Mixing golden age filmmaking techniques and new Hollywood’s colourful realism, The Sting is more form conscious than director George Roy Hill’s earlier films. Meaning that this film also has enough wipes and page wipes for ten Kurosawa films. Both wipe montage overloads portray Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) getting makeovers and a new apartment. The latter montage also depicts Hooker’s new partner Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) gathering people for a con. Each of these people are like chapters in a book that we skip to see the exciting part of them performing their sleight of hand. Their mark is a gangster named Doyle Lonegan (Robert Shaw). These montages are accompanied by a ragtime score, the conflicts given a lighter mood.
There’s also a lot of running in this movie, mostly from Johnny’s part, having to leave Joliet, Illinois for Chicago to avenge the death of his former partner. He’s being chased by authorities and hitmen who have been on him since he has moved. There are guns involved and the clicking sound of Johnny’s shoes eerily makes the audience a little afraid for him. The camera follows Johnny enough for us to see Redford’s athleticism. There are also quick zoom outs from the gunmen, whether they’re on top of a subway platform or within hallways or back alleys behind a diner. Even if they’re looming they can never catch up to Johnny.
I started to understand why this won over Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers for Best Picture in 1973. There’s little quips from Johnny’s girlfriend, blaming her wasted training on her orchestra instead of her trip numbers. That could be overread as a satire on class boundaries in Depression-era America, but we can accept it as an incidental humour that’s as real because it’s delivered in little strokes. It’s a very masculine film, honestly portraying man in its different stages, from Lonegan’s bravado at the poker table to Gondorff wasting away before he and Johnny can get their acts together. There are red herrings before the winners bring out their Hollywood smiles, and most of us won’t have it any other way.
I can has TIFF vouchers, please?
Cameron Bailey announced the TIFF lineup highlights. I saw 11 last year, I would like to see 11 this year. But I only have at the most 80 bucks on my checking now. I get paid on Thursday, but most of that is going to OSAP.
Here’s a long list. I listed 22 because I believe in a .500 batting average. Foreign films jump to the front of the line. I love Americans, but I can wait to watch them by Christmas. Indicated in bold are stuff I really wanna see.
ph. TIFF/ TWC
Barney’s Version, Richard J. Lewis, Canada/Italy
Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky, USA
Casino Jack, George Hickenlooper, Canada
The Conspirator, Robert Redford, USA
The Housemaid, Im Sang-Soo, South Korea
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper, United Kingdom/Australia
Little White Lies Guillaume Canet, France
Potiche, François Ozon, France
Another ,Year Mike Leigh, United Kingdom
Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Spain/Mexico
Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance, USA
Brighton Rock ,Rowan Joffe, United Kingdom
Cirkus Columbia, Danis Tanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA
L’Amour Fou, Pierre Thoretton, France
The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Andrew Lau, Hong Kong
Love Crime, Alain Corneau, France
Miral Julian Schnabel, United Kingdom/Israel/France
Norwegian Wood, Tran Anh Hung, Japan
Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell, USA
Tamara Drewe, Stephen Frears, United Kingdom
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen, United Kingdom/USA/Spain
Robin Wood: The Chase
I saw this movie a week or two ago and I was really worried that this article might be too late. The politics in this film doesn’t fit like a puzzle piece in the events this week. Nonetheless, how timely is it with riots going on to write about a movie with riots going on?
This movie’s so ambitious and powerful I don’t know where to start. It’s a hidden highlight of the careers of the film’s actors like Brando, Fonda and Redford. It’s also one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, but then again I change my mind about that a lot.
“The Chase,” directed by Arthur Penn by and is a Lillian Hellman adaptation from a Horton Foote novel. It centres on small town Texas, troubled by one of their own, Bubber Reeves (Robert Redford), who escapes from prison. I’ve read a lot of Lillian Hellman lately, who fills her stage mostly with a family or group of friends who exploit the unseen lower classes. However, the movie is just as much an Arthur Penn vehicle, shaping this film as a western in plain clothes, as American decadence while putting violence and the youth’s rebellion in the mix.
I understand that the film uses its first act for introductions, which some viewers see as a bit tedious, but it’s better for the film to answer those questions in the beginning instead of doing so for the rest of the movie. Bubber’s escape is a problem for the town’s citizens. Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando) wants to keep Bubber safe from a mob, but his good intentions and clouded by Val Rogers’ (E.G. Marshall) bribing. Bubber’s wife, Anna (Jane Fonda, the best actress of New Hollywood, but we’ll talk about that later), wants to leave him for Val’s son Jake. Bubber’s mother (Miriam Hopkins) wants his son back and even considers selling it to her contemptuous neighbours. Edwin (Robert Duvall, subtle this time) becomes paranoid since he’s taken money that all has accused Bubber of stealing.
Unlike Hellman’s earlier plays, we finally get to see in Bubber, a lower class victim, as a fleshed out character. Robert Redford’s amazing as Bubber that I always wonder why I doubt his acting. He’s dangerous, troubled, trashy and childlike. The movie itself divides critics then and now and Sam Kashner called him miscast. However Redford’s good looks, distracting in half of his earlier films, helped his character. If he was less attractive and more gruff, the audience wouldn’t have sympathized with him. His mother is another face of the oppressed, yet she is just as flawed. Her blind maternal love makes her lash out at Calder and despite of the little truth she bellows to the town, she can’t see his true intentions.
Besides from being a ‘contemporary western,’ it’s also a part of the ‘lynching’ sub-genre, more popular in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. In 1966 this movie adds to the genres and making the mob’s methods more terrorizing. They already don’t respect Calder, branding him as paid help by the Rogers’s and they invade his privacy about the news of Bubber’s escape. Calder takes a three-minute gang beating in his own office and home. Learning that Bubber’s in the wharf, the town leaves their sexually and alcohol-charged parties and congregates with their guns and alcohol. Instead of other ‘lynching’ films when the mob is already marching in numbers, the film lets the audience watch the mob grow. A car and then another car and then the rest of them. These people aren’t as single-minded but just as dangerous, some just wanna kill Bubber, others make him as a strange sexual icon, the rest disapprove and cynical but don’t express outrage and watch the lynching happen.
The film, however, shows larger differences in the younger generations. There is Bubber, Anna, Jake in the wharf and technically Lester is part of their group though the latter gets thrown in jail. Class and race divide the four characters yet they still found a way to grow together and help each other. Redford and Fonda shows great chemistry and rawness as a couple, finding romance just before the end. Unfortunately the town separates them from each other. I felt dread when the teenagers started throwing Molotovs and burning tires and throwing them at Bubber’s direction, the visuals effectively horrifying in the big screen. Kids should know not to follow their parents bad behaviour but they do. The youth’s participation in this brutality shows Hellman and Penn’s stark worldviews and makes the town hopeless. And yes, for those things it makes this movie more shocking than Penn’s next film, “Bonnie and Clyde.”
1966 and to a lesser extent 1965 were crap yet some films release in those years seemed to have opened the floodgates for 1967 and New Hollywood. To understand the films of 1967, we have to look at some of the films a director did a year before. “The Chase” gave way to “Bonnie and Clyde.” Mike Nichols gave us “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” before giving us “The Graduate,” which should have won Best Picture that year. Stanley Kramer’s troubled idealism in “Ship of Fools” helps him and us into “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Richard Brooks shows the guns in “The Professionals” and eventually in “In Cold Blood” (To be honest, Richard Brooks is the Cezanne of New Hollywood in a way that he was pedantic until he discovered the rebellion of the 60’s).
And for every week era in Hollywood, foreign films step in to do the job. Godard followed the cool “Masculin Feminin” with the dangerous “Le Weekend.” Melville follows “Le Deuxieme Souffle” with the slick “Le Samourai.” Films released in 1966 include “The Battle of Algiers,” “Blow-Up,” “Aflie” and many more that I haven’t gotten into. 1967 is an all out party while 1965-6 is a tight rope walk, but I kinda wanna see the latter instead.
Ordinary (White) People
First of all, I would like to say that “Ordinary People” won over “Raging Bull” in the Oscars. Suck it, juiceheads.
Most of what I’ve learned in “Ordinary People” is what I have already learned in “Cache.” White people like having champagne parties with other white people they dislike, they have childhood secrets that they yell out inside urban buildings, their kid’s in the swim team.
I’m gonna paraphrase Ebert that other films tackling the dysfunctional suburban family would have been more contemptuous of them, like Haneke was in “Cache.” The main characters in “Ordinary People,” however, have their flaws but the film shows theories about why these flaws exist instead of using those flaws to attack them. Watching the characters can make anyone feel like they’re watching a dry period piece. This film may have a certain effect on a some of the audience since it mixes bourgeois complicity with ‘golf course America’ inflections.
Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) adds to that effect by being closed off, sweaty and blaming himself for everything. Teenage alienation is intensified by watching his brother die. His psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch), however, helps him release from being a skinny boy with nervous ticks to someone who is rightfully mad at his situation and articulating what exactly is wrong. We feel relief when he cusses even at his own mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and father (Donald Sutherland), shattering their mannered sensibilities.
Fine, I will admit that it is not the ‘greatest’ movie but in the way that it does not really call attention into itself. It does not have a Paul Thomas Anderson effect. This is a movie about the suburbs, everything’s tailored. The golf courses, the lawned churches, the columned homes all have a groomed look without a hint of satire. If you can indulge me to stretch, this film is what Gainsborough or Brueghel would have captured with a camera depicting 1980’s America. This is what Kurbick would have shot if he was a sentimentalist.
This movie also stars hot piece of ass Adam Baldwin (not related to Alec) when he was 18 and cocky. You might know him as the wide-eyed young soldier in “Full Metal Jacket.” If you really want to get pissed about the Academy, get pissed that the Kubrickian masterpiece was only nominated for one Academy Award. He was also “Firefly” or apparently “Chuck.” I should watch that show, but not really.
Lastly, if “Ordinary People” teaches us certain truths, it is that drunk people flock to McDonald’s. The end.
In which my blog’s name becomes kinda ironic
(A lot of fish in the sea? ph. screencaps from iTunes download)
I saw “The Cove” this past Thursday. To call it a documentary fits the rudimentary description, but the word “documentary” however implies certain qualities among the film that might make those prejudiced against it turn away. “The Cove” shows shots of people talking or groups of people doing fascinating or horrifying things, but that’s not all there is to the movie. Instead it actually has a deeper aesthetic value and pattern.
The first shots in the film are, if I’m right, taken from infrared cameras, then a few more from night vision. We hear the deep, benevolent voice of Louie Psihoyos, telling his audience that he did his best to try to make the movie legally. This first scene, both in visuals and words, warns us of not being allowed to see and roadblocks and denials. The movie also shows other people who have tried to do what Psihoyos as his team are doing, and failing. Some get murdered, as indicated by stills of web pages announcing these deaths.
Psihoyos’s documentary tells the story of dolphins being hunted in the coastal town of Taiji, Japan. He learns about this from Rick O’Barry, an Alfred Nobel figure in his transformation from TV show producer to dolphin activist. Seeing some of the action, he assembles a group with different skills helping him expose what’s happening. They have to do everything at night, which explains the infrared and the night vision. SPOILER ALERT, but they use the infrared cameras to install regular digital ones and hide it in the right places, they go back to the hotel rooms to look at the footage, the screen goes black, we as the audience go underwater, and the infrared and night vision fully contrast the clarity of what’s recorded.
And this movie makes me jealous that this guy only went to one week of film school.
And this movie makes me unable to hate Hayden Panettiere, not that I did in the first place.
(Just like a wavin’ flag. ph. secret)
I also saw “All The President’s Men” on TCM the same night, and I’m not sure whether I would be equally erudite with this movie as I was on “The Cove.”
The movie stars Dustin Hoffman (playing Carl Bernstein), the greatest American actor in the New Hollywood era. The first few scenes of the film made me think that he’s unfairly playing second fiddle to Robert Redford (playing Bob Woodward), but both men even out eventually. Not to mention that this is the first time I’ve seen Robert Redford act, and I feel shitty and reductive for saying that but I haven’t checked out his oeuvre yet. It still seems that Redford gets a 60/40 in the movie because he gets mano-a-mano with Hal Holbrook’s Deep Throat, their meetings sprinkled with neo-noir elements. I guess it’s more cinematic that way for a person to meet another instead of being interrogated by two.
The reason I bring up the Deep Throat meetings is because the first movie I’ve seen of the subject is “Dick,” where both Woodward and Bernstein meet “Deep Throat.”
Both movies show how the little guys are intelligent and can beat the bullying big guys with a rock and slingshot. and in “All the President’s Men,” Bernstein’s friendliness and hunger and Woodward’s innocence complement each other. They’re both underestimated but as we realize, one brain’s as good as the next, as both guys meticulously look at details and scour the right interviewees and follow the money, as Deep Throat has said.