Saturday, August 01, 2015
      ( 12:21 AM ) posted by Setsuled  
Despite Sylvester McCoy's recent statement that he doesn't think the Doctor ought to ever be female he's still one of my favourite Doctors. At least he objects on the grounds of what he sees as an essential element for the Doctor and Companion chemistry rather than saying Time Lords should be incapable of changing sex. For what it's worth. Here's the quote via Dark Horizons:

I'm a feminist and recognize there are still glass ceilings in place for many women, but where would we draw the line? A Mr. Marple instead of Miss Marple? A Tarzanette? I'm sorry, but no – Doctor Who is a male character, just like James Bond. If they changed it to be politically correct then it would ruin the dynamics between the doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show.

Ugh, "draw the line"? Like it's an invasion? Now both he and Peter Davison are on record as being against a female Doctor while Tom Baker has wisely said he doesn't have convictions on the issue. I do hope Radagast changes his mind.

I did hear a good Seventh Doctor audio play this past week, 2005's Unregenerate! but I found the Fifth Doctor audio I listened to this week, The Council of Nicaea, more interesting. It's a shame the television series seems reluctant now to explore historical events. This one, written by Caroline Symcox, clearly came from someone who'd studied the history of Christianity but happily she didn't make Five or his companions Peri or Erimem into Christians. There's a funny moment where the Doctor's trying to impress upon Peri how important the Council is to the history of the religion, saying there's something quoted from it every time she goes to church. When she says she doesn't know what he means he says, "Ah, not an episcopalian?" "Baptist," she replies. "Well, my mother was." Peri's still supposed to be American although Nicola Bryant's American accent has been especially weak in the audios I've heard lately.

Fortunately, the story focuses more on the audio only companion Erimem, who makes an interesting point to the Doctor when he says that they can't change history in this case and she replies that the Council of Nicaea actually takes place in what is for her the future. Which presents an interesting tangle. You can sense the early genesis for the television series' "fixed point" concept.

I wish the audio play writers would stop writing the Fifth Doctor as so whiny. He's better when he's more Errol Flynn-ish, like in The Church and the Crown. A perfect opportunity was lost in The Game where he finds himself caught up in a deadly, futuristic version of football and he runs about ridiculously begging people not to fight. Somehow people have decided Five is a free roaming schoolmaster.

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Friday, July 31, 2015
      ( 2:30 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

The greatness of some films seems like a matter of destiny, of some larger organic force unexplained by the sum of its parts. And I'm certainly not suggesting anything's wrong with the parts of 1975's The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Its parts are well formed, firm, tastefully lit, and sensitive. But nonetheless it feels like everything about it submits to something bigger, some supernatural or extraterrestrial commanding intellect. Watching it it's hard to believe no-one predicted it would still be in theatres forty years later and that fans would be dressing up as the characters and staging impromptu performances at screenings. It's, as they say, alive.

Who can explain the mysteries of life itself, who can say what irresistible energy assembles and animates the flesh and blood? Who but Frank N. Furter?

There are a few parts that are undeniably essential and Tim Curry as the "transvestite from transsexual Transylvania" is definitely one of them. First of all, Curry needs to get that makeup tattooed on his face. He should never go a minute without that makeup. I can't recall ever seeing a face more perfectly matched to a specific configuration of lipstick, mascara, and eyeliner. But Curry isn't merely a physical phenomenon, the naturalness with which he inhabits the role is a big tendril of that mysterious force. I suspect Curry's sense of familiarity with the part reflects repeated performances in the role in the original stage production, he so completely inhabits it, like clothes he's worn for decades. It's this sense of comfort and self-assurance that is so important--singing about transvestitism and transsexualism, the lyrics, pairing them with Transylvania, seem clearly meant to combine the concepts with horror, to shock the innocent heterosexual audience represented by straight laced Brad and Janet by proxy. But it's Frank N. Furter who comes off as natural and the "good" kids who are artificial and starchy. The story, which is both parody and tribute to classic horror and science fiction film, reflects the secret of so many of those films, that the ostensible villain is really the protagonist.

Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon as Brad and Janet, respectively, were not part of the original stage play cast which might explain their comparative disconnect from their roles but they are also in the mould of Kent Smith in Cat People or Otto Kruger in Dracula's Daughter, thin manifestations of the inhuman morality enforced by the Hays code or the Church or other organisation that attempts to regulate how people feel. Some cold, mechanical stand-in to reinforce how all this fascinating, wonderfully weird humanity is wrong. The comeuppance they get in The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a very, very long time coming.

The film used many sets, props, and locations from Hammer horror films but those films do not have the benefit of Peter Suschitzky's gorgeous cinematography, another essential element. This was just five years before Suschitzky would serve as cinematographer on The Empire Strikes Back, the only Star Wars movie David Cronenberg says looks good, which explains why Suschitzky has been cinematographer on all of Cronenberg's movies since Dead Ringers. Hammer films usually had pretty simple lighting, everything evenly lit as a supermarket or sometimes, like in Brides of Dracula, bearing excessive shine, particularly on cheap, freshly painted surfaces. Cinema was generally moving towards a more high contrast look in the 70s but Suschitzky's work on The Rocky Horror Picture Show is exceptionally beautiful, particularly for its flat darks and soft, lush lights. I especially love the look of Frank N. Furter's lab.

There's not the slightest bit of shine in Curry's hair, a rich black spot surrounded by the blood red tarp and the subtle gradation on the pink background bringing to mind engorged capillaries.

Another of my favourite scenes is the dinner scene where the people and table seem to almost be located in a black void and yet every single person's face is clearly visible without any sense of artificial, off screen illumination.

I didn't even mention the songs. There are so many elements that come together improbably well but maybe the most improbable thing is how elegantly it works, like a long shared, heartfelt dream brought to reality.

Twitter Sonnet #775

Angel Eyes talks to Graves about Venus.
Karaoke curtains conceal the rock.
Rocket radios have a tin penis.
Phantom ice skates never protect the sock.
Console companion eyes follow the comb.
Closer doors regard extant wan egress.
Snowmen slowly trudge aqueducts to Rome.
Faery ascetics are hard to impress.
Magenta flowers roost under the sign.
Pamphlets gather in the alcohol dust.
White powder moths stagger across the line.
Ivory telephones transmitted sage rust.
Sequinned swallowtails tyrannise the belle.
Alien signals topple into Hell.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015
      ( 3:10 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

If we think of a plot as a person then we might imagine the mild mannered, naive plot of 1963's Youth of the Beast (野獣の青春) being led into a nightmare, a churning labyrinth of unchecked creative energy. Few will remember much about the typical gangster movie plot about a cop who goes deep undercover to investigate the murder of his partner. Viewers are more likely to remember strange juxtapositions, absurd and frightening visual extremes that pay little attention to the conventionality of the screenplay. This is a glorious assault on complacency, a real heart from Japan's New Wave asserting itself over a jaded, sleepily constructed story.

Director Seijun Suzuki was already well established as a yakuza film director and he was chafing under the yoke of formula. Later in the 60s he would make the wonderfully experimental Tokyo Drifter and the chaotically subversive Branded to Kill. But with Youth of the Beast he did something much simpler.

I wonder if Marlon Brando saw any films starring Joe Shishido before he made The Godfather. Both men seemed to feel strongly about having strangely swollen cheeks though Shishido actually had permanent implants. Presumably he hoped they'd look natural but his face is one of the bizarre extremes that confront the viewer in this film. As an angry young man capable of swift and deadly violence, his character, also named Joe, is quickly picked up by one of the big yakuza outfits in town. He gets noticed by picking fights all the way to the club run by the gang, the shot of his being taken to the back room is one of my favourites in the film. Starting from behind a one way glass where the club's owners are watching the interior, it's silent because the sound proof glass blocks the music. As Joe stands to follow the beckoning toughs, the lights go out, the camera tracks left as though to follow Joe, but suddenly there's a spotlight on a pile of pink feathers and an almost naked exotic dancer stands to dance to music we still can't hear. Then the camera tracks down to where one of the bosses quietly awaits Joe.

How does this eerie shot connect with the events? Like so many in the film, it's brash and disorienting, conveying a sense of an environment that conforms to no particular laws of sequence, cause and effect. The film starts with a murder shot in black and white, a flower among pills and booze the only thing inexplicably in colour.

In another scene, Joe confronts a yakuza boss with a shotgun, a film projected behind him like a significant layering of cinematic reality but what does the hall of mirrors mean except to say, "Here is a hall of mirrors"? A replicating reality perhaps to show that whatever strident actions one may take one is caught in an uncontrollable sea of sensory impression.

The aesthetic conceit is not totally opposed to the story as it is one with hidden motives and secret alliances. Joe blunders through this forest where no-one is exactly sure what is what but everyone is willing to kill or feels compelled to just to survive in a world of killers. In this way, the title makes a great deal of sense--all these yakuza are like beasts and a beast is wary because there's so much in the forest that is unknown and treacherous. Particularly for a beast who is young.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015
      ( 11:17 AM ) posted by Setsuled  

In 1974 James Bond faces dangerous stereotypes, women who confirm his misogynist worldview, and Christopher Lee as The Man with the Golden Gun in a profoundly stupid, unremarkably shot film by Guy Hamilton. Along with Lee, his costar Britt Ekland from The Wicker Man also appears in the film and I can think of few more appropriate chasers than that great horror film released the previous year to relieve the taste of greasy, smug cheese left by this Bond film.

I've said before I'm not much of a fan of Bond films. It's not because Bond is a misogynist--I have nothing against a protagonist having character flaws though I imagine there's a difficulty in presenting Bond as extraordinarily clever when misogyny is a form of deep stupidity. This may partially explain why filmmakers felt compelled to make his misogyny "right" and so we end up with two of the most submissive and brainless Bond girls in this film. The coup de grace being Ekland, playing a British agent, nearly causing a nuclear explosion--without ever realising it--when her ass bumps into a button.

Her stupidity is played for laughs. Maud Adams, who plays the lover to Lee's character, is a gentle lamb led from one commanding man to another.

Even the song during the titles is bad, even worse when considering this film followed Live and Let Die. Sung by a Scottish singer named Lulu, the song is tone deaf and kind of rambling, including lyrics like, "His eye may be on you or me. Who will he bang? We shall see. Oh yeah!" I think I actually hate it more for the explicit indication we're about to watch a movie than for the clumsy innuendo.

Lee is fine, of course, as Scaramanga, the superstar assassin who charges a million dollars per kill. I'm a big fan of Tori Amos and her second album, a song from which, "Cornflake Girl," features a lyric, "And the man with the golden gun thinks he knows so much." I suppose Scaramanga seems a bit smug but I'm not exactly sure what Amos was getting at. I can certainly see why she might not have liked the film.

I can't really blame Roger Moore for the shit that Bond says and does in this film, not even the suave agent yelling in English at townspeople in a Macau alleyway in an effort to get them to understand him. From Macau, the film proceeds to parade its hazy ideas of Asia in a Bangkok where Bond encounters Sumo wrestlers and karate masters. This film makes the campy iteration of Japan portrayed in You Only Live Twice look sensitive and studied.

What else can I say? The film also features some extremely fake looking third nipples.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015
      ( 3:41 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

We all know the Cryptkeeper is a desiccated corpse with a shrill laugh. But before the HBO series portrayed him that way, the classic EC comics were adapted as the 1972 Tales from the Crypt with a not especially ghastly looking Ralph Richardson as the famous host. An enjoyably cruel film about just revenge, satisfyingly over the top comeuppance, and general moral mayhem, it consists of five stories drawn from the original Tales from the Crypt comics and its related series The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear.

The framing story of this anthology film shows a diverse group of people on a guided tour of a crypt getting lost and trapped in a room with the mysterious hooded figure played with an air of authority and a hint of sadism by Richardson. He tells each one in turn a frightening tale in which they are the central figure.

The first story features Joan Collins as a woman who kills her husband on Christmas Eve for unexplained reasons. While she's attempting to dispose of the body, rather clumsily killed in the parlour while their child is upstairs failing at falling asleep in anticipation of Santa Claus, a psychopath escaped from a local asylum turns up outside dressed as Saint Nicholas. The sense of murder on top of murder in the story is nice especially since it puts the protagonist, the beautiful Collins with whom we sympathise anyway, beyond the grace of God right at the beginning.

The second story may be my favourite. Perhaps reflecting an influence from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider", Ian Hendry plays a man who abandons his family to run away with his mistress only to have a nightmare that they get in a horrible car accident. Or perhaps it's not a nightmare--the film presents it as a peculiar time loop which creates a nice impression of inevitability. On top of this is the stuff reminiscent of "The Outsider" where the story goes to first person--something that really doesn't work cinematically here any more than it did in the 1947 adaptation of Lady in the Lake but other aspects of the story prevent it from failing.

The third story builds to an ending that you sense coming the whole time but is only more satisfying for the anticipation. Peter Cushing plays a sweet, harmless old man who loves his dogs and the local children and talks to a portrait of his dead wife. But his obnoxious neighbour (Robin Philips) wants the old man out because his house is driving down local property values. So the young man silently declares war, spreading rumour and misinformation to destroy the old man's reputation and get his dogs taken from him before forging hateful Valentine letters from everyone in town. Cushing is uncommonly sweet and heartbroken in this story, the ending couldn't be horrific enough to please me. As it is, it did okay.

The fourth story, a variation on "The Monkey's Paw", is interesting though it makes no sense in context of the framing story given that the man the Cryptkeeper talks to neither does anything wrong nor dies in the story.

The final story is the longest and least interesting, a fairly simple story about a home for the blind under the cruel management of a greedy military man (Nigel Patrick). Patrick Magee gives a magnetic, quietly burning performance as the leader of the blind men who turn against him but the story never reaches the heights of inventive cruelty of the first three. It did make me long for a time when even blind men in nursing homes wore sport coats every day.

Twitter Sonnet #774

Celery guitar can't choose the window.
Columns under foot hold a fog machine.
Wooden golems solemnly learn kendo.
A pantomime of Leonide Massine.
Crumpled wrappers withhold public wi-fi.
Overpriced oases are abandoned.
Stranded supermarkets can't deify.
The cat's misused fountains are unfathomed.
Mislaid jawbreaker cell singers fall back.
Vertical blinds in metal trap mercy.
One's valour is better pickled in sack.
Heaven's frost in the glasses of Marcie.
Unexpected mutants determine dress.
Heavy paper layers the Good Queen Bess.

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Monday, July 27, 2015
      ( 2:34 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Here we are back at One Eyed Jack's. Some would say it's a bit cliche to have the badass female character placed in the sexual object position under the pretext of going undercover. But I thought the final sequence from last night's True Detective was terrific. I should note the way the sequence was shot didn't objectify Bezzerides at all, appropriately maintaining perspective from her point of view. We switch between prolonged, extreme closeups of her face and dizzy, unfocused roamings over the people in the house, all accompanied by a sort of oppressive and slightly anachronistic symphonic score ("Harmonielehre, Part II – The Anfortas Wound" by John Adams).

It's a very Lynchian scene in more ways than one. The music and lighting and use of closeups bring to mind Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive while the writing recalls Twin Peaks and early in the second season when Cooper and Truman go to rescue Audrey from the brothel One Eyed Jack's. Velcoro and Woodrugh even wear similar black sweaters and slacks to Cooper and Truman's matching infiltration ensemble.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Of course, unlike Audrey, Bezzerides is more capable of defending herself and I loved finally seeing her knife work in action. I particularly loved that her lethal slashes didn't kill the guy right away, that there was an agonising moment while she waited for him to bleed out and he was bewildered by the experience. A great moment.

Like Audrey, Bezzerides was drugged and she also has a confrontation with memories of childhood abuse by a man her father's age. Not quite as weird and disturbing as Audrey's encounter with her father but interesting for exploring Bezzerides character which I think could use some more focus, as much as I like her. I also wish she and Velcoro would spend more time together, that one scene in the bar was great but I'd love to see more. So far no pair on the show has developed a bond quite as interesting as McConaughey's and Harrelson's in season one.

I didn't find Velcoro's story about custody of his son particularly interesting in this episode though I loved the sit down stand-off between him and Semyon and Velcoro's line about how he'd sold his soul for nothing--that's exactly what I said about Stannis on Game of Thrones, if you remember. People are so busy looking for Byronic (or Satanic) heroes lately it's nice to see when a deal with the Devil goes wrong as it more often than not does.

I've been puzzling over the scene where Velcoro's seen doing cocaine. The song he's listening to, I thought, "This sounds very like 'Human Being' by The New York Dolls but not quite." Yet googling to-day, the info I find seems to indicate that it is New York Dolls with "Human Being". But it's a live version I don't know. Or maybe it is the album version and I'm used to the live version. It's a lot better than Conway Twitty, in any case.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015
      ( 1:02 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Studio Canal is releasing a new restoration of 1949's The Third Man. They've also released the film for a limited theatrical run in certain cinemas--if it's playing near you, see it. I saw it yesterday at the Ken cinema here in San Diego, a very old one screen cinema that shows independent and older films. The Third Man looks absolutely gorgeous on the big screen and it was a particular pleasure seeing it with a full house, the intelligent, fast moving film keeping people in the audience quiet and it was wonderful hearing which lines cued the audience to laugh, like when Sergeant Paine reveals he's a fan of Holly's books after Holly'd been grilled by Major Calloway who'd never heard of him.

All the staircases, the rubble of post World War II Vienna, the cat who knows the man in the doorway, it's all so beautiful. Its ideas about Capitalism dehumanising people are certainly still relevant to-day and the elegant, quiet way it proves its point about universal humanity by making us love even the man who would exploit innocent people is great. Orson Welles' speech about the "mugs and the suckers" and how human achievement seems to coincide with human depravity is as eerie and troubling as ever especially as he speaks with that charming smile. The mischievous school chum become mass murderer, maybe this is just the natural order and progression of things.

That wonderful final shot that muddies the moral waters further by making us agree with Anna even as we'd agreed with Holly a few scenes before, a frightening paradox but presented in a tranquil moment on a tree lined lane with falling leaves.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015
      ( 1:45 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Are we all on the Internet living alone in isolated rooms? I listened to three particularly nice Doctor Who audios this past week, Dreamtime, Catch-1782, and Three's a Crowd, though Three's a Crowd was definitely my favourite. A rather amusing metaphor for the Internet, the Fifth Doctor story sees he and his companions Erimem and Peri encountering a lost group of colonists who in the name of survival have confined individuals to separate small, dome-like quarters for their entire lives communicating only by Intercomm and only occasionally seeing one another through video chats. The title refers to a scene where one man suffers a panic attack when Erimem enters his room after his friend has also entered the room, creating the unprecedented situation of three people in one room together.

They have annual "socials" where people are able to entertain single visitors one at a time. The guy suffering the panic attack, Vidler (Richard Unwin), has fallen for another colonist, Bellip (Lucy Beresford), who continually puts off meeting him in person at socials because, she continually says, she needs her "space". I wonder if the writer of this story, Colin Brake, had an ax to grind with an evasive crush but it all still comes out as a nice satire of a culture grown comfortable avoiding physical contact with the help of electronic communication. The leader of the colonists, Auntie, is played by Deborah Watling who portrayed the Second Doctor's companion Victoria on the television series. Like Anneke Wills, time seems to have improved her acting ability considerably.

Catch-1782 is a nice time travel ghost story even though it stars the worst Doctor and one of the worst companions, Six and Mel. Dreamtime is a nice Seventh Doctor story with companions Ace and Hex about an Earth city being stolen, plucked up on an asteroid. The reptilian race, the Galyari, introduced in The Sandman, show up looking to trade or scavenge, the story turning into an interesting perspective on immigration and territory disputes.

Twitter Sonnet #773

Songs composed on doorknobs've stained the palm.
Walkway fluorescent lunch has stuck above.
Flickering bulbs'd fain dissuade the bomb.
Midday dinners burn through the old kid glove.
Wakeful beads signal popcorn ceiling stars.
Mislaid supermarkets conceal the bag.
Faded sushi wanders through salty bars.
Extinct but the pilgrim wight has a tag.
Low bells betoken Caracas Kraken.
Broken kitchen drawers draw blinds over light.
Wisdom devours gardens of Traken.
Black nylon night streets soon take over sight.
Missing pine needle mirrors close crosses.
Clouds of tiny demons cut their losses.

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Friday, July 24, 2015
      ( 3:14 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

It's frustrating how often a movie ostensibly about a woman ends up being about a guy. If 1971's Hannie Caulder had been called Thomas Price I might have liked it a lot more. But it is a decently shot Western with clear influences from famous Italian films of the time in its ragged and weathered sets and costumes.

The Clemens brothers, played by Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, and Strother Martin, are criminals on the run when they come upon a small house inhabited by a young married couple. They kill the husband and gang rape the wife, Hannie, played by Raquel Welch. They burn down her house and leave her to wander the desert with only a poncho.

She vows revenge, something she can't do much about until she meets a preternaturally gifted bounty hunter named Thomas Price (Robert Culp). She begs him to train her and he finally agrees, though honourably refusing to accept her body as payment.

Wikipedia quotes Quentin Tarantino as saying Robert Culp is the reason he likes this film. I can believe it--he's practically a prototype for Christoph Waltz's character in Django Unchained. Though Django, as the apprentice bounty hunter, is a lot more interesting than poor Hannie.

Characters are made or broken in Hannie Caulder by the performances. Hannie's got plenty of motive, we want her to get revenge, but Welch's inability to credibly convey emotions and reactions renders her sort of hypothetical. Culp makes his mysterious, reluctantly decent gunslinger fascinating by imbuing the role with an understated humanity.

The three villains are good for their actors, too, Elam, Borgnine, and Martin rounding out their over the top comedic dialogue to make these three seem like real trash.

Also in the film is Christopher Lee as a gunsmith to whom Thomas goes to get a special light pistol built for Hannie.

I don't know if it's credible for Hannie to need a light gun so badly but it provides an interesting excuse for downtime for the characters which mostly involves Hannie inquiring of the gunsmith as to Thomas' mysterious past as she starts to fall in love with him.

It's not so different from 1965's western Cat Ballou which was supposedly about Jane Fonda in the title role as a female gunslinger but ended up being about Lee Marvin. I think this sort of thing is a natural result of male filmmakers seeing women as an ultimately unknowable "other". I see it again and again in film so that I'm overjoyed whenever I find exceptions, movies with real female POV characters, like Notorious or Cat People. Though I do think Hannie Caulder could have been a very different film with someone other than Raquel Welch in the role.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015
      ( 2:26 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Everyone loves Marie, a.k.a. Marietta, in 1935's Naughty Marietta. She's gracious, beautiful, a princess, and has a lovely singing voice. It's not because she wears gowns that tend not to adhere to her chest very well.

Here Jeanette MacDonald as Marie pops in and nearly pops out to help write "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life", one of several classic Victor Herbert songs to appear in this sporadically engaging musical melodrama. Marie, a French princess unhappy with the man she's being forced to marry, poses as a casquette girl--one of the women sent by France to their then colony of New Orleans to marry colonists. En route, her ship is attacked by pirates in an actually fairly decent action sequence which ends in the pirate captain shooting the girls' governess in cold blood.

Fortunately, once ashore the ladies are rescued by Nelson Eddy as Richard Warrington and his band of mercenaries who are mostly loyal to France. MacDonald and Eddy have a few musical numbers that don't date nearly as well as the Astaire/Rogers numbers of the same period, their starchy proclamations of love actually resembling some of the more rote silent melodramas of a decade earlier.

The film is much better for its supporting cast and some minor plot points, like Marie working with a weird troupe of puppeteers to support herself when she refuses to marry Warrington.

But I, like a sucker, watched the movie for Elsa Lanchester, who is indeed lovely in the film but who has a very tiny role as the Governor's cruel, bossy wife. Just look at her sneer.

Ah, glorious. I love that stripey gown the bodice of which she has no trouble filling out. Her husband, played by Frank Morgan who was second only to Edward Everett Horton as master of the double take, is also entertaining as a constantly flustered and stuttering good hearted man hopelessly routed by his all knowing spouse.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015
      ( 3:38 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

There's another list of greatest films out there being talked about on various sites, this one a BBC list of the top 100 greatest American films. I don't find it a very interesting list. It's based on a poll of only 62 unnamed critics from all over the world. The top ten aren't very surprising, there are a few choices in the whole list that are bizarre--Back to the Future is a better movie than Raiders of the Lost Ark? And a few that rather starkly reflect current industry politics--like 12 Years a Slave. I guarantee that movie's not going to be on any Greatest list ten years from now.

It's kind of amusing that The Dark Knight ranks at 96 ahead of Gone with the Wind at 97. I'm not exactly sure I disagree with that ranking.

It is good to see Groundhog Day on a list like this--there's a truly universally beloved movie, I've never known anyone who doesn't like it and it appeals to an astonishing diversity of people.

There are a few omissions that are downright criminal. The Misfits isn't on the list. In fact there's not a single John Huston movie on the list at all, not counting Chinatown in which he appeared as an actor. The Band Wagon, a decent Fred Astaire movie, is listed but his great films with Ginger Rogers, Top Hat and Swing Time, are not.

I was happy to see Eyes Wide Shut on the list at 61 though if anything marks this list as illegitimate it may be that. Actually, there's an even stronger strike against its legitimacy in the inclusion of Johnny Guitar at 64, which is a good film but more of a curiosity than a masterpiece.

These are the top five:

5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

All great movies. The Searchers is probably Ford's best because it's not only beautifully shot and has great characters but it makes the audience uncomfortable in a very good way. It's a little surprising to see The Godfather at number 2 though it doesn't really bother me. Vertigo is my favourite movie of all time but even now I still wonder if it belongs at number one on the BFI list, mostly because I always felt it was a movie only a small percentage of people really connect with. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the brilliance of the film is that it makes you feel like sympathises with you in a very peculiar way. Still, I feel like there are loads of people who see it just as an example of Hitchcock failing to evoke much suspense.

One could connect Citizen Kane and The Godfather as exhibiting characteristically American qualities in raw, ugly form--opportunism, self-promotion, cutthroat capitalism. Maybe in its way Vertigo covers self-image in a more personal way than The Godfather and Citizen Kane. It would certainly be in a much more brutal way.

After the thunderstorm on Saturday, I went to the tidepools and took pictures:













Twitter Sonnet #772

Wakeful wakame careens past all cares.
Marching challenges to visage submit.
A tree wanders among multiplied bears.
Fearful lemon twists came via Gambit.
Grapefruit juice is more profound than pleasure.
A Greta Garbo garden drifts eastward.
Plastic armies follow ants in measure.
Paradise's shoelaces hew skyward.
Clever feet came to the party with socks.
Missile Scrabble blowers weaken us all.
All display hamburgers get in the box.
Slimy figures take their time on the wall.
Irish bicycles descend on the beach.
Legal reparations pull out of reach.

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