Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Notable film and media links--June 17, 2009

---Modest newlyweds Bruce and Emma Willis share their futuristic marital plans with W magazine. For more on Willis, I recommend M. Dawson's analysis of the first five minutes of Die Hard that he wrote for Left Field Cinema.

---For The New Republic, David Thomson reviews the new book Kazan on Directing. It's fun to read Kazan's notes as he developed Marlon Brando's role as Stanley in his production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire:

"One of the important things about Stanley is that Blanche would wreck his home.... He's got the things the way he wants them around there, and he does not want them upset by a phony, corrupt, sick, destructive woman. This makes Stanley right! Are we going into the age of Stanley?... Stanley is exactly like you in some ways [Kazan means himself]. He is supremely indifferent to everything except his own pleasure and comfort. He is marvelously selfish, a miracle of sensuous self-centredness."

---For The Powerstrip, Jon Lanthier reviewed three films for Slant. As a serious fan of Beineix's Diva, I look forward to seeing Betty Blue:

"Two decades later, the aesthetic divide between Jean-Jacques Beineix's extroverted-noir debut Diva and his bloated, lusty third film Betty Blue seems much less gaping, particularly for viewers intrepid enough to regard his sophomore effort, the faux-pulp kaleidoscope Moon in the Gutter, as a homely missing link. Diva is genre-obsessed, an unwieldy meditation on dystopian thriller tropes and clichés that distracts us from its overwritten plot with shorn scalps and sexy jump cuts; Betty Blue is character-obsessed, an unwieldy meditation on the self-destructing nature of domestic relationships that distracts us from its lack of amorous insight with nipples, dicks, and the occasional fork stabbing."

---In part due to the amazing developments in Iran, the world of media is in dramatic flux right now, whether you look at changes in the availability of movies online, the difficulty of media critics to adjust to changes, the inability of CNN to find news without social networking sites, and now even Twitter (!?!) has become important as a way to get the news. It's all a bit much.

---I love it when Roger Ebert takes apart the propaganda devices of Bill O'Reilly:

"The seven propaganda devices include:

* Name calling -- giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence;
* Glittering generalities -- the opposite of name calling;
* Card stacking -- the selective use of facts and half-truths;
* Bandwagon -- appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd;
* Plain folks -- an attempt to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are "of the people";
* Transfer -- carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect or dispute to something the speaker would want us to accept; and
* Testimonials -- involving a respected (or disrespected) person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person.

These techniques, first listed in the 1930s, paint an uncanny portrait of what you can see and hear any night on the O'Reilly Factor."

---Jason Bellamy of the illustrious Cooler is in the midst of hosting a weeklong celebration of my favorite film critic: Pauline Kael. Check it out. As Doug Bonner of Boiling Sand points out:

"[Kael] elevated American movie reviews to film criticism by bringing ideas about the medium and the society that produces them into the discourse. Due to her ability to see quality in (what she called) ‘trash’ movies, she realigned the approach and respect for low-budget / independent / B-movies. For example, traditionally big-city newspapers had a daily-columnist reviewer and a rookie stringer reviewer. Before Kael, the daily reviewer would tackle pieces on the mammoth epics and message pictures while the stringer would write about the movies playing at the drive-ins. By 1975 the stringer would be assigned the no-brainer epic and the daily columnist would attempt to find the merits in the latest slasher movie.

If it hadn’t been for Kael, there would be no cultural space nor interest for a blog such as this one."

---In the film blogosphere, I keep running into these catchy little clips from the upcoming Transformers flick. If I see enough of them, perhaps I can skip the film altogether?

---Lastly, for those of you who think you have a difficult film shoot in process, check out Werner Herzog's troubles in making Fitzcarraldo in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon, as recorded in Vice magazine:

"[Klaus] Kinski took me aside, and in one of our rare moments where we revealed ourselves, he told me that if I went down with the ship he would go with me. I replied simply that he knew how the ship was built, with steel reinforcement beams inside and separate buoyancy chambers; I had no desire to drown, and had taken technical measures against such an eventuality. We hastily shook hands. I grabbed the phonograph and asked Gisela for some sewing needles, because the record player had no needle. But then our departure was delayed considerably. I had learned from the pilot, who had radioed up to the Huallaga from the Indians’ camp, that people seriously wounded by arrows had just arrived from the upper reaches of the Camisea, and that emergency operations were already under way. I hurried to the first-aid station and saw a native man and a woman, both of whom had been struck with enormous arrows. They had been fishing for the camp three hours upstream by speedboat, and had spent the night on a sandbank. During the night they had been ambushed and shot at close range by Amehuacas. The woman had been hit by three arrows and almost bled to death. The wounds were close together. One arrow had gone all the way through her body just above her kidney, one had bounced off her hip bone, and the most life-threatening one was still sticking in her abdomen, broken off on the inner side of her pelvis. I spent several hours helping out while she was operated on, shining a powerful flashlight into her abdominal cavity and with the other hand spraying insect repellent to try to drive away the clouds of mosquitoes the blood had attracted. The man still had an arrow made of razor-sharp bamboo and almost thirty centimeters long sticking through his throat. He had broken off the two-meter-long shaft himself, and was gripping it in his hand. In his state of shock he refused to let go of it. The arrow’s tip, which looked more like the point of a lance, had spliced open one of his shoulders along the collarbone and was sticking crossways through his neck, with the tip lodged in his shoulder on the other side."

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