camera. That way there was a chance that they could get pictures of themselves on their own videos.

The Japanese team defied stereotype---none of them had a camera.

They should have asked people to record it at home, and maybe got some footage of stuff behind the scenes that no one would see otherwise.

Rowan Atkinson made fun of it while doing his bit in the opening, holding a cell phone as he did his bit.

And, really. There were some guys using old standard def Flip camceras. You're at the Olympics! A once-in-a-lifetime thing! At least get a high definition camera!

Dialog's too hard! Just make silent movies!

One time, there was a message on the DUMPS message board--this was a website that listed the things they didn't like about student films.

A bitter film student wrote that he ran up a huge credit card bill---I believe it was around $40,000---making a film. That was in the days before digital video, but even filming on 16mm it was a lot of money.

He said that he noticed that the problem with acting was the dialog. Actors were much more convincing if they didn't have to say their lines, and he was right. So he made a silent film about a girl preparing to leave home. Okay.

But he gave the impression that it had no sound at all----no music. Nothing. When he submitted it to film festivals, they sent it back with notes saying, "Did you know this doesn't have any sound?"

The poor guy was right to make a silent film, but he should have put some music on it and maybe threw in something in voice over.

Look at Guy Maddin's movie, "The Dead Father", an early short of his. The star of the movie was interviewed. He said that there wasn't any real acting involved----the performances in it were very good, but they weren't difficult for the actors because it was almost entirely silent with a voice over narration. Robert Rodriguez's "Bedhead" was made the same way, silent with voice-over narration.

You also solve the problem of bad writing which reveals itself primarily in the form of bad dialog.

These movies with voice-over narration in lieu of synchronized sound were made, I would guess, because of the difficulty of recording live sound with a noisy cine camera running. Now that everyone's using digital video, recording live sound is easy but filmmakers face the far greater challenge of acting and writing dialog.

Right now, people are complaining that camcorder manufacturers are saving money by getting rid of external mic jacks. You're stuck using the relatively bad built in mic.

Maybe this isn't such a bad thing. You shouldn't be using sound anyway. Put on some music, add an occasional subtitle or intertitle. Your movie will be better for it.

There's Guy Maddin who justifies making silent movies by doing them in the manner of Soviet Experimental Cinema, and we have the recent movie The Artist, a silent movie about a silent film star. But you might look at the silent films of George and Mike Kuchar. Mike Kuchar's Sin of the Fleshapoids was a silent film set "a million years" in the future. Even when they switched to video, the Kuchars still did some silent movies.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Don't write mean things on

Don't say nice things, either.

Here's a transcript of a radio interview with Guy Maddin from Winnipeg radio station: The interviewer's side of the conversation is in bold:
", I don't read my own press other than that. It's just too horrible. Even the favorable press somehow feels wrong, fills me with Lutheran shame and guilt."

"Even the New York people are prone to do that, too, you know."

"Is that right."

"Yeah....they sometimes kind of miss the boat on your films, I would say. You know---"


"imdb casual researching..."

"I've learned long ago not to read anything written on imdb, like in the reviews section. I'll check imdb for facts all the time, but---"


"--comments, and I don't mean---"

"I'm not talking about the links off external reviews, that's what I'm saying---"

", reviews of my stuff or of any stuff unless I just need kind of a plot summary from something. But the sorry grammar and the really lousy use of the first person singular all the time in the reviews--'I for one, if you like this sort of thing, you will, too...' and, I don't know, it's just so sad but, you know, why pick on the poor basement boys who are using up the space on imdb..."

"You're thumbing your nose at the user comments, because I was talking about the external reviews. But I guess these people are also your champions sometimes."

"I know. That's what depresses me. But, uh, no, no, they're well-meaning and a lot of times---I don't know---no, uh, I don't read them so I don't know. I've only read ten---I think I spent one night where I just got so masochistically drawn into the reviews like quicksand and I couldn't get out of them and it just left me feeling so horrible."

"Well, you know, you've got to do an ego search now and then and---but I---I just didn't realize how many people hated me. But then even the people that supposedly loved me seemed---it was hard to tell them apart from the people that hated me. And, I don't know, it's just not that--just---especially when you're doing these autobiographical films, there's already----you can make yourself sick of yourself and then you realize how sick of you some other people are, too.  You don't really need that."

Well, at least he refers to people of my ilk as "basement boys" and not "Mr Fatty Fuck sitting in his basement", as Lewis Black once did. It seems rather cruel for wealthy celebrities to attack those who live in basements.

I only posted one thing on imdb. It was a positive review. But, strangely, I felt guilty about it.

But now that I think about it... 

You can say anything you want about Guy Maddin now. He won't read it.

I like his movies. Most of them. I liked his silent movies better than his sound movies.

He's sort of Peter Bogdanovich-like in that he works in the manner of past filmmakers, although he reaches further back and further away to Soviet Experimental Cinema and German mountain films.

On his silent films, as I understand it, Maddin had several Super 8 camera running at once. Sort of like Desi Arnaz's three-camera system gone berserk. And it must have cost a fortune. Using a single 35mm camera would have saved a lot on film. I noticed that Sullivan Brown, the young boy actor who starred in Brand Upon the Brain, got credit as a cameraman on the movie. You can do the same thing now very cheaply----buy some high definition camcorders for $25 each (refurbished) and have several running for each scene.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cheap versions of better films

Okay, I wrote a bit about a semi-mumblecore film, True Adolescents, which I characterized as a "poor man's About a Boy".

Maybe that's the way to go. Strive to make a movie that will be a poor man's version of some better movie. But you'd have to borrow the movie's basic theme and little else.

Like True Grit. A horrible girl coaxes a murderous drunk to take revenge for her.

Star Wars. A whiney adolescent joins a reactionary political group intent on restoring a royal family to power by blowing up a large object and killing thousands of people.

Easy Rider. A pair of drug dealers can't understand why people don't like them.

Animal House. Obnoxious, underachieving college students feel persecuted by their more successful peers.

Natural Born Killers. A below-average couple becomes famous but gains nothing from it.

Shane. A guy with some history of violence moves in with a family and eventually kills people for them. (Like Slingblade.)

Gone With the Wind. A husband can't understand why his aggressive, self-centered wife is in love with a sensitive wimp who's already married.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.A mild mannered dentist tries to be reasonable, but when people respond unkindly to him, he decides to show them what kind of man they're dealing with and becomes overly aggressive.

Monday, August 6, 2012

True Grit

Kim Darby was twenty-two when she played tweenager Mattie Ross in the first version of True Grit with John Wayne. But she seemed more innocent than actual 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld in the 2010 version with Jeff Bridges. Darby wanting to see her father's killer brought to justice was more touching than Hailee's blood thirsty drive for revenge.

It made me think of the movie Bad Company starring a much, much younger Jeff Bridges as leader of a group of juvenile delinquents in Kansas during the Civil War. The criminals in the movie were the least threatening characters. The marshal and his men were killers, which wasn't surprising, But the farmers and settlers were terrible. They were cold blooded and vengeful. There's one shocking scene that shows how bad they were.

I never liked westerns because of the ugly clothes, the uninviting desert landscapes, the illiterates whose only recreation was hanging around in bars and whose greatest ambition is to some day own a ranch. True Grit had none of that stuff. It made the old west look pretty nice. People were educated and spoke really good English, criminal defendants had lawyers who aggressively cross-examined witnesses and people threatened to sue each other rather than threatening violence. There were no barroom brawls. Kind of a nice setting, too. They weren't out sweating in the desert. But you really want to live among people like Mattie Ross?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

True Adolescents

Watched another one. Don't think is qualified as "mumblecore" exactly. It had character development and a narrative arc. Filmed on Super 16. I don't know what it cost.

An immature unemployed 30-year-old would-be musician takes his fourteen-year-old nephew and his friend camping.

Sort of a poor man's About a Boy.

Mumblecore again. Uncle Kent

Wes Craven said that, after he made Last House on the Left, it was so offensive that his friends wouldn't let him near their children.

Kind of like these mumblecore movies. I wouldn't leave a child alone with these people. I wouldn't want to be around them either.

Watched another one called Uncle Kent.

Kent invites a woman he met online to come over for the weekend. They talk a lot about masturbation and she makes out with another woman while he watches.

Like the others, I thought it looked fine. People complain about the technical aspects of these movies, but they seem okay to me. The form's good. It's the content that's hard to take.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Clint Eastwood, Mitt Romney

Long ago, there was a small group called Young Celebrities for Nixon. The "young celebrities" were a former Miss America, the head of Young Republicans, and Clint Eastwood who was forty.

Now Eastwood is 82 and he has endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

Well, good for Mitt. I hope he'll stop hanging around Donald Trump now.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Puffy Chair (2005)

I didn't care for this movie, either. I thought it looked pretty good technically. Made by two brothers with twenty thousand of their parents' dollars. About a horrible, horrible young man who wants to take a recliner to his father for his birthday. He threatens an upholsterer to force him to reupholster it. I know a few upholsterers. Reupholstering a chair costs about as much as buying a new one if it's done right. You don't save much money that way. And I can't imagine any of them being intimidated by some rich puke.

I don't know what's wrong with these people. I'm watching the conclusion as I write this. The girl cries as she breaks up with her boyfriend. She should be happy. A horrible, obnoxious egomaniacal monkey is off her her back.

You see----this is what happens. You have rich kids getting money from their parents to make movies like this.

Parents who try to force their children into show business have gotten a bad rap, but it's young people who demand that their parents bankroll their movies who should be scorned.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Pleasure of Being Robbed

A year or two ago, there were some large protests at the university here. It was mostly anarchists protesting against a discussion group led by a 96-year-old retired professor. The professor had been a conscientious objector in World War Two. The discussion group started as a pacifist group, but some new people had joined and became dominant and the group became increasingly racist.

The protests went on for weeks. They had no real effect and people were losing interest. So some anarchists set off stink bombs in the meeting room. Campus security was there and knocked them down as they tried to run out of the building. All but one was cited and released. One, a young woman, had an outstanding warrant on a theft charge and went to jail. It was after five p.m. on a Friday. She spent the weekend in jail.

I googled her name. She was from a small town, had won statewide science awards in high school. She seemed to have had a bright future.But now, if anyone did an internet search for her, the first thing they'd see is her arrest for theft.

Her anarchist friends didn't help. The posted her full name, first middle and last, and called on people to call the jail and demand that she be released, as if it were up to the deputies working on the weekend to decide.

What went wrong for this poor girl? One of her old friends posted a comment on the news site saying that she had known her since she they were in school and whatever she did, she loves her.

I watched the 2008 movie, The Pleasure of Being Robbed, about a young woman in her 20s who goes around stealing from people in New York City. The movie offered no explanation or insight. She was a horrible person. I was sorry nobody shot her. It was worse when she was being charming.

Filmed in 16mm. I don't know what it cost. 

I posted a blog recently complaining about young aspiring filmmakers who have no interest in extreme low budget movies. Then I watch movies like this and wonder if they're the reason.

I thought The Pleasure of Being Robbed was fine technically. It just needed a story and some sort of character development, maybe an explanation or at least a hint of how the girl ended up the way she did. And if someone had shot her it sure wouldn't have hurt anything either.

Gore Vidal, RIP

I was reading a book by Gore Vidal----a collection of essays. He mentioned in it that people today prefer reading books about novels to reading novels, which bothered me a bit because it was, at least at that point, true in my case. I had never read anything by Alain Robbe-Grillet, but a few months later, when a friend of mine told me about an unpleasant encounter he had with Robbe-Grillet in Europe, I was able to say that I knew who he was because I had read Gore Vidal's essay responding to Robbe-Grillet's essay on how to revive the novel as an art form.

Gore Vidal has died at age 86. He worked as a screenwriter, a novelist, he wrote essays and was commentator. He appeared on TV with William F Buckley, Jr, commenting on the Democratic National Convention in '68. Buckley said that anti-war protesters were like Nazis. Vidal told him that the only there who was a Nazi, crypto or otherwise, was Buckley. Buckley got his panties in a bunch and started sputtering. I don't remember his exact words. It's on You Tube. Buckley said to stop calling him a crypto Nazi, called Vidal a "queer" and physically threatened him, then said that he wrote pornography.

Vidal criticized Israel and was predictably smeared as an anti-semite. He appears in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans in which Kerouac hints at the fact that he slept with him.

He was one of the writers for the movie Ben Hur. There was a problem with the story. It made no sense. The story was that, when Ben Hur (Charelton Heston) was a teenager, he was friends with a Roman name Messala (Stephen Boyd). When Messala returns to Palestine years later, he meets up with Ben Hur, they have two minute political disagreement, and for the next twenty years Messala persecutes Ben Hur and his family.

Vidal came up with an explanation for this inexplicable plot. He decided that, as teenagers, Ben Hur and Messala had been lovers. When they meet again, Messala wants to resume their relationship but Ben Hur isn't interested. This is what sets him off.

Vidal told this to Stephen Boyd that's how he played the scene. Charelton Heston was not told.

Since I talked about Chad Everett's Dick Cavett Show appearance, I guess I should talk about how Gore faced down the slightly drunken Norman Mailer. Vidal had written about Mailer in the New York Review of Books and Mailer was unhappy. He thought Vidal had made a subtle reference to Mailer's spousal abuse.

"I'm beginning to see what bothers you now," Vidal said. "I'm getting the point."

"Are you ready to apologize?" Mailer said.

"I would apologize if it hurt your feelings, of course I would."

"No, it hurts my sense of intellectual pollution."

"Well, I must say, as an expert, you would know."

And, finally, I saw some film of Vidal and his friend, Kurt Vonnegut. Vidal had just acted in the movie Bob Roberts and did pretty well. Vonnegut said that he had been in a movie, too----he appeared briefly in Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield. Vidal said that they had offered him the role first, but he told them that under no circumstances would he do a nude scene.