Saturday, June 30, 2007

Face Time #8 (missing in action)

Marina Zasukhina (last seen in 2003's Father and Son, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Food for thought

You know, looking over all the hand-wringing and armchair quarterbacking that has gone on since last week's AFI top 100 list, one question lingers in my mind. Here goes: will there ever be another movie that'll replace Citizen Kane as the film to beat?

Honestly, I don't think so. If it were simply a matter of quality, I might say otherwise. Before Kane, there were other movies that headed up the pantheon. Remember that the first Sight and Sound list (in 1952) found Bicycle Thieves on top, and that Kane didn't assume its current position until a decade later. Just as there's always a bigger fish, so there might always be a better movie. And really, I hope there is, not because I dislike Kane- far from it- but because as long as cinema exists we should hope for continued greatness, or else why keep watching new movies?

But I'm not talking about quality here. I'm talking about reputation. Something that springs from a movie's quality, surely, but also implies a mystique that has grown up around Kane. The key word here is "grown"- a film doesn't simply become the universally-acknowledged "greatest ever" overnight. Kane wasn't exactly unseen when it was originally released, but it took years for it to achieve its status as the Film of Films.

And this is why I don't think it'll ever cede its position atop the canon- because criticism has changed so much that the mechanism that propelled Kane to the top is no longer the same. The study of film, once confined to a few rarified circles, has diversified and ballooned. And once the Internet became a force in both cinephilia and criticism, the rate at which films were evaluated and re-evaluated increased at an alarming rate. With the glut of information that we get even before a movie has been released, it has become difficult NOT to pre-digest the movies we see. Most well-received movies begin to amass a following soon after they're released, and a backlash often emerges within months or weeks, or even days. By the time a movie shows up on DVD, its reputation among the majority of cinephiles has more or less been cemented.

Another problem is that in the years between Kane's ascent and the present day, criticism has become much more self-aware. We're much more prone to compare movies to the greats (and not-so-greats) of the past, or even to specifically consider their potential places in the pantheon. The original Sight and Sound list was a novelty- now lists like it, and many others besides, are practically a culture unto themselves.

Finally, Kane will remain at the top because, no matter how many transcendent films get made, it's never going to go away. Short of someone discovering a (purely hypothetical) kiddie-porn collection hidden among Orson Welles' private effects, there's no reason to believe that it'll ever get shoved aside in the minds of the critical establishment. Think about the movies we love growing up- to our young and culturally unsophisticated minds, those movies represent everything we ever hoped movies could be, and we can't get enough of them. Sometimes when we revisit them as adults, they disappoint us, but occasionally they actually hold up, and the ones that do are the ones that we tend to value more than the more recent greats. Because they've become close to us in a way that the modern-day classics never could.

From the perspective of film history, Kane is a lot like that. It was made while cinema was still fairly young, and true criticism (rather than ivory-tower Bosley Crowther reviewing) was even younger. To many critics, Kane represented the possibilities of the medium in a way no other film could. And even as other timeless masterpieces were released, Kane never lost its luster- to the contrary, those other films often revealed Kane as the wellspring of their own greatness. I don't see this changing in the future. Other films may end up sitting beside it, but I say none will dethrone it.

Frankly, I kind of like it this way. It's sort of comforting that cinema has its grand masterwork- its Hamlet, you might say. For one thing, it gives filmmakers something specific to strive for- a goal, however lofty. Likewise, Citizen Kane's critical dominance in no way diminishes the other classics of its medium. As much as I love Kane, there are at least half a dozen films I love more. But that matters little here. What matters, as far as Citizen Kane is concerned, is its legacy and what it can still teach us. If someone interested in learning about film was to ask me what one movie he should start with, do you know what I'd tell him? That's right. And I wouldn't even have to think about it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Face time #7 (glad you like my work)

Patton Oswalt...

and his animated alter ego.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Movie Moment #18

Also this week:

The Most Unnecessary Sequels of All Time, part 1 and part 2- I blurbed The Rage: Carrie 2, Alien: Resurrection, and the unstoppable phenomenon of shitty Disney sequels.

When Good Directors Go Bad #5: Art School Confidential - in which I take on the movie that actually made me question whether Terry Zwigoff really is a good director after all.

The weekly Trailer Roundup- the triumphant return of an old favorite, this week focusing on such highly-anticipated titles as No Country for Old Men, American Gangster, and, um, Daddy Day Camp.

Special Bonus Trailer: There Will Be Blood- any resemblance between this trailer and anything Saw-related is purely coincidental.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From a Polish Movie House #4

The Phantom of Liberty (1974, Luis Bunuel)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Movie Moment #17

Also this week:

The Greatest Twists of All Time, Part 1 and Part 2- I blurbed BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, ALIEN, and the granddaddy of them all, PLANET OF THE APES.

Face Time #6

Kati Outinen

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Muriel Awards 2007 FYC #3

Best Original Score: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Once

Most musicals today practically drench the audience in flopsweat, so intent are they on bowling us over with spectacle. What musical directors too often forget is that the classic musicals they profess to love were nimble and felt practically effortless. In this way, John Carney's Once is much closer to the spirit of the Golden Age musicals than any of the razzle-dazzle Oscar™ bait released by studios this decade. Once is a movie steeped in music to its core- music is central to the story, the relationships, and the emotional center of the film. But so delicate is the film that it would have fallen apart with music that wasn't good or was simply inappropriate. Thank goodness then for the film's stars, Hansard and Irglova, who between them were responsible for not just performing but also composing the film's songs. I know very little about Irglova, and I'm unfamiliar with Hansard's work with his band The Frames, but their music works beautifully in the context of the film, and outside it as well. Because of this, we buy into the story, we believe in the characters, and the film wins us over.


Imagine my surprise when my bud Andrew Bemis tagged me in the ongoing Thinking Blogger Awards. I'm not sure I warrant the honor- what with most of my posts lately being devoted to faces and posters- but it's too late to take it back now, pal.

Before I pass along the meme, here are the ground rules, as set down by The Thinking Blog:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Since I'm not sure how to display the Banner in my blogroll, I'll just post it here until I figure it out.

There. Now it feels official. And to hold up my end of the bargain, here are five bloggers that make me think, in no particular order:

Theo's Century of Movies- Not a blogger per se, but no matter. His writings on film are as thought provoking as anyone else's online. Not only does he pack as much insight into a short review as anybody out there, but he'll give a fair shake to every movie he sees, be it an art film or a forgotten exploitation movie titled CALIGULA REINCARNATED AS HITLER! Theo's always the first critic I check out when I see a new movie, because I know he'll have a unique take on it.

The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson- As omnivorous as Theo, but with an even more refined palate for schlock, The Dread Pirate Steve's more or less required reading for anybody who hangs out in the Cult section at the local video rental joint. Plus he's perceptive as hell and often funny to boot. He also freely admits his unfortunate tendency to amass backlogs of reviews, something to which I can definitely relate.

No More Marriages!- Andy Horbal is a damn fine critic, but his most fascinating writing is actually about criticism itself, holding a mirror up to his (and our) critical habits without giving off even a whiff of navel-gazing. In addition, he also blogs about the Pittsburgh movie scene in a way I wish I could do about Columbus. Sadly, Andy's been on a self-imposed hiatus for the past month, but I have no doubt that the reason behind the hiatus (a new blog!) will be worth the wait.

I Hate Blogs- Although I've gotten out of the movie theatre racket, I look back on my years in the game with a certain amount of nostalgia, and Jason Alley's blog allows me to get that old feeling without smelling like burnt popcorn. It's rare to find a theatre manager who honestly cares about cinema (as opposed to just liking movies- I mean, who doesn't?), and reading Jason makes me wish more theatre management types were like him. At the very least, we'd have less of this going on...

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats- Seeing as how my site has largely degenerated into stand-alone images and links, I figured I ought to give a shout-out to the best blog of this kind I can think of. Tom Sutpen, Stephen Cooke and Richard Gibson have created a virtual cabinet of curiosities, encompassing everything from nineteenth-century political cartoons to categories like "So Loathsome I Could Cry," spotlighting famously nice guys like Ty Cobb. And if that's not good enough for you, their blog is a one-stop shopping outlet for (often NSFW) vintage cheesecake, including this work-safe yet nonetheless mindbending photo of Loretta Young. Great blog name too.

Finally, many thanks to Andrew for tagging me, and a belated congrates to other Hats favorites who've already gotten tagged: Donna, Dennis, Adam, and the incomparable Vern. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to celebrate...

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Why the new look?"

Ironic answer: Because I didn't want the fancy design to distract from the awesome content.

Sheepish answer: It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Defensive answer: Because I felt like it. Got a problem with that?

Serious answer: Some combination of the above. Plus this new template includes little frames around the images, which I liked.

From a Polish Movie House #3

Three Women (1977, Robert Altman)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Face time #5 (evolution)

Martin Starr:

on Freaks and Geeks, 1999

at ComicCon 2004 (center)

in Knocked Up, 2007, not to be confused with...

Martin Scorsese, 1978

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movie Moment #16

Also this week:

Great Fight Scenes, Part 1 and Part 2- I blurbed Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Fast Runner, and Oldboy

Monday, June 04, 2007

From a Polish Movie House #2

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnès Varda)

Saturday, June 02, 2007