Friday, September 24, 2010

I'll Be Your Fool

Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (2008)
directed by Richard Linklater
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on Netflix at Syl's

It's a popular but rarely well-executed tactic in journalism to let unlikeable subjects hang themselves over the course of an article or documentary. In spite of what Richard Linklater says about his love for Augie Garrido (nice shorts, Rick), I believe that he's usurped even Errol Morris's treatment of Robert McNamara for garroting done right. On the one hand, Augie is a successful coach with a clutch of college baseball championships under his arm. People love him. On the other hand, he's a jerk, as contradictory with his pat pronouncements as every coach I've ever ignored. "I let you down" becomes "You let me down." "It's all about you" is synonymous with "It's all about me." Depends on the day, depends on the weather.

Most middle school coaches of any sport have more opportunities to play an important role in kids' lives than a professional like Augie does with semi-professional college recruits. The "science of practice" sounds like the foundation of two hours of drills every afternoon after school, not something Garrido invented. Linklater, of course, is a professional - still one of my favorites - and Inning by Inning says what Q & As don't. Rick would disagree with me, but having tracked the darn thing down, I'm happy to be the bug in Augie's ear.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hog Wild

Born to Kill (1947)
directed by Robert Wise
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on TCM at Syl's

Walter Slezak, who as far as I know I had not seen in anything before Born to Kill, shot himself in 1983. I learned this the day after we watched the movie, at a bookstore while looking through Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon II. In that same book, Anger includes the original crime scene photographs of the Black Dahlia, who, it just so happened, I was reading about in a true-crime narrative at Syl's. It's sordid and it's fascinating, and Born to Kill roots its nose in the same sty. No one would make a movie this rotten in 2010 with a 37-year old lead as the sexpot predator because few directors could have enough fun with it and still let it be what it is: an entertainment. Slezak steals the show, I think (or ambles away with it), as a less vengeful predecessor to the soft shoe gumshoe that helped Elliott Gould mumble my heart away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Summer Hours (2008)
directed by Olivier Assayas
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

I know that Assayas can direct a long Steadicam shot, but the critical adulation for this movie blows my mind. True, there are many points to make about familial duty, parents, and the legacy of what (and who) old folks leave behind, and Assayas isn't afraid to make them at the expense of his self-involved protagonist. Frédéric pays more attention to a Corot than his kids, but Assayas has to contrast this with a class-based aside involving the (of course non-materialistic) former housekeeper, who cares enough to visit her employer's grave and is sure to hug her nephew when he drops her off at her unromantic urban apartment.

Could it be more condescending? The director's real-life friends, dollars to donuts, are just like every one of these rich assholes, and it's the family - not the housekeeper - that the cameras follow like paparazzi. If Assayas could accept that better, or be more honest about his own position in the popular French firmament, I'd be open to the subtleties in his argument. Instead, he chooses to conclude the film among French teenagers in French bras, wiling away their own "summer hours" with bad rap and magic hour sun, and all you can think is that the ex-Mr. Maggie Cheung is probably sleeping with that girl.

Monday, September 06, 2010


4 Little Girls (1997)
directed by Spike Lee
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

I recently used this as an example of how I seem to spend more time crying during movies and TV shows than I used to, but followed it up with a joke about Dumb & Dumber. Specifically, the scene where Lloyd turns on the waterworks during a commercial. I think he wipes his tears with hundred dollar bills, but like Kenny Powers yelling at Wayne and Dustin Jr., I don't have the creative capacity to say something constructive about a story as heartbreaking as 4 Little Girls without sounding like an asshole. By which I mean that there's nothing I can add to a conversation about good people and bad people that isn't conveyed better by these mothers and fathers who grew old with daughters dead and buried decades ago. The South is routinely condescended to in the national narrative, but these families are testaments to why that is a disservice to so many of the people who live there, and to what they have given the country that so many of their neighbors take for granted.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

In the Trenches with Sexy Rexy

Night Train to Munich (1940)
directed by Carol Reed
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

There's a fairy tale component to Reed's production that reminds me of Powell & Pressburger: double agents, beautiful daughters spirited across the English channel, alpine gondolas built on London backlots. But P & P said a lot about human nature in even their most patriotic efforts, whereas Reed seems content with a boardwalk song and dance. Perhaps that's why the comedy of an earlier generation - those not slaughtered in the Battle of the Somme - feels so toothless and out of place in the mouths of two idiots who do nothing but complain about soldiers on the cricket lawn. I don't know; it's all so sad, when you think about it, that it's a wonder movies get made at all. Not that I'm above a comment about the beautiful British heroine growing less beautiful as the movie progresses (and her soft focus shots gain a little clarity), but I'd rather sing Rex Harrison and Paul Henreid home across the water to their new careers as accented laugh kings in the land of the free.