September 23, 2004

69 lines about 36 movies

Just peeking my head up to say I'm still here. Some announcements on the way. Etc., etc.

Hero (2004, Zhang Yimou) (f) [97; up from 95]
Sorry, but it's too sad and tragic to be unambiguous propaganda.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943, William A. Wellman) (v) [93]
Everything Theo says about the ending is true. Unlike him, I just. Don't. Care.

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur) (v) [92]
Get out of my past (out of my past) and onto my DVD shelf (onto my DVD shelf)...

Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais) (v) [91]
Watching it, every time is like the first time.

8 1/2 (1963, Federico Fellini) (v) [90]
I always thought if you wanted to know everything about making a Hollywood narrative film, watch Jaws. If you want to know everything about making an art film, see this.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian DePalma) (v) [89]
Paul Williams? Good. Jessica Harper? Good. Brian DePalma's mise-en-scene? Good.

Love Me Tonight (1932, Rouben Mamoulian) (v) [89]
My heart stopped when the film went slo-mo.

Spartan (2004, David Mamet) (v) [85]
David Mamet's Rainbow Six. Where's the petition to have Mamet direct all the action movies from here on out?

The War of the Worlds (1953, Byron Haskin) (v) [84]
One of the great SF films, even if the climax hinges on the hero trying to remember if his girlfriend is Catholic or Episcopalian.

Detour (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer) (v) [83]
Ann Savage -- wow. Her performance makes you feel like you just had really rough sex.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban/ (2004, Alfonso Cuarón) (f) [79, up from 71]
Better than Spider-Man 2, I decided. Some of you say "duh".

Leave Her To Heaven (1945, John M. Stahl) (v) [78]
Leave the courtroom scene on the cutting-room floor and you've got a deal.

One Hour Photo (2002, Mark Romanek) (v) [77]
Someone's been eating their Ku-Bricks!

The Far Country (1955, Anthony Mann) (v) [75]
Not up to snuff with other Mann westerns, which should say something about other Mann westerns.

Cuba (1979, Richard Lester) (v) [74]
Like a John Sayles characterathon, but with a more fluid directorial eye behind the camera. Bogs down in the third, though.

The Crimson Pirate (1952, Robert Siodmak) (v) [70]
Burt Lancaster in drag. Not quite Randy Quaid in drag, but almost as scary.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979, Robert Benton) (v) [70]
A quick look between Hoffman and Streep turns a stupid courtroom scene into a heartbreaking one.

Manhattan (1979, Woody Allen) (v) [69]
Admittedly, I haven't even made a first feature yet, but I still think this movie's too easy.

The Women (1939, George Cukor) (v) [65]
I was surprised to learn that Joan Crawford can actually act, which probably says something about a lot of things. She ever-so delicately reveals the scared girl underneath the brassy golddigger.

Garden State (2004, Zach Braff) (f) [64]
Every negative thing people say about this movie is true. But it still worked for me. Might be a genetic immunity, so you've been warned.

Desperate (1947, Anthony Mann) (v) [61]
Steve Brodie: my new favorite actor from the old days. (See also Out of the Past, above.) Wish I could tell you why.

Bluebeard (1944, Edgar G. Ulmer) (v) [60]
Behind the shoddy technical aspects, there's a great John Carradine performance here, who treats his role seriously, if not with seriousness. Nice rooftop chase, too, but I'm always down for those.

Tender Mercies (1983, Bruce Beresford) (v) [57]
It's all perfectly goddamned delightful, to be sure.

Shenandoah (1965, Andrew V. McLaglen) (v) [57]
Movie's i-ight, but mostly I love how the stuttering, stammering Jimmy Stewart turned into the hard, wise, always-listening Jimmy Stewart. That shit's awesome, yo.

The Black Cat (1934, Edgar G. Ulmer) (v) [56]
Sorry, but I really don't like camp in my horror. Nice house, though; I'll take it, and don't skimp on the dynamite.

The Tomb of Ligeia (1965, Roger Corman) (v) [56]
More like The Rack of Ligeia. Anyway, settles the age-old question of whether it's possible to kill a cat with a cabbage. (A: No.)

Two Rode Together (1961, John Ford) (v) [54]
Ford is either too old or just doesn't care at this stage of the game, and just lets the camera run on Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark. Fortunately, they're up to the task.

Forbidden Zone (1980, Richard Elfman) (v) [52]
Probably easy to miss (and thus, dismiss) the obvious talent behind the camera, but the intentionally cheap sets and the Fleischer-inspired craziness are just as much handicaps as they are badges of honor.

Strange Illusion (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer) (v) [49]
Hey, gang! Let's put on a modern-day version of Hamlet! That'd be swell.

The Mountain Road (1960, Daniel Mann) (v) [39]
Interesting premise -- Jimmy Stewart as WWII Army demolitions guy who has to destroy China to save it -- crumbles under mediocre direction. Wrong Mann for the job. (Ha! Where does he come up with these?)

Foul Play (1978, Colin Higgins) (v) [38]
Another childhood memory crushed (see also High Anxiety). Dudley Moore = Awesome, though.

The Last Broadcast (1998, Stefan Avalo & Lance Weiler) (v) [32]
A good ending to a mediocre movie ruined by cinematic mixed metaphor. If you see it, you'll know what I mean.

Alice Adams (1935, George Stevens) (v) [32]
Another Family Guy flashback: Sniper leans over to Meg, sotto voce: "Try talking about him."

The House By The Cemetery (1981, Lucio Fulci) (v) [28]
Looks like the World's Phoniest Bat might be on the comeback trail with A Sound of Thunder. Go, Bat, Go!

The Late Show (1976, Robert Benton) (v) [21]
Dave Kehr calls The Long Goodbye a genre rehash, but calls this tired, by-the-numbers noir "genuinely ingratiating". Davey, please.

Japón (2002, Carlos Reygadas) (v) [10]
If a train kills a cipher in the middle of Mexico, does anyone care?

Posted by kza at 12:10 PM | Comments (5)

September 09, 2004

Yellow Alert

Significant risk of impending rewrite.

We had the reading of Yellow, draft two, last night at the Rendezvous, and it was great fun. Hearty "thank-yous" to all of my friends for lending their voices: Kirk, Todd, Valerie, Christine, Jolie, Cory, Morty, Kyle, Laurence, and Mary, who was sick and coughing but read all the stage directions anyway. (Well, I didn't give her much choice, really, but moving on...) Afterwards, we went down to the Rendezvous' performance space and watched Laurence, as The Diamond Family Archive, play some avant-space-folk and blow everyone away. (Laurence probably hates labels, but I really don't know how to describe his music.)

So the consensus between Martin and I is that this draft is overwritten, and that that is actually great, since it means cutting rather than adding. I think the structure is pretty sound, and now it's a matter of boiling it down to its essence. The script gained about 10-14 pages from the last draft, and for whatever reason that reminds me of that Family Guy joke with the neutered, grotesquely obese Brian: "I love chocolate but I can't eat it because it'll make me fat."

Other observations: Sharpe is great with a British accent; too many characters laugh at each other's jokes; too many characters "examine" each other.

So, I now invite everyone across the multiverse to read the new draft. Just drop me a line when you'd like to read it.

Posted by kza at 10:50 AM | Comments (5)

September 01, 2004

The House By The Cemetery (1981, Lucio Fulci) (v) 28

Hey folks. One visitor down, one to go. Thought I'd take this moment and post an entry so this blog doesn't look like an empty goldfish bowl. I was going through my pristine mint-condition set of Cinefantastiques when I came across this article. Enjoy!

An excerpt from “On Strings Of Darkness: An Interview with the World’s Phoniest Bat”, Cinefantastique, Vol. 28 No. 7 January, 1996, pp. 56-59.

How did you get involved with The House By The Cemetery?

After Suspiria failed to take off in the States, I started looking around for a vehicle to take advantage of my talents. I was in Germany, cooling my heels, and my agent sends me a mimeograph of a new book making the rounds – he thought I might be interested. It was Martin Cruz Smith’s Nightwing. Read it all in one night. Mesmerizing. Clearly a talented writer – this was before Gorky Park, you know. I got on the horn with my agent and asked him if the film rights were available. They were, we made an offer, and the rest… would have been history.

What happened with Nightwing?

I was forced off the project. [Director Arthur] Hiller saw the story more about the humans than the bats, and as draft after draft was written, I saw my starring role go down the tubes. I was furious. I flew back to L.A. to meet with the other producers to figure this thing out, and they sided with Hiller. So they bought me out and that was that. I went back to Europe and just went crazy. Throwing cash everywhere.


[Long pause.] Yeah. By the end of 1980, I was at the bottom. I was so strung-out – pardon the pun – that I couldn’t even hang upside-down anymore. December, just before Christmas, I flew straight into a plate-glass window. They said it was an accident, but I just wanted it to end. So I was in the hospital, not just recuperating but drying out, when [Dario] Argento calls. Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it? “When Argento Calls.”

He was in pre-production on Tenebre?

Right. That wasn’t the kind of movie for a bat, and if I’d been clean, I might’ve found a role in Inferno. But Argento was great. He helped me get on my feet and introduced me to [Lucio] Fulci. And that’s how I got into The House By The Cemetery.

How was your experience?

Both the best and the worst. I’m only in the one scene, but we spent three days on it. Paolo Malco was great to work with, totally professional. And patient! I’d have to spend hours on his hand. The man did not complain once. And all that blood – I’m very proud of that scene, one of my best performances.

But you didn’t know anything about the movie.

I was only given my pages. So I went in and did it and it was great. Then it’s released, and I like to sneak in and hover over the back row, you know, see the movie but more importantly, get a sense of the audience seeing the movie. Oh, God. Nothing happened. For like, half the movie. And when stuff did happen, it’s nonsensical bullcrap. I didn’t even watch the whole thing. The part where the annoying little kid, the one named “Bob” for God’s sakes, is stuck in the door, because he’s slammed the door on his own arm? I left. I flapped my way out of the theater and glided across the street to the bar.

Posted by kza at 08:56 AM | Comments (2)