Mar 28, 2008

Frame of Mind 4

THE TRIAL (1962)
directed by Orson Welles
cinematography by Edmond Richard

Mar 27, 2008

Frame of Mind 3

directed by Jacques Tati
cinematography by Jean Badal and Andreas Winding

Mar 20, 2008

Stop Buying Dvds

... yeah, right!

The title of this post is a command I can't seem to obey. It's an never ending cycle of buying and buying and buying and then lamenting where I'll store these films. I have too many. Much too many. Family members want them and think I'll eventually "will" my library to them ... that's their deluded vision. What I've been trying to do is give movies away, that I have duplicates of (due to "upgrading" for special editions or remastered anamorphic versions) or just don't want anymore, to those souls I feel will appreciate them and love FILM. Some have been packed up and sent to a young man I know, in an indirect manner, in Michigan. He is studying film and tells me he watches about two a day ... he is trying to watch EVERY film listed in the 1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE book. His knowledge of all genres is astounding and he reminds me of the young me at his age. I know if the older me could send musicals, film noir, westerns, Irwin Allen disaster movies, screwball comedies, Marx Bros. films, spaghetti westerns and foreign films to the young me at 20 yrs old, well, ... I would just love me.

The title of this post, also, is a play of words of sorts in reference to the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme. This is the latest dvd I purchased (yesterday I "upgraded" to an anamorphic copy of Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs ... now, I have another duplicate!) and the latest addition to my huge library.

I purchased this film after seeing a YouTube clip of the film. I had seen this film years ago. It is the only concert film I've actually enjoyed. I loved its invention and visual aura of creativity. It was not only the music, but the presentation of the stage design, the band's appearance and the direction that enthralled me. And I had been on a Jonathan Demme kick at the time. So, I bought the movie as a memory piece. A token of a great experience that I would re-experience. I bought it, too, to watch on my dvd projector on an 80 inch screen with surround sound ... my own little thimble theatre ... a dream I've had since I was a little whippersnapper that saturated himself on cinema. I thought this musical and visual presentation would aid me in the re-experience.

Oh, the song I was searching for by Talking Heads was Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place). My quest originated in my desire to hear the song (which I did not realize I had heard before) that my good friend had attached as the title to his blog. This friend is another I have bestowed many a film upon. He, also, is studying film. His genre tastes are not as voracious and he not so much a maven as my contact in Michigan, but he loves film and loves talking about film and loves reading about film and ... learning about film. There are certain people who love motion pictures as much as me ... and I just want to share film with them and experience film with them and talk and talk and talk. My friend, Kazu, is such a person. And I enjoy just handing him a film he will cherish and not just covet. I love to tell him about some director or genre film he knows nothing about and it peaks his interest and then ... he wants to see it ... and it goes both ways. He has made me more conscious of Asian cinema ... Kurosawa and, especially, Ozu a director that I might never have experienced, if not for his encouragement. I so love the "learning" and the "watching". And so it goes.

And here is the song, the clip from the dvd (that made my wallet $25 lighter) and, also, the title of Kazu's blog*, which you (if you are one of the three people that peruse my blog) may want to read to experience his fine writing on his major passion (and mine) ... film.

Watch and Listen!

* the link to "this must be the place" is to the right of this page.

Mar 14, 2008

Frame of Mind 2

directed by Alexander MacKendrick
cinematography by James Wong Howe

Mar 10, 2008


Confined to the house suffering from a head cold, I was able to spend most of my time reading and, eventually, finishing the most compelling book I've come across in some time ... well, I should signify it was compelling for a movie buff.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris is a new publication just released this February. It chronicles the story behind each of the five Best Picture Academy Award nominees of 1967. Each film is painstakingly researched in how it was conceived, written, cast and brought to life on the silver screen. Mr Harris writes in a breezy manner with no lumbering statistics or documentary-like dryness ... each story is told in a vignette style, interlacing in a back and forth manner, until the final chapter which brings us to the Academy Award ceremony. It is truly fascinating to read how many of the real characters involved, including Warren Beatty, Sidney Poitier, Norman Jewison, Mike Nichols and Dustin Hoffman, were connected in a cinematic six degrees of separation. Some were even connected to the others' projects, but fortuitously moved on in most respects.

The movies involved were:

BONNIE AND CLYDE - the tale of two infamous depression era criminals whose exploits were brought to screen to emulate the then current French New Wave style. The film went on to stun audiences with its mix of humor and violence ... causing shock and changing cinema forever. We learn how Godard and Truffaut almost directed the picture, the machinations of Warren Beatty to produce the film and how it disgusted the old guard at Warner Bros, who distributed the film to limited theatres.

DOCTOR DOLITTLE - the bloated multi-million dollar children's' musical starring Rex Harrison and a menagerie of zoo animals. We learn how this film "bought" its way into the Best Picture slot, how misguided the Hollywood idea men are concerning what is "in" with the audiences and how horrible a man Rex Harrison was to everyone in his autocratic sphere.

THE GRADUATE - the ground breaking film about the malaise of the younger generation. Every detail about how the film was adapted by several different screenwriters, the difficulty in casting the character of Benjamin Braddock, Mike Nichols tendency for directorial "meanness" and how no studio wanted this project is recounted. It was, also, the first film to use current popular music in its score ... actually, it was the score.

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER? - Stanley Kramer's interracial love story starring the Hollywood titan team of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They are the parents to a daughter who announces her plans to marry a black doctor played by the popular Sidney Poitier. This was thought to be a very daring step forward in racial themes for the screen, but it turned out to be a very tepid plastic Hollywood set piece, where the biggest interest for the movie-going public was in seeing two old movie war horses in their last teaming. Spencer Tracy was slowly dying and this was to be his last film.

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT - Norman Jewison's Southern crime story starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. This film gave audiences, for the first time, a strong black character played by Poitier as a homicide detective investigating a murder in rural Georgia. This film was very important in Poitier's career and in the way black actors were to be portrayed in later cinematic incarnations. It led, in a way, to the blaxploitation craze of the 1970s. Of course, Shaft (1971) can be attributed to rooting this image, but In the Heat was the seed.

While reading this book, you realize how films have changed ... for the good and the bad. Old tired relics, like Dolittle battled it out with the rebellious Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. New films showing racial changes in the news were reflected in the stories of In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, but they each treated it in a different manner ... one in a radical new way, the other in a cliche toothless Hollywood manner. It was an instrumental year for the dinosaurs of old Hollywood to sense their extinction and a new breed to emerge. The Studios were being disbanded and bought up by huge conglomerates ... the old studio system was a thing of the past. The old stars were dying out. New names, young voices and alterations in how we viewed film violence and sex were splashing across the screen. The old hands in charge of the Motion Picture Production Code were losing their power due to audiences wanting more. This led to the ratings system we have today. The years from 1967 to about 1975 were called the Second Golden Age of Movies. It is a span of cinematic history that I love to read about and experience visually.

This marvelous book reads like a thriller ... I knew the outcome of the story, but it still enthralled me ... you wonder how they will finish these individual films and realize how hard it is to construct an idea from the page to the screen. The author made evident to me that different generations control what we see on the screen ... the authors of these films and those that actually pay to watch them are products of their time. 1967 was a changing tide and that wave swept into the 1970s and receded back. This past year, forty years later, was an echo to me of that era. The films that came to fruition and reached our eyes and minds, this past year, were reminiscent of that time. I only hope the tide is changing again and we experience a flood of great art. I'm ready to happily drown.

Mar 4, 2008

Frame of Mind

directed by Robert Benton
cinematography by Charles Rosher Jr.