Friday, January 27, 2012

Decay

Of the self:

[in medias res]

Dark nights trying to sleep stomach on fire
Delusional from hunger so I couldn't get tired
Imagining the equalizer going from green to red
Words that rhyme together just appear all in my head
And I'm sorta like Neo with the Matrix codes
I try to escape it hoping the drugs'll numb my soul
Say I'm getting old, time's running out
Repeating instrumentals trying to figure patterns out
I never leave the house ain't slept in three days
Popping pills, writing, drinking and smoking hay
Weaving kicks and snares, trying to dodge these hooks
Keeping it original something that's overlooked
The way a nigga going might go out like Sam Cooke
Or locked up calling home for money on my books
'Cause if this shit don't work nigga I failed at life
Turning to these drugs now these drugs turned my life
And it's the downward spiral, got me suicidal
But too scared to do it so these pills will be the rifle
Surpassing all my idols, took the wrong turn
But can't go back now so let the blunt burn
'Cause now it's my turn if I fuck it all up
It took a while to get here now I depend on these drugs
I took a while to get here now I depend on these drugs


--Danny Brown, "XXX"
(adapted from the transcription at Rap Genius)


Of another:

Death is on the telephone
I lie and say she isn't home
If only he would make a move, instead
He sleeps in her bed

I waste away my days with you
I'd rather spend them like you do
All skin and bones but in your eyes
I say to you, you're still alive

You can tell me time will heal
But you don't know the way I feel
I never had imagined death
Beyond the vague and cold last breath
But now I see his many forms
The way he builds up like a storm
And all the pain and all the sighs
The world in my mother's eyes
In her eyes


--Dum Dum Girls, "Caught In One"


And yet, two of last year's most vital moments in music. There are some people I'm so glad number among the living. They have music, and we have them.


Mildred Pierce, Todd Haynes, 2011.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"I'm hard to get, Geoff, you just have to ask me."

Odd Man Out, Carol Reed, 1947.

Ascending to the painter's room: "He will have something in his eyes, something more than any of my subjects ever had!"


Only Angels Have Wings, Howard Hawks, 1939.

The genius of the times spoken line by line: "He's been dead about twenty minutes and all the weeping and wailing in the world won't make him any deader twenty years from now."

"More alive" might seem a more logical choice of words than "deader," but then I guess grief is the effort to make somebody dead even when they already are. Cary Grant won't waste the energy... yet. Only Angels Have Wings, one of the grandest entertainments ever pitched around the grieving process, knows a lot about it.

It also affords more time to consider what makes a movie a Howard Hawks movie. There are those strong diagonals that happen, as if by chance, in the amazing aerial sequence (above), a subtle but breathtaking choreography that aims only to keep a moving airplane in the center of the frame at all times. But I doubt they're talking about diagonals when they call Hawks an auteur.

Instead, maybe it's the way his movies hold, contain, the energy of crowds, achieving a weird clarity in spite of commotion that persists


when the focus shifts to the individual.




Footlight Parade, Lloyd Bacon, 1933.

Not a still from the movie, but a placeholder until I have the means to grab one. The image that accompanies the words differs in one crucial way: As James Cagney seizes inspiration in the streets, the liberating imagination that allows him to turn fire hydrants into mountains is commensurately blinded by the forces that make him turn black into white.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Image of the Day [1]

Wendy And Lucy, Kelly Reichardt, 2008.


Portrait of the artist at work in the night. How many of our ideas about nighttime (its colors, lightness, energy, danger) come from film/video's general inability to capture it with any but the softest detail? Did people feel differently about the night before film came along? Or do images like the above capture what was always there? Reichardt's evocation/depiction of night can look a bit like a happy accident of technical limitation, but it's also so precise that it ends up equal parts poetic and hyperreal (the latter maybe only because I've been trained by years of (digitally) photographing the night to think that it really looks that way: brown and yellow smears on slightly blemished black). The brief, beautiful "wandering ghosts" shot works better in real time, as the two figures are only identifiable as such from their movement, but they register faintly in the still.

"Image of the day" copyright the always brilliant and inspiring Glenn Kenny (example, sans vague, unnecessary, contextualizing questions); I hope to do more of my own. Image capture is my favorite feature on my computer--sometimes I feel it's the only reason I own one. Back before my disc drive broke, I was continually frustrated by the fact that image capture is inaccessible during DVD playback. On a whim yesterday, I discovered that the print screen feature in Windows doesn't have the same limitation. Needless to say I'm pretty excited.

Speaking of Mr. Kenny, let me tell you about a dream I had a while back that is actually relevant to this blog. I was reading an imaginary book version of Kenny's Some Came Running blog, and there was an extensive entry about Reading (b)log (it was weird to see the name as anything but a hyperlink--in print), in which he commented on something I'd recently written, took me very seriously while recognizing some of my shortcomings, in sum very critical yet encouraging. It helped me realize (in the dream, and a little bit in real life) I need to take myself more seriously than I maybe do.

But before I change, one more somewhat distant dream: The band Big Troubles places a classified (where? I don't remember) about plans for their next album. They don't like the way they've been written about ("indie rock" or whatever, though aren't they so awesomely exactly what they aim to be, and generally heard as such?) and want fans to help them brainstorm a new hockey-themed album (??) so they can blatantly dash expectations of subject matter, so that definition (as controlled by the band) can precede the music, and not vice versa (i.e. proceed from...) as that's not working for them. Also, the word "gigification" appears somewhere in the classified. I know or sense what it means in the dream, but not upon waking.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Year at the Theater

2011

January

I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)
The King’s Speech (2010)
Somewhere (2010)
Vanishing Point (1971)
Magadheera (2009) [left early]
Blue Valentine (2010)
Another Year (2010)

February

The Illusionist (2010)
All About Eve (1950)

March

Cedar Rapids
Kuroneko (1968)
The Pink Panther (1963)
Rango
Touch of Evil (1958)
Poetry
Paul
Certified Copy

April

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Heartbeats
Mildred Pierce [episodes 1 & 2]
Source Code
Vertigo (1958)
Hanna
Meek’s Cutoff
Taxi Driver (1976)

May

Jane Eyre
Pale Flower (1964)
The Face of Another (1966)
Bridesmaids
Hesher
Empire of Passion (1978)
Everything Must Go

June

Kung Fu Panda 2
Rubber
The Tree Of Life
The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Midnight In Paris
Super 8
Tampopo (1985)
Cars 2
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Beginners

July

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
The Trip
Cave Of Forgotten Dreams
Buffalo Bill & The Indians (1976)
Tabloid
Trauma (1993) [in a parking garage]
Suspiria (1977)
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
The Tree Of Life
Safety Last (1923) with Never Weaken (1921)
On The Bowery (1957) with Skid Row (1950s)
The Apartment (1960)

August

Sabrina (1954)
World on a Wire (1973)
Bill Cunningham New York
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Future
Our Idiot Brother

September

Terri
Project Nim
Contagion
The Guard
Drive
Moneyball

October

50/50
Point Blank
Warrior
The Ides Of March
Restless
Footloose
In Time

November

Take Shelter
The Skin I Live In
Martha Marcy May Marlene
J. Edgar
Arthur Christmas
Hugo

December

The Descendants
Melancholia
The Muppets
A Christmas Story (1983)
Young Adult
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
The Adventures Of Tintin
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

- - -

From those, and home viewing, this top ten, “I am 60 years old” edition, in rough order of preference: Poetry, Mysteries Of Lisbon, Melancholia, Hugo, The Tree Of Life, Meek’s Cutoff, The Skin I Live In, J. Edgar, Midnight In Paris, Certified Copy.

- - -

For no other reason than that I saw them a day apart, my thoughts about the great Scorsese’s Hugo are inextricably tied up with my viewing of the great Hirokazu’s After Life:
1. Choosing a memory is the latter film’s equivalent of finding a purpose in life.
2. The one who can’t choose/find becomes the storyteller, a young girl in both cases.
3. Movies recreate dreams.

The moment I fell in love: The first glimpse inside Melies’s studio, as he films some strange underwater tapestry of a startlingly vivid blue that his camera of course won’t capture, that will have to be hand-painted onto the film later. It takes so much learning or unlearning before we can know exactly what we’re watching when we watch very old movies; the way Hugo instantly telegraphs a semblance of this knowledge, with eye-popping detail, is heartbreaking.

- - -

Melancholia shook me to my core, as they say, which leads me to believe that it’s a great work of cinema (maybe the only one that dares propose the cosmic irrelevance of cinema), but also to worry that such declarations about its artistry amount to a refusal to acknowledge what the movie depicts, i.e. how easy the end of the world will be. Much as I wanted to think of Melancholia as a huge metaphor for mental illness (like Take Shelter) or as being primarily concerned with internal cosmos (like The Tree Of Life, or an inverse Tree Of Life—I’m having trouble today choosing between things and their opposites), in the end there’s nowhere to hide (unlike 2012’s Great Plateau of Africa). It’s about the dread we share on winter days when the sun doesn’t rise very high above the horizon.

Also:
1. Would the knowledge that the world is about to end render our era classical? I look at the tableaus from the movie’s overture (nothing has captured the movement of bodies better since the opening credits of Tarsem’s The Fall, Muybridge writ large) and the old paintings seen throughout, and what I see is an endangered species, their way of life nearly over (the depicter as well as the depicted). Is that what Justine means when she switches all the abstract art for representational art on Claire’s shelves?
2. I doubt Lars Von Trier cares much about the Kiefer Sutherland persona, but no director has ever made better use of it, or even realized it exists/what it is.
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg is great, especially considering she is tasked with performing the last action on Earth, a little rabbit jump of terror. It’s an indelible (i.e. delible) moment.

That last shot haunts me. I finally understand astronomy. I haven’t looked at the moon the same way since. I even sketched the shot during a moment of Close Encounters-type obsession (spoiler?):


- - -

Let it also be known that I just saw War Horse, and being vulnerable to intensely sentimental movies like I am, got all sorts of emotionally caught up and can’t really offer a sensible reaction. Funny, I groaned at the preview for Disney’s Chimpanzee, which turns the title chimp into an ordinary orphan child looking for a sense of belonging, totally ignoring the impenetrable mystery in an animal’s eyes even though it’s right there in the images, and then, moments later, I’m ready to hail War Horse as a great work of well-earned anthropomorphism. But its motives and methods struck me as pure, and I cried, a lot.

- - -

“I can think and move ice at the same time.”
--ice factory worker in Cold Weather