Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Music, Keeping it Simple

Keeping it random as well:

1. Dinosaur Jr. - Puke & Cry
2. Pere Ubu - Pushin' too Hard
3. Stooges - Lost in the Future (from Fun House sessions)
4. Volcano Suns - Greasy Spine
5. Little Feat - Oh Atlanta
6. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Monster
7. New Pornographers - All The Old Showstoppers
8. Yo la Tengo - All your Secrets
9. Pretenders - Space Invaders
10. Outkast - Xplosion

And Video? Dino sounds right:


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Second Bull Run

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Battle of Bull Run, one of the most complete defeats of the war, and one of the most thorough jobs of outgeneralling anyone did on anyone else in the war. Though - and this says a great deal about the way the war went in the east - there are other contenders for those dishonors...

I've mentioned before, that Robert E. Lee was the luckiest general of the war - he fought against a series of incompetents, while in the west, his far less talented Confederate fellow officers fought the likes of Grant and Sherman and Thomas. The Union generals, especially in the west, had their share of luck sometimes - but Bragg and Johnston and the like were generally capable, in spite of their limitations, and some of their underlings - Forrest and Wheeler and Cleburne and the like - were quite outstanding. But Lee... Nowhere, probably, more so than at Second Manassas. John Pope was probably the worst general to be put in charge of a large body of men in the war - though I suppose he did have some competition for that... The Second Manassas campaign was a clown show from the start. He invaded Northern Virginia while McClellan was still down on the Peninsular, but Jackson and then Lee came after him and ran him ragged. Stonewall marched rings around him, captured his supply depot, captured his headquarters, and completely eluded him, sending Pope on a wild goose chase throughout the area.

When he finally did find him (with Jackson's help, since old Jack was looking for a fight), he still thought Stonewall was trying to get away. That wasn't it - Jackson was trying to lure him into a fight, to give Lee and Longstreet time to come up and crush Pope between them. So it was - 150 years ago today, toward evening, Jackson attacked the Union army at a place called Brawner's Farm. That fight turned out to be one of those straight up face to face thousands of men in a line blasting away at one another from a hundred yards or less for hours at a time fights that you still found in the Civil War, especially in 1862. The Union side happened to be the Black Hat brigade in its first fight - later known as the Iron Brigade, and one of the elite units of the war, who would end up with the highest casualty rate in the Union army - they got a good start on it there...

So - the next day Pope decided Jackson was trying to get away, and attacked - Jackson was ready and waiting in strong defensive positions, and proceeded to drive the Yankees back. And the next day, after Jackson had moves some of his troops around, Pope decided he was in full retreat and his part was to pursue - no, Jackson was not retreating - another massive battle resulted, and then Longstreet came in on the flank...

The whole affair was a catalogue of incompetence. Not only did Pope completely misconstrue Jackson and Lee's intentions - he wrote badly worded orders that confused his subordinates and left them out of the battle; he ordered men (Porter's corps, specifically) to attack, and refused to listen to Porter when he said that the rest of Lee's army was just out of sight to the left; finally got Porter into the fight on the 30th, just in time for Longstreet to come hammering in on the left - since Longstreet was right where Porter said he was. And just to add some spice, you have McClellan delaying bringing up troops in barely disguised hope that Pope would get thrashed and he would be restored to command...

And that's how it went. The Federals were whipped and retreated in despair; Pope aws relieved and McClellan put back in charge, to the glee of the soldiers; Lee invaded Maryland, McClellan found his orders and - in his timid and incompetent way - tried to cut him off, leading to the battle of Antietam, the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of Little Mac. But that's to come. In August 1862, things were in the balance - the South was on the rise, counterattacking east and west, winning, making things look bad... After things had looked disastrous for the Confederacy in the winter and spring. That was Second Bull Run - one of the series of big battles in the second year of the war that really defined the way it was going to go. The massive bloodletting, and some of the stalemate, as no one could ever quite turn these fights into more than victories and defeats. Lee hoped to crush Pope's army, destroy it - but he just beat it - sending it on a glum retreat, but still functioning. There was a lot of killing left to do after this, and these battles - 7 Days, Bull Run, Antietam, as well as Perryville out west, tended to reset ideas of how the war would be fought.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lola

It's been a while since I have posted my sunday screen shots. I don't know if this marks a return to it - but - one is moved, now and then. This time, by Fassbinder's Lola - the colors! the compositions! the Sirkian (and Sternbergian) set design! a very fine film indeed.














Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ad Gon Gone!

Gone? Gone... It's a ballsy move for the hometown nice - trading both last year's big money acquisitions, plus Josh Beckett, for prospects - though probably easier to take then most salaries for prospects deals. Gonzalez hasn't quite been the world beater here he was supposed to be - maybe he's been hurt, maybe he's unhappy, maybe he's wilting under the pressure of the big city, maybe - who knows. Odds are, he's going to earn that contract, here or elsewhere - but he hasn't yet. And Crawford has been a disaster. Maybe nothing you could foresee - he had a bad start, got hurt, came back and stunk, was hurt more than they thought, and has stayed hurt, and is hurt now... all that money... And Beckett has gone off the burn. He's to blame for all the clubhouse dissent, they say. Who knows about that, but they are sure sick of him here.

The point is, the sox have stunk out the joint since the beginning of last September - after being on top of the world this time last year. The decline was precipitous, and the expected recovery never came. They've hit all along - but the pitching has been dreadful. They need to do something about that. Some of it, of course, is that the people who are, in fact, established, front of the rotation starters have to pitch like it. Lester, Buchholz - Beckett - need to pitch like it. Lackey, at least, had the decency to get hurt and go away... but that's just part of it. Looking at the parade of scrubs the Sox have run out there after Lester and company, it's no wonder they have been so bad. Last year's dregs - Andrew Miller, grampa Wakefield after his 80 good innings, Eric Bedard? - were, maybe - well, officially - the worst ever. This year's failures - from Daniel Bard (ruined, for no good reason) to Rockies cast offs Morales and Cook - may not match those depths, but god almighty. What a disaster.

So this deal - full of prospects, young arms, mostly, is what is needed here. The sox are still turning out decent hitters down on the farm - but they have been a while since they have brought up a pitcher who is worth having. The cupboard is bare - it needs to be restocked. The thing is - the team was scoring runs this year without Crawford, and with Ad-Gon hitting like James Loney - so they should keep right on scoring runs. They have some money again - they should be able to turn that into something after the season - pitchers, I hope (and I hope they do a better job of picking them than John Lackey), offense doesn't hurt... If not in free agents, then in those arbitration eligible types that mediocre teams like to get rid of while they can... r the Carlos Gonzalez', with their big contracts on losing teams. hey'll have more to offer anyway...

We'll see. On balance - I am sorry to see Gonzalez go, but if he can take the other two with him, then I guess I won't complain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Music and Whatnot

Mostly music... Though - Sight & Sound has the results of the directors' votes up... Speaking of lists - Jim Emerson offers up another long dissection, centered on the question of great films people didn't vote for... And, from another angle - Harry Tuttle has posted a Contemporary Contemplative Cinema top ten...

Beyond lists - I've been sort of following along with the latest round of Atheist factionalizing at Freethought Blogs - it started with an essay by Jen McCreight about the conflicts between atheism and feminism, and has moved on to discussions of something they are calling Atheism+ - I suppose that link is as good (there are a lot of them at the site) as any at defining it, by answering the critics (with links) ... I'm not sure I have anything to add, but I've been reading about it and thinking about it...

Anyway - it is Friday! here are some randomly selected songs for your enjoyment or interest or just to demonstrate how many CDs I've loaded into my computer!

1. Melt-Banana - Dog Song (live)
2. James Brown and the JBs - Get Up, Get Into it, Get Involved (live)
3. Meat Puppets - Why?
4. Gang Gang Dance - Nomad for Love (Cannibal)
5. Gomez - Ping One Down (live) - lots of live songs coming up today - you'd thing iTunes was planning this!
6. Blind Willie McTell - I Keep on Drinkin'
7. White Stripes - Fell in Love With a Girl
8. Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone
9. Captain Beefheart - Sweet Sweet Bulbs
10. Sister Rosetta Tharp - All Alone

And a video? of course! It's hard not to post James Brown when you can find the song...



And combining a couple of the acts on the list - White Stripes covering Blind Willie McTell:



Have a good weekend, people!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Film Updates

Another film roundup post. I haven't seen so many films this summer - it's been a busy one (not in a good way), and film watching - not to mention writing - has gone by the wayside. So - rather like the last time I did this - these will be quick hits. New films in theaters...

Keyhole - 10/15 - the joys of Guy Maddin - archaic looking surrealism, this time in an old house. While enjoyable in every way, I did find this one to be a bit routine - well - routine for Maddin. He's still one of my favorite filmmakers, so I'm hardly complaining.

Safety Not Guaranteed - 9/15 - this is one I wanted to write up at more length, but never got around to it... It's more interesting than good, I'm afraid, a bit frustrating. It starts very well, looking like something worth seeing - head on shots and 180 degree cuts and 90 degree angles and fairly precise timing. The opening builds a quick, deft and amusing characterization (or Aubrey Plaza's character), before shifting to the story. The story starts with similar edge and some funny bits, but loses its way, becoming more and more predictable, routine and watery - and looks more standard indie as it continues. Story of a writer and 2 interns tracking down a guy who advertises for a partner on a time travel mission - one of the interns (Plaza) wins the guy's trust, etc. The film gives you enough moments along the way to stay enjoyable, but it's not enough - the metaphors are heavy handed (everyone's after their lost youth - or represents someone else's lost youth), and the ending struck me as a lazy shift from the fantastic to the marvelous - and all of it stops looking like anything special after the first 10 or 15 minutes.

Your Sister's Sister - 10/15 - yet another low-budget looking indie (maybe even mumblecore!), starring - just like Safety Not Guaranteed! - the acting Duplass... This one is about a guy whose brother just died - his best friend (Emily Blunt) used to be the dead brother's lover, and the two of them pretty obviously are repressing a good deal of sexual tension... he's a mess, she sends him off to her father's cabin on some remote island to get his head together - where he runs into her lesbian sister. A bottle of tequila and a good deal of talk later, they are in bed, but in the morning sis turns up. Etc. All this is nicely done in the middle, the three actors playing off one another - but once the plot and its issues are properly established (lesbian sister wants a baby, rubber breaks, Duplass and Blunt characters love one another), the film resorts to a good deal of handwaving and montage sequences to pull off its ending. It's not bad though - the actors are sharp, the writing (however they arrived at the script - whatever parts were improvised or not) is pretty good... (Interestingly - the dialogue and interactions among the characters are the best elements - the structure seems a bit off.) Lynn Shelton's direction is fine - nothing special, but she chooses shots well and it all looks pretty good. A fine middle of the road indie film, I guess. I have to add that it bugged me, because it is another of those films where no one seems to have to think about money - doesn't anyone have a job in American films? a job they can't decide to ditch on a whim, like Blunt's character does? jeez...

To Rome With Love - 6/15 - I have to go back to my every seven years thing with Woody. Midnight in Paris was a fluke. This has 4 stories set in Rome - only one of which is worth a minute of your time, despite the superb cast in all four of them. Typical late Allen - bland looking, not all that funny, the jokes telegraphed and flat, a bunch of derivative stories - lame sex farce; lame Borgesian self-reflection, lame self-pity about the poor celebrity - and the one good joke, an opera singer who can only sing in the shower - so an impresario (the Woodster himself) put him onstage singing Pagliacci in the shower.

Beasts of the Southern Wild - 11/15 - a film I should give more attention to, but... it is a lovely film, set in southern Louisiana. A storm floods a town, the people try to cope - we see it through the eyes of a little girl, whose father is sick and whose mother is a memory... It is a bit twee at times, but more often wonderful - beautiful and clever and engaging.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai - 11/15 - Takashi Miike's surprisingly restrained remake of the Kobayashi film, starring a famous Kabuki actor in Tatsuya Nakadai's role. Basically the same story, told the same way - starts with the Samurai asking to kill himself in the house of Ii, sparking flashbacks to the last ronin to try it, from a couple perspectives. All of it is quite tasteful by Miike's standards, even with the bamboo sword suicide - and the second flashback devolves into plain melodrama, not the best either. It plays more like Yoji Yamada (in period samurai mode) than either Miike or Kobayashi. It's maybe a bit better looking, more painterly - a kind of murky smudged quality, that admittedly might be a result of the 3D, or maybe the digital production... The look has an odd affect, for it is both a bit disappointing, and very beautiful. Which I suppose is true of the film as a whole. All this plays less politically than the original - there's nothing about the record, erasing his exploits - and I think the ending is different - I don't think Nakudai used a bamboo sword. That change makes his death even more absurd and meaningless. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is too flat and polite to satisfy.

Brave - 10/15 - lovely film, but slight - a scottish princess with flaming red hair, a tom boy, raised by her mother to be a lady, but raised by herself as an archer. Time comes to marry - the clans gather and she chooses archery as their contest - since she too is the first born of a clan. She wins, causing trouble - but then the film swerves away from to something else, when she buys a spell to make her mother change. Those things never go well. Still, it works out in the end, though I think the magic plot is less interesting than what was promised when she won the contest. Oh well. Still, a very handsome production, with all of Pixar's usual virtues except a superior story and script.

The Campaign - 10/15 - a political farce pitting Will Farrell against Zach Galifianakis in a campaign for a North Carolina legislative seat. It takes the shotgun approach, blasting jokes about more or less everything that is wrong with American politics today, from sex scandals and attack ads to Citizens United and outsourcing to "hunting accidents" and owning the right kind of dog... In the end, of course, the winner Does The Right Thing, and the evil-doers are punished, which reminds you that it is a work of fiction. Not the deepest political satire you will ever see, but consistently funny and often clever, and that's a good start.

Dark Horse - 7/15 - new Todd Solondz film that somehow tricked me into the theater. I suppose because it looks like another Unlovable Loser Redeemed by X [here, X seems to be: the love of a woman more pathetic than himself] film - and I figured, that is a genre in need of some abuse and if anyone is going to be able to abuse it amusingly, it might be Solondz. Alas - he is not so clever. His idea of subverting the redemption of the unlovable loser story is to just invert it - unlovable loser ruined. It is true that the kinds of happy endings attached to these films are forced and unbelievable - but this kind of unhappy ending is equally forced and unbelievable. It's basically a one joke joke - perfect for Dinkle the Unlovable Loser, but not exactly suited to a feature film. Though to his credit, Solondz gets in and out of it in a hurry - under 90 minutes, I think. Heck, its almost as if he got to the third act, where the unlovable loser was finally going to be redeemed, and decided, fuck this, and killed him off. I think it might have been easier not to start in the first place. Though that would cost us some neat Christopher Walken moments.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Music and Grumbling

...and not about Paul Ryan, believe it or not! I've spent an awful lot of time this week moving stuff around on my computers. Since my iMac acted up, I have been using my laptop as the main computer - it's not the end of the world, the laptop is an upgrade anyway. And the iMac only seems to be having display issues - the hard drive mounted fine on this one, and I got all the data off. But that means, I have most of the content from both machines on this one - including 350GB of video. So - I've finally gotten around to trying to clean that up - back everything up, cull out the duplication, put it all in the programs I want to use. A tedious and time consuming process, and one I find myself compelled to stick with, once I start it. I live in hopes of a faster computer at the end of it...

Anyway - before I get to music (a very boring random ten, I'm afraid), a link or two. The biggie - Sight & Sound has their searchable sortable click through able Critics' Ballots online - a dangerous source of distraction, that. And Wonders in the Dark's Comedy poll countdown is in full swing, plowing through their (our, since I voted in it) top 100 comedies. Enjoy!

And Music:

1. Kate Bush - Cloudbusting
2. Bukka White - Fixin' to Die Blues
3. SunnO))) - Cry for the Weeper
4. Red Crayola - Free Form Freakout
5. The Cranberries - Sunday
6. fIREHOSE - More famous Quotes
7. Frank Sinatra - I've Got You Under My Skin (Live in Paris)
8. Les Paul - Steel Guitar Rag
9. Blue Oyster Cult - (Then Came the) Last of May (live)
10. The Meters - Hand Clapping Song

A nice song for a Friday, a good counter to any discontents...



And Les Paul on TV with Mary Ford, doing Steel Guitar Rag, and in the good old summertime...



Have a good weekend!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Ryan?

I haven't been writing a lot of political posts in a while. And it's an election year! I started this blog in an election year, 2004 - and that year, laid on the politics thick. Let's say, August 2004 - 7 of 12 posts about politics. By 2008, though, I was past all that - 1 of 9, in August that year. Back in 04, that was mostly what went on here - politics... but I think it burned me out after a while. The last few years - Obama's term, really, has been very hard to talk about rationally. The Republican party has plumbed depths hard to imagine - everything from all the birth certificate noise, to imbeciles like Sarah Palin being elevated to national prominence, and her fellow imbeciles who made up the primary pool this year. Cain? Bachmann? Ron Paul? Newt Gingrich? Rick Santorum? Rick Perry? I mean - as dumb, venal, vicious a lot as has ever been assembled on any stage...

All right... It's hard to write about. It's been hard for other reasons - what is there to say? the public conversation has not edified - I suppose I could have spent the last 3 years chanting Single Payer Health Care! Keynes Keynes Keynes! don't murder civilians with drones! - but what's the point? It's worse, of course, in the backwaters - on Facebook and the like - where all those crazy cousins and schoolmates feel like they have to post some new nonsense every couple days... I could argue with all of that, but it's arguing with a lump of rock. It's discouraging....

But - still. One has political opinions and one feels a need to air them now and again! So air I shall - and what better excuse than Mitt Romney naming his running mate, Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan? The Zombie Eyed Granny Starver himself - for there is no better source of writing on the man than the inimitable Charles Pierce. Yes indeed. It is, clearly enough, Mitt going all in - quoting Nate Silverman, "it suggests that he felt he held a losing position against President Obama" - seems like he's decided to run on ideology, to offer a clear choice between himself and Obama - in hopes - well, that's the thing...

Because if you ask me, this choice is a gift to the Obama campaign. The truth is, Romney doesn't have a lot going for him in this election - the one big thing he has in his favor is the rotten economy. He can run all day blaming the economy on the incumbent - what can the incumbent do? Well - find someone else to blame.And - well, even without Ryan, Romney had problems there. You can blame the president for the economy, sure - but you can find other likely culprits easily enough. Rapacious capitalists for example - and Mitt "I don't need to pay no stinking taxes" Romney, and Bain Capital are tailor made for that sort of campaign. And then there is Congress - especially the House - the democrats have been blaming them for the last two years (with good reason - they have done more harm than anyone else in that period), even before all this... But now? Ryan is the very face of the Republican House - author of its budget, the - what? brains of the outfit? Obama was running against him anyway, doing all it could to pin him to Romney - and now Romney has accepted the connection, reinforced it. It is going to be very easy for the democrats to run against them - it is going to make running on the economy very hard to Romney.

So what is he up to? shoring up the base? probably, though how far is that really able to go? Trying to run on a clear ideological alternative to Obama? I suppose so - though he represents an alternative that people hate worse than anything Obama does. And one that is, in fact, plain gibberish - lots of daydreaming about reducing the deficit and all, though in fact, there's not much there but tax cuts for the rich, and entitlement cuts for everyone else, though disguised to confuse the issue (like not applying medicare cuts to people currently over 55.) I mean - I know the voting public isn't very clear on what is good for the country (what is good for the country? significant government spending to create jobs - money and credit is dirt cheap - build a bunch of stuff, put people to work, get the economy going building stuff and selling it to people - Keynes Keynes Keynes!), but they seem to know that Ryan's ideas are disastrous. Granny starving. (Or more accurately, since Granny's benefits will be grandfathered in, you and me starving, when we get to be grannies...)

And - oh yeah, for good measure - Paul Ryan is also a right wing radical on social issues.

These guys are a horror show in the making. I admit, fi they are elected, I imagine they will act like every other republican in the last 30 years - cut taxes, increase the deficit, start little wars to create profit opportunities for their contractor contributors, move jobs overseas, and leave the country in a shambles in 4 years when they get the rush... forcing the next democratic president to bail out the banks again... But... they might actually try to govern like they run - which would be profoundly disastrous.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Music

Late, but leave you overnight with Dean and Brita, playing Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Sight & Sound Poll Reflections

It's been a week or so since Sight & Sound released the attest iteration of their Greatest Films poll. The internets are full of commentary, and I can't help joining in - not that I have anything profound to say about it...

The big story, I guess, is that Vertigo replaced Citizen Kane at the top, a position Welles had held since 1962. I suppose that's a big deal, though it's not exactly surprising - Vertigo has been on the rise in the last couple decades, especially since its big restoration - it got to #2 last time out, and now is over the hump... It is a bit odd, I suppose - me, personally, I like Vertigo better (it's top 10 for me, too), but somehow, Citizen Kane seems a more likely film to top a list like this. But there you have it. Now Tokyo Story - well - hanging on to #3, and this time around, the directors put it at the top of their list - that's a choice I can endorse! Though, being a bit perverse, it's not the Ozu film I would put in the top 10...

There are other changes on these lists - the critics have added a third silent film to their top ten, replacing the musical, at that. And switched out the second silent film - Battleship Potemkin gone, Man With the Movie Camera in - an interesting change itself. Getting past the top 10, the top 50 films are reasonable enough. I suppose if you were of a mind you could find plenty to discuss, in perceived omissions and bad habits by the voters: not enough comedy; only one musical; the waxing and waning of reputations - one Bergman in that top 50? one Lang, and not the Lang(s) many of us Lang enthusiasts would pick? Chaplin reduced to clinging to the 50th spot; no Hawks? Rohmer? Altman? Griffith? Herzog? Or the positives - the newer, or more challenging films that did make it - Satantango, Jeanne Dielman, Mulholland Drive, In the Mood for Love, La Jetee, Close Up; the fact that Godard tops all directors with four, including Histoire(s) du Cinema. These last choices suggest that the expanded voting bloc might have had an affect - Jonathan Rosenbaum raises (or quotes Nicole Brenez raising) the point that the increased film teachers might have helped the more experimental films, and maybe pushed that third silent higher... could be.

Still - there remains a certain air of old hat about it all - I miss the days when a 2 year old film could get to #2, or a 4 year old film to #1. It is strange - you do hear people go on about new films as if they were the culmination of the promise of the medium - you can find plenty of hyperbolic praise for Tree of Life, to name one - but that kind of talk doesn't seem to translate into votes these days. I find this a bit fascinating - why has this list gotten so stuck?

I have theories... 1) film history is twice as long now as when this list started. There are that many more films to consider. The top 50 now is about the equivalent of the top 10 in 1952. 2) Technology - in 1952, it was very hit or miss what you could actually see; now, in 2012, you can see just about everything. And that means you are voting against the whole of film history, and you can vote against all of it fresh - you are able to see anything you would consider, rather than vote against your memory of something you saw 20 years ago. 3) And then - I think voters do put value on novelty - on being the first to do something. To do something new; to embody an emerging synthesis; to break with conventions - or all at once (like Citizen Kane). Later films fight against film history - it is harder all the time to break with film history, harder to seem new - harder, probably, to convince viewers that they are seeing something new. Voters vote for the first film(s) to do something - and they vote for the films that are accepted as being the first to do it. 4) And one more idea - that the film culture has changed - that viewers no longer expect to see anything new, and don't value it the same.

The upshot is that the culture is mature - that it is easier to view the sweep of history as one thing. And that there is no longer the pressures for novelty - no one is expected to reinvent the medium, viewers don't value innovation the way they used to. When films do things differently - Inland Empire, Uncle Boonmee, Tree of Life, say - critics find it easier to assimilate them to film history - even if that means, to a tradition of novelty, or something strange like that. I don't think this is as much as change in how films work as it seems - films like Citizen Kane were not really reinventing film, you could see its antecedents and influences then - but there is an assumption that films in the 30s and 40s were still inventing the medium, and films now are rearranging the elements of an established form. Taking voters back to the notion of being the first - reinventing the medium now is old hat - it's been done so many times before.

So to end - people come up with ideas about how to get fresher films on the list - one I like, practiced by Rosenbaum (per his post on the list), cited by Jim Emerson, suggested by Kristen Thompson, is to make the vote something like a hall of fame. You vote, you have a top 10 - and those films are no longer eligible to be voted for. That would be a cool list to see maintained - but the truth is, there's a reason people care about Sight and Sound's list. The history of the list making matters - it is great fun comparing this year's choices with all the past ones - watching tastes shift. It's also true, and less admirable, that the lists themselves condition subsequent lists - people vote for (or against) Citizen Kane because it has been number one (and isn't anymore.) But that too is part of the interest - you have to weigh this decade's choices against all those previous polls. I can't wait to see what's on 2022's list...

Finally - the lists - and mine. First the critics:

1) "Vertigo" (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2) "Citizen Kane" (Orson Welles, 1941)
3) "Tokyo Story" (Yasujiro Ozo, 1953)
4) "Rules of the Game" (Jean Renoir, 1939)
5) "Sunrise" (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
6) "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
7) "The Searchers" (John Ford, 1956)
8) "Man with a Movie Camera" (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9) "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
10) "8 1/2" (Federico Fellini, 1963)

The directors:

1) "Tokyo Story" (Ozu, 1953)
2) "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Kubrick, 1968), "Citizen Kane" (Welles, 1941) [tie]
4) "8 ½" (Fellini, 1963)
5) "Taxi Driver" (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
6) "Apocalypse Now" (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
7) "The Godfather" (Coppola, 1972), "Vertigo" (Hitchcock, 1958) [tie]
9) "Mirror" (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
10) "Bicycle Thieves" (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

And finally - all this poll talk, and all this comparing and considering, makes it impossible not to think about what I would have voted for. (The House Next Door, at Slant, is running just such a series with their writers...) And as I have not posted anything like a top ten of my own since 2007 - why not? and since I posted a list of my own (on AOL, where I did most of my film arguing back in the day) in 2002 - it is a chance to consider what might have changed.

2012:

1. M - Fritz Lang
2. It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra
3. Rules of the Game - Renoir
4. Early Summer - Yasujiro Ozu
5. McCabe and Mrs. Miller - Robert Altman
6. The General - Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
7. The Maltese Falcon - John Huston
8. Celine and Julie Go Boating - Jacques Rivette (as expected - seeing it again this weekend pushed it way up. Seeing it twice, actually - nothing else seemed necessary, so I went Saturday and Sunday.)
9. Late Spring - Ozu
10. Vertigo - Hitckcock

in 2002:

1 It’s a Wonderful Life
2 M
3 Rules of the Game
4 Mr Smith Goes to Washington
5 McCabe and Mrs Miller
6 Pierrot le Fou
7 The General
8 Early Summer
9 The Maltese Falcon
10 Vertigo

There are not a lot of changes - Godard and the second Capra are off, to Rivette and the second Ozu. Those are pretty arbitrary selections, though. That 2002 list lasted a long time, actually - most of it was there in 97 or 98; Early Summer got in somewhere in that period (about the time I saw it in a movie theater, which I think was around 2000), the Godard slot fluctuated for a long time between Pierrot and Vivre Sa Vie - but - I didn't play around with it much for a long time. When I did - I don't know... I am very much aware of how arbitrary and pointless such listings are. But it still - maps something, in what I value in films. What I am thinking about, my experiences. I think, at some level, letting your experiences, your momentary obsessions and what not turn up in things like this has a point. The differences are small - though I know that M's return to the top is a result of seeing a bunch of German films, and Lang, reading and writing about Lang and German films - Rivette's appearance reflects the absolute joy of discovering him in the last 5 years... and so on. So - there you have it.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

1940s Votes

Updating my votes, and extended lists, from the ongoing Yearly Polls at Wonders in the Dark. They are, currently, a couple years into the 1950s - a bit of a relief - the 40s are a softer decade for me than most. Not sure why, though I suppose my general obsession with Japanese film is one reason (the 40s being a bad decade for that film industry), though so are my tastes for comedy, musicals, and art films, the first two of which thrived in the 30s, and the art films start to really take off in the 50s and 60s - so...

The Decade as a whole:

PICTURE: It's a Wonderful Life
DIRECTOR: Ozu, Late Spring
LEAD ACTOR: Jimmy Stewart, Wonderful Life
LEAD ACTRESS: Setsuko Hara, Late Spring
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Walter Huston, Sierra Madre
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anna Magnani, Open City
SHORT: Spider and Tulip
SCORE: Prokofiev, Ivan the Terrible I
CINEMATOGRAPHY: 47 Ronin

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Late Spring
Sound: Citizen Kane
Documentary: Battle of San Pietro
Musical: Cabin in the Sky
Animated: Pinocchio

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Maltese Falcon
3. Late Spring
4. His Girl Friday
5. Ivan the Terrible I
6. The Big Sleep
7. Citizen Kane
8. Fort Apache
9. Third Man
10. Stray Dog
11. Germany Year Zero
12. Bicycle Thieves
13. The Lady Eve
14. Day of Wrath
15. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
16. To Have and Have Not
17. Dead of Night
18. The Shop Around the Corner
19. The 47 Ronin
20. I Walked With a Zombie

1949:

There are a lot of good films this year, but no contest at the top - Late Spring is one of the very short list of great films...

PICTURE: Late Spring
DIRECTOR: Ozu
LEAD ACTOR: Chishu Ryu
LEAD ACTRESS: Setsuko Hara
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Orson Welles, Third Man
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Haruko Sugimura
SHORT: Begone Dull Care, Norman McLaren
SCORE: Karas, Third Man
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lasker, Third Man

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Late Spring

1. Late Spring
2. Third Man
3. Stray Dog
4. Jour de Fete
5. Le Plaisir
6. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
7. Orpheus
8. Battleground
9. Whiskey Galore
10. Kind Hearts and Coronets

1948:

PICTURE: Fort Apache
DIRECTOR: Rosselini, Germany Year Zero
LEAD ACTOR: Bogart, Sierra Madre
LEAD ACTRESS: Jean Arthur, Foreign Affair
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Walter Huston, Sierra Madre
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jean Simmons, Hamlet
SHORT: Haredevil Hare
SCORE: Red Shoes
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Red Shoes

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Bicycle Thieves

1. Fort Apache
2. Germany Year Zero
3. Bicycle Thieves
4. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
5. Letter from an Unknown Woman
6. Hamlet
7. The Red Shoes
8. The Fallen Idol
9. Red River
10. Foreign Affair

1947:

PICTURE: Odd Man Out
DIRECTOR: Ozu, Record of a Tenement Gentleman
LEAD ACTOR: James Mason
LEAD ACTRESS: Kinuyo Tanaka, Love of Sumiko the Actress
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kirk Douglas,Out of the Past
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kathleen Ryan, Odd Man Out
SHORT: School for Postmen
SCORE: Webb, Out of the Past
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Krasker, Odd Man Out

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Out of the Past

1. Odd Man Out
2. Love of Sumiko the Actress
3. Spring River Flows East
4. Out of the Past
5. Record of a Tenement Gentleman
6. Quai de Orfevres
7. Lady from Shanghai
8. M. Verdoux
9. Dreams That Money Can Buy
10. Lured

1946:

PICTURE: It's a Wonderful Life
DIRECTOR: Capra
LEAD ACTOR: Jimmy Stewart
LEAD ACTRESS: Ingrid Bergman, Notorious
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Elisha Cook Jr., The Big Sleep
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Martha Vickers, The Big Sleep
SHORT: Can't vote for this one, I'm afraid
SCORE: Prokofiev
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Henri Alekan; La Belle et la BĂȘte

Plus bonus picks:
Script: The Big Sleep
Music/Sound:

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. The Big Sleep
3. Notorious
4. Paisan
5. Beauty and the Beast
6. Ivan Terrible II
7. My Darling Clementine
8. Bedlam
9. Murderers Among Us
10. Gilda

1945:

PICTURE: Dead of the Night
DIRECTOR: Rosselini, Open City
LEAD ACTOR: Boris Karloff, Body Snatcher
LEAD ACTRESS: Gene Tierney, Leave her to Heaven
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Redgrave, Dead of Night
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ana Magnani, Open City
SHORT: Battle of San Pietro
SCORE: Spellbound
Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Leave Her to Heaven
Script: Dead of Night

1. Dead of the Night
2. Open City
3. They Were Expendable
4. The Body Snatcher
5. Leave her to Heaven
6. A Walk in the Sun
7. The Southerner
8. The Clock
9. Children of Paradise
10. Isle of the Dead

1944:

PICTURE: Ivan the Terrible
DIRECTOR: Eisenstein
LEAD ACTOR: Nikolai Cherkasov
LEAD ACTRESS: Stanwyck, Double Indemnity
SUPPORTING ACTOR: William Demarest, Hail the Conquering Hero
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ann Carter, Curse of the Cat People
SHORT: I guess Little Red Riding Rabbit
SCORE: Prokofiev
Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Meet Me in St. Louis (George Folsey - though it might be something of a combined award for photography and set design...)
Script: To Have and Have Not
Best Song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

1. Ivan the Terrible
2. To Have and Have Not
3. Meet me in St. Louis
4. Double Indemnity
5. Hail the Conquering Hero
6. Miracle of Morgan Creek
7. The Woman in the Window
8. Henry V
9. Laura
10. Curse of the Cat People

1943:

PICTURE: Day of Wrath
DIRECTOR: Dreyer
LEAD ACTOR: Ferdinand Marian, Romance in a Minor Key
LEAD ACTRESS: Lisbeth Movin, Day of Wrath
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jean Brooks, Seventh Victim
SHORT: [here the source of the list comes into play: comment included]... Meshes of the Afternoon - a rather difficult choice though; this is (like Sam said) one of the all time greats - but I've seen Spider and Tulip, a beautiful little animated film from Japan. I will defer to the nominations, to resolve this difficulty.
...you'll note that Spider and Tulip, is my pick for the decade
SCORE: Webb, I Walked With a Zombie

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Karl Anderson, Day of Wrath
Script: Cabin in the Sky, Joseph Shrank
Editing: Mark Robson, Zombie
Music/Sound: Cabin in the Sky again. I also lingered long over the actress categories - Ethel Waters in particular is awful close...

1. Day of Wrath
2. I Walked With a Zombie
3. Cabin in the Sky
4. The Leopard Man
5. Romance in a Minor Key
6. Hangmen Also Die
7. Seventh Victim
8. Agnes des Peches
9. Munchhausen
10. Song Lantern

1942:

PICTURE: Palm Beach Story
DIRECTOR: Ozu, There Was a Father
LEAD ACTOR: Chishu Ryu, There Was a Father
LEAD ACTRESS: Claudette Colbert, Palm Beach Story
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Laird Cregar, Black Swan
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Marie Lohr, Went the Day Well?
SHORT: Der Fuhrer's Face, I suppose, is a hard one to deny.
SCORE:Steiner, Casablanca

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Ambersons (Cortez)
Script: Palm Beach Story
Editing/Sound: Cat People - superbly building atmosphere out of the most minimal resources. A feature of all those Lewton films...

1. Palm Beach Story
2. Went the Day Well
3. Aniki Bobo
4. There Was A Father
5. Cat People
6. Mrs. Miniver
7. In Which We Serve
8. To Be Or Not to Be
9. Magnificent Ambersons
10. The Road to Morocco

1941:

PICTURE: The Maltese Falcon
DIRECTOR: Mizoguchi, 47 Ronin
LEAD ACTOR: Welles, Kane
LEAD ACTRESS: Stanwyck, The Lady Eve
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sydney Greenstreet
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ?
SHORT: In the Sweet Pie and Pie
SCORE: Herrmann, Kane
Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Toland, Kane
Script: Huston, Maltese Falcon
Music/Sound: Kane - nice use of radio techniques, in a modern sound picture

1. Maltese Falcon
2. Ivan the Terrible, Part I
3. Citizen Kane
4. The Lady Eve
5. 47 Ronin
6. Sergeant York
7. Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Clan
8. Sullivan's Travels
9. Meet John Doe
10. Man Hunt


1940 Votes:

PICTURE: His Girl Friday
DIRECTOR: Hawks, His Girl Friday
LEAD ACTOR: James Stewart, Shop Around the Corner
LEAD ACTRESS: Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Basil Rathbone, Mark of Zorro
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ida Lupino, They Drive by Night
SHORT: A Wild Hare
SCORE: Korngold, The Sea Hawk

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Toland, in Grapes of Wrath
Script: His Girl Friday (Charles Lederer, from the play)
Documentary: London Can Take It - I need to mention it somewhere...

1. His Girl Friday
2. Shop Around the Corner
3. The Mortal Storm
4. Pinocchio
5. Fantasia
6. Philadelphia Story
7. The Bank Dick
8. Grapes of Wrath
9. Mark of Zorro
10. Travelling Actors

Friday, August 03, 2012

Random Tunage for Another Friday

Let us resume one of the rituals of the blogosphere, the Friday Music List - maybe even as a prelude to some actual movie blogging... With the results of the new Sight & Sound poll out, there is plenty to write about - those things always prove irresistible. I have been arguing about it a bit at Wonders in the Dark - defending Godard mostly, lately... it reminds me that it's been a while - 5 years since I posted a full Top X (100, at it happened) films... and I don't think I have ever posted a ranking of my favorite directors - I may have to address those oversights. Meanwhile - any temptation I might have to post my own Top 10 is going to have to wait - there is a very real chance it might be different by Monday - new print of Celine and Julie Go Boating is showing this weekend... I've seen it once - I am in awe of it and Rivette - seeing it again, might exalt it very far... I certainly am looking forward to it.

And so - random top ten - though first, another internet tradition - The Cat:



Thank you.

1. Wild Flag - Race Horse (damn! a new song!)
2. Terence Trent D'Arby - Wishing Well
3. Pylon - K
4. Mars Volta - Roulette Dares (The Haunt of)
5. The Flying Burrito Brothers - Do You Know HOw It Feels?
6. Young Marble Giants - Salad Days
7. Patti Smith - Seven Ways of Going
8. Fleet Foxes - Lorelai
9. Melvins - The Stupid Creep
10. Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Wake up and Make Love to Me

Can't avoid posting this - "Wishing Well" being one of those songs I only ever heard on TV, back when MTV had videos - and loved....



And - Wild Flag is a good choice here:



Have a great weekend, readers mine!