I agree — if I saw this movie for the first time when I was 19 years old I’d hail it as brilliant. But when you get to be my age, moody open-ended films begin to lose their charm. Begin to lose their charm when that open-endedness is supposed to wow you. For a movie to have an open ending and work for me is when what you see in the body of the film is so important that something as mundane as a solution just seems like an afterthought. John Sayles’ “Limbo” is a great example. This film seemed to be screaming at me, “I’m going to wind up as art!” I knew this movie was going to be open-ended from the beginning scrawl (and so would you, so this isn’t a spoiler.) There is still a lot to enjoy. The first section has a wonderfully eerie quality to it. In fact, it is because the first third of this film is so strong that the remainder seems so lackluster. By the end, it just feels as if the movie has run out of gas. There are some women on the internet who are insane for this movie — I experimented with Ann & made her watch it to gauge her reaction. And I certainly think she was more engaged in it than I was. So — maybe it really is a work of genius?
This movie wants so much to be a great existential horror film in the vein of “The Shining” or The Tenant or the earlier works of Cronenberg. And it just is. . .too stupid. Sorry, no better way to explain it. When the premise is this thin (Indian burial ground, basically) it is hard to rationalize away the lapses in logic and purple dialogue. Individual shots are very memorable, but not the scenes. Great cinematography, great sound design, thumbs way up on overall mood — but I have to put my foot down and demand more of a script.
One of the best arcades is on Beach Ave. in Cape May. For one American dollar you can play this crazy virtual reality game where you stick your head in a yellow thing and shoot aliens.
Our room was lovely. Ann was particularly taken with the stained glass window.
I was fond of this funny, old telephone.
On the boardwalk in nearby Wildwood there was no shortage of fine dining options.
And also no shortage of reactionary T-shirts. Don’t let anybody tell you South Jersey isn’t the South.
Perhaps you’ve heard about some controversy on double decker buses lately? Let me tell you the real scandal. Munich-based dance group Vertical Catwalk was in town today for a double decker tour. There was about 35 of them on my bus. They basically took over, holding us up as their group was first on the bus, then off the bus, then waiting for someone — then asking to make an announcement over the microphone in German, then asking me to go off the route to check out “cool clubs, not so much old buildings” and so on. And they wouldn’t shut up about how they were going to be on TV the next day doing their performance at Rockefeller Center. “We are world famous!!” they said. And they wouldn’t sit down. I have only one rule on the bus: sit down. I sometimes stand, but I know where all the low hanging traffic lights and overpasses are. If you are standing up, taking photographs, it is very dangerous, and if you get killed on the bus I have to fill out paperwork. So I make it very clear to sit while the bus is moving. I even said it in German (I knew how to say “Sitzen Machen” from Billy Wilder’s “One, Two, Three.”) They still wouldn’t sit. When we drove past Rockefeller Center, they had to tell the whole bus how they were going to be dangling from the building and dancing. “But where is the stage?” a woman asked. “The sky is the stage!” they yelled back. Assholes. Cirque de Soliel assholes. Anyway, the upshot of the story, as I’m sure you could guess, is that all 35 of them left the bus without putting a freaking dime in the tip box. I normally don’t complain too bad if someone neglects to tip — but when you take over the entire bus, you are precluding other potential tippers from getting on. And they rode the WHOLE two-and-a-half hour tour. And they spoke English well enough to understand what “the driver and I rely on tips as part of our salary” means. That plus the big box with the word TIPS on it on the dashboard (and the one or two non-skyscraper danglers who were putting money in as *they* left) ought to have clued them in. But, no. Of course not. So — a hearty fuck you then to the Vertical Catwalk group! May all your cables snap tomorrow and may you go splat on West 50th St!!!!
Dreyer’s film (a masterpiece of cinema art, yes, yes) actually has a lot in common with that other Passion movie. Neither have anything resembling a backstory (luckily, I know most of the Joan of Arc saga from that Luc Besson film) or a plot. Basically, all that happens here is that Joan, looking quite unappealing in close up, is yelled at by some judges. She mumbles some psycho bullshit about being sent by God to smite the British. (Would God really choose the Brits over the French? I’ll have to mull this one over for a while.) The judges, also looking heinous in close up, yell at her and say she must repent. She will not. So they take her to a torture room. Here, Dreyer parts company with Mel Gibson, because no actual torturing takes place. Joan passes out before we get to see any of that. Then she is threatened with burning at the stake. Joan’s eyes go wide. Oy, do they go wide. Just when you think her eyes can’t get any wider or any more glassy, there she goes. Finally, she agrees to repent. She signs some piece of paper and is allowed to eat a Ritz cracker. Then her eyes go even wider, she cries even more, and then rescinds her repentance. You know the rest from the Smiths song: The flames rose to her Roman nose and her walkman started to melt. After she is dead, the crowd yells “she was a Saint!” I say, Fuck Joan of Arc. She was just some chick who needed a nice perscription of Risperdol, not to be canonized. If I were British, I’d be pretty pissed off at the Catholic Church for canonizing her. She was a partisan during war and she got caught and they killed her. End of story. Would you blame the USA for killing bin Laden? That’s what Joan was to the Brits! She led the French in battle and kicked some ass and the Brits caught her and kicked her ass right back. Take it like a man and die like a soldier, don’t waaah waaaah waaaah cry with some bullshit story about you are a messenger from God! That’s just like saying, “the devil made me do it.” Anyway, all this aside, the film is fine if you like this sort of thing. The photography is striking (I won’t say beautiful because the woman who plays Joan is, in my opinion, butt ugly) and the Criterion’s transfer has a remarkable silver sheen. I couldn’t really get into it because I kept rooting for the bad guys to torch this whiny, holier-than-thou 19 year old skank too stupid to avoid a flaming pile of wood for a phoney baloney God who obviously didn’t love her.
Sue Williams’ three independent films about China, “China in Revolution: 1911-1949″ from 1989, “The Mao Years: 1949-1976″ from 1994 and “China: Born Under the Red Flag” from 1997, have been collected into one massive six-hour collection. There is nothing in this six hours that isn’t absolutely fascinating. From Dr. Sun Yat-Sen to the British handover of Hong Kong, the tale of China in the 20th Century plays out like a thrilling political and social soap opera. Basically, the entire country was ensnared in some kind of war, famine or massive fucked-up radical social program from 1911 to 1976, picking up again briefly in 1989. All the political leaders are riddled with paradox — Deng Xiaoping seems like such a cool guy. . .before all the executions begin. The film avoids Burns-esque expert vox-pop and listens only to the people who were there. Voice-of-God narrated footage is remarkable, as well. Who knew Mao brought a camera with him on the Long March? Anyway, anyone interested in human events owes it to themselves to check this out. I found myself taking current American events and putting them in context. I recognized that warfare against citizens is as old as the oldest Chinese proverb, and that even well-meaning governments are corrupt. I also realized just how well the average American has it, and even with Bush eroding our civil liberties it ain’t nothing compared to some of the stuff that’s gone on in China.
The Feinbergs Emigrate From Ohio.
L-R Marcy, Kevin, Gregory & Eric
My Grandfather and his two brothers, Izzy & Joe, on the commemorative wall at Ellis Island. They came with their mother in 1921 from Ukraine via Germany. My Grandfather was 12 years old.
Somehow word had gotten to me that this movie was no good. Whoever says this has a serious case of “not getting the joke.” I actually think this is a better film that the first version — even if the original Veruca Salt is one of the greatest performances in film history. I think Depp as Wonka is a perfect match and all the other non-Veruca Salt children were terrific. (The Veruca on display here is fine, but, you know. . .what could compare to the original?) The original Chocolate Factory movie, for me, was always a disappointment because it was the first time I had ever experienced seeing a movie after reading a book. I’ve now grown to recognize that the book is always better (yes, yes, there is a short list that refutes this rule) but when I was eleven I assumed the movie would be just as I pictured it. Anyway, Ann & giggled our way through this and ate fudge. My favorite part was seeing Mike Teevee’s dad in those silly sunglasses.
Is Ann a wispy specter of beauty, or do I just not have my glasses on?
“Let me tell you something, darling, I was TRAWEmatized! When they stuck that gun at you I thought: There’ gonna kill us! I’m gonna be dead! And MILTON is coming to the Waldorf soon!” One of the all time perfect films. Hysterically funny, touching, clever, good music, Gordon Willis’ otherworldy photography, fantastic sets and costumes, Jewish humor, Italian humor, great NYC (and NJ) locations. This movie did mob comedy decades before the Sopranos. “Angelina, might I interject a new concept at this juncture?”
Follow the signs downtown and you’ll eventually find the Irish Hunger Memorial. Stones taken from each county in Eire, piped in poetry read by, of course, Frank McCourt.
The Green Salsa at Burritoville may be the best in the world.
Ann’s friend Cynthia (visiting from Memphis) thinks it is too hot.
Students of New York City history and typography will be pleased to know that the entrance to the E line at the World Trade Center offers three examples of pre-9/11 iconography.
“PATH Trains to New Jersey”
“newstand & novelties”
Thanks to Matt Levy who pointed this out to me.
Here we see a sleeping Goober get assaulted by a wave of strokes and pets.
The above photo makes it very unclear as to whether enjoyed the interruption or not.
Been a busy time at the SS Fun for a few days. Expect some fun stuff early next week — including photos of Jake, Goober, seldom seen cousins and friends, NYC landmarks, far away beaches (yet to be taken) and green salsa.
A later film had a perhaps better title: No Sex Please, We’re British! David Lean would go on in life to make some of the grandest epics in film history. “Brief Encounter” is a micro-masterpiece. Wonderful acting (Celia Johnson & Trevor Howard) and Noel Coward’s marvelous dialogue (and interior monlogue) is music. On more than one occasion I would turn to Ann and say, “This is the most British movie ever made!” Absolutely fantastic.