Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Spaghetti Western

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
dir. Sergio Leone

Breaking Bad "Green Light" (2010)
dir. Scott Winant

Breaking Bad "Shotgun" (2011)
dir. Michelle MacLaren

The Credits

Jigokuhen (1969)
dir. Shirô Toyoda

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
dir. James Cameron

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Bullet Holes

Blood Simple (1984)
dir. Joel Coen

Basket Case 2 (1990)
dir. Frank Henenlotter

Breaking Bad "Sunset" (2010)
dir. John Shiban

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fishtank

Short Cuts (1993)
dir. Robert Altman

Romeo + Juliet (1996)
dir. Baz Luhrmann

A Plea from a Filmmaker

I got an email the other day from a man named Mark Ross, asking you guys for help finishing his film. If anyone can spare it, this is a good chance to support independent cinema. Here's what he has to say:

Curse of the Phantom Shadow is my homage to old Republic movie serials, radio dramas, Spy Smasher, The Shadow, The Phantom, Batman, Dick Tracy, and Spy Smasher. It takes places around 1948 and borrows its plot ideas heavily from comic books and old pulp novels. We have professional actors from Hollywood. Until recently we were entirely funded by me. Unfortunately, because of the bad economy, we now need movie fans to help us finish the movie.

Here's his Kickstarter page.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Strip Tease

Barbarella (1968)
dir. Roger Vadim

Blade Runner (1982)
dir. Ridley Scott

The Fall in the Snow

This one comes from Tumblr, so I normally wouldn't post it, but I think it says really interesting things about the distinct styles of these two geniuses.

The Frozen North (1922)
dir. Buster Keaton & Edward F. Cline

The Gold Rush (1925)
dir. Charles Chaplin

Look at how Keaton doesn't even bother to show his face. His deadpan comedy interprets the gag as, essentially, a physics joke, like the cannonball gag in The General. Chaplin, who was a much more personal and giving comic (I've never heard him described better than "no man ever wanted to be loved more"), puts the gag as a vignette about a little man that just can't catch a break - even the ground looks down on him. Look at the props at work. Keaton's impeccable little pork pie hat rolls off perfectly like a hubcap, whereas Chaplin's messy and overstuffed pack explodes all over the frame.

It's an identical gag, from two masterpiece comedies, that means two totally different things just by the force of personality at work.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Wanderer (2)

Nights of Cabiria (1957)
dir. Federico Fellini

The Duellists (1977)
dir. Ridley Scott

The Street (2)

Broken Blossoms (1919)
dir. D.W. Griffith

The Sorrows of Satan (1926)
dir. D.W. Griffith

The Rape

The Virgin Spring (1960)
dir. Ingmar Bergman

Last House on the Left (1972)
dir. Wes Craven

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Spiderman

The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise "Arachne" (1868)
Gustave Doré

The Thing (1982)
dir. John Carpenter

The Brief Encounter

Closer (2004)
dir. Mike Nichols

Nuit Blanche (2010)
dir. Arev Manoukian

The Prow

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
dir. Joseph Sargent

The Little Mermaid (1989)
dir. Ron Clements & John Musker

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Klan

Compulsion (1959)
dir. Richard Fleischer

The Intruder (1962)
dir. Roger Corman

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Creeper

The Wolf Man (1941)
dir. George Waggner

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
dir. Edgar G. Ulmer

The Oilspill

The Wages of Fear (1953)
dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot

Monkey on My Back (1957)
dir. André De Toth

The Hero

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
dir. John Ford

 My Darling Clementine (1946)
dir. John Ford

Two Rode Together (1961)
dir. John Ford

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Glasses

Sin City (2005)
dir. Robert Rodriguez

Lord of the Flies (2009 Folio edition)
cover by Sam Weber

The Arm

When a Stranger Calls (2006)
dir. Simon West

Pandorum (2009)
dir. Christian Alvert

The Broken Glasses

Straw Dogs (1971)
dir. Sam Peckinpah

Lord of the Flies (2009 Folio edition)
cover by Sam Weber

Anybody know who designed the Straw Dogs poster?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Tribute

 "And the Road Warrior? That was the last we ever saw of him. He lives now, only in my memories."

The Road Warrior (1981)
dir. George Miller

"But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me in every way that a person can be saved. He exists now, only in my memory."

Titanic (1997)
dir. James Cameron

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Worst Scene in the History of Film

This is a digression, but I've got to get this out in the public discourse. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a magnificent film. Everybody knows that. A genuinely fun and witty epic, it's one of the great achievements of cinema, but the restored 179 minute version is awful. It lays drunken waste to the film's already tenuous pacing, bloating the film with a few poorly dubbed and frankly exhausting slogs. They took a classic and added some bathroom breaks, basically.

This wouldn't bother me too much - hell, I survived Apocalypse Now Redux - except for the sad fact that this mess is the only version available on home video since 2004. The long but fast-paced film I remember simply doesn't exist anymore.

The worst added scene is the first, that one with Tuco and the chicken. It's up on youtube if you haven't seen it. I've thought about it, and I'm prepared to say it is The Worst Scene in the History of Film

That sounds like hyperbole, but in terms of the scenes it's presented in comparison and the effect it has on the film as a whole (which is easy to chart since this section of the film is otherwise identical in the older US version), I really believe it's that bad.

In part it's because the scene comes at a really delicate moment in the film. Blondie has just left Tuco for dead in the desert. By some miracle, he survived, and we follow a staggering, parched Tuco as he laps up some water and, without even a moment's rest, charges straight into a gun store to arm himself. In the old US version, the next scene is Tuco exacting his revenge alongside a small and uninteresting posse who get mowed down just to provide some misdirection. We don't know anything about them and we don't care. This scene is about Tuco and Blondie.

In this extended cut, we have a 3 minute interlude to watch Tuco collect his posse. It's a languid scene which is segued by a tension-killing fade to black and which ultimately tells us nothing except that Tuco knows the men he let Blondie kill. We already know Tuco is a killer and a sneak, so what we have here before us is nothing more than, at best, an actor's motivation.

On top of that, it's simply a bad scene. The cave set is flat and inexpressive, the music is unusually bad for Morricone (it opens with a silly little lilting bit which reminds me of that jokey theme they'd sometimes play in the original Star Trek), and Tuco's monologue is repeated much more effectively in the unforgettable scene with his brother.

But beyond all that, it's downright uncinematic, on a basic level. One of the great advances of cinema, as far back as 1902 in Edwin S. Porter's Life of an American Fireman, is the ellipsis - the ability and willingness to edit nonessential moments. Filmmakers learned early that we did not need to see every step in a journey. Leone didn't bother showing us Blondie and Tuco's trip to the POW camp later in the film, he was content to leave us with a shot of the Union army discovering them, then a shot of them in chains. So why, here, does he throw away 60 years of film history and waste three minutes of his film with a monologue repeated later, in the blandest set of his career, establishing characters we don't - and shouldn't - care about?

It's baffling and infuriating. It grinds the film to a halt right in the middle of one of its best moments. It's like having a commercial break on your DVD. It is The Worst Scene in the History of Film.

Director's cuts and special editions have been hot for closing in on a decade now. Some are terrific (Blade Runner), most are useless (hello every "unrated" comedy), but far too many are actively ruinous. I just want my movie back the way it was.