“Le Pup”

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I’m pleased with that one. Edited out of a single shot I took, played with high contrast . . . Next thing to work on? Sound mixing, apparently.

“Rosemary’s Baby”

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Roman Polanski’s an odd duck.  He makes brilliant films, but then there’s the whole drug-and-rape thing.  If you’re like me, you’re disgusted that he doesn’t live up to the pure and noble innocence of the rest of history’s entertainers, but that’s how it is.  I think people feel repulsion* towards Polanski because, while he was doing lots of awful and immoral things, he was also making entertainment that wasn’t very mainstream.  If he had been as popular as a Michael Jackson or Elvis or Errol Flynn or Chuck Berry or Jimmy Page or Caligula, he wouldn’t be in a Swiss chateau, or as the Swiss call it, “prison.”

He’s made some excellent films … Repulsion is a creepy Hitchcock variation, while Chinatown … forget it, it’s Chinatown.**  Tonight, for the first time, I watched Rosemary’s Baby, one of those films I was supposed to have seen long ago.  Mia Farrow stars as Rosemary.  Mia Farrow has been courted by Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen, and countless other geniuses that should have better taste.  Mia Farrow wins the Kate Moss Award For Chick That Is Somehow Considered Hot By People I Don’t Relate To.

Anyway, Rosemary has a baby, and it’s all shizzed up.  Farrow does a great job of playing a baffled ninny, and John Cassavetes’ appearance reminds me to watch his films.  Cassavetes plays an actor; if this film is any indication, Polanski hates God and actors in equal measure.  Ruth Gordon won a deserved Academy Award for her performance.  One of the worst things about our increasingly generic planet is that we won’t see many Ruth Gordons in films anymore, and that’s a shame.  And while I’m at it, bring back Thelma Ritter!

While dated, Rosemary’s Baby serves as the filmic branch between Hitchcock and The Exorcist.  With this film, mainstream cinema’s content got just a little bit more shocking.  It’s worth watching solely for Polanski’s direction… each shot, no matter how subtle, is deliberate. I love films where it feels like the people behind the camera know both the beginning AND the end.

Watch it, if you haven’t.

*WHICH IS THE TITLE OF A FILM HE MADE I’M SMART
** WHICH IS A LINE IN THE FILM I’M SO SMART

“The Lovely Bones”

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I’m mixed on Peter Jackson.  Meet the Feebles was delightfully perverse and over the top. I loved Lord of the Rings, but I haven’t had a pang to watch it in a long, long time.  I really liked King Kong in the theater, but sold the DVD back maybe 3 months after buying it.  Once I’m done going “OOOO THAT’S SHINY,” I don’t care anymore.

The Lovely Bones is his newest movie, and it’s really damn weird.  That Girl From Atonement stars as Susie Salmon, an easygoing, happy girl that’s brutally murdered by Stanley Tucci.  (That really isn’t a spolier, by the way; Tucci is so obviously a creep that his character’s name should have been Lyle Kidmurderington IV).  After her demise, Susie spends her time groovin’ in some sort of Pre-Heaven where she’s surrounded by swirly computer graphics and talking to other dead kids or something, including a little girl in pigtails who is so mystical, all of her lines are clearly overdubbed.

I have a theory:  The Creator of this magical place was eager to use it as a dumping ground for special effects.  Otherwise, a lot of the time spent in Heavatory was kinda pointless.  The Lovely Bones teaches us that before one gets to Heaven, one must stand in one spot and stare at stuff, in between running around in grain.

Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play The Girl From Atonement‘s parents.  One thing I liked is that Jackson clearly tried to edit Wahlberg out of the movie as much as he could.  His performance is atrocious (but better than The Happening).  There’s a scene where he’s talking to Michael Imperioli that caused me to start laughing, until I realized I probably shouldn’t have been laughing.  You know how Wahlberg gets a case of Overly Earnest Big Eyes when he’s trying to be serious?  Yeah, he did that.

That’s another thing about the movie:  The tone shifts all over the place.  Sometimes it wants to be an intense thriller, other times a small 70s period drama, and other times a goofball New Agey acid trip..  There’s all kinds of whooshing and whirring; It’s the kind of movie where Wahlberg’s walking at the mall and people let out a loud WHOOOOOOSH when they walk past him.  There are two musical montages set in the movie, including a comedy one with Susan Sarandon (more on her later) that comes right after Susie’s murdered!  It’s a bizarre choice to make.  I half expected Tucci’s character to prance around to “Pretty Woman” while trying on different human skins.

The 70s period drama stuff might have been interesting if Jackson could shoot in that style, but instead it’s an endless series of quick cuts and steadicam shots and swooping crane shots and BUMPITY THUMP BUMP and SHPA-TANNNNGG!!  Keep in mind, this is all going on in a living room.  Peter Jackson doesn’t do restraint.

The perfect example of the just plain bad choices in this film is Susan Sarandon’s grandma character, a sassy boombalassy that drinks and smokes and is just plain KER-RAAAZY!  She’s not in the film long enough to really build to anything. so what little is there just doesn’t work.  On the other hand, her character perfectly sums up the wrongheadedness of The Lovely Bones:  In a movie about child murder, she’s the wacky granny.

“Shotgun Stories”

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When I was doing standup comedy, I did several shows in Arkansas. In this time, I’ve formed a layered, complex opinion of the state, which is this: Arkansas is a pile of retarded turd. Do you like interstates that have never undergone maintenance? Do you like a place that, for some reason, seems to be gray and lousy 90 percent of the time? Do you like flat nothing? Well if’n ya do, have I got a state for you!

My memories of Arkansas came flooding back as I watched Shotgun Stories, a 2007 film directed by A Guy I Can’t Remember And I Don’t Want To Look His Name Up. It stars Michael Shannon, who got a Supporting Actor nomination for his work in Revolutionary Road (which was well-deserved; he almost made me want to finish the movie). Shannon plays the oldest of three brothers named Son, Kid and Boy. As you may have guessed, their dad sucked. At the dad’s funeral, Shannon shows up and confronts the family his dad raised after bailing out on Family #1. Soon, a blood feud ensues between all of the half-brothers, AND NO ONE IS EVER THE SAAAAAME!

I liked Shotgun Stories a lot. For starters, the people in the movie feel authentically Southern. Nothing irritates me more than a phony Southern accent, but in Shotgun Stories, you really believe that these are poor assholes living in Arkansas. I also liked how Shotgun Stories affirmed what we all know to be true: Never, ever go to Arkansas.

Another aspect that drew me to Shotgun Stories was its microscopic budget, which appears to be around 4 bucks. It proves you can make compelling movies on the cheap, provided you have a good script and the slightest amount of competence. Speaking of which, my quest for competence continues. I hope to post more videos of my painful learning process later this week.

OHOHOH, I almost forgot: Fuck Arkansas.

P.S. Shotgun Stories was written and directed by Jeff Nichols.