Thursday, June 28, 2007

What We Mean When We Say Love

La Lohan out for a walk with her Spurs hat, June 28, 2007

Evan Almighty (2007)
directed by Tom Shadyac
rating: no cravats
seen on the screen at Oxford Studio Cinema

The most cynical movie about American politics and the people of the United States I have ever seen. Which is why, in part, I included that snapshot of Linds today; if you can't find a little faith in someone like that, you deserve your lonely ark with the finally unbearable Steve Carell.

Half-Baked (1998)
directed by Tamra Davis
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix and at The Signature at MGM Grand

It's hard to call a film that could adequately stand in for any conversation I've had with my best friends over the last nine or so years "perfect." This might be my blog but even I have my limits. Instead I'm happy to say it took me eight and a half years to watch all the way through to the public safety message at the end. The message, like the movie, is a classic, everything you're glad your best friends are.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This Island Earth (1955)
directed by Joseph Newman
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

It's depressing when presidential candidates can't denounce evolution (evolution!) fast enough and a baritone pilot-scientist from fifty years ago looks progressive.

Also it's misogyny week at Argyle Hall. To wit,

Joe Wilson: "Here's something my wife could use in the house. An 'iterociter incorporating an electron sorter.'"

Dr. Cal Meacham (my scientific progressive): "Oh, she'd probably gain 20 pounds while it did all the work for her."

Zing! I remember laughing at this through MST3K: The Movie in 1996, but Crow and Tom Servo must have been out of the theater and back at the ship for those beautiful matte paintings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Two for None

Hammett (1982)
directed by Wim Wenders Francis Ford Coppola
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Hammett works as a foray into artifice - Zoetrope's One From the Heart sound stages are still lovely to look at - but the script isn't much of an homage to anything. It sounds cheap and trips and never makes it very far, unless it's on the novelty of Blue Duck's widow's peak. Plus all of those famous faces just strafe for being wasted.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Feo Fuerte Formal

Tall in the Saddle (1944)
directed by Edwin L. Marin
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

In my house, RKO gets the KO. Not only does Ward Bond turn in an understated performance (incredible, I know), but Ella Raines plays the thankless role of "sassy filly with a spooky Indian bodyguard" with all the grace of Garbo laughing. There's atmosphere and sympathy for drunks and even mystery like a stormy parlor séance.

Oh right, and Duke peering down from the shotgun side of a stagecoach, telling the dandy hotel proprietor not to expect any sympathy from him: "I never feel sorry for anything that happens to a woman."

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'll Get You On the Ameche

Ball of Fire (1941)
directed by Howard Hawks
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Like Platinum Blonde or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ball of Fire is the great American dream, scripted to the cadence of newspaper criers, lit by the light of an old New York, proof that movies are the great democratic art form because they're a love shared - by the cast, by the characters, by us through a far-away smile.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Made in America

Spurs vs. Cavaliers, Game Two
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on ABC

The next Michael Jordan? Michael Jordan was an asshole.

The Sopranos - Season Six, Part Two (2007)
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on HBO

The Sopranos was a show about one man who relied completely on the people around him to be who he was. The series couldn't have ended more cynically, more sadly, or better than it did. And let's not kid ourselves - more enjoyably, too.

And Peter, you were never better than 2007. Here's to you, you smug, beautiful man.

Killer of Sheep (1977)
directed by Charles Burnett
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at the Brooks Museum of Art

Maybe the great movies are about kids. Kids are fun to watch - they seem funny and wise in such effortless ways. But they don't account for relationships, those pockets of revelation in our adult lives. If cinema isn't exactly the "art of woman," shouldn't it at least be the art of love? You can get an innocent kind of love from kid pictures, but what I like so much about Killer of Sheep are the grown-ups at the periphery, how it isn't just hurt and pain, but living in a sense that lets you find some happiness in people.

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD at JL's

Sansho the Bailiff is a lesson in perfect craft; anyone who wants to make a movie should watch it. But "life is torture?" That smacks of Bicycle Thieves or Umberto D., those unimpeachable world classics that could just as easily pilot a rocket ship as win my heart.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

El Sueño de la Razon Produce Monstruos

Regular Lovers (2005)
directed by Philippe Garrel
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Just like the Mavericks, Garrel chokes at the very end of the season, and on his way to the Bogdanovich Five, no less. This 178-minute beauty stops about two minutes too late (why can't it conclude with that sweet and ambiguous dream?), but Garrel's shades of gray (both the look and the long romance) are wise enough to match his kind and scarred intentions.

It could have all been yours, Phil!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Time to Make the Donuts

Bandidas (2006)
directed by Joachim Roenning & Espen Sandberg
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Penélope and Salma, I guess, are friends. They thought it would be fun to make a movie together and commissioned their mutual pal Luc Besson to write one for them. The finished product went straight to video, in spite of Penélope's Mr. Ed, in spite of Sam Shepard ("I'll act in your movie if you ask me to"), and - the greatest crime of all - in spite of the spirit of two entitled actresses using their clout to just plain fuck around. "Bandidas" is a terrible movie, but it must have been a great vacation.

"Shooting Old Shep" by Frederic Remington

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
directed by Gore Verbinski
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at Malco Studio Cinema

The third time around, there's no call for complaints - you know exactly how long those 168 minutes will feel. So I'm happy to say I enjoyed myself, just like you're supposed to at these things. Was it Keith Richards? The monkey shot out of the canon? Was Keith the monkey or was the monkey Keith? Did Bore-lando even notice either one?

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
directed by Guillermo del Toro
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD at JL's

It isn't that the heart of Pan's Labyrinth is insincere. Del Toro is that at least. But I don't think he's graceful enough for a fairy tale, which should be gentle or else a nightmare. Capitán Vidal has no place in a story like that - not the man with his father's watch, anyway.

And allegory? Bah!