Wednesday, September 7, 2016

38 Sentences

(With apologies to this post by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky)

Like Clara Bow for It and Maria Falconetti for Passion of Joan of Arc, Alicia Silverstone will live forever because of Clueless While for Miyazaki, filmmaking is primarily emotional, even physical--measured in how many frames he draws personally, how much of himself he pours into the film--for Takahata, filmmaking is primarily intellectual; he’s always rethinking the way animation works, redefining its limits.  Sofia Coppola shoots hotel rooms better than anyone in the history of cinema.  Lightning McQueen & Mater = Bob the Tomato & Larry the Cucumber, particularly in Cars 2.  Are we approaching a point when we will no longer be able to speak of “human nature” because it’s too “essentializing,” too rigid and meaningless and even offensive?   The major problem with Stephen Curry is that he mispronounces his first name.  Terrence Malick has left the proscenium further behind than anybody in narrative cinema: we are constantly aware of a world around us, a vast space stretching in every direction (even the city is Big Sky Country).  The thing about the various (supposedly cuckoo) interpretations of The Shining (and I am not the first to point this out), is that the sundry clues and motifs studied by the movie’s obsessives (Native American imagery, visual nods to the space program, oblique allusions to the Holocaust, constant verbal acknowledgment of colonialism, conquest, and Westward expansion) are in fact really there, and can, moreover, be nearly all integrated into a single vision when we realize that the Overlook Hotel is a nightmare maze of History, where sins and crimes (y’know, ghosts) of the past swirl everlastingly and threaten to drag the present and future of humanity down with them into eternal cycles of power, dominance, violence, and cruelty.    Amy Schumer isn’t funny.  On Focus (2015): The camera glides along, the colors are pleasingly balanced, and everything is modulated to look “classy,” but somehow there’s not a single memorable image in the entire movie.   One of the central appeals of the apocalypse as a fictional trope is the way it shatters the postmodern confusion of the current world situation, bringing good and evil back into view and clarifying absolutes.  Appreciating art is mostly a matter of orienting oneself properly toward the aesthetic goal of the work--appreciating what it does well, not asking it to be something it’s not.   I bet I can think of over a dozen different TV shows off the top of my head that were directly influenced by or had their ways paved for them by Buffy the Vampire Slayer: there’s the obvious ones like Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, the WB fellows like Charmed, Smallville, Roswell, and Supernatural, plus others like Veronica Mars, The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, iZombie, Jessica Jones, Russell T. Davies’ revival of Doctor Who, and even Kim Possible.  Lubitsch treated his scenarios, his characters, and his audience with unfailingly good manners, and it’s always good manners to keep your guests entertained and at ease.  Looking through these lists of things only ‘90s kids will get, a thought occurs to me: I really envy Baby Boomers’ ability to be nostalgic for things that actually happened.  Zack Snyder’s visual style is primarily influenced by comic panels and pulp cover art, and seems to be more concerned with bringing these still images to life than telling a coherent story--which, in the case of Batman v Superman, gives the images a weird sort of power; they feel so disconnected that the movie has a sense of a plunge into the void.  Malick sees philosophy, religion, and art as a continuum, and it is because of this that we can examine each of his films from the framework of multiple philosophical theories and theological stances and find illumination and worth through each of them.  If Grave of the Fireflies is Takahata’s neorealist film, and Only Yesterday and My Neighbors the Yamadas are his Ozus, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is his Mizoguchi.  Looking around at all his producing work, so focused on recreating the various undervalued genres and styles of his youth, one gets a sense of George Lucas as the square Tarantino.  Clichés in art: the problem isn’t that they’re false, the problem is when they’re lazy, when the artist doesn’t work to find the truth in the cliché which made it a cliché in the first place.  Scariest movies I’ve ever seen: (7) Psycho, (6) The Shining, (5) Alien, (4) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, (3) Pinocchio, (2) Dumbo, (1) Mickey Mouse in Runaway Brain.  Johnnie To’s signature images--crane shots and full-bodied medium shots of people standing on eerily-empty streets (that just might be sets)--remind me of nothing so much as 1940s MGM musicals, particularly those starring Gene Kelly.  What makes Girl, Interrupted interesting and genuinely valuable as a movie is the extent to which it is a direct ideological response and correction to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  In a ’50s Hollywood landscape hyped up on the Method, John Ford often stood out as a poet among dramatists.  Lana Del Rey = Nancy Sinatra + Joan Didion + lip injections.  Watching the final act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage recently (where the Athenians kick back and mock the players), I was surprised and overjoyed to discover that Shakespeare had invented Mystery Science Theater 3000 four hundred years early.  Amy Sherman-Palladino > Amy Heckerling > Nora Ephron > Eli Roth > Lena Dunham.  For Hitchock, the cinema was all about the temptation/repulsion of voyeurism; for David Fincher, it’s all about the terror/yearning of being watched.  It might not be out of place to consider Eyes Wide Shut in light of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Young Cruiseman Brown, as it were.  If sentimentality and brutality are linked, and they are, this might be a clue to the dark side of fandom and internet bullying: obsession and giddy investment in fictional relationships/melodrama/etc. can leads to lashing out with anger/hatred/violence at anyone who criticizes or takes it away.  Orson Welles once said of Jean-Luc Godard, “[H]is gifts as a director are enormous, I just can’t take him seriously as a thinker;” F for Fake can be read as Welles showing Godard how to use his style to think.  I find praise of Spike Jonze’s Her for its romanticism to be deeply disturbing; Her is a horror story or it is nothing.  Comic books ≠ superheroes of course, though the stereotype has been limiting to both the medium and the genre.  The reason many movie polls are so boring is the same reason Top 40 radio makes everything sound the same--they lack a motivating intelligence/sensibility, a sense of actual opinions being held that have a little risk and personality to them; instead, good movies/songs coexist next to bad ones with so little differentiation that it becomes one big stew of mediocrity.  If cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out, too often television seems to be a matter of what comes before a commercial break and what comes after.  Watch Thief and Blackhat back-to-back and you might think the latter is a high-tech remake of the former.  Miyazaki places his small moments among his large setpieces, Takahata places occasional setpieces among his small moments.  High aesthetic ideals for art sound great until you realize they don’t let you enjoy your disreputable favorites; might that tension be the point at which new critical tastes are formed?   

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