Friday, September 23, 2016
I'd been wanting to see The Split (1968) for a while. Based upon one of my favorite Parker novels, The Seventh, it also starred Jim Brown, pro-football superstar turned movie star (and a generally much better presence on the big screen than you generally get out of other former athletes*). I wasn't aware of the pedigree of the cast for this movie which is all but forgotten. But when you have a movie with Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Julie Harris, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll... and people don't remember it?
Well, it's not a great sign.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The last time I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I was about 15 and had a fairly hard time keeping up with a narrative that wasn't an easily digestible Isaac Asimov plot and which didn't work with a Bradbury-esque flow to carry me over the rough patches. I didn't know anything about Philip K. Dick other than that he was the name of the guy who wrote the book upon which they'd based Blade Runner, at the time one my new favorite movies (and, of course, still a favorite). But, I had heard the novel and movie were different.
I really don't know why I decided it was time to read the book again other than that, like most books I read 25+ years ago, my memories of the details were fuzzy. I mostly remembered feeling that - as screwed as the Rick Deckard of the film had been, the Deckard of DADoES? was in a far more precarious state. I recalled a "fake" police station, Roy Batty seemed less a threat, and the world of the novel existed in a state of decay that went well beyond even the night-time drizzling menace of the film.
It's not that I had a hard time understanding the story from an A to B to C to D perspective, but Dick's books always seem to be doing what science-fiction can do intensely well, and that's act as allegory for some more universal story or truth or as a thought experiment to explore those ideas. I'm sure I got it in that "I read what was on the page" sort of way, but there was no way for me to really relate. Add in my trouble reconciling the differences between the book and movie and expecting the themes and plot to better dovetail, and it was a recipe for forgetting a lot of what was interesting or special about the book as repeated Blade Runner viewings had quashed a lot of what I might have remembered.
Upon a re-read, I'd argue you need to see the two narratives as separate and attempting different stories with different meaning. There are certainly resonant thematic issues, but in making many of the changes Ridley Scott and Co. went with, Blade Runner is far more a product of expectations of films (no matter which cut we're discussing), of roles within films, and the limited running time of a movie and what can be in that story.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Happy Birthday to the great Adam West.
You can have your Ben Afflecks and Christian Bales or even your Michael Keatons. I'll take Adam West. My guess is - if you had to pick to have dinner with any of them, you, too, would want to dine with Mr. West.
Today Mr. West is 88 years old, still does tours and whatnot with comic-cons, and in November will see his voice applied to a cartoon version of Batman.
I don't know what to say except in, in the cowl or out - Mr. West is a hero. Let's salute the man and wish him the best of birthdays.
Full confession: I rented this movie entirely upon the promise of Caroline Munro who, it turned out, was a key character in the movie, but not in it nearly as much as one would hope (and I have some script notes on that which I am sure could be retro-actively applied).
Because otherwise I usually like my Dracula nice and Victorian. Bringing Dracula into the modern age always amps the cheese factor for me (do not see Dracula 2000) and just reminds me that Dracula works best when Van Helsing and the gang don't have cell phones or modern medicine. After all, the original novel of Dracula is sort of an exploration of the slow horror that was disease in an era when leeches and a good blood letting were about as much as your doctors were going to do for you while your body shut down on you in pretty awful ways.
In truth, I basically rented the movie for a laugh, not expecting much, and wound up genuinely enjoying the thing. I absolutely love it when something turns out not to be the dud I thought it would be. My exposure to Hammer Horror is limited, and while this one isn't exactly scary - it understands horror, vampires and the core of why they can be great villains when they aren't sparkling or sitting around looking like the H+M catalog exploded on a CW show.
Thus, this is a post about how I enjoyed Dracula AD 1972 (1972), a pretty-not-great movie that was sadly lacking in greater Caroline Munro screentime, but nonetheless a fun movie.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I remember seeing the commercials for the 1995 thriller, The Net, rolling my eyes, and making a firm decision that I would not see this movie. Over the years, it's surprised me how many people have seen it, declared it terrible, and then expressed surprise that I hadn't seen it and never wanted to see it.
The kids will never understand what it was like in 1995, but we were on the teetering edge of a revolution in computing entering the lives of everyone on the planet. Up to that point, computers had been, in the eyes of the public, a weird mix of science-fiction, radio-kit-bashers-gone-mad, a point of ridicule if people spend too much time with them outside of work, and seen as the key to god-like power as evidenced in everything from Weird Science to War Games to Ferris Bueller. And, my God, such an overwhelmingly male-oriented hobby or interest.
My first introduction to what we'd wind up calling "the internet" was via the hand-waving plot explanations of War Games, but in real like, I only ever knew one kid, our own Groboclown, who had a modem in his house. Aside from that, they were kind of a mystery. By middle-school, I was aware of the "cyberpunk" literary movement, but mostly picked up the terms and ideas of "netrunners" second hand from my brother, who actually read the stuff. But even at that - I got my head around the potential for use, for abuse, for second lives online (that would overtake meatspace).
When I got my first computer (a refurbished Pack-Bell 486 with Windows 3.1. Like a @#$%ing BOSS, y'all!) and headed off to college, that was kind of an act of faith on the part of my parents. They saw it as an over-powered Smith-Corona word processor, which was all we'd had in the house since I was 14 (the early Vic 20 and Apple IIe experiments had not made us computer whizzes). And there was an assumption I'd do things with it, but no one could say what those things would be.
Fortunately at UT, I managed to move in down the hall from some guys who were already deeply computer savvy and who had actual modems and whatnot. And, they weren't the kind of guys who sat in the dark and played Doom and didn't converse. Instead, we were soon running wires down the hallway for networked play, and by Spring semester, with a used and battered 2400 baud modem installed in my computer and an account from UT, I was online. Not that there was much to do online in 1994, but I was there!
But 1995's film, The Net, was less reflective of the techo-utopianism a lot of us were buying into thanks to pop publications like Wired. The marketing and concept spoke a whole lot more to our parents' newspaper-headline driven concern over "this crazy, out of control technology", a future-shock echo that was rippling through the world that was just beginning to understand what it meant to suddenly start seeing monitors on every desk at every job and what was happening as we were having to give all those people our names, phone numbers, etc...
Those weren't just stand-alone ugly data-systems anymore, they were now on the Information Superhighway!*
My point is - the context of 1995 when The Net made it to cinemas everywhere with America's newest darling of the Star System-era of Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, was one of an already buzzing fear or discomfort. Everything about the trailer reeked of the paranoia I could feel from my professors, from the general public and folks who were doing just fine in life without needing an email address, let alone a magic phone in their pocket that was a portal to all of human knowledge and able to access monumental computer systems to provide predictions and prescriptive behavior.*
Anyway, if The Net (1995) has one fatal flaw, it is not the absolutely terrible depiction of computing and the internet that boils away any goodwill the pretty-well researched first act sets up. It is not a bad performance by Sandra Bullock, who is really very good in what limited amount of action she's given to take as a witness to her own life falling apart around her and a clunker of a script.
The movie is incredibly boring.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Today marks the 92nd birthday of actress and screen legend Lauren Bacall. She passed in 2014, just a month shy of her 90th birthday.
I don't often post pics of Bacall because stills never seem to capture her quite right, in my opinion. I can't really think of any other actress who strikes me exactly that way, but I've long since quit trying to find the "right" picture of someone who was lovely as a picture, sure, but who's voice and nuances of expression were what made her work so very well in movies.
Happy birthday, Ms. Bacall.
Suspiria (1977) is one of those movies that you see cited a whole lot for various reasons, usually around cinematography or as it exploited a trope of the horror genre that someone wants to discuss and class it up a bit.
For this reason, about a year ago I decided I wanted to see Suspiria, but as it wasn't on Netflix of available via Amazon Prime, my efforts were thwarted. Luckily, Austin still has a movie rental company called Vulcan Video which recently moved it's South location to actual South Austin (Ben White, bitches! Near both Blazer Tag and Jamie's dialysis clinic!). I went and renewed my membership, discovering the last time I was in was July 20th, 2001. Jamie believes we last rented "The Star Wars Holiday Special", which sounds about right.
When I've asked people if they've seen Suspiria, and they've answered in the affirmative, they usually also back it up with "it's interesting, but I'm not sure it's very good." Which told me what I needed to know going into the film.
Anyway, point is - Suspiria was available. I rented it I watched it.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
I believe it was in 1994 or 1995 that our own JAL suggested I was Jean Cocteau's cinematic fever dream Beauty and the Beast (1946), or, as it's French, La Belle et la Bete. I don't know why it took me so long to finally watch it when I've probably watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at least three times during the same interval, but there you go.
Most of my knowledge of the story of the fable of Beauty and the Beast comes from (a) the Disney film I've seen about a dozen times and (b) half-remembered snippets from a unit in my second grade class where Ms. Miles read us fairy tales. But I don't know if I've read any official versions of the story since childhood, I just remembered the "Belle's dad gives Belle a raw deal, something about a magic mirror, and Beast getting very sick because Belle leaves to go back home for a bit". And, of course, that he turns into a handsome prince.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Today is the 113th birthday of Ms. Claudette Colbert, a film star who was especially prominent in the 1930's and 1940's.
I have only seen a few Claudette Colbert movies, but she's pretty terrific. And if you haven't seen It Happened One Night, fix that problem.
And if that doesn't work for you, I recommend her film Cleopatra from 1934.