Monday, November 30, 2009

the devil-doll (browning, 1936)

Lionel Barrymore makes a surprisingly convincing elderly woman.

Monday, November 09, 2009

halloween ii (zombie, 2009)

Returning to the rather more public sphere after a long absence, thanks to the fine folks at the House Next Door.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

the sandlot (evans, 1993)

Sorta watched the last few reels with the sound off. Long story. Seems to have no real rep, but while it appears to end in Field of Dreamsy schmaltz, the extended sequence involving the kids attempting to retrieve a Babe Ruth-autographed baseball from the Cujo-like dog next door is fun.

What really caught my eye was the 'Scope photography, which is vividly colored, spacious, and has an exuberant, free-falling effect. You'd think the director thought he was composing for 70mm or IMAX, and given the delirious, larger-than-life perspective of the kids, and the equivalent performances of the cast, the charm is hard to resist.

Notes on an underexplored genre: studio-made kid/teen films.

Friday, November 06, 2009

sunshine (boyle, 2007)

Handsomer than the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire by many leagues, yet still, at long last, a disappointment, Boyle and frequent screenwriter Alex Garland, in their best film since Trainspotting, can't just let well enough alone and have a bunch of astronauts try and rescue a dying sun, they have to pick 'em off, one by one with some old-dark-house, Agatha Christie bullshit. And when the treacherous nature of their environment isn't enough, he introduces a villain. To my few readers, of those who've seen Vincenzo Natali's Cube - remember when it was awesome? And then, remember when it started to suck? Yeah. Thankfully, Boyle and Garland don't go so far as to have a good guy turn heel, but the actual development is, if anything, more lame.

Must say, though, the visuals are on point from start to finish.

the proposition (hillcoat, 2005)

As another writer noted, the idea of a rock musician writing a screenplay for a western (albeit an Aussie variation) sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Nick Cave's screenplay for The Proposition is so rich and novelistic that one may be alarmed to discover, upon digging deeper into the film's production history, that it's an original work, not based on any pre-existing book or screenplay. Hillcoat's direction yields a nasty, concise bit of business that recalls not just Cormac McCarthy but also Werner Herzog (particularly Cobra Verde) and Alex Cox (Walker, less for the fever-dream surrealism and more for the relatively sober period production scored to contemporary music). Making the most of the Australian outback, Hillcoat makes frequent use of overhead camera angles as well as underground or partly-underground structures, conveying the impression that every hideout is already a grave, every interior that of a mausoleum.

the friends of eddie coyle (yates, 1973)

The dialogue is, on occasion, just this side of precious - a prototype for what would eventually be called "Mamet-speak" - but that's a small complaint; this is one lean, grim, no-nonsense crime movie that recalls the best work of Jean-Pierre Melville.

scanners (cronenberg, 1981)

Cronenberg gained notoriety with this 1981 feature - it's the one where Michael Ironside uses his mind to make a guy's head explode. But that's not all you need to know about it: while he never tops the scene's "did that shit just happen?" effect, the main experience to be had here appears to be the complete sterility of the action narrative. Practically all that happens in the story is that two young lovers hit the road as they try to escape the clutches of a very powerful villain, and it's almost as if it doesn't matter whether or not the path of destruction that pursues them is their responsibility. Flight, landing, chaos, bloodshed, flight again. By draining a conspiracy/humans-with-special-powers thriller (a bit like Stephen King's Firestarter, which was published the year before) of its "juice," or any sense of pulpy excitement or titillation, Cronenberg focuses our attention on composition, which is angular and boney-shouldered, and color, which is pale and earthen. In the film's second-most memorable image, an agent of Ironside's shadowy corporation is propelled (via telekinesis) into a massive piece of artwork, which shatters beneath him.