Saturday, April 18, 2015

Action movies

So, I had watched the Soviet "western", White Sun of the Desert, a while back. It was an action film set in the 1920s. Made in 1969. The bonus material on the DVD included interviews with the two writers who wrote the script. One of them noted that the movie was hugely popular with the Soviet public, but not with people in the film industry who noted that the action scenes were all done through montage rather than stunts and continuous action.

I was just reading an article on cracked.com discussing how action movies had changed. One of the changes was that now movie violence is done this way, cut into short takes. They contrasted fight scenes from Jackie Chan movies and wondered why Matt Damon had to learn all that karate for that spy movie he did when it was all faked through the editing anyway.

Also kind of interesting was the reason all the movie stars now look like body builders. It turns out that they're just moderately muscular like they used to be, but now they lose all their body fat to make them more sinewy. Anybody can have visible stomach muscles. I had friends who were painfully thin in high school and they had visible stomach muscles. All you need is no body fat. You can do all the sit-ups you want and nobody's going to see your stomach muscles unless you're dangerously fat free.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Watched several movies

Watched several movies the last couple days.

John Waters' Cecil B Demented really wasn't very good. Maybe because it was a movie about making movies. This was Waters' Day for Night except Day for Night wasn't awful. It was all one note. Not very good. Sorry.

A Colt is My Passport. I didn't entirely understand the title since the guy had a Baretta not a Colt, and he had a valid passport in the first place. A very stylish Japanese gangster movie. Black and white. It's hard for me to care about gangsters. I say kill them all. Made in the late '60s. The music seemed to be influenced by spaghetti westerns. It had guitar and whistling. Like a minimalist rendition of a spaghetti western soundtrack.

Several movies by Mark Rappaport are on Fandor. They were interesting. He used a lot of green screen, (or rear screen projection, or front screen projection) his movies had very small casts and were entirely verbal with a lot of dialog and narration. You should watch them. See what you think.

Watched Rappaport's "Postcards"---a couple's relationship evolves as they exchange postcards while the guy is on an extended business trip, two more short films, "Mur 19", "Blue Streak", and feature films The Scenic Route, Mozart in Love, Chain Letter, Local Color, and Imposters which I enjoyed the most so far.

Still need to see Exterior Night.

Rappaport's documentary The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender about gay undercurrents in Hollywood movies was great. Several more I have yet to see.

I remember seeing some of this on Siskel & Ebert years ago (back when it was Sneak Previews on PBS). They showed clips of Rappaport's "Mark Rappaport: The TV Spinoff".

I wonder what movies that nutjob Ray Carney is depriving us of.


Life Itself - documentary about the life of Roger Ebert

Several years ago, CNN reported for several days about a child who had been attacked by a shark in Florida. In a very unfortunate coincidence, Time-Life was marketing a set of jazz CDs. Their ads played on CNN over and over. And their ad started with Louis Armstrong singing "Mack the Knife" which begins "...the shark has pretty teeth, dear, and he shows then pearly white..."

I thought of this when they talked about Roger Ebert as editor of his university newspaper when Kennedy was assassinated. One article in he paper showed a picture of JFK when he visited the university years earlier. The paper was already in production but Ebert stopped the presses when he realized that an ad on the opposite page had a drawing of a Minuteman pointing his musket at the photo of Kennedy.

I don't pretend to be a critic but I'll mention a few things from the documentary----

Roger Ebert was a recovering alcoholic. He liked hanging around in bars in Chicago, but he finally realized he had to give it up. It surprised me because he appeared in Charles Bukowski's novel Hollywood about the making of the movie Barfly. Bukowski liked Ebert in part because he was drinking screwdrivers.

Gene Siskel was a swinger. At least at one point in his life. Hugh Hefner took a liking to him and he hung around the Playboy Mansion for a time and flew around on whatever Hefner called his private jet.

Ebert lived in a cheap little apartment and Siskel was always afraid he would quit the TV show. He was ecstatic when Ebert got married because it meant he would have expenses and couldn't walk away.

One time, Ebert was hanging around a bar with a prostitute.Back then, he was always hanging around with horrible women. He finally met his very lovely wife at an AA meeting.

He was great writer even in college. Was sort of overbearing and arrogant as editor of the school paper, but he was very good at it, so it wasn't so bad.

The Chicago Sun-Times where Ebert worked was the Working Class paper and had an African-American readership. The Chicago Tribune was white and bourgeois.

The documentary mentioned the terrible power Siskel and Ebert had. They didn't mention this in the movie, but I remember when Warren Beatty was asked about the death of Gene Siskel, and he said he didn't know movie critics ever died. Beatty had blamed Siskel and Ebert for the failure of Ishtar, and he had a point. Siskel and Ebert attacked the movie because the intentionally bad songs were bad.

Another critic described Siskel and Eberts show(s) as "consumer advice", not criticism, which is true. But the documentary also noted that they gave publicity to movies that wouldn't have been widely seen otherwise.

Ebert dismissed the idea that film criticism was dead. Thought the internet had brought about a renaissance in criticism.