CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Few Things Before I Go

I'm done for good, just for the year. Tomorrow I go to Mexico, but when I get back I will find some movies to see. A triple feature of Letters from Iwo Jima, Pan's Labyrinth, and Children of Men should give me plenty to write about. I haven't had much time lately to see movies.

I've seen one film in the past two weeks, and that was Notes on a Scandal (I want these Motherfucking Notes off my Motherfucking Scandal!). Well, I managed to squeeze in the three Wallace & Gromit shorts, but finals, family, holidays, a bris (this was one Christmas I won't soon forget) and a new girlfriend have been occupying my time. So, before I go, I'll leave you with a few things.

This being the time of lists, it's a good time for me to discover Lists of Bests. This is a great way for me to keep up on my progress with the IMDb Top 250, They Shoot Pictures' Top 1000, and general directors' list. I highly recommend it for all you who know you need there are a bunch you still need to see.

I haven't made my own Top of 2006 list yet. I still want to see Duck Season, Nightwatch, et al. All I can say is that you can expect one half of one-two punchs from at least two directors, and maybe a debut or two.

I want to wish you all a happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, whatever is your thing, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope to see you in 2007, and I want to thank each and every one of you who actually reads this blog. You make it all worthwhile. And now I leave you with this. This is a little preview for me, and a reminder of warmer places for those of you trapped in snow. Hey, at least it's not Margaritaville.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sundae Monday - Happy Holidays!

All you need to know my views on Christmas can be summed up in one small gesture: I carry around a dreidel in my pocket. I'm not quite sure why, but it's there.

And so, in an effort to add some Christmas joy to my finals filled Jew life, I present the following:

The original, and still greatest Christmas special ever produced.

And the loving homage. Hopefully it will become a classic like its predecessor, as it is one of the better half-hours of television I've seen in the past year or so.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Time's The Charm?

I must admit, I'm very hesitant to write about Inland Empire, even after three viewings. There may be two weeks left in the year, and I still need to do some catching up (Inside Man, L'enfente, et al), but I can guarantee Inland Empire is in my Top 10 of the year. It's currently sitting pretty at #1, but that may change. You never know.

The most important thing to remember about Inland Empire is that, even though the majority of the action surrounds Nikki Grace/Susan Blue (Laura Dern), the movie is actually about the redemption of the Lost Girl (Karolina Gruszka). The movie opens with a single beam of light, probably from a film projector. As the camera pans to follow the light, we see the title of the film, and then a record player. The soundtrack mentions the longest running radio program in history, and the tells about a grey day in an old hotel in Europe. This is where we first meet the Lost Girl, a prostitute with a client in this hotel. They both have digitally blurred faces, but her face clears after the man leaves. She proceeds to watch a television where, in fast motion, we see both the Rabbits we'll see later and the Visitor (Grace Zabriskie) walking towards Nikki Grace's house.

I think I've worked out some of what happens next. The Lost Girl, besides watching the rest of the film on her television, appears as the character that would become Susan Blue in On High In Blue Tomorrows, the film at the center of Inland Empire. Her husband, known only as the Phantom (Krzysztof Majchrzak, in the scariest Lynch part since Robert Blake's Mystery Man in Lost Highway) also appears later in the film.

Consider this my spoiler warning, though I can't really see why you wouldn't want to know as much about this film as possible before going in. Oh well. SPOILER ALERT!

I believe that the Lost Girl is trapped in a purgatory of sorts. She was the Polish version of Susan Blue, and her lover (Peter J. Lucas) was murdered by the Phantom. From here, I think either the Phantom killed her, leaving her in this place, or the death of her lover caused her to have a mental break-down and turn to prostitution. I'm inclined to go with the former explanation. The Lost Girl is dead, and so she is trapped in this hotel room, watching Nikki follow in her footsteps.

The difference, or course, is that when Nikki finally meets the Phantom, she has a gun. In killing the Phantom, Nikki both releases herself from the Lost Girl's fate (that final shot of her on the sofa is her changed destiny), and the Lost Girl. Once Nikki kills the Phantom, she appears in the Lost Girl's room and disappears. Nikki has escaped and left the door open. The Lost Girl leaves the room and finally returns to her lover and their son.
Some important things to note:

-The door Nikki enters after killing the Phantom is 4 7. The name of the original film that became On High In Blue Tomorrows was German, translating to "four seven." The Lost Girl was trapped in the curse of 4 7, and Nikki rescued her by rescuing herself.

-Nikki's husband (Peter J. Lucas again) does not have a part in On High In Blue Tomorrows. This means that the majority of the film, where Nikki is Susan and her husband is Susan's husband, is not the actual film. I believe that this is completely imagined by Nikki to try to fill her role as Susan.

-The Phantom hypnotized the woman who kills Susan (Julia Ormond). Ormond also plays Doris Side. Doris' husband, Billy (Justin Theroux) is having an affair with Susan in On High In Blue Tomorrows. I think that Doris, after learning of Billy and Susan's affair, decides to kill Susan. Susan, meanwhile, has been slowly losing her mind. After her husband leaves her and her son dies, she begins to work on the street and create her own backstory.

I could probably watch this film once a week for a year and never completely understand. But I don't think I'd ever tire of it. It constantly engaging, and it works on every level. If you just want to enjoy the images on screen without connections, then there are numerous scenes which work among Lynch's best. He crafts his lights and sounds to their maximum effect, and the raw emotion he presents on screen runs the gamut, often in one scene. This is not a movie for everyone, but if you're willing to go with it, it will take you to places rarely, if ever, seen on the big screen.

**** / ****

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The O Stands For Nothing

I swear. This is my last Hitchcock post for a while. But, well, this is my big paper on the subject. I personally think it's far superior to my thoughts on Rebecca, but that's up for debate.

One of the most dominant motifs in Alfred Hitchcock’s work is the search for identity. Sometimes, this search is shown through a literal journey, as in The 39 Steps. Sometimes, the attempts at creating a new identity can only be accomplished once another, more dominant identity has been thrown off, as in Rebecca. North By Northwest differs from the rest of Hitchcock’s work in that, instead of the main character alone lacking an identity, every major character in North By Northwest lacks an identity. This lack of identity is presented cinematically in a different way for each character. Nevertheless, for each character, the fake identity must die in order for the true identity to form.

Roger Thornhill, the main character of North By Northwest, lacks a true identity. This is shown in several different ways. One of the most important is his reflection. Thornhill is shown either looking in or being looked at through a mirror at four different points during the story. In each case, he is pretending to be someone he is not. Three of the four times, he appears in the mirror as what he is pretending to be. This is not true the final time, but here it is not Thornhill looking in the reflection.

The first incident occurs in George Kaplan’s hotel room. At this point, Thornhill, who has been mistaken for Kaplan, looks through Kaplan’s personal items. When he looks in the bathroom, he glances in the mirror. From the camera’s perspective, the mirror shows nothing but a blank wall. That is because Thornhill, in order to get into Kaplan’s room, pretends to be Kaplan. However, Kaplan is not a real person. He is a fake spy created by the government, and as a non-person, he has no reflection. Thus, when Thornhill pretends to be Kaplan, he pretends to be no one. By showing Thornhill without a reflection, the camera is implying that Thornhill is successful in his pretending.

Thornhill looks at a mirror again when he pretends to be no one – in essence, to disappear. At this point, he is hiding in Eve Kendall’s room on the 20th Century Limited train from New York to Chicago. By hiding from everyone outside of the room, he is pretending to be a person who does not exist. And so, when he looks in the mirror, the camera shows only Thornhill with no reflection. Again, he is successful in his pretending.

Thornhill’s third encounter with a mirror happens in the train station in Chicago. When the police search for him, he enters the men’s restroom and lathers up for a shave. Finally, Thornhill is shown with his reflection. However, this achievement is dubious, since the role he is playing at this point is that of a man. The camera, by showing him as what he pretends to be, implies that he is simply a non-descript man. He is not a man by Hitchcock’s terms because he does not have an identity. He is still pretending to be a man, even though he will not become a man until later in the film.

When Thornhill is shown in a reflection for the last time, he has finally attained his identity. He is sneaking in the upper level of Phillip Vandamm’s house when he is spotted in the reflection of a television screen by Vandamm’s maid. Here, like in Eve’s room on the train, Thornhill tries to go unnoticed by pretending to be a person who simply does not exist – to disappear. However, unlike his previous attempt, he fails this time. He is not able to pretend to be someone else because he has a fully formed identity. Once he is unable to fulfill his role, he has what he needs to be a true man – a full-formed identity.

In order for Roger Thornhill to attain his true identity, his various pseudo-identities must be eliminated. This is accomplished when Thornhill, in each of his fake identities, dies. Thornhill is figuratively killed at two points during the course of the film. After each “death,” he takes a new identity, one that suits him until that identity is no longer useful to him. At first, he is a man without identity and without knowledge. He does not know anything about the spy games around him except that he is not George Kaplan and that he is not guilty of the crimes of which he has been accused. This persona is run over by a truck during the cornfield scene allowing Thornhill to come back to life with a new identity.

When Thornhill comes back from the death of his first non-identity, he assumes the identity of George Kaplan. While Kaplan, he learns Eve’s part in the spy games, Vandamm’s real name, and what he must do to be George Kaplan. He plays the part expertly, only coming out of character briefly when meeting the Professor. Nevertheless, when he and the Professor go to Rapid City, it is George Kaplan, not Roger Thornhill, who meets Vandamm and is killed by Eve. From the dead body of George Kaplan arises Roger Thornhill with a fully realized identity. Thornhill does not work for the government, he is not George Kaplan, and he is not guilty of the crimes of which he has been accused. However, he is not the mere victim of circumstances he was at the beginning of the film. Now he controls his own destiny, and he is able to save himself and Eve. Since his previous incarnations were fakes, they needed to be eliminated. Once Roger Thornhill finds his identity, he can survive in the world and make his own decisions.

As Thornhill sheds his false identities to create his true one, Phillip Vandamm must rid himself of the mask he wears to find his true identity. Vandamm uses a false identity, only to have it fall away, revealing his true identity. When Vandamm first meets Thornhill, he uses the guise of Lester Townsend, a UN diplomat. At this point, Thornhill does not have any solid identity, and neither does Vandamm. Like the identity-less Thornhill, Vandamm is not the complete master of his surroundings. He is the subject of his wife’s wishes, unable to take time out of his dinner party to properly do away with Thornhill. The next day, when Vandamm’s plot to kill Thornhill fails, Thornhill tries to find the real Lester Townsend. Upon the meeting of Thornhill and the real Townsend, Townsend is murdered. Since Townsend’s identity could be used by Vandamm, he does not have a secure identity. Without a secure identity, he is vulnerable to the attacks. Like George Kaplan, Lester Townsend must die in order for the man pretending to be him – Thornhill for Kaplan and Vandamm for Townsend - to arise as a fully formed individual.

Even Eve Kendall has a false identity that must die. Her entire existence is as a spy, so she lacks a coherent whole inside. She is just an actress, playing the role of girlfriend of Phillip Vandamm. Her nothingness is symbolized, not by a fake name or the presence of mirror, but by the juxtaposition of her face with nothingness. The closest close-ups Hitchcock gives of Eve’s face are always near some great emptiness. The last shot in the train station in Chicago shows Eve’s face in extreme close-up. This is followed by a dissolve to a large expanse of empty land. This is a cornfield with no corn, only a dirt road and a highway. By placing her image next to this open area, Hitchcock equates her with the emptiness of the land. This ultimately shows the nothingness at her core. Similarly, Eve’s final close-up shows her face with a horrible drop behind her. She is hanging by her fingers, inches from her death, at Mt. Rushmore. Figuratively, Eve Kendall does fall here. This woman with no identity except the roles she played for the government is dead at this point. The woman who is finally saved from the abyss is Eve Thornhill, Roger’s wife. This is the identity she must take in order to survive.

Throughout North By Northwest, characters must assume false identities in order to accomplish what they want. However, each false identity must be killed in order for a true identity to form. George Kaplan must die so that Roger Thornhill can live. Lester Townsend cannot survive in the same world as Phillip Vandamm, and Eve Kendall was just a woman waiting for Eve Thornhill to come along. And each of these characters’ lack of a true identity is represented in a different manner. Eve is equated with nothingness by juxtaposition, Vandamm uses fake names, and Thornhill is shown in the mirror as exactly what he pretends to be. However, when the picture ends, the two protagonists happily ride off in a train with each other and their identities. This is the archetypal Hitchcock story, showing people go through terrible ordeals to get what is most valuable to them, their identities. It has been used in other Hitchcock films, but never quite so effectively as in North By Northwest.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sundae Monday

I discovered this weekend that my friends had not seen this video. I thought it imperative that they, and so you also, should see it without delay.

"And I'm gonna be HHIIIIIIIIGHHHHHHHHH" I'm pretty sure he already is.

And for the kids in the audience, the version you may be more familiar with:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pass Your Answers Forward . . .

If you didn't already know, Dennis over at Sergio Leone and the Inside Fly Rule is having another one of his great quizzes. Consider these my answers, which I've also posted in the comments section of said quiz.

1) What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?

Last night, I watched Videodrome on the Criterion DVD. I felt I owed it to myself, since I loved A History of Violence so much and hadn't seen any other Cronenberg works.

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.

From what I've seen, I love the work of Peter Suschitzky. In particular, I'd like to single out his work on Lisztomania, a movie that wouldn't be nearly as wonderfully surreal if it weren't for Suschitzky's angles.

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?

Joe Don Baker seems like he'd be a nicer guy in person. And he wasn't in Speed 2. That's an automatic strike against Svenson.

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation…)

Near the very end of The 39 Steps, I gasped when I realized what was going to happen. Richard Hannay is back in the Music Hall, and he comments on the music. He's about five seconds behind me, but in those five seconds, I gasped. The girl sitting next to me laughed at me, but I was still satisfied with what Hitchcock could do to me.

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.

Sunset Boulevard is the ultimate Hollywood movie. Because if you're not William Holden, then you're Joe Gillis. And if you are William Holden, it won't be too long until you're Norma Desmond.

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.

M is one of those achievements that make the coming of sound so worthwhile. Well, M and Richard Linklater.

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.

I can't help it. The girl I was after at the time looked a lot like Virginia Madsen. I was this elitist going through a period of self-discovery (still working on that one). I couldn't help but see myself in Sideways' Miles Raymond. I'll be better next time.

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?

Molina may have been in a remake of Quo Vadis, but she was also in 1492. And Bouquet played Madame de . . . Point: Bouquet.

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.

Rose-tinted glasses are a dangerous thing in films. I blame them for Grease. But there are a pair that strike me as working both in spite of and because of their nostalgia. And they are the prefect analogues for their generations. American Graffiti relives the notion of America before Kennedy, of that unspoiled time of life when kids could while away their time by driving down Main St. without feeling like the world could do them any harm.

Dazed and Confused looks at the world after the fall. Kennedy (both of them), MLK, Vietnam, Watergate, this is a time when hope is beginning to spring anew. There's a certain hope in those Aerosmith tickets. Maybe the 80's won't be so bad.

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.

I think I have to go with, by default, OJ on the boat in The Naked Gun. It's a moment of unceasing brutality made even funnier in retrospect because of what he's become.

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.

Is there any question? Shampoo. Pure 70's.

12) Name the first double feature you’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.

I think I'd make a double feature featuring two very different views of the American Dream. First, I'd have The Godfather to see the dark side. But then I'd follow it up with Modern Times. We don't know what lies down that road, but if the Tramp's got his girl, then everything's going to be alright.

13) What’s the name of your revival theater?

The Brattle. I love it so much. They're doing a Marx Brothers Marathon for New Year's Day.

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?

Elliot's a nice guy and all, but there's still that scene in The Maltese Falcon where he's walking out of Gutman's hotel room. The one when he just threatened Gutman, and now he trying to laugh it off, but his hand is shaking in fright. So good.

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie.

Though I do love me some Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Darby O'Gill and the Little People holds a special place in my heart, the uncontested crown goes to Mary Poppins. I wish she was able to come into my life riding an umbrella and fix all my problems . . . sigh . . .

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound.

I love the abject fear that that whistle can induce in you in M. There shouldn't be anything frightening. It's just a man whistling, right? And yet the whistling is so clear, precise, and shrill. This is the whistle of a man who isn't like everyone else. His whistling is too perfect. It's just scary.

17) Pink Flamingoes-- yes or no?

Umm . . .I believe that dog shit is for the next table, thank you.

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.

I'm sorry, but the kid in me loves the Imperial March way too much to ever let it go, Fargo and Taxi Driver.

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?

I seem to be the only one who thinks that Fay Wray is the most overrated part of the original King Kong. I much prefer Robert Armstrong's lovably charismatic Carl Denham.

I fell asleep during the new King Kong, but that's not Watts' fault. It's Peter Jackson's fault. And Watts was simply great in Mulholland Drive. Point: Watts.

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?

Not really. For a while, I thought that might be Moulin Rouge!, but it turns out that I still appreciate people's taste, even if they like it. And Ewan McGregor still can't sing.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.

Yeah it's cliched, but I want a Best First Feature Oscar. Let the world know who's coming up in the world. And I think I need to give it to the one that really deserves it: Brick. Little Miss Sunshine, well, let's just say that's not my bag, baby.

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.

Nothing quite like the coed showers in Starship Troopers.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?

Movies have the unique ability to make that which is usually inaccessible to so many accessible. They can literalize emotions in the angle of a camera and the face of an actor. They can paint a beautiful picture, destroy the same image, and create another one just as beautiful, all in one instant. They can hold all the beauty in the world and let everyone else see too.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney?

I'll have to take Finney. He looks like he has more fun during his films, even ones like Erin Brockovich.

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature.

I like the Focus Features logo. It uses such basic visual principles, yet seems entirely modern. I love the lion and the spotlights of Fox, but the blurry O just works so simply.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally.

Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze by William Rothman taught me the importance of ever single shot in a film. It also elevated Hitchcock to a whole new level for me. Indispensible in my film library.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any “spoilers” in your answer.)

I'm partial to the revelation of Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects. The juxtaposition of the quotes from earlier in the film with the images not only shows us who Keyser is and how he did it, but just how incredibly clever he was from the start. It's an absolute marvel to watch that ending unfold and be flabbergasted.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.

My favorite Truffaut "movie" is Antoine et Colette. It is one of the most painful moments on film, if only because the horribly awkward moments are more organic and less contrived that its later descendents. After all, who hasn't tried desperately to get that girl, only to find that she's actually taken? Thinking of the following moments in Colette's apartment with her parents still causes me to shudder.

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?

Olivia Hussey was the voice of Kasan Moor in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. Game, Set, Match: Hussey

30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.

I got my It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back CD signed by Chuck D! And he gave a pretty cool history lesson, teaching us without us even realizing it.

31) When did you first realize that films were directed?

Paths of Glory. No doubt about it. The battle scene, following Kirk Douglas as he works his way through No Man's Land was absolutely incredible for me. This was done unlike any other battle scene I can think of, in that it gave such slow, delicate camera movement. Up until that point, I just thought gun fire meant heavy editing and short shots. This showed that there was a way of breaking from generic cliches, and it showed me that movies were made by people.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's Not Polite to Stare

My sister, the Cinelawyer once told me something very interesting about how she perceived Picasso's work. She said that she thought he was just alright until she saw his early works. It wasn't until she saw that he could paint very well while following the rules of art at the time that she could truly appreciate how he was able to break the rules.

In a similar way, I think The Elephant Man is an absolutely essential piece in David Lynch's oeuvre. It shows how he was able to craft a film that played by the rules of Hollywood and keep his vision and integrity intact. What it manages to do better than any other film I can think of at the moment is chastise the viewers for viewing.

The plot itself is very simple. Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), a prominent surgeon, while visiting a carnival one day, stumbles upon The Elephant Man, John Merrick (John Hurt). Utterly captivated by Merrick's condition, Treves brings him in to be a permanent resident at his hospital. He gives Merrick dignity that he has never felt before, and Merrick commits suicide.

The first act of the film, before we see Merrick's face, is wonderfully directed. Lynch makes us hate the people who gawk at Merrick, not because we believe in the dignity of all creatures as we would like to think, but because we are jealous of the people who see what he looks like. We paid our money, and we want to see what these people are seeing. It is only after we see Merrick's face and learn of his intellect that we are able to raise ourselves above the level of the gawkers, of only by a little bit.

Of important note are the two shots that bracket Merrick's first visit to the hospital. Each shot is taken from an elevated position, distancing ourselves from Merrick. This distance works on multiple levels. First, it gives the impression of a peeper looking at Merrick. This is emphasized in the first of the two shots, since we are able to see a staircase leading up to our level. Second, it shows how we look down on him, both literally and figuratively. Third, and most importantly, it is the same distance and angle shot. This shows how nothing has changed. Treves doesn't understand him as a human being, and neither do we. We do later, but at this point he is just another freak to us.

"Important" is a word I hate attached to movies. It's saying it's like broccoli. You may not like it, but it's good for you. Movies like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner are Important. And in a way, The Elephant Man is an Important movie. It promotes a message of tolerance. But it does it in a very different way. It isn't a simple film. It creates whole characters, making us sympathize with Dr. Treves even as we realize that he's just as much a gawker as everyone else. This is an impeccable film, and it shows just what Lynch can do, even when he is working within the studio system.

***1/2 / ****

The Cinefamily

I'm going to take this opportunity to introduce my two sisters since I will be using them in my discussion of films at some point.

If I'm the Cinemathematician by being a math student, then my two sisters would have to be the Cinelawyer and the Cinebusinesswoman. I get into more movie conversations (read: arguments) with the Cinelawyer. An example of our most tired argument: She loves Crash and I love A History of Violence.

The Cinebusinesswoman doesn't really argue as much. She asks me what I've been watching lately, I ask her if she's ever heard of Inland Empire, and she wonders aloud why she even bothers asking.

But they each do have their own insights, and I hope to bring them in a little, if only through past conversations we've had.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Love the Lynch

I've decided that until I rewatch Inland Empire, I'm going all David Lynch all the time. Later this week, expect some thoughts on The Straight Story, The Elephant Man, Lost Highway, and maybe Twin Peaks. But for now, I'm posting some things about last night, my evening with David Lynch:

-First of all, coffee was on Lynch. And it was good coffee too.

-Before the movie started, he let Kaethe Hostetter improvise on her viola. Strange, yet beautiful in its own way, much like the film to follow.

-I got to ask David Lynch a question! And I wasn't the guy who asked if he would put out the background noise from his films on CD! Very exciting.

-Lynch was surprisingly eloquent overall, given what I was expecting.

-His views on DV versus film fit him absolutely perfectly. He said that DV allows him to explore a take cinematographically without disrupting the performances, since doing the same thing in a different take might have a different result. It opens possibilities for him that weren't previously available.

-When it comes to specific imagery, he never tries to directly copy his previous work, but he won't go out of his way to avoid using, say, a red lampshade.

-He knew that he really had a movie after creating 6 or 7 scenes.

-Just like he believes that DV is the future, he also believes that self-distribution is the future of filmmaking. It gives him the opportunity to meet the theater owners and create more intimate bonds. And he gets to keep more of the money.

-He has no discernible plan for the future, so he's going to go home and wait until an idea comes to him.

Pictures of the event can be found here. Enjoy the Lynch.

Sundae Monday - Happy (Belated) David Lynch Day!

Yesterday was David Lynch Day in Cambridge, Massachusetts, since he debuted Inland Empire at the Brattle and was there for a Q & A. More on that later. But for now, enjoy all I could find of our good friend Mr Lynch.



Blue Velvet

Wild At Heart

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Lost Highway

The Straight Story

Mulholland Dr.

Inland Empire

The only video for the trailer to The Elephant Man is here, but they won't let you embed it. I won't have a review of Inland Empire up until at least Friday when I see it again and try to put some pieces together, but you can expect some thoughts on Lynch's other works soon.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jay Sherman as Critic

This is my entry into the Film Criticism Blog-A-Thon. Check out No More Marriages! for the full list of links.

There is one important credit on The Critic that should tell you everything you need to know about the show. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, both writers and producers for The Simpsons. Now, this isn't just something to put in ads for the show (which Fox undoubtedly did during its run). It explains The Critic's entire view on its subject. The Simpsons was the greatest animated program in television because it managed to use broad generalizations and stereotypes to make incisive and accurate commentary about the state of the American people. And in this way, The Critic takes a sharp attack, not only on the sorry state of the media (I think it's become more relevant now than it was then), but also on the people who watch these things for a living.

Jay Sherman is a man who wants to love movies. If only the movies were any good. He lives in a world of crappy sequels, remakes, and inter-franchise mashups. It has got to the point that he takes great pleasure in dumping on movies that could be considered a crime against humanity. And so he is strongly disliked. His ratings are in the toilet, and most of the people who watch him watch for the clips more than his opinion. His boss constantly breathes down his neck about his ratings, and his integrity is constantly compromised.

And so is the life of the critic. More often than not, this sort of thing is played for laughs, but there's still the truth sitting there for the world to see. Because, really, once you start looking at the movies and seeing what people actually call good films, it's hard not to keep your mouth shut. And that's what Jay does. He tells it like it is, and yet he is slandered and abused for his opinions. But he is not a completely sympathetic character. Sometimes he is wrong, like when he calls Jean-Paul LePope a bad actor, and sometimes he compromises his integrity for the sake of a possible girlfriend. And yet he is never a truly unsympathetic.

Jay Sherman is the ultimate stereotype of the film reviewer. He doesn't like most of what's out there, and nobody likes him because of that. And yet he is a real critic. He is fallible, has a few fans, and remains a real person throughout his adventures. So maybe, the next time you decide a film critic is moronic/insane, remember Jay. Sometimes they can be just wrong, but their heart is in the right place.

I'll leave you with this, a clip from a movie Jay had to review: