‘69 series’ Category Archives
by jacicita in 69 series
Guys, the 69 Series at the Northwest Film Forum was basically the cheapest intro to film class ever. I bought the series pass thinking, well. $69 is about seven movies. There would definitely be that many I wanted to see, and there would probably be more I would see if they were already paid for. Since that’s how my mind works. I saw 21, which works out to a little over $3 a film. Most worth it, in my opinion, and I finally joined the Film Forum while I was at it.
I saw a lot of great stuff, that I’ve talked about before, but the best surprises had to be The Rain People (very early Coppola) & Salesman (a documentary about door-to-door Bible salesmen).
Ones I’m kicking myself for missing: too many to list. Pretty much everything where I decided I was too busy or too sick or too tired or flat-out misread the calendar. I particularly regret missing Fellini’s Satyricon, thinking it was playing the full week. D’oh.
by jacicita in 69 series, film:1960s, film:2009, hathaway henry, heslov grant
I had not been in a hurry to see The Men Who Stare at Goats, because I had heard such mixed buzz, but after a pretty difficult day at work we decided that Ewan MacGregor and George Clooney being goofy was just what we needed. And we were right.
They have great chemistry, the story is bizarre enough (and convoluted a bit with flashback) that I didn’t know where it was going, and it was exactly what we needed: a ridiculous movie about the New Earth Army, claiming that more of it is true than we’d think.
The last movie I saw in the 69 Series, True Grit, was also pretty darn entertaining. Kim Darby is a 14 year old girl who hires (a drunken, eye-patched) John Wayne to hunt down the killer of her father. One of the original reviews described Darby’s performance thus: “the supposedly 14-year old heroine delivers her campy archaic lines with all the aplomb of an elephant playing hopscotch”. How great an image is that? All the more so because it’s true.
Also tagging along is Glen Campbell, who wants to bring the killer back to Texas. Robert Duvall is the killer in question. Great fun, though the ending was a bit overlong.
I am astonished that it was rated G, though. You can kill heaps of people and it’s appropriate for general audiences? Film ratings are total crap, with pretty much zero consistency.
by jacicita in 69 series, coen ethan, coen joel, film:1950s, film:1960s, film:2009, hitchcock alfred, maysles albert, maysles david
Apparently I spent the weekend at the movie theater. Here we go:
A Serious Man is the newest Coen Brothers film, a Job story set in the Minnesota town they grew up in, a Midwest Jewish suburban hell. As it ended, I couldn’t help but think of You, the Living. It has the same sort of grey-blue hope, in one full fable rather than a series of short ones. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfection in the lead (though not the title role), always amazed at what’s happening to him, wondering what he did to deserve it, what he can do to make things change, and what God might have to say about all of this. Ask the rabbi? Good luck with that.
Somehow it seemed to make perfect sense to follow it up with Salesman, a documentary in the 69 series by another set of brothers, David and Albert Maysles, who also filmed Grey Gardens. It follows a group of Bible salesmen as they travel their territories, and as one, Paul Brennan, tries to break his losing streak. Faith is being exploited everywhere — the company exploits the salesmen just as they exploit their customers — with the result that God is nowhere, but audience sympathy is everywhere. Rent & medical bills are due, and $50 for a Bible in the late 60s is an extraordinary amount of money, but as Brennan sucks down cigarettes in cramped hotel rooms and rented cars, you really want the poor guy to make a sale before the company sends him home to Boston and his wife who repeatedly reminds him not to drive too fast.
SIFF Cinema ran a mini Hitchcock festival all weekend, but I only made it over for one double feature: Strangers on a Train & Dial M For Murder which were a lot of fun to see with an audience, Robert Walker & Ray Milland making for a set of delicious villains.
by jacicita in 69 series, barrymore drew, campion jane, darlow michael, donen stanley, film:1950s, film:1960s, film:1995, film:1999, film:2009, kelly gene, lasseter john
* Whip It is more or less your standard coming of age story. It’s a formula, but a formula that works, and this time came with a bonus: roller derby. Charming as hell, and much better than I expected it to be. If you’ve never been to derby, though, be advised that’s what derby was like when it started. Derby is changing fast, has been cleaned up a lot, and the odds are your local league is flat track. The passion for the the sport, though, you’ll recognize anywhere.
* Bright Star is a heartbreakingly beautiful film. Abbie Cornish is luminous, Ben Whishaw’s Keats is darned pretty himself, and Paul Schneider’s Brown is well aware of both of them. If this isn’t a Yuletide fandom I’ll eat my non-existent hat. Here’s the thing, though. As exquisitely crafted as it was, flawlessly written, acted, and shot, there was something missing, some note of why she chose to tell this story. It’s a hard thing to pin down when it’s there, and harder still when it isn’t, but when I can’t find it, it makes it a tough film for me to love. One thing I did particularly want to note, though, was the attention given to Fanny’s sewing. It’s the one area in her life where she could funnel her passion and creativity, and I am glad it got the screen time it deserved.
* Johnny Cash in San Quentin wasn’t quite what I expected, but that actually was an improvement. Part of the Film Forum’s 69 series, it included performance footage as well as interviews with inmates. It’s a BBC documentary, and it opens with some unexpected footage — a bit on the myth of the American West, with reenactments that leave much to be desired, but once it gets into the show (intercut with prisoner interviews) you wish it would keep going. 60 minutes was far too short!
* Toy Story & Toy Story 2 were recently rereleased in 3D. It was a lot of fun. The first is cleverer than I had remembered, and I had never seen the second one at all. I am coming round a little bit on 3D. It worked well here, unlike in Coraline where I found it distracting. I mentioned this last time I saw Toy Story, but I do love that it’s a single parent family and, in a rare feat for Disney, it’s a single mother. It doesn’t make up for their typically appalling record on female characters, but it helps. (Also, just because I thought to look it up now, according to Wikipedia, the font of True Facts, passenger side airbags were first offered as an option on the 95 model Volvo and were standard after that. For those who were concerned about the baby seat in the front. You know who you are.)
* Finally, Singin’ In the Rain was this week’s Metro Classics offering, so of course I had to go. My TV isn’t nearly as big as the theater screen, and it’s a little awkward in my living room when I’m the only one applauding for the “Make ‘em Laugh” sequence. Fantastic, of course, and I have to say, if you don’t like this movie? I am quietly judging you. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve seen it since I watched the extras on Rififi and learned how kind and generous Kelly was to Jules Dassin, particularly when Dassin was being snubbed by the Hollywood community at Cannes. It makes it that much better to know that Kelly was a fantastic human being.
In the next week I’m seeing A Serious Man, two Hitchcocks, Where the Wild Things Are, and Precious. It’s fall movie season, kids, and I couldn’t be more excited. I should probably take a look at the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival schedule too, but so much gay film is crap I generally have trouble getting around to it.
In the world of things that are interesting only to me, this means that by the end of next week I’ll have met my film-in-the-theater record from 2007, and that with two and a half months of 2009 to go. Oh my giddy aunt!
by jacicita in 69 series, anderson lindsay, docter pete, ferreri marco, film:1960s, film:1970s, film:2008, film:2009, hill george roy, hitchcock alfred, miyazaki hayao, neame ronald, ritchie michael, soderbergh stephen, yates david
Okay, this is ridiculous. I was doing so well, and then I went to a preview screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and had some sort of a meltdown. Do I write about it as a movie person? Do I write about it as a fan? Wah! So I will just say that I enjoyed the experience (Cinerama!), that I need to see how they’ll do the final two films before I can pass judgment on what was cut out, and that it ain’t no Prisoner of Azkaban. (This is where, if I was writing as a fan, I would draw hearts around Alfonso Cuaron. Don’t judge.)
What else since then?
I saw more 69 movies: Downhill Racer (Redford!), Topaz (spy thriller, and most un-Hitchcock Hitchcock since Mr & Mrs Smith), Dillinger is Dead (which was really upsetting — I am losing my edge in my old age — but one hell of a performance from Michel Piccoli), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is what you should see, if you see only one of these, and not just because it stars Maggie Smith), and If…. (which was a surreal satire, and an interesting double feature with Brodie).
Then, a few ostensibly kids movies: Up, which I had wanted to see all along (the teaser trailer was a perfectly formed short film), but apparently it took record breaking heat to get me into the theater. I liked it better than Wall-E, I think, because it was good all the way through and in Wall-E I stopped being interested once humans were involved. (And have we talked about the trans character already? Yes, probably.) And I got to see a free screening of Ponyo, which was adorable. More Totoro than Mononoke, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
The Metro started its classics series again, but I have only made it over there for The Informant! I nearly forgot, which I suppose is probably a sign. It was lower-key than I had expected, but I am quite curious how it’d play on second viewing. Really rewarding, I’d suspect. Another thing I forgot about: the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Hey, maybe it won’t suck this year. There’s a first time for everything.
Not that there’s any shortage of film. I have three-and-a-half more months of 69 movies coming up, SIFF Cinema is back from its summer break (oh, how I missed it!), and buzz from Toronto has me anxious for the big award season releases to start coming out. It was 80 this weekend but I am dreaming of fall, caramel lattes, and plenty of time at the theater.
by jacicita in 69 series, film:1960s, kessler bruce
The Gay Deceivers was a timely 69 series selection at the Northwest Film Forum, showing in the two days before Humpday & Bruno opened and, I suspect, managing to be more effective and less offensive than these playing-gay counterparts managed forty years later. It’s an extended sitcom plot, with Danny & Elliot pretending to be a couple to avoid the draft. (Not that it would work today! Oh. Wait.) To make it convincing they get an apartment together, then struggle to keep it a secret from their landlord & the Army that it’s a con, and from their girlfriends and families that they’re pulling the stunt in the first place. Hijinks ensue, with TV movie level production all ’round.
It’s total candy colored camp, and my experience was undoubtedly influenced by knowing I was seeing it with a largely queer audience, but I enjoyed it. Unsurprisingly it’s packed with over-the-top stereotypes, but it *is* a forty-year-old B movie trying to maintain a balance between two audiences. There’s plenty of T&A for the straight guys, but there are also a number of lingering shots of Elliot in swim trunks.
But what I think is an overlooked point is that by far the most sympathetic characters are the boys’ landlord, played by Michael Greer, and his partner. They and their relationship are portrayed about as sensitively as one can manage in a B movie, and owes a lot to Greer himself, who was out at the time and (amazing to consider, once you’ve seen it) actually toned down elements of the production. As a couple they’re committed but not conservative, fun, kind, and complicated. They’re introduced as married, and it’s never a joke. That’s a surprising amount of message for a hastily thrown together gaysploitation B reel, you have to admit.
by jacicita in 69 series, film:1960s, film:2009, hazanavicius michel, rohmer eric, siff 2009, webb marc
(500) Days of Summer wants desperately to be quirky. We can see that in the parenthetical in the title plus the fact that Zooey Deschanel’s character is named Summer. It dreams of being Annie Hall with a slice of Amelie, as directed by Wes Anderson.
You want to like it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is cute and wears cardigans (but none even approaching the awesomeness of the one Jason Segel* wears in I Love You, Man). Zooey is cute and wears adorable dresses.
They have no chemistry.
My favorite part of the movie** was probably Joseph’s apartment, if only because it has a chalkboard wall in the bedroom. Terribly impractical — I mean, imagine the dust — but the sketched-in headboard *is* charming. More charming than the chewing-gum-ad-like dance sequence.
My least favorite part of the movie was about five minutes in, when the (annoying & intermittent) voiceover informed us that there are two kinds of people in the world: men & women. The rest of the preview audience thought that was hilarious. They also seemed to like the rest of the movie much more than I did. (Oh, and they were very charmed by the trailer for the film where Hugh Dancy plays a dude with Asperger’s, as if Mr Dancy has ever offered evidence that he can actually act.)
So be it.
In much better film news, last week I saw two French films. Wait! Come back! One was a James Bond parody! There were guns and hot chicks!
OSS 117: Lost in Rio was the SIFF volunteer appreciation party film. They don’t tell you the title ahead of time, so it’s a bit like the Secret except you can talk about it afterwards. I was pretty excited (in spite of the fact that I had been in New York that morning & was dead tired) because I quite enjoyed the first one, OSS 117, Cairo: Nest of Spies, and I had missed two screenings of the sequel. They’re totally ridiculous and manage to be offensive to everyone. Which, in my book, is okay. I mean, it’s Bond/spy movie tropes, so they’re going to be offensive anyway. Might as well kick it up a notch.
Lost in Rio is also notable for being, if possible, more gay than Cairo: Nest of Spies. Both are great fun. Jean Dujardin’s smile is money in the bank, and the jokes are always on him.
On the totally opposite end of French cinema was another 69 movie, My Night at Maud’s, which I liked very much, but as it’s a classic I can’t imagine I have anything to add to the conversation. I am sad I could not manage to stay awake long enough for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice afterwards, but it had been a long week. And I am old. Apparently.
* I just looked at the IMDb to make sure I spelled his name right, and one of his in-development titles? Is Untitled Muppet Project omg yay.
** Upon reflection, my favorite part of the movie was really a bit towards the end where a character suggests going for pancakes, and the audience is expected to remember the bit at the beginning where they were having said pancakes, without the benefit of flashback. How sad that that’s rare. Sadder still that no one sitting around me seemed to get it.
by jacicita in 69 series, allen woody, film:1960s, film:2009, macdonald kevin
Take the Money and Run was one of this week’s 69 series films. I was so jealous of a group of folks at this screening — it looked like a dad & teenage son, and then two of the teen’s friends. I always am jealous when parents bring kids to revival film (or, really, anything that’s not the prepackaged cereal-and-action-figures tie-in sort of thing) because that never would have happened in my “most film is immoral and indecent and a waste of time and money” family.
They were sitting in front of me, so I got to hear their conversation: if any of them had seen any Allen before, and then it somehow drifted off into Shakespeare in Love (which one of the teens didn’t like because it was too funny & made a joke of Romeo & Juliet, which is actually my problem with Baz’s version), and then complaints about it winning over Saving Private Ryan (which entertained me, because that was a topic of discussion in a friend’s journal the day before.))
The film itself is great, one of the original mockumentaries, with a snappy script & fantastic sight gags. It’s the first film he wrote *and* directed *and* starred in, and as such is essential Allen.
Probably the best thing about State of Play was Helen Mirren; also the direction, Russell Crowe & his long hair, the Great Big Sea needle drop, and the set decoration (this is not meant to be damning with faint praise; the sets, particularly for Cal’s office & the newsroom, were fantastic). Unsurprisingly, UK miniseries is much richer & more satisfying. It’s sort of unavoidable when you take 6 hours down to 2. The film is solid, though, and Jason Bateman’s supporting turn as Dominic Foy is fabulous.
by jacicita in 69 series, cantet laurent, downey robert, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:1960s, film:2008, hitchcock alfred, sturges preston
I was doing so well for a while there, but I guess when I wasn’t seeing something every other day I forgot to keep this up. But SIFF is coming — the schedule is out next week! — so this is a good time to clean up this file.
* Putney Swope was another one of those 69 series movies I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t have the full series pass, so I’m glad I did. It was interesting as a cultural artifact, and I did laugh, but I also spent a lot of time thinking “I see what you did there, but I’d be more interested if the writer-directer wasn’t white.” Maybe that’s just me.
* Sullivan’s Travels, however, was unquestionably great. It’s a meta-picture about the Hollywood system & the Depression (timely, that!), though I must admit a large part of why I wanted to see it is that the film Sully wants to make all through it? O Brother, Where Art Thou.
* The Class was fantastic, and yet another movie to make me Very Bitter that I speak about three words of French. You *know* that the subtitles left out about 90% of the material. It’s a year-in-a-classroom film based on the book by François Bégaudeau, who also plays a version of himself. The setting might make it easy to dismiss, but it’s not just Les Minds Dangereuses. I was particularly interested in the immigrant make-up of the class and the tensions that creates, and I loved how complex François was — he makes mistakes & decisions that could turn the audience against him. Finally, it’s interesting that the entire film takes place within the school, within the year. As an audience you experience the same frustration the staff does of only knowing a fraction of a student’s life.
* I haven’t seen Rear Window in years, so I was pleased about the opportunity to see it on the big screen in a full theater. It’s still a great movie. Obviously. And now I will use my icon of Kris Marshall in the Rear Window episode of “My Life in Film.”
In other news, due to total calendar reading fail, I missed Fellini’s Satyricon & The Damned. I am totally bitter about this, which is ridiculous in the grand scheme of things.
by jacicita in 69 series, coppola francis ford, film:1960s, logan joshua, peckinpah sam
All I knew going into Paint Your Wagon is that it was a not-great musical western where Clint Eastwood sings. Things I did not know: that Lee Marvin has all the best lines ever, that the singing was bad but also endearing, and that it featured a sight gag that still makes me giggle when I think of it, as well as a surprisingly complex threesome, though not at the same time. I enjoyed the hell out of it, in a guilty sort of way.
It’s showing with The Wild Bunch, which is basically the polar opposite Western. It takes place at the end of the Wild West, a pretty violent film about an aging gang taking one more job. Excellent, but I do wish the Spanish had been subtitled.
Finally, this week they also screened The Rain People, a 16mm print sent from Australia, with gorgeous color but somewhat lacking in sound quality. An early Coppola, it’s the film basically responsible for American Zoetrope, which is the company Coppola and Lucas founded to make films outside of the traditional studio system. It’s in the tradition of an American road movie, but with a woman in the lead. Shirley Knight is Natalie who, dissatisfied in her marriage, hits the road & encounters bits of the country in the company of James Caan (as a brain-damaged ex football player) and eventually Robert Duvall. One of my favorite things about it was the incorporation of flashback to show us moments from various character’s memories, suddenly and without fanfare, just as memory actually operates.