Wednesday, April 26, 2017

All you need

All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.



Girl Scouts, 1920.

Armenian fighters, 1895.

Annie Oakley, 1922, age 62.
1925 Drexel Institute Girls Rifle Team.
Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon a Time in the West.
Lillian Gish, Night of the Hunter.


Vietnamese girl captures USAF Lt. 1967.
Assembling submachine guns in Leningrad, 1943.
Soviet sniper Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina 8 days before her death.
Greek partisan.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, killed at least 309 Nazis.
Soviet women snipers--over 700 confirmed
kills between them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pasolini's Medea (1969)

  
I watched Pasolini's Medea for the first time in years. It was easier to understand having seen Jason and the Argonauts as a child, but reading about it (the play, the movie and the myth in general) on Wikipedia clarified some things I didn't understand. For example, Medea dismembers her brother and leaves his body parts strewn about so her father, who was pursuing her, would have to stop and take time to pick them up.

Maybe if the rest of the movie had been clearer to me, like why she hacked her brother to death, I would have been less understanding about her actions at the end. Still, I don't remember Jason being such a jerk in the other movie.

Opera star Maria Callas in the title role (doesn't sing.)

In the beginning, the cintar tells 5-year-old Jason a story. It's difficult to understand, he says, because it's full of deeds, not thoughts.

Admirers of the movie might think I'm an idiot, but (maybe) approach it like an opera. I heard this guy on the radio say that the way you go to the opera is that you read all about it, learn the storyline before you go so you can relax and enjoy the music, because you're never going to follow the plot by listening to the lyrics.

Available on Fandor.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gallagher


There are celebrities I don't like. Some are extremely successful, like Tom Cruise, but others are in sad decline and I feel guilty for not liking them. So it's such a relief when they turn out to be horrible people I can freely hate.

I don't know how I got into this, but I listened to a couple of interviews with '80s comedy sensation Gallagher on YouTube.

Gallagher was a prop comic who was huge in the '80's. He had 14 specials on Showtime in his day. I only saw one. His thing was smashing watermelons with a sledge hammer. That's how he would end each show.

Gallagher is now 70. He hasn't modified his look since the 1980s. Bald on top with long hair on the sides.

But he's turned angry, bitter and racist, attacking Arabs, Jews, Mexicans, gays, lesbians, and I don't know who else. He also attacks other comedians all of whom he considers his inferiors. He's outraged that comics drink water on stage.

Marc Maron interviewed him on his podcast. It didn't go well. Maron seemed to feel bad about it. He spoke at length before playing the recorded interview (which Gallagher walked out on.) He didn't know Gallagher and Gallagher seemed to know nothing about him. But their agents spoke and they were both in Portland, Oregon, at the same time, so they did the interview in Maron's hotel room.

Gallagher said he had been out to make a lot of money but didn't see how this shaped his career. He couldn't understand why he didn't have a talk show. I don't necessarily think he felt entitled to one, but, as Maron said, he seemed to lack self-awareness. He didn't know how he ended up where he is today, and he doesn't understand why he was being attacked for his anti-gay or anti-Arab jokes. He mentioned an anti-Semitic joke perhaps not knowing Maron was Jewish.

"Can we tell a Jew joke that they don't want to pay?" Gallagher said.

"Why?" Maron said. "It's not true."

"It's not true---why do people laugh?"

"Because it's a stereotype, that's been established. Most people that laugh at those jokes don't have a Jew in their life."

Here is Galagher on Opie and Anthony. The late Patrice O'Neal tries to be helpful, advising Gallagher to update his look, quit the melon thing and use his full name.

And here is Marc Maron on Opie and Anthony discussing his interview with Gallagher.

They All Laughed

By the way, there was Peter Bogdanovich's 1980's movie, They All Laughed. It wasn't bad, but it was a disaster at the box office for various reasons. I watched it and thought one of the characters was modeled on Gallagher, a frizzy-haired adult on roller skates. It stood as grim testament to Gallagher's popularity at the time.

And another thing----I mentioned Gallagher's outrage at comics drinking water on stage. Didn't Steve Martin, a bit of a prop comic himself, do a thing back then----he would take a drink of water, spill a little on the stage and think it didn't matter, then he would grab the mic stand and pretend to be electrocuted. Drinking water isn't a new thing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Again with the westerns

High Noon would have been pretty good if
Gary Cooper hadn't been wearing that stupid-looking tie.

Like I say, I never liked westerns. They're about ugly people wearing ugly clothes in ugly towns. I can't stand those ties men wear in them. The showgirls wear awful-looking outfits. The people are either illiterate or they may as well be. Their only recreation is hanging around in often garish saloons and their greatest ambition in life is to some day own a ranch.

But I find westerns weirdly fascinating. Why were they so popular outside the United States? What did Josef Stalin see in them? The Dalai Lama liked westerns and said his favorite actor was John Wayne. (Poor Richard Gere.)

In the '60's and '70's, the Soviets made their own "westerns" which I liked, set in Kazakhstan or Siberia in the 1920s. I used to like samurai movies. And there are a lot of foreign films set in various times and places that, if you wanted to make an American version, could best be done as westerns.

I think of Night of the Shooting Stars, Okraina, The Virgin Spring.

Last House on the Left was an Americanized version of The Virgin Spring which didn't work terribly well. The Virgin Spring itself was based on a medieval ballad that was probably closer to Oedipus Rex than anything else.

In the ballad, three sisters on their way to church are killed by three goatherd brothers they just met. They're killed because they refuse to marry them. The three murderers try to sell the girls' dresses to a farmer's wife. She recognizes the dresses as her daughters'. She screams for her husband who comes out with a sword. He kills two of the brothers outright then demands that the third one tell him who they are. He says that they were abandoned in the woods as children and had been fending for themselves ever since, and the father realizes they're his sons who he inexplicably left to die in the wilderness years earlier.

I don't know if medieval Swedes had access to ancient Greek drama, or if it was a coincidence. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Class division

A photo showing the class divide in Britain in 1937.

Strange that boys were considered lower class if they wore sport jackets.

Like the scene on Rebel Without a Cause where James Dean goes to high school wearing slacks and a tweed jacket. At least it wasn't a blazer. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The new Mystery Science Theater 3000



I see that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back with a new cast on Netflix. I was surprised how saddened I was when the show went off the air years ago, but I have mixed feelings about it coming back.

For one thing, Rifftrax proved that you can do the same thing to successful, big budget movies, too. Making fun of low budget movies just seems cruel.

Back when they were still on the SciFi channel, I made the mistake of looking at their website. I read the user comments. It seems that many of the fans enjoyed the show because they thought they were punishing people for making movies that weren't very good. They weren't laughing because the show was funny, they were laughing as they imagined the reaction of the people being ridiculed.

Then I watched a video on YouTube of some of the cast in a talk show appearance with a film historian who thought that some of the movies they attacked were pretty good.

Comedians are just annoying when they argue with regular people. They're overbearing, if they can't make an argument they make a joke, if there's a glaring hole in their argument they cover it with a joke and if they lose on some point, they make a joke and think they won.
 
And by the way, in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Mike Nelson's acting was quite bad. If it had been any other movie, they'd be mocking him. I felt sorry for Joel Hodgson leaving the show and then seeing them make a big movie out of it.

I was a little surprised when it dawned on me that Joel Hodgson was a prop comic. I've never seen Carrot Top perform and never wanted to, but maybe I should give him a chance. Hodgson hates Gallagher.

Finally, there was a thing they did on both Rifftrax and MST3k. They would shout the name of a well-known black person whenever a black character appeared in the movie. It would be nice if they quit that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Veterans hated John Wayne


I don't think people know this now, but a lot of World War Two veterans couldn't stand John Wayne. They hated him because he dodged the draft while playing a war hero in the movies.

Back in the '70s, when we had local talk radio, war veterans would call in and talk about it.

There are different explanations for Wayne staying out of the war. One was that his career was just beginning to take off when the US entered the war and he didn't want to join right then, then his career was going so well he didn't want to walk away and join the Army.
 
When he appeared before his draft board, he argued that he was the sole support for his wife and children. He didn't mention that he was about to get divorced because he was sleeping with Marlene Dietrich. He falsely claimed that a studio threatened to sue him if he got drafted and he later said he thought he could better serve his country by being a movie star.

Everyone knew he was a draft dodger. I don't blame him. But that may be one reason he became such a rabid McCarthyite in the '50s. He thought it would make up for it. He blamed the Communists for his not getting an Oscar (he finally got one in 1969). He couldn't imagine it was because of his lousy acting. He told Playboy magazine that he was a white supremacist.

I never understood his appeal. I never liked his looks, he walked funny and had weird speech patterns. But looking at some of the terrible cowboy stars of the '30s and '40s, maybe he wasn't so bad.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The magic of Wu Wei

It's important not to try too hard. Or at all.

When I was in high school, I was sitting there in European history class. The teacher handed out a test. There were a number of questions typed on a sheet and we were supposed to write little essays, which I did, obviously.

But, sitting next to me was this kid who was writing his "essays" in tiny print in the space between the lines on the sheet.

Later, when we got the tests back, he got a better grade than me.

Sean Spicer, Hitler

From an article by Robert Fisk:
It’s not just a question of leaving Hitler’s ghost alone; never, ever, compare anything to the horrors Hitler unleashed on the world in the Second World War. Obviously, if the White House really wanted to dump on Assad – whose name, I notice, they still cannot pronounce correctly – it should have compared the Syrian President with Saddam Hussein, who really did use gas “against his own people”.

But there’s a problem there, too. Because the moment you mention Saddam, you recall for your audience all the lies and “fake news” the George W Bush White House spewed out about the Iraqi dictator before its illegal 2003 invasion – “fake news” assisted at the time, let us remember, by The New York Times. And then you also remind your audience that the whole Iraqi adventure ended in a bloodbath for Iraqis and utter catastrophe for the United States. So Saddam is out – and Hitler has to be brought back to life yet again.

And yes, we compared Saddam to Hitler. Indeed another well known chump, the son of our present Queen, reportedly told a woman who had lost relatives in the Holocaust that Putin was doing in Ukraine “just about the same as Hitler”. Moscow called this “outrageous”. That was almost exactly two years ago.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sherman's March



Long ago, I had been contemplating how it would be impossible to make any kind of movie without hundreds of thousands of dollars. But then I went to the local art theater to see Sherman's March. It was a documentary. The filmmaker's girlfriend dumps him. He had received a grant to make a documentary about the lingering effects in the south of Sherman's March to the Sea but instead makes a quasi-cinema verite film about trying to meet women.

He walked around with a 16mm camera on one shoulder and a tape recorder on the other, and I sat there watching this thinking that the sound and picture seemed passable enough. Maybe one could make a narrative feature film with nothing but a camera and a tape recorder.

This revelation did me no good at all. A movie would still have cost more than I could have come up with and that was just as well. Most young filmmakers seem to be bankrolled by their parents.

Anyway, Sherman's March is available on Fandor. It was pretty good.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hangings in westerns

 
It seems really morbid. I've seen two westerns where they keep talking about hanging people.

One was John Wayne's Angel and the Badman. Harry Carey plays the marshal who appears periodically. Each time, he tells John Wayne that he hopes to hang him some day.

Bill Cody, Andy Shuford

The other was Mason of the Mounties starring a man-boy western duo, Bill Cody and Andy Shuford. They starred together in a number of B westerns. The men in the movie keep talking about all the horse thieves they've lynched and when they finally catch the criminal in the end, they debate whether he should be taken to Canada to be hanged or hanged there in the United States.

Apparently carrying out executions was once considered normal. There was an episode of Bonanza where the Cartwrights think nothing of hanging a guy themselves when the sheriff who was about to execute him gets killed.

I've never seen it, but I read that an early version of the government's Civil Defense Handbook included instructions on how to carry out executions after a nuclear war.

I guess it's why lynching was so popular. I can't imagine any normal person doing that.

In Paths of Glory, a French guy is horrified when Kirk Douglas makes him participate in a firing squad. That's more the reaction I would expect.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Democrats love Trump's hate

The only thing I didn't hate about Donald Trump was that he was less apt to bomb Syria and start a war with Russia than Clinton. Clinton's only real campaign promise was to start World War Three.

But Bush and Obama both claimed to oppose wars, too, when they were running and they both pretended that they wanted to improve relations with Russia, just like Trump, and look how they turned out.

The morons at MSNBC were perfectly happy about Trump's attack on Syria, of course. None of them questioned the claim that there was a chemical attack by the Syrian government. We have no way of knowing what happened because no reporter would dare step foot in ISIS-controlled territory. The Russians concluded that Syrian bombing damaged a chemical weapons storage site used by ISIS which is a far more plausible explanation. The thing that should terrify us is that ISIS has nerve gas.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Roman Polanski

Polanski leaving the courthouse, 1977

A court in Los Angeles has denied a request from Roman Polanski to resolve the 1977 sex abuse case against him in his absence. Polanski wanted to know whether or not he'd go to prison if he returned to the United States. 

When Polanski was arrested in 1977, I didn't know who he was and didn't follow the story at all. Most of what I knew about the case came from a comic strip in National Lampoon. It wasn't until recently that I learned the details and that was from the HBO documentary. I won't go into it, but it was rather appalling.

I can understand the people who still want Polanski put in prison forty years later. I can also understand the people who are fine with him continuing to walk around free. But I can't understand the people who are anxious for him to be able to return to the United States. Even if you think his crime was relatively innocuous as Whoopi Goldberg apparently does ("it wasn't rape rape") why would they want him back here? Do they think it's a gross injustice that Polanski is forced to live as a French millionaire and not a California millionaire?

I think he was a jerk for leaving Poland. They gave him his education at public expense, made him a director and paid for him to make his movies. How many people with his background, impoverished after barely surviving the war, would have gotten those opportunities in a capitalist country? You think Knife in the Water could have been made in Hollywood? He didn't come to the West because he was such an artiste. He came here to grub for money.
 
My impression was that any good director could have made Chinatown. Rosemary's Baby was more uniquely his, but I can't see how it or any other movie was such a boon to mankind that the director should be immune from prosecution.

I'm tired of U.S. cultural imperialism anyway. If he's a great director, let him be a great director in one of his own countries, France or Poland.

Shia LaBeouf's movie, Man Down, sells just three tickets in England


Shia LaBeouf (right, with the weird-shaped head.)

Young filmmakers dream of getting their movies into theatrical release. But the dream can turn into a nightmare.

Look at Shia LaBeouf's new movie, Man Down, directed by Dito [sic] Montiel. It opened in a single theater in a town called Burnley in the north of England and it sold a single ticket. It ran for a week and sold two additional tickets. It grossed the equivalent of $28 (£21.)

According to the internet:
LaBeouf, who reportedly has a net worth of $25 million, isn’t the only big name to tank at the box office in Britain in recent history. In March, Pierce Brosnan’s latest movie, I.T., opened with just $416.50 (£343) over its opening weekend at the U.K. box office - that’s an average take of $38 (£31) per theater. Last year, Beauty and the Beast’s Emma Watson’s The Colony took just $61 (£47) over its opening weekend in the U.K. and grossed $15,700 during its entire domestic run. A few months earlier, Regression, in which she starred alongside Ethan Hawke, made $55,000 at the domestic box office but fared better in the U.K. ringing up $329,170 in ticket sales. Rather interestingly, both The Colony and Man Down have been distributed in the U.K. by Signature - the company is about to release Aftermath, the $10.5 million budget drama starring another former box office behemoth, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chemical weapons in Syria

So, Russia bombed ISIS in Syria and apparently damaged a rebel chemical weapons storage site releasing poison gas which killed at least 70 people.

But the lapdog press in the US is claiming that Syria launched a chemical attack and has condemned Russia and Iran for supporting them.

Syria is winning the war. They have ISIS and the "rebels" largely defeated. Why would they use chemical weapons now?

The terrifying thing is that ISIS has chemical weapons and it doesn't seem to bother anyone.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Celebrities smoking

Tony Curtis wisely abstains from smoking
as he hangs around with Lawrence Olivier
and Peter Ustinov. And those two were
supposed to be the smart ones.

Luis Bunuel foolishly smoking in Toledo, Spain,
on the set if Tristana.

Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai 
stand around smoking on the set of Sanjuro.
Martin Sheen smoking on the set of 
Apocalypse Now. No wonder he had
a heart attack.

Even innocent Sissy Spacek 
takes a smoke break on the set
of Carrie.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Kelly Reichardt, River of Grass


So, okay, I watched this movie, River of Grass, on Fandor. It was pretty good. Kelly Reichardt's first movie set outside her hometown of Miami.

A young mother leaves her baby home alone and starts hanging around with a scumbag she met in a bar. After an unfortunate handgun incident, they wisely decide to flee Florida but don't have the money to do so. Meanwhile, her jazz drummer police detective father searches for the service revolver he somehow lost.

Sort of an arthouse version of Aloha, Bobby & Rose.

Considering the storyline, the movie made Florida look pretty good. The little motels they drove past looked nice. A cops speaks to them after they try to run a toll booth and is surprisingly polite under the circumstances.

Jon Jost blogged some time back that people told him that Kelly Reichardt's movies were sort of like his, so he watched her movies but couldn't see the similarity. I didn't either, at least not in this case. There was another movie of hers, Wendy and Lucy, that might have been more Jon Jost-like. Both that and River and Grass were about people who wanted to leave the state but didn't have the means to do so. That was also true of her western, Meek's Cutoff which took place on the Oregon Trail.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Anthony Weiner alarms parents

 
Parents in New York complained to school officials that Zionist sex deviant Anthony Weiner was spotted lurking around their children's schoolyard.

It seems that Weiner and his dangerously tolerant wife, Huma Abedin, are together again and that Weiner had been picking up their five-year-old son from preschool. The school made him stop doing it when horrified parents complained.

It's being reported that the Clinton campaign insisted that Huma dump Weiner if she wanted to keep working on the campaign and now she's free to return to the man she loves. I don't know if this will affect the potential criminal charges against him, but they say the more time passes, the less likely he is to be charged.

I thought Weiner left sexting rehab due to lack of money, but now they say he completed treatment, so who knows.

Weiner is rabidly pro-Israel. It doesn't bother him that his marriage is illegal in Israel and that his Muslim wife and child are not considered fully human there.

It's being reported, by the way, that Abedin was given the task of pre-planning Hillary Clinton's funeral in 2010.

Bella Vista (2013)

Bella Vista was the first feature made by Vera Brunner-Sung who was known for experimental documentaries. She raised $31,000 online. Shot in twelve days in Missoula where she teachers at the University of Montana.

It's starts with a woman who teaches English to foreign students at the university. Like Brunner-Sung herself, she and her students have to adapt to living in a new town. Perhaps not surprisingly, the kids cope better than their teacher.

I used to think that, if you're going to make a movie in a place like Missoula, you ought to be able to make your money back just from the locals if you do it cheap enough with a local cast. Every friend and relative of everyone in the movie would HAVE to attend. Look at the way people pack into community theaters and high school plays. But that may not work in an era of You Tube and Community Access TV. Moving pictures aren't much of a novelty anymore.

Anyway, a pretty good arthouse film, beautifully photographed. Available on Fandor.