Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ray Carney, the Pragmatic Aesthetic

I read a text book on film studies long ago. It explained one theoretical approach to judging film. But then it went on to explain that, under this theory, McQ with John Wayne was the ideal film. It exemplified each of the criteria it used to judge movies.

McQ was John Wayne's answer to Dirty Harry.

I don't remember the theory but it still might have been good. I saw a truly awful Soviet experimental film one time, and if there isn't a really terrible Italian Neo-Realist film somewhere, it's because they didn't make enough of them. I've seen personal films that were the work of genuine auteurs which still stunk.

I mention this because I read an article by Ray Carney explaining the "Pragmatic Aesthetic" he advocates.

It made sense to me, although I can't say I've liked most of the movies I've seen that exemplify the pragmatic aesthetic. Hated a lot of them, really liked others.

Of course, the people who made these movies did so without benefit of Carney's theorizing. He pointed to the films of John Cassavetes and to Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief. Practice comes before theory---at least before Carney's theory. Cassavetes and De Sica had no problem explaining what they did and why.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Opera, pre-World War One silent film

 For a long time I've had a weird preference for pre-World War One silent films. They were made before they developed the "language of film". They tended to be crude, filmed entirely in long shot.

Then, last weekend, I was in my car. Went out to find a drive-through. The radio was on, some sort of travel show on NPR. Turned out to be Rick Steves. They had guy talking about opera.

The way to enjoy an opera is not to try to get its meaning from the words which you probably won't understand anyway. What you do is you read a synopsis of the thing before you go so you know what the story is. Then you sit back, relax and watch and listen.

It reminded me of a movie I watched, the 1911 Italian version of Dante's Inferno. It was done like every other movie of the era. Shot in long shot, with one long take per scene. And at the beginning of each scene was a long intertitle explaining what was going to happen.

 An example:
Dante imagines himself lost in a dark and gloomy wind. He sees the summit of a mountain lighted up by the sun. This is the hill of salvation which he endeavores to ascent.
We see the actor walking through the woods, lost until he looks up and sees----well, they don't actually show us what he sees. But he seems pleased.
Beatrice, the ideal of Dante, descends from Paradise into Limbo, and asks Virgil, a pious poet, to rescue and guide Dante.
Virgil reveals himself to Dante, delivers him from all danger and bids him to follow him into the portals of the Inferno.
The acting was rather exaggerated as you'd expect. But for some reason, this gave it a far greater feeling of realism than if it had been filmed with sound or in pantomime.

Maybe it's just me.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weird 1939 proto "torture porn"

Turned on a public domain B movie on Roku called Torture Ship (1939).

Based on a story by Jack London.

It looks like I watched an edited version. It jumped right into the story. The opening scene was some middle aged men hanging around in a room which turns out to be on a ship.

The opening lines:

"You guys want to get tortured?"

"Not me!"

"He can't get away with it!"

"What are we going to do?"

(I'm paraphrasing a little, but that's pretty close to the dialog.)

A mad scientist runs into legal trouble when he experiments on people in order to find a cure for criminality, so he takes some criminals on a ship where he can experiment on them in international waters.

This was apparently an abbreviated version of the movie. According to, the first scene is the scientist explaining to reporters outside the courtroom that criminality is a glandular disorder.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Detour, Edgar Ulmer vs. William Beaudine

I'm sitting here watching Detour. Better than the other Edgar Ulmer movies I've seen. I like William Beaudine's B movies better, although I've noticed he tends to have racist jokes in them.

Beaudine had been a silent movie director and had gone to Britain to work in the early '30s before returning to Hollywood. I just watched one of his British movies. A comedy about a teacher working in a prison. He gets a better job teaching in a British boarding school. I found it confusing because some of the actors playing the teenagers appeared to be in their 40s.

"Who's that guy? The janitor?" I thought. "Good lord! They're caning the janitor!"

I didn't realize that Detour had such an implausible plot.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frenchies try provoking Muslims

And now some French magazine is publishing cartoons of Mohammed. The drawings are reportedly offensive even if you aren't Muslim.

What exactly is the point?
“The paper ought to be condemned for what they’ve done. There’s no excuse for the reaction that it has set off but if you know you’re going to get that kind of hysterical reaction and you go about seeking to provoke it, then you yourself have to be questioned about your own motives and intentions,” Zogby said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Zogby, who is the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute and author of the book “Arab Voices,” said that it’s not enough to argue that Western principles of free speech apply.

“Of course you have the right to publish this in a free society, although, France has a much more restricted free speech mandate than the United States of America,” he explained. “But, on the other hand, the question is do you take advantage of that freedom if the purpose is purely to incite and purely to provoke and, therefore, one would say that discretion is the better part of valor in this instance.”
Read the full article here.

Provoking people is a simple enough thing to do. A moron in Los Angeles did it far more effectively than these French intellectuals. Cartoons of Mohammed have been done to death. None of them are funny or clever.

Jeff Sparrow wrote recently in about the movie, The Innocence of Muslims:
...Twentieth century race-baiters knew all about goading their victims into a certain response, and then using that response to justify a fresh pogrom. Not unexpectedly, German far-right extremists (who have some historical experience with this strategy) are now planning fresh screenings of the film.
Sparrow pointed out a historical analogy that had occurred to me as well:
In 1857, Bengali soldiers (known as ‘sepoys’) shot their British officers and marched upon Delhi. The Great Indian Rebellion became very violent, very quickly. The rebels massacred prisoners, including women and children; the British put down the revolt with a slaughter of unprecedented proportions.

Now, that rebellion began when the troops learned that their cartridges, designed to be torn open with their teeth, would be greased with beef and pork fat, an offence to the religious sensibilities of Hindus and Muslims alike. Had Twitter been an invention of the Victorian era, London sophisticates would, no doubt, have LOLed to each other (#sepoyrage!) about the credulity of dusky savages so worked up about a little beef tallow. Certainly, that was how the mouthpieces of the East India Company spun events: in impeccably Dawkinesque terms, they blamed ‘Hindoo prejudice’ for the descent of otherwise perfectly contented natives into rapine and slaughter.

But no serious historian today takes such apologetics seriously. Only the most determined ignoramus would discuss 1857 in isolation from the broader context of British occupation. In form, the struggle might have been religious; in content, it embodied a long-simmering opposition to colonial rule.
That’s why those who pretend the protests against The Innocence of Muslims came from nowhere merely reveal their own foolishness.
He referred in this quote to an anti-Muslim quip Richard Dawkins had re-tweeted.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Princes William & Harry

An Italian magazine is doing a 26 page spread of topless photos of Prince William's wife. The royal couple is already suing a French magazine for publishing the same pictures. French laws are somewhat more strict.

TMZ reports that the French publisher has hinted broadly that she has even better pictures of the royal couple that they had the good taste not to publish. Yet.

Now, California has a paparazzi law. According to a news report:
The law will allow photographers to be found liable for invasion of privacy if it is proved that they trespassed or used telephoto lenses to capture images of people engaging in personal or familial activity....
Does it specifically ban only telephoto lenses? Because there's a pretty good alternative to a telephoto lens. You take pictures with a large format film camera or an extremely high definition digital camera using a normal lens, then you enlarge the part you want. Same effect as a telephoto but it's still legal if what I read is correct.

It's fine with me. They can publish what they want. I never liked the Royal Family.

Prince Harry is now in Afghanistan. The Taliban launched an attack on the base he's in. They said they were going after that idiot Harry. Two Americans were killed and several wounded. All because Harry wants to be in a war.

And what was he doing naked in Las Vegas? Is he coming and going from Afghanistan at will? That other one---the Brit king who abdicated to marry a divorced American socialite---deserted the British Army when the Nazis invaded France.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Muslim-hating scumbags endanger actors

Okay, so apparently there's a porn director involved in the production of the movie, The Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Muslim movie that's triggered protests across the middle east. It was filmed in front of a green screen. The actors had no idea it what it was---they were given just a few pages of script at a time and the anti-Muslim dialog was crudely dubbed in after the fact.

I don't know if the Arabic language version is dubbed or subtitled. Either way, it's not going to be obvious to Arabic language viewers that it was dubbed in this way. The actors in the movie have their faces in this thing being shown all over the world. They certainly didn't agree to this.

As I said before, it's reported that the makers of this thing tried to draw Muslims to it when it was shown in a theater in Loa Angeles. They handed out fliers at mosques and gave it a title they imagined would attract them to it for some reason. No one showed up. So they posted the Arabic language version for You Tube.

They got exactly the reaction they wanted and endangered the lives of the actors in it. I said before that I didn't want the scum who produced and directed this thing to be harmed, but to hell with the bastards. If they wanted to attack Islam, they should have acted in the movie themselves or found like-minded actors willing to do it. One of these scumbags was pictured in the news in disguise, a scarf wrapped around his face, while the actors' faces are splashed all over the internet around the world.

It's also being reported that the porn director supposedly involved in this thing was apolitical, had no thoughts about Islam, and was most likely duped into it and didn't know they were going to redub it. And he may have had nothing to do with it at all. The convicted fraudster who produced the movie was also convicted of identity of theft and has a number of aliases. It's very likely the producers used the guy's name without his knowledge or consent.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Film vs video

I used to take a camcorder. I would shoot at extreme closeup of an object, then pull the camera back for a shot of the whole room.

"Look at this! If they had done this shot in a Hollywood movie, it would have been hailed as a technical marvel!" Like the shot in Orson Welles' A Touch of Evil which goes from an extreme close-up of a shot glass to a crane shot of the room.

No one was impressed, obviously, and why would they be.

I can't imagine anyone being impressed if you set up a video camera and recorded the Empire State Building for 24 hours like Andy Warhol claimed to have done on film.

Now I'm watching David Holzman's Diary. A jerk is harassing his girlfriend with a movie camera. "I'm not dressed." She tells him to turn it off or she's leaving. Happens all the time on video, but, because it was on 16mm, it was taken as a high brow art film.

There are people with You Tube channels about the same as this, and they get no respect at all.

Now David Holzman films his girlfriend sleeping naked. She wakes up, sees him doing this and attacks him. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ray Carney, Mark Rappaport

September 2012
To all filmmakers, film critics, film archivists, film academics, curators, festival directors, and film enthusiasts everywhere—
I am writing to you because something very unforeseen, very unexpected, and most unpleasant recently happened in my life,
When I moved to Paris seven years ago, I had to decide whether or not to take with me copies of my films, video masters, early drafts of scripts, duplicates of reviews and announcements, etc. When I mentioned this to Ray Carney, tenured professor at Boston University and author of several books on John Cassavetes and who also claims he is “generally recognized to be the leading scholarly authority on American narrative art film,” he eagerly offered to hold all of my materials. I accepted his offer, with the understanding that he would return them to me upon request and that they remain at BU. Five years later, in 2010, I requested the return of some of my video masters to make copies of them for various film archives in Europe. Carney duly returned those video masters to me. They were in excellent condition.
Since that time, various companies have expressed interest in streaming my films, and UCLA, in conjunction with The Sundance Institute, have volunteered to archive video masters of Sundance alumni films. In early April, I made several requests to Carney for the return of my materials. I sent Carney several e-mails (to various e-mail addresses), and I called his home and office and left numerous messages. Carney ignored all of my attempts to reach him. As a result, I hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, where a judge issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Carney. The court entered a default against Carney (who had not responded to my complaint) and ordered Carney to return the materials to me, or else be held in contempt of court. After that, Carney hired a lawyer who stated Carney intends to defend his conduct by arguing that I “gave” him the materials outright as “a gift.”
There is much at stake here for me. Without the digital video masters, my films, everything prior to 1990, Casual Relations, Local Color, The Scenic Route, Impostors, Mark Rappaport—The TV Spin-Off, Chain Letters, plus the High-Definition version of Exterior Night, cannot be made available for streaming, commercial DVDs, video-on-demand, or any electronic delivery system down the road. My life as a filmmaker, my past, and even my future reputation as a filmmaker are at stake. I gave Carney no rights to my materials except the right to hold them and return them to me on request. His lawyer has refused to disclose the current location of my materials.
Carney tried to cast doubt on the truthfulness of the inventory I presented. Furthermore, under oath, he stated “some of the items I received I no longer have because I gave them away to third parties. I discarded other items due to the degraded and unusable condition they were in when I received them. Finally, I discarded other items at later dates after they were worn-out by the normal wear and tear of being used.” This is sworn statement from Carney who, earlier, on his website bragged, “Mark is a great friend and gave me almost everything he owned when he left New York for France… So I am now the ‘Mark Rappaport Archive.’ I have the largest collection of material by him in the world: file cabinets and storage bins full of amazing things: production notebooks, film prints, rough drafts, revisions, scripts, film stock, DVDs, tapes, notes, jottings, journals, etc. etc. etc. It’s a dream come true for me and one of the major film collections by one of the world’s greatest artists. All being preserved for posterity at any cost.” (PLEASE NOTE: If this interests you, go to the website before this entry is removed.)
Elsewhere, he describes me as “a genuine national treasure.”
The judge, at a pre-trial hearing, demanded that Carney supply the court with a full inventory of what he still had, what he gave away, and what he destroyed. Carney subsequently delivered a full inventory—which included absolutely everything I gave him. None of it had been given away or destroyed. Although he clearly had perjured himself, I was ecstatic to learn my materials were intact. After four and a half months of this, Carney got in touch with me to propose a deal, saying, “I sincerely wish you well and I am sorry this issue has come between us.” “I am willing,” he writes, to “ship everything back for a modest consideration, simply to cover my costs and the time and trouble of having stored the material for the past seven-and-a-half years.” In return for my own films, I was to pay him $27,000! Some may call this extortion, I call it merely outrageous. Just to put it in perspective, that would equal 3 years of the monies I get from Social Security. To continue the suit to trial would have cost me about the same amount, in addition to the thousands I had already spent. I couldn’t afford to continue.
Just when I filed for a dismissal of the suit, Carney demanded back, because he claims they were part of “the gift” I gave him, the video masters that he returned to me in 2010—namely From the Journals of Jean Seberg, Postcards, Exterior Night, and John Garfield.
I’ve heard somewhat similar stories from other filmmakers, although none quite as breathtaking as this.
For a variety of reasons, I think this is a cautionary tale you might consider emailing to colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who are interested in the conservation and protection of works by non-mainstream filmmakers, film preservation in general, and archiving not just films but film-related artifacts of the recent past by independent filmmakers. Please feel free email this letter, post this on Facebook pages, and submit it to various blogs.
If you want to write about this situation, I have much more information.
Mark Rappaport

I first saw this from Jon Jost's blog here. He discusses it further and thinks Carney must have gone off the deep end. I know nothing about the guy. I've read some of his work. He seemed fairly brilliant, perhaps a bit eccentric. But what do I know.

Wikipedia's entry on Carney now says,
Rappaport recently filed a lawsuit against this fucker for refusing to give back digital masters of Rappaport's movies which the filmmaker had previously entrusted to him for safekeeping.

Bobby Breen, Spanky and Alfalfa

I watched a cruel spectacle on YouTube.

It was a clip from an old movie. It showed Alfalfa and Spanky from The Little Rascals, Bobby Breen and another young man who I didn't recognize. The three of them appeared to be about fifteen at that point.

Bobby Breen was a child star, a singer from Canada who came to Hollywood, appeared on radio and starred in movies, sort of a male version of Shirley Temple. Like Shirley, he played an orphan in every movie----adults in the audience could dream of adopting him while the kids could dream of not having parents.

Anyway, the three kids were singing about being washed up, about their acting careers being over with.

The movie was Johnny Doughboy. I don't know what the title meant, but it was about a teenage girl actor who runs away because she's tired of playing adolescent roles.

This was Bobby Breen's last movie. Some sources say that he retired because he was embarrassed by the sound of his voice, that it wasn't deeper. I thought he sounded like a normal teenager. It's hard to imagine that his parents would let him retire if there was still money to be made.

Breen continued his singing career. He's in his 80s now, living in Florida. Poor Alfalfa always looked about the same as he did as a child. If I were in his shoes, I'd have tried a buzz cut and a goatee.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Not a Zionist film after all

Now they're reporting that the producer of the anti-Muslim movie that's sparking riots in North Africa may be a middle eastern Christian rather than an Israeli Jew as he claimed in an interview.

I watched the longer, 13 minute trailer for it. You could see that the anti-Muslim lines were dubbed in after the fact. The actors involved in it say they were duped. They were told they were appearing in a war movie.

There was an alleged "technical adviser" named Klein who is a member of a right-wing group known for picketing women's health centers, mosques and Mormon churches. They sued the city of San Clemente (Nixon's home town) because they ordered them to stop putting anti-immigrant fliers on parked cars. They were known for passing out anti-Muslim fliers outside high schools.

This "technical adviser" said they had the premiere in a theater and that they had handed out fliers for it outside Mosques. They wanted Muslims to view this thing for whatever reason. The original title was "The Innocence of Bin Laden" because they thought it would attract "terrorists". It didn't attract anyone. A few curious passersby were drawn in by girls they had standing outside trying to get people to come in. It must have been a free showing.

The movie was aimed at Muslims and it was calculated solely to insult them as much as possible. It wasn't made to change anyone's mind. They weren't trying to convert anyone.

Well, I'm hoping they're able to scrounge up the director and find out who financed this thing. According to Klein, the director is terrified and in hiding. I don't want anything to happen to these morons, but we need to know who to blame.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Have the Zionists finally overreached?

There was a recent article on by Andrew Levine on the gun lobby and the Israel lobby.

Levine noted that:

...neither lobby seems able to overplay its hand.  In any reasonable world, the outrage du jour – there are always plenty to choose from — would be their undoing. But it never is.
But he thinks the end may be in sight for the Israel lobby:
Still, for the foreseeable future, Israel itself is, for all practical purposes, immune from charges of overreaching; our media see to that.  But the Israel lobby is another story. Much like the gun lobby, it is in danger of going too far.

That all is not right with it began to dawn on public opinion when it became widely known, during the primary season last spring, that a Las Vegas financier of the Israeli far right and of the settler movement, Sheldon Adelson, almost bought the Republican nomination for Newt Gingrich.
Now he is at it again, this time for Mitt Romney.  And so, with great fanfare, he brought a gaggle of right-wing plutocrats – among them, NY Jets owner Woody Johnson and hedge fund manager Paul Singer – to the Promised Land to meet up with egregiously rich expatriate Jewish Americans who, like Adelson, worry that President Obama is not subservient enough to AIPAC’s dictates or friendly enough with Benjamin Netanyahu.  The idea was to raise millions of dollars for the Romney campaign.
Even mainstream media pundits were taken aback by this display.  It was like when Charlton Heston promoted “second amendment rights” in the immediate aftermath of the Columbine massacre.
And now, just a month after this article was published, we have Netanyahu attacking the president of the United States and declaring that the U.S. has no "moral right" to object to Israel starting a war with Iran.  

I don't know what it tells you, but the reader comments on the various newspaper websites seem rather outraged by Netanyahu's attempt to interfere with the U.S. elections and to dictate American policy. You occasionally see an anti-Obama post from a Zionist or Christian fundamentalist, but there were thousands of comments on the NY Times site and they were pretty much all disgusted with the Israelis.

Somehow, I don't think that the right-wingers with their nonsense about "American exceptionalism" will have any problem with Netanyahu's statement about the U.S.'s lack of moral authority, or with Romney calling for the U.S. to grovel at the feet of his friend, "Bibi".

When Israel began trying to dictate India's policy on Iran, someone pointed out the absurdity of a country of a few million Jews giving orders to a nation of well over a billion Hindus and Muslims. Zionists keep talking about how tiny and defenseless Israel is. If Americans have any self-respect, they won't take kindly to a little fascist puke like Netanyahu barking orders at their government.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Millionaires' daughter gets into Harvard

One of the daughters of abusive Chinese millionaire Amy Chua and her wealthy Zionist husband, Jed, has gotten into Harvard.

Quite a shock. A millionaire going to Harvard.

But this has been presented as big news. As proof that Amy Chua and Jed's sick, abusive child rearing practices "work".

Chua made a fortune off her best-selling book in which she gloated about how she spent years abusing her two daughters.She and her Zionist husband, Jed, agreed that they would do this. They would raise their daughters in what Chua claimed was "the Chinese way". The daughters couldn't engage in any activity unless they could win a medal, they couldn't be in school plays or play sports, they had to have the highest grades in their school in every subject except physical education, they had to practice for hours a day but only on the piano or the violin. She called one of the "garbage" because she wasn't able to learn a classical music piece fast enough, she loaded one girl's dollhouse in the car and was going to get rid of it unless the 6-year-old learned to play some piece perfectly on the violin in one day, she forced one of them to practice for hours on the piano without a break for some reason, she called them fat, lazy, stupid.

I first heard about Chua's bragging on NPR.

Maureen Corrigan reviewed the book and said:
"The success of this strategy is hard to dispute. Older daughter Sophia is a piano prodigy who played Carnegie Hall when she was 14 or so. The second, more rebellious daughter, Lulu, is a gifted violinist."
I heard that and though, "That's it?" The daughters went through all that, and all they get out of it is that they play the piano and the violin? And all they play is classical music, which means they play the same music that's already been recorded countless times and that they try to sound exactly the same as every other person who has ever played it. How is that a boon to mankind?

What does it tell you that a rich Yale law professor like Chua feels perfectly qualified to teach her children to be classical musicians? It requires no knowledge or creativity. You just listen to the CDs and try to sound exactly like everyone else.

Now the girls can't do anything without it being a reflection on their sick, twisted wretch of a mother. Anything they do---getting into Harvard, for example---is now seen as a victory for Amy Chua.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pussy Riot orgy video

Well. I finally watched the video of Pussy Riot's earlier work of art. They had sex---an "orgy"---in a science museum. The girls actually thought this was an attack on Putin. The elections in Russia were "pornographic". I don't know what they meant by that. Were they denying that Russia United won?

Orgies aren't nearly as interesting as you would think. Or maybe they weren't doing it right. It was rather lackluster. That might have been unavoidable since they were having sex on the floor of a public building.

People were demanding that one Pussy Riot member be released because she has a couple of young children, but her image as an innocent young mother couldn't have been helped by her role in the orgy. She's easy to spot in the video. She was nine months pregnant. Plucer-Sarno, the Israeli-Russian "artist" who claimed authorship of this work of art, didn't participate except by holding a sign. The video got lots of views on the internet, of course, which Sarno claims is proof that they have massive public support.

Also watched video of their other art project---overturning police cars in St. Petersburg. They did this on videotape, posted it on the internet, then claimed they were being persecuted because warrants were put out for their arrest. It was an attack on "free expression" in Russia. Plucer-Sarno complained that "other artists" didn't support them because they view them as competition, which gives you some idea how delusional these people are.They said they overturned seven police cars. I don't know how many emergency calls police couldn't respond to as a result.

Plucer-Sarno lives in Israel. He says he's an anarchist. Where are his protests against the Israeli government? He's like every other Jewish "anarchist" I've met----he's against government in any form except the Israeli government.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Watching some Soviet films

I've been watching Soviet movies on You Tube. They're very good.

It took me a while to recognize it, but one was based on the same Jules Verne novel as the Disney movie, In Search of the Castaways with Haley Mills and Maurice Chevalier. The Soviet one was made in 1936 and had several songs in it.

Watched a World War Two movie. Several Soviet soldiers apparently speak flawless German. They dress as Nazis and go behind enemy lines and kill a bunch of them.

A couple of movies set during the Civil War.

They're all beautifully made, all with a similar look to them.

I can understand a word here and there, but they have no subtitles which is a bit of an impediment to my following the stories.

Carl Sandburg

Get off this estate.
What for?
Because it’s mine.
Where did you get it?
From my father.
Where did he get it?
From his father.
And where did he get it?
He fought for it.
Well, I’ll fight you for it.

– Carl Sandburg

Monday, September 3, 2012

Why make a movie, anyway?

The critic Armond White----his thing is to suggest better movies as an alternative to the one he's reviewing. When reviewing Blade Runner, he suggested you see Metropolis instead. His reviews are always interesting. He's refreshingly moralistic at times. It's often surprising the movies he likes and dislikes which makes a lot of people think he's just trying to be "contrarian", but I've found myself in the same position, liking movies other people hated and hating movies other people loved.

For example, I couldn't stand Crash, the Oscar-winning movie about racism. Every character expresses depth of emotion by shouting and using the same obscenities over and over and over. Do police really shout "PUT THE FUCKING GUN DOWN! GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR! PUT YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP!"?

The movie shows "both sides". We see that police can be racist, but then the movie shows its one sympathetic character, a cop, kill an unarmed man plant a gun on him. He had picked up a hitchhiker then asked him to get out of his car: "GET OUT OF MY FUCKING CAR!"

The movie teaches us tolerance because the ones who look like criminals are all nice guys and the ones who look like nice guys are all criminals. Or maybe it teaches intolerance because we're still going to think people who look like criminals are criminals, and now we'll think people who look respectable are criminals, too.

I can't understand how anyone could sit through that garbage. The rubes actually took it seriously.

And I'll mention Stuart Klawans, the critic for The Nation magazine, who compared the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story with Malcolm X. He liked Dragon better because it was pro-miscegenation, and he had a point there. He also seemed to like Woody Allen's horrible movie Shadows & Fog. At least, he pointed out the underlying theme which most critics either missed or ignored. The movie was about a Jews in Central Europe in the 1930s being stalking by a killer. They organize to stop it but the efforts are futile. But Klawans is regarded as an intellectual, not an eccentric like White is. Racism could be a factor there. I've seen openly racist attacks on White from the idiot fanboys outraged that he criticized their favorite superhero movie.

But, so, anyway, I don't know whether he says it explicitly, but Armond White seems to suggest that a movie shouldn't be made if there's already a movie which does a better job covering the same territory.

There was another website which argued that you should only make a movie that you have some intense drive to make. They accused filmmakers of just making movies for the sake of making movies.

And then there was an interview with George Kuchar in which he called for people to make personal movies---being personal would give them a basis in reality that other movies wouldn't necessarily have.

I'm not sure I agree with any of these views. I liked the movie Bloody Mama even though Bonnie and Clyde was already out there. Even if there's a better movie that covers the same material, the other movie has something to contribute. Look at the movie Jezebel made to cash in on Gone With the Wind's popularity. I always thought Bunuel's Viridiana an awful lot like his earlier movie, Nazarin.

I don't know if you can tell which movies the filmmakers were driven to make to which ones they made just to make them, and I don't know if the ones they're driven to make are any better. And making only personal films puts a real limit on what you're doing unless you've lived an extremely interesting life (as Kuchar seemed to have done.)

Bad movies spur more creativity than good movies. If you see a bad movie, you see things you can do better. It may be why Battlestar Gallactica failed while the various Star Trek spin-offs succeeded.One was a direct rip-off of Star Wars, the other cashed in on the general interest Star Wars generated, taking the elements of the old series and improving on the technical aspects.

Maybe it's why the new Hawaii Five-O is such a bad show. The old show was too good. They should have brought back Barnaby Jones and improved on it.

If another network wanted to do its own version of Breaking Bad, they should look at old episodes of Lucas Tanner or The White Shadow or maybe Room 222 for inspiration. If they wanted to do their own version of The Sopranos, they should make a mafia-oriented version of Eight is Enough. 

Okay, I wrote this thing early this morning. I think I hit post without even reading it over. I read it again now. And...I don't know. I'm kind of embarrassed. I'll leave it up, though. I don't care.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

More cheap versions you can make of better movies

Dirty Harry  A cop violates the rights of a serial killer so egregiously that he goes free and continues killing.

Bonnie and Clyde  A man makes a deal with police. He'll help them ambush a pair of vicious killers if they'll let his son off who was an accomplice in their crimes.

The Graduate An upper-middle-class family is destroyed by their friends' unemployed slacker son who recently graduated from college, He molests the mother, a recovering alcoholic, then begins stalking their daughter. The parents are getting divorced as a result of the wife's infidelity with the stalker, but when their daughter becomes engaged to her college sweetheart, the parents join forces to keep the stalker from ruining the wedding.

ET  Government officials race against time to save a group of children under the spell of a hideous alien.

The Wild Bunch  Soldiers in a Latin American country fight and eventually defeat a small band of sadistic American criminals who murdered their elderly general in front of them.

Dog Day Afternoon  An idiot in his 30s talks two pitiful teenage boys into robbing a bank with him. One teenager is horribly killed, the other goes to prison.

The Sound of Music  A woman is preparing to marry a retired army officer and become stepmother to his several children until he falls under the spell of a recently defrocked nun he hires as nanny.

On the Waterfront  A man gets even with his more successful brother by making wild accusations against his labor union.

Some Like It Hot  A young hetrosexual male transvestite dates an elderly, wealthy eccentric intending to marry him and get some money out of him before revealing he's a man, but he finds he's bitten off more than he can chew when the old man insists on marrying him anyway.

Twelve Angry Men  A gruff old man serving on a jury is horrified as one member manages to manipulate his fellow jurors into acquitting a defendant who is obviously guilty of murder.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pussy Riot, Ballon Boy, the quest for fame

Israel Shamir wrote about Pussy Riot on Read the full article here.

The girls aren't musicians or artists.
Hell-bent on publicity, but artistically challenged, three young women from Russia decided – well, it sounds like a limerick. They stole a frozen chicken from a supermarket and used it as dildo; they filmed the act, called it “art” and placed it on the web. (It is still there) Their other artistic achievements were an orgy in a museum and a crude presentation of an erect prick.

Even in these dubious pieces of art their role was that of technical staff: the glory went to a Russian-Israeli artist Plucer-Sarno of Mevasseret Zion, who claimed the idea, design and copyright for himself and collected a major Russian prize. The future PR members got nothing and were described by Plucer as “ambitious provincials on the make”, or worse.
Lately they have tried to ride on a bandwagon of political struggle. That was another flop. They poured a flood of obscene words on Putin – in Red Square, in subway (underground) stations – with zero effect. They weren’t arrested, they weren’t fined, just chased away as a nuisance. And they did not attract the attention of people. It is important to remember that Putin is an avowed enemy of Russian oligarchs, owners of the major bulk of Russian media and providers of the Moscow literati, so they print on a daily basis so much anti-Putin invective, that it’s lost its shock value. You can’t invent a new diatribe against Putin – it has been already said and published. And Putin practically never interferes with the freedom of the press.

They finally resorted to joining the right-wing attack on the Russian Orthodox Church.

But, there it is. You had the movie Natural Born Killers about mindless people becoming famous by committing multiple murders----Pussy Riot achieved this with mere hooliganism. But the poor girls did have to go to jail for it to work. Shamir noted:
During the trial, the defence and the accused did their worst to antagonize the judge by threatening her with the wrath of the United States (sic!) and by defiantly voicing anti-Christian hate speeches. The judge had no choice but to find the accused guilty of hate crime (hooliganism with religious hate as the motive). The prosecution did not charge the accused with a more serious hate crime “with intent to cause religious strife”, though it could probably be made to stick. (It would call for a stiffer sentence; swastika-drawers charged with intent to cause strife receive five years of jail).
Long ago, we had the case of Balloon Boy. An unemployed construction worker hoping for a reality show falsely claimed that his six-year-old son, Falcon, had been carried away by his homemade balloon. CNN helicopters followed it for hours. The balloon finally landed. Falcon, by then known as Balloon Boy, wasn't there. They found him at home hiding in the basement.

Never enter into a criminal conspiracy with a kindergartener. The family appeared on CNN. Someone asked Falcon why he was hiding. He looked at his parents and said, "You said we did it for the show."

I wrote something on this blog calling for aspiring filmmakers to show a little creativity----to be smarter about it than Balloon Boy's hapless father, certainly (it was lucky for him no one was killed trying to rescue his son from the balloon)----but show a little spunk! Look at these girls in Russia. A few months ago, no one ever heard of them. Now they're sitting in their prison dormitory planning TV reality shows, documentaries, punk rock concerts, sit-coms, maybe another public orgy or a supermarket chicken thing. At worse, they'll emerge from prison as washed up celebrities in about the same position as a former child star, with the potential to parlay what little fame they have left into some sort of career.

Do a little brainstorming! What could YOU do to accomplish the same thing?