Saturday, October 24, 2015

Should zero budget movies be shorter?

I'm thinking zero budget independent movies should top out at 55 minutes. An hour and a half is just too long. If you look at old Hollywood B movies, they run from 45 to 65 minutes. They knew what they were doing. Make your movie just long enough that people don't feel ripped off when they buy a DVD.

Look at books. They talk about how much people used to read. But books in the 1950s, when people read so much, were very thin. A 150-page novel was very common in those days. Novels now are four or five hundred pages. It's fine to give people their money's worth, but they have lives, too.

When my brother was in the band in high school, they would have these concerts that would drag on and on. Like the band director thought he was giving the parents a real treat when all he was doing was murdering their evening.

I've been watching some of the extreme low budget movies on Fandor. I like the idea of no budget movies, but I'm finding the actual movies a little hard to watch. Making them shorter would be a good start.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kung Fu Master! aka Le Petit Amour

Mathieu Demy and Jane Birkin.

You know what would make a good double feature with this movie? Max, Mon Amour. In Max, Mon Amour, Charlotte Rampling plays the wife of a British diplomat in France. He suspects her of infidelity. She finally admits it's true. She gives a very sensitive portrayal of a woman in love with a chimpanzee at the zoo, and the husband looks like a jerk for not immediately accepting it.

For some reason, movies in the '80s presented adultery as a sign of emotional depth. It was a Reagan-era self-centered yuppie thing. I didn't know this during the '80s because I didn't watch that kind of crap back then, but I've since learned that this was the case.  Robert De Niro was in one called Falling in Love and there was Peter Bogdanovich's They All Laughed.

I heard that one poor wretch took too long to get funding for his pro-adultery '80s movie. It didn't get made until the '90s and, by then, people were appalled by it.

I would put this movie, Kung-fu Master!, aka Le Petit Amour, (1988) in the same broad category. The French movie stars Jane Birkin as a middle aged divorcee who falls in love with her daughter's 14-year-old (male) classmate (Mathieu Demy).

If it had been about a perverse middle aged woman going after a bewildered tweenager, or about a delusional 14-year-old hitting on a grown woman, it would have been more plausible. But the two seemed to be on the same wavelength. The attraction was mutual.

I really don't know what they saw in each other. The kid, Julien, is less obnoxious than the other boys in the movie, but his defining features were that he was short for his age and that he liked an '80s video game called Kung Fu Master. Jane Birkin was 42. She first sees the kid when he's sitting on the floor in the bathroom. Her daughter (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has thrown a party. The older boys had fun getting the little fellow drunk and now he doesn't feel so good.

"Just throw up," she said.

"I can't."

"Open your mouth."

She sticks her fingers down his throat. While he's puking into the toilet, she tells him it's revolting, drinking at his age. She tosses him a clean tee shirt to put on. Later, she takes a cigarette out of his mouth, tells him he's too young to smoke and smacks him when he talks back.

Jane Birkin's two real-life daughters play her daughters in the movie. Her elderly parents play her parents. Director Agnes Varda's teenage son plays Julien.

Imagine having your mom direct you in your make-out scenes.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Paper Tiger, 1975

I haven't seen it since it was on HBO in 1975.

David Niven plays a teacher who travels to an unnamed country in southeast Asia (filmed in Malaysia) to serve as tutor to the adorable son (Ando) of the Japanese ambassador (Toshiro Mifune).

It came across as a family film. It had a cute little kid in it. But it's rather violent. There are two or three terrorist attacks in the course of the movie, and the government is far worse than the revolutionaries. The child witnesses several people being shot in an assassination attempt at a banquet at the Japanese embassy, including the summary murder of a captured assassin, but the kid still cheerfully fantasizes about his teacher's war stories. Teacher and pupil are kidnapped by revolutionaries.

Hardy Kruger as a reporter who sees through the teacher's claims about his heroism in World War Two. 

Home Box Office had a promo talking about the making of it, how they had to teach the child actor Ando to speak English. They made the movie sound big. It was well made but I never heard of it again until it appeared on Fandor.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Search for Tomorrow, Love of Life, The Guiding Light

There's a Roku channel that shows only public domain movies and TV shows. This week, they've added a few random episodes of soap operas from the 1950s. They looked a lot cheaper than soap operas now, some were only fifteen minutes, and they seem to consist almost entirely of scenes of two people carrying on long conversation about their problems.

I assume they did this because they had to write and film thirty pages a day, and dialog between two people is easy to write and to direct, and they only needed two actors.

In this new age of digital video, match the content to the form. You can make movies basically for free. Technically, there's nothing to it. Should you take the pressure off completely and put it in a form that's easy to write, produce and direct?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bad Seed, Richard III

The Bad Seed was pretty good. It was based on a play and was a bit stagy. The dialog wasn't entirely naturalistic. But the situation was stronger than the weaknesses. A mother comes to realize that her seemingly perfect daughter might be terribly bad. With Patty McCormack in the title role. She got an Oscar nomination for it. Also got spanked in the end even though this was after the curtain call---she was in costume but not in character. They were spanking the actress for playing a psychopath.

The movie had a couple of scenes of Leroy the handyman talking loudly to himself and to the audience. I'm sure this was fine in the play, but it didn't quite work in the movie.

Somewhat like this other movie, Richard III, starring Lawrence Olivier. The movie was in technicolor, brightly lit. A bit cartoonish, not like Polanski's Macbeth or Welles' Othello. So the scenes of Olivier walking around reciting soliloquies weren't terribly realistic but there was no illusion of reality to begin with. If the guy was just walking around muttering to himself, they might have pulled it off.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sean Penn sues Lee Daniels for defamation

There was a cruel rumor I read on It claimed that Sean Penn tied up and tortured Madonna for nine hours until she managed to escape and call police, but she didn't press charges because of the publicity. This supposedly happened when they were married in the '80s.

I don't know anything about Sean Penn. It's not impossible that this could have happened, but that last part, not pressing charges after being bound and beaten for nine hours, seemed very strange, and I thought rather implausible. It would be wildly irresponsible of her.

Now Sean Penn has filed a ten million dollar defamation suit against Lee Daniels for statements he made in an interview defending Terrence Howard.

From Variety:
Daniels said that Howard “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of the sudden he’s some f—in’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
The lawsuit states that “in purporting to ‘defend’ the ongoing legal and related troubles of actor Terrence Howard … who has reportedly, and publicly, admitted to physically abusing at least one woman and reportedly been arrested approximately five times for violent acts against women — Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women. Nor has Penn admitted to ‘slap[ping]’ a woman or abusing others (as Howard has also reportedly admitted, reportedly asserting that he was acting in self-defense).”
Penn’s lawsuit says that Daniels’ statements were “egregious” on several levels, including that “in his purported ‘defense’ of Howard, Daniels not only appears to acknowledge Howard’s guilt, he also seems to condone Howard’s reported misconduct.”
It notes that even though Penn has had brushes with the law, “Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.”
Penn's lawyer told reporters, “Sean is dismayed at the gratuitous attacks and statements that have been made over the years at his expense, and he wants to take a stand and correct the record."

If that rumor is false, I'm glad to hear it. Poor Madonna.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Family Feud goes blue

I can't watch live TV. There are things I've seen that have haunted me for years. I don't like talking about it.

There was one case--and this wasn't live TV, but it was live on tape. It was an episode of Family Feud. The question was, what's the first things husband asks the doctor after his wife has given birth. There were two possible answers. The first one was "How is the baby?"

The grandfather had to give the second answer. It was pretty obvious what it was. But he said, "How soon can I have sex?"

There was an awkward silence. Then, well, of course the answer was wrong. The other family won, and the family with the idiot grandfather left in disgrace. There was money involved, and you know that everyone those people knew were watching the show.

I thought maybe the guy was making a joke figuring he could change his answer. Like people who stage UFO hoaxes thinking they can pull it off then reveal that it was all a joke---they quickly realize that they're in too deep and there's no way out.

Now I read that this has become the norm on Family Feud.

The question: "Name the first part of a woman you touch to get her in the mood."

"That would be the lower front or the vagina," the contestant said.

Viewers are increasingly annoyed as well they should be.

I'll tell you one other thing that bothered me for years. I saw it as a child. The Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon---Jerry Lewis would periodically wade into the studio audience with a bucket to collect money. Once, a woman tried to embrace him and he said in a funny voice, "Get your hands off me, you oversexed broad," which I thought was funny when I was ten.

But then Jerry had just done this, just waded into the crowd collecting money. Then he was speaking to the camera, making some heartfelt statement, when a young man with a beard standing near him said, "Excuse me." He said that he just gave him some money, and it was money his father had given him, so could he have it back?

Jerry was aghast. I'm trying to entertain all these people, he said. No, you can't have your money back!

At the time, I imagined that this idiot really needed that money, that he was caught up in the moment and gave it away, but, realizing what he had done, he acted out of sheer desperation, feeling he had no choice but to humiliate himself in front of millions of viewers.Like I said, I must have been about 10. I thought Jerry should have given him his money back, although how would anyone know how much the guy stuck in a bucket?

Now, of course, I think he was just stupid, that he mentioned that his father gave him the money to make it sound like it had sentimental value.

It's also possible that the guy just saw his chance to make his time in a studio audience even more memorable. He'd be in his 60s now. He may be bragging about it to his grandchildren.

And there was this other time. A local TV station would show movies and they had an old guy I never heard of hosting it. A local business sponsored it one time and the old guy interviewed the employees on live TV. One guy, the son of the owner, was extremely nervous. He could barely speak, but the old guy kept talking to him anyway. He finally moved on to the other employees. Then he turned back to the nervous guy and asked him how many Valium he took a day.

"Uhhh---uhhhh," the poor guy said.

He was young and I realize he would live with that memory for the rest of his life.

Why is anything on live TV? Videotape is cheap and plentiful. The potential for disaster is so great. What's the point?

By the way---I always give people this advice. If you're being interviewed either live or on tape for TV or radio and it's going badly, just start swearing so they can't use it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Devil Girl From Mars

A British science fiction movie. A Martian woman in black leather, invulnerable to weapons, terrorizes people at a rural inn when she comes to Earth looking for men she wants for breeding stock. She has a big robot with her. A little like The Day the Earth Stood Still. The robot was impressive but a little cartoonish.

According to the opening credits, it was based on a play. British theater isn't quite what I imagined.

When I was a kid, I did see a production somewhere of Help, Help, the Globolinks, which, it turns out, was a German opera. I can't even remember what state I was in when I saw it. Texas? Oregon? I don't remember it being a musical much less an opera.