"David Fincher's The Social Network is Zodiac's younger, geekier, greedier brother. That means it's good, as in really good a movie for guys like myself and critics like Eric Kohn, Karina Longworth andRobert Koehler to savor and consider and bounce up against, and basically for smart, sophisticated audiences to savor in every cultural corner, and....can I just blurt it out? It's the strongest Best Picture contender I've seen so far this year, and in saying this I'm obviously alluding to Inception."—Jeffrey Wells, "Network News,"Hollywood Elsewhere, Sept. 13, 2010
As I said in the comments section at Wells' place, "I'm almost 100% sure I speak for Robert Koehler when I say 'What the fuck?'" Also, you gotta love that "Obviously." Also, you gotta love the distinction between "guys like myself" (tough, knock-this-battery-off-my-shoulder-types, I presume) and "critics" (fucking pussies, and one literal "girl," I guess).
"Oh, come off it, Kenny, you're just jealous that Wells saw Social Network before you did," you're probably saying. It's true, I AM, and INSANELY so. What the hell is the world coming to? And I'll tell you something else: I'm also jealous because I'm supposedly friends with Edward Norton (there, I said it), and Wells fucking saw Stone before I did. God fricking dammit. These are the kind of indignities I'm now waking up to every damn day. So the question is, WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH, GOD? What do I have left to hang on to? The fact that I did, finally, see Inception five hours before Wells? That was so a couple of months ago. Time doesn't stand still, appearances must be kept up, etc....
Sad to say, my most vivid memories of the recently late Gloria Winters are tied in with watching reruns of Sky King in the late '70s with this odd fellow of my acquaintance who'd sit in front of the TV and, every now and then, exclaim, in an "old pervert" voice, "Go on, Sky King, fuck her! She's not really your niece, she's just an actress!" It was pretty funny at the time.
I learned of Ms. Winters' passing, I'm also ashamed to admit, via Jeffrey Jena's remembrance at Big Hollywood, which contains the ought-to-be-immortal line "She will always be remembered as the wholesome Penny because Ms. Winters had the good sense to quit acting before she became a failure as an adult actress or fell into alcoholism or drug addiction." Jena's piece then goes on to compare Winters to Katy Perry—because who else, right?—and guess who Jena likes better.
Clearly, Brent Bozell has a very short memory, and/or really and truly did not misspend his own youth. In any event, what comes around, etc., etc. If I recall correctly, some of Mr. Nilsson's more humor-impaired friends and acquaintances were themselves appalled by the release of this catchy ditty back in 1972, deeming it rather cheap. And rather cheap it was/is, too, not to mention deathlessly amusing. My kind of fellow, poor Harry.
I post a new perspective on Amfortas' wound in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's mind-bending 1982 film of Wagner's Parsifal not just because of commenter haice's droll request, but because the film's been on my mind of late. I've been looking at, or trying to look at, a fair amount of opera on Blu-ray for my July Blu-ray disc Consumer Guide, and I have to say that for the most part I've been profoundly disappointed in the visual presentations. Not that I have a huge reason to be surprised by this, as most opera on Blu-ray is basically just a filmed or digitally captured live performance. Films such as Syberberg's Parsifal, or Bergman's Magic Flute, or Losey's Don Giovanni, are supreme examples of how opera and cinema can merge to create something fabulous and new. Sometimes I think, if Peter Jackson could do Tolkien's Ring trilogy as he saw fit, why can't some other visionary filmmaker do Wagner's Ring Cycle?...and of course I already know the answer to that question. I suppose it's rather adolescent of me to want this sort of thing in the first place, but still, couldn't it be cool? Imagine the material in the hands of Syberberg, or of Godard, or of Coppola, of Cronenberg...
Still, one takes what one can get in this area. Some of my findings might surprise you, when I'm finally through with the July Guide.
These overdetermined wordplay-on-oldies-song-lyrics blog post headlines don't write themselves, you know. They sometimes take weeks, even months of preparation.
Mr. Jones (and aren't you glad I didn't title the post "Mr. Jones and me?"... of course you knew I'd never do something so gauche and tasteless), whose catch made the last out in the 1969 World Series—and if you have to ask what team, then, among other things, you're not paying sufficient attention to the banners above our heads—visited my local Citibank today and of course I had to pay my respects. I don't think it's telling tales out of school to reveal that as I was walking in, Mr. Phillip Lopate was walking out, having paid his own respects. We old-school Mets fans are quite the band of brothers, happy breed, etc., etc.
These news stories about Spielberg at the reopening of the damaged-by-fire Universal backlot, and pictures of him on the studio tour bus, remind me of a moderately funny story. A good friend of mine, who doesn't like to have his name mentioned on this blog, bore and still to a certain extent bears a near-uncanny physical resemblance to the iconic American director, and even used to sport a kinda-sorta Indiana Jones-ish hat, in spite of being more of a Kubrick man when it comes right down to it. Many, many years ago he was sightseeing in California and went of the self-same Universal backlot tour that the actual Mr. Spielberg is seen "enjoying" above. A little after the start of the jaunt, two nice little old ladies approached him and asked him if he was, in fact, Spielberg. My friend was nonplussed. Where was their logic? What would Spielberg be doing on a public studio tour? My friend spluttered a bit, then remembered his manners, and politely demurred.
The two women, aged versions of the cuckoo Pigeon sisters no doubt, nevertheless kept looking at my chapeaued pal throughout the tour, and near its end, they approached him again, and said, "You are him, aren't you?" Just to get them off his back, he nodded, and smiled, and said something about wanting to keep the tour guides on their toes.
"You know, you missed a golden opportunity there," a friend he and I have in common noted upon hearing the story. "What you ought to have done is said you were Spielberg right off the bat. And then muttered little comments all along the tour. Such as, 'I hate kids.' And "The movies I make...are for idiots.' That would have been funny." And it would have, too.
Who am I talking about? Who but Robot Maria, the evil cyber-alchemical doppelganger of sweet organic Maria in Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis. No joke.
In the above shot Robot Maria's letting Joh Fredersen, the "brain" or "head" of the futuristic titular megacity, that she totally "gets" what he's on about and is ready to get the job done.
And here, she's fascinating the super-rich patrons of the Yoshiwara nightclub, and pretty much literally embodying the you-know-what of Babylon. Rockin' the headgear, natch. To think that actress Brigitte Helm was a mere teen when she acted in this. Kick ass!
Who knew that these would be the most actually prescient aspects of this delirious epic, which will be screening in a newly restored version presented by Kino International at Manhattan's Film Forum beginning May 6 7? The new restoration, which adds almost thirty minutes of newly-found (and frequently rather rough-looking) footage to Lang's epic, fleshes out certain plot threads—the "Thin Man"'s pursuit of Freder Frederson, for instance, which has some great cat-and-mouse action—and expands on certain crucial action scenes, such as the attack on the city's "Heart Machine." The reason the restored footage looks so rough is because its source is a very old 16mm print found in Argentina a couple of years back. In the new restoration, this footage is presented in a different scale from the previously restored stuff; there's a black border on the top and left sides of the frame. The effect is slightly...scholarly. But it doesn't at all detract from the film's exhilaration. And the new material of course also adds mightily to the film's, well, ridiculousness.
While Lang and producer Erich Pommer were inspired by their first glimpse of the New York City skyline when they shared an ocean voyage to the States in 1924, who the hell knows what was inspiring scenarists Lang and Thea von Harbou when they cooked up Metropolis' stew of religious allegory and goofy labor-relations parable. The film's epigram about how the "mediator" between "brain and hands must be the heart" is one of the most empty-headed bromides ever to not grace a Hallmark card. (And it says quite a bit about Madonna Ciccone's intellectual attainment, such as it is, that she adopted it whole-heartedly for that dopey Metropolis-homage video for "Express Yourself.") H.G. Wells was in fact one-hundred percent correct when he deemed this "the silliest film." It's not just the nonexistent-to-incoherent philosophy it trucks in. I mean, think about it: Joh Frederson (the great Alfred Abel), decides he's going to use Rotwang's Robot Maria to drive the workers to violent unrest, after which he will have a perfect excuse to oppress them further, and violently. But apparently it doesn't occur to him that as said workers go about their violent unrest, they're likely to do such damage as to pretty much shut the city down. Which they do. After which Fredersen...calls in the army or national guard he's had on alert since hatching his scheme, instructing them to impose martial law? Why no, he does no such thing. Such a strategy isn't even mentioned. No, instead Fredersen staggers to Metropolis' cathedral, to witness the climactic rooftop battle between his dippy son Freder and the magnificently evil Rotwang (the even-greater-than-Abel Rudolf Klein-Rogge).
That's right, Joh; don't just do something, kneel there!
Metropolis is also one of the earliest and most significant proponents of the "who cares if it makes sense, as long as it looks cool?" school of filmmaking. (A friend reminded me of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when I brought up this notion, and he has a small point; only Caligari's overt subject happens to be the derangment of the senses, which gives its visuals a wholly apropos rationale throughout.) What the hell does the clock-looking gizmo that worker Georgi (aka "11811") has to tend to actually do, anyway? Why does Good Maria keep dicking around with those heavy levers even after she's got the gong alarm sounding but good? Etc. We all know the answer to these questions, finally, which is "Who cares?"
Which brings me to a final question: Would Metropolis be as much of a blast if it were, in fact, smarter and/or made more sense? Lang's prior Dr. Mabuse Der Spieler (which, we should recall, was adapted from an outside source) is equally thrilling but not nearly as risible. And for that, I still think this picture's unself-conscious pulp idiocy is somehow part of its greatness. And if someone would like to argue that it's not idiocy, I'm willing to entertain that, too. In any event, this new Metropolis is essential viewing. Of course.
Because he is, after all, a mass media big deal to this day, film critic Roger Ebert is comfortable weighing in on other topics besides film, most often politics. I've seen him chide conservative mogul and convicted felon Conrad Black, that liverish-lookin' dude Bill O'Reilly, and others over on his very active blog. His politics, as far as I can discern, are pretty much what you'd expect from any random very affluent urban liberal, and I sympathize with them in large part. And now Ebert's got a Twitter account, which he's recently used to make a couple of dismissive asides concerning Sarah Palin and the emerging "Tea Party" movement.
WARNING: To That Fuzzy Bastard and others who don't like this sort of thing: this is going to be that sort of thing, more or less and kind of.
The thing about being Roger Ebert in the contemporary media climate is, if you make a 140-character-or-less sarcastic remark about Sarah Palin or the "Tea Party" movement, it is likely to inspire some dimwit to reel off a 600-word denunciation of you over at Big Hollywood.
A ballsy Georges Marchal gives his greetings to the local authorities in Death in the Garden, a 1956 Luis Buñuel oddity from right before his second great period. Why oddity? It's a French-Mexican coproduction shot in Mexico, from a French-language script in part by the great Raymond Queneau. Not a great favorite of the maestro's: "The production was torture," he tells De La Colina and Turrent in the indispensible interview book Objects of Desire, and then he elaborates. I haven't been able to watch this in its entirety yet, and I'll have more to say about it when I do; in the meantime, I sure do get a kick out of this shot.