Saturday, May 07, 2005

Crash (Haggis, 2005)

Do not see this movie.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Chapters 8, 36, 41-44 on the DVD of Hair (Forman, 1979)

Eric stopped by after work yesterday, and the discussion fell to movies, and then eventually to Milos Forman. We decided to watch the end of "Hair," but to prepare we re-aquainted ourselves with the songs necessary to enjoy the heartbreaking reprise (admittedly "Morning Song" was not needed, but it's always funny to go glibbyaglobbyjooby with Beverly D'Angelo, who looks like a fawn being buggered with a candy-cane).

Many friends ask why I love Milos so much. Here's why: there is one push-in in the whole movie, and that is when Berger (Treat Williams) realizes he's going to be sent to Vietnam. That's restraint, and that's why he can go nuts at the end--riprapripideedo camera moves, dramatic helicoptering, storm troopers--try not to be blown away as the camera moves with Berger onto the plane.

I must admit I really could do without the last scene: a messy mass of people from 1978 running and jumping around the frame. It looks like Milos raided a Styx concert, and in a way there's no better reminder how far the hippie movement had fallen by the time he decided to make this movie; the left's ultimate betrayal of Carter would come six months later. There is one redeeming moment--at 1:56:39--in which the camera has discovered what would soon be termed "white trash," but was then only known as a Lynrd Skynrd fan and father of three.

Fun fact: cinematographer Miroslave Ondricek has shot movies for which Hollywood hack director? Yes: Penny Marshall. But then again Sven Nyqvist shot "Sleepless in Seattle" so who's complaining?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ermo (Zhou, 1994)

I rented this movie because the box said it was a comedy, and I was curious to see if the notoriously turpid Chinawood (no disrespek early 90s Zhang Yimou) could actually make something that crackled. Or at least make me laugh.

Ahem. This is a movie about a peasant woman who wants to make noodles so she can buy a 29" television set for her family. Yes, I suppose you could consider this a trenchant critique of the way consumer culture invaded rural, post-Mao China, but at one point in the movie, I turned on my computer, started reading the Internet, and was still bored. At another point, I imagined I smelled something rotting in my kitchen just so I could get up.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

To Be or Not to Be (Lubitsch, 1942)

A good game to play with a good movie is how many movies would not exist if that movie had never been made. One great example is Joseph H. Lewis' "Gun Crazy" (1949). That movie is never made you don't have Badlands, Bonnie & Clyde, Thieves Like Us, True Romance...those are just the completely blatant rip-offs (and don't give me the doodoo that Tarantino and Altman were commenting on the genre) the list could go on and on. But you get the point.

"To Be or Not to Be" is the kind of movie that gave birth to another classic: Mel Brooks' "The Producers." If not as blatant a rip-off as the "Gun Crazy" movies, "To Be..." clearly gave Brooks the chutzpah to make a comedy about the Holocaust (which when it was released 26 years later was considered iconoclastic).

In terms of influence it is even more important: this film, from 1942, dares to turn the Nazi dash through Europe into comedy, and includes the funniest concentration camp joke ever put on film. It is the progentior of every "dark war comedy"--"Mash," "Three Kings," etc...but surpasses those easily. Perhaps that's because it so easily transcends comedy, at once becoming an espionage thriller, a tender story about the redemption of love, and a moving paen to the power of drama. I dare you not to well up when Felix Bressart (perhaps my favorite of the Lubitsch troupe) delivers his speech to a gang of gestapo; I can't say I've ever seen a more beautiful and moving argument against war, hate, genocide, etc. than that. It says more about more things than hours of overly production designed du jour Holocause movies could ever dream.

It is also perhaps the most Wilder-esque. For all the times you've heard of the sign on ol' Billy's door that read "What Would Lubitsch Do," this is the Lubitsch film that perhaps most resembles a Wilder; at the time of production, Billy was making his first U.S. feature, "The Major and the Minor," perhaps the second best comedy ever made about pedophilia (I'll place it behind both Kubrick and Lynne's "Lolita.")