Posted by: daveed | December 16, 2013

Help him! Help him!

yossarian

Catch-22 is brilliant. Mike Nichols’s direction is so lucid and evocative (not to mention surprisingly technically deft—note the incredible tracking shot at the beginning of the film). I’d seen it a few times, and used to think it paled in comparison Joseph Heller’s now-iconic novel (one of my all-time favorites). But having re-read the book not too long ago, I was struck by how some of Heller’s humor seemed forced, whereas the film — and this was one of its major criticisms when it was released in 1970 — is darker, moodier and lacks this willfully lighter tone. I think it works better this way, frankly.

The film is a child of its time, as the novel was as well. Vietnam, Kent State and all the other violent upheaval between opposing forces of humanity, economics, race, politics, you name it. Yes, war is hell.  And as such, often gets unfairly compared its contemporary M*A*S*H*, a universally-recognized classic. But the latter, also an exceptional satire, withholds most of its vitriol, which is probably why it made the incredibly successful transition to television a few years later.

Catch-22 has much more to say about warfare and its bastard children, such as corporatism and social engineering, as a way of illuminating truths about individuality and morality. That makes it a superior work of art.

Posted by: daveed | September 11, 2013

Twelve years gone

WTC_lights

I find that slowly my anger, like a stone rubbed smooth in a river, becomes reflection and sadness.

Posted by: daveed | May 1, 2013

Oh, the humanity

Han_Snowlo

Here’s an amazing collection of behind-the-scenes shots of the Empire Strikes Back cast and crew. Although you wouldn’t know it from the smiles and off-camera mirth that it was a difficult film to make.

Posted by: daveed | January 1, 2012

Straight and narrow

Quick, before it’s gone, check out Pulp Fiction, re-cut in chronological order:

Right after I saw the film for the first time, I tried to reconstruct the events in my head as they would have happened. It hurt. Later, when it came out on DVD, it was an easy matter of skipping to the correct scenes. I have to say it made for an uninteresting experience, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like Pulp Fiction is as thematically deep as say, an Ingmar Bergman film, or as avant garde as something sprung from the mind of David Lynch. Quentin Tarantino just isn’t that kind of filmmaker. What you see are three episodic short films that have a tenuous link to each other: Vincent and Jules and the briefcase, Vincent and Mia Wallace’s date night, and Butch and the gold watch.

I recall reading somewhere that Tarantino’s intention was to cut the film chronologically, but that his co-writer Roger Avery or perhaps his editor (and subsequently frequent collaborator until her timely death), Sally Menke, convinced him to make the switcheroo.

The conceit is gimmicky, but I’ll be damned it works. You see more of Samuel Jackson’s iconic character and his radical transformation becomes a much stronger denouement to the film. Here, Jules drops out of the picture before the midway point, never to be seen again. I suppose the film could have ended right there and it would still have resonance as its own, dark and quirky gangster comedy.

Posted by: daveed | December 24, 2011

Holiday special, part 2

Posted by: daveed | December 24, 2011

Jingle time

Let’s face it, most Xmas music doesn’t represent anything new or artistically interesting. Classics and traditional songs tend to be stale in their didacticism. And the holiday-neutral tripe is nothing more than bland confection.

This is perhaps the greatest artistic expression of the holiday. Even if you disagree with the intent or meaning, this song has something to say. Listen.

The song concludes with the best lyric:

Hallelujah Noël, bet it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: daveed | December 23, 2011

In the beginning

So the world wide computer web network is abuzz with this, the teaser trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel film with the foreboding title Prometheus:

OK. No need to reach for a box of tissues. Yeah, it’s good eye candy and has some potentially terrifying moments, but not much else to go on. The film’s release is several months away, however it’s been talked about for several years. I’m just hoping it’s a great ride, full of surprise and terror and excitement, and doesn’t get gunked up with a moralizing “don’t mess with nature” story.

Posted by: daveed | December 22, 2011

Holiday special

For me, Christmastime is an annual learning event.

It used to be all about travel and family and large group drama. Or contrived religious observances that had little meaning or fascination for me. Or a mad dash around the shopping circus to identify, locate and acquire stuff. Or solitary—and yes, welcome—plunges into days-long alcohol binges.

Then one day, I said, “Fuck it. Christmas is whatever I want it to be.” And every year, while I feel the pull of family drama, or commercialism, or boozy solipsism, I get to learn this lesson all over again.

In other words, make your holiday holy to yourselves. Otherwise, don’t bother and just sleep in.

Posted by: daveed | November 17, 2011

Underground New York moment

New Yorkers can make subway commuting utter hell, but on those rare occasions when a spark of a New Yorker’s true character comes out to wake us from our blank faced torpor, it can be an amazingly affirming experience why this is the greatest city in the world.

Yesterday, two OWSers, young white dudes, boarded my subway car. Immediately one start his shpiel at an unpleasantly loud volume. If you’ve heard the beggars and the bible freaks on the subway, you’ll know the tone. I don’t want to hear this shit on my way home. No one does, but especially from a yahoo like this guy.

Anyway, he goes on about how OWS got forcibly ejected from Zuccotti the other day, 200 people were arrested, including a “NY Councilman, a Mr. Jimenez who represents… I don’t know… somewhere where they speak Spanish.”

Somewhere where they speak Spanish” Huh??? This asshat just glibly dismissed oh, around 30% of the city’s population. Not to mention made the racist assumption that because Jimenez is a Hispanic name, he must of course represent a Spanish-speaking constituency.

I wanted to call this little shit out on this, but figured he’d turn it into some race-baiting argument. Turns out I didn’t have to, a black man on the car starts telling him that his comment was rude and offensive. “How can you say that?” he says. A older Hispanic woman next to him is smiling and nodding in agreement.

I turn and to hear more protests from others on the car. A young woman in that richly expressive Hispano-urban accent saying something about him not “knowing shit about New York.” A few Spanish curses from somewhere.

Meanwhile, instead of retreating to another car, our genius is getting irritatingly defensive: “Offended? Who’s offended? Raise your hands if you were offended.” This just irked more of the passengers. One woman, bless her heart, pointed right at the fool, looked him in the eye and said, “He is a City Councilman. You should have KNOWN where he’s from!” I started clapping. More cheers.

The subway arrived at my stop and unfortunately had to go. I would have loved to find out what transpired. On my way out the door, clapping as I go, I heard more applause behind me.

I fell in love with my fellow New Yorkers once again. I loved how they called this useful idiot out on his ignorance, refusing to tolerate his self-righteous tone. New York City may not be the freest city on the planet, but certainly the proudest. Here’s to you, fellow 7th Ave subway riders.

Posted by: daveed | June 13, 2011

Rinse repeat

Find out if you can sit through 8-plus minutes of one of the most painfully overripe dialogue clichés:

At first, it’s excruciating. Then it’s sad. Then at around 6 minutes it gets really, really funny hearing it dubbed in a Chinese film. Even the venerable David Mamet stands accused, employing it in his otherwise excellent Spartan.

I was trying to see which film—at least in this compilation—was the first to use the line. It includes clips from Racing with the Moon with Sean Penn and Terminator, both from 1984. I wonder why this line gets so overused. In watching the clips, it’s obvious that in about 97% of the scenes it’s utterly unnecessary.

H/T to Scott at Go Into the Story. Also check out his incredibly comprehensive list of clichéd movie dialogue.

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