Friday, September 30, 2005

One day to go: Oh shit.

Butch & Sundance/Indiana Jones/Jack Burton/Data: Oh shit...

The top of the rollercoaster. And other such things. A friend asked me what my plans were for the weekend. I said, "I don't really have any." Then a thought. "Oh, yeah, I guess I have to watch a movie. Shit." I spoke that last word because it suddenly dawned on me at that moment what a commitment this is.

Random thoughts:

For the record: David Cronenberg is one of my favorites. Yet, in my younger movie-watching days, I thought his movies were pretentious and plodding messes. I watched Videodrome, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, The Dead Zone, and The Fly like any good teenager with a video rental card eager to earn his cult-movie watching street cred, but with the exception of The Fly and a little exception to The Dead Zone, none of them made any sense to me, emotionally, thematically, or plot-wise. I didn’t “get” Cronenberg. I figured he was one of those filmmakers that I just wouldn’t connect with. His films were continually listed on all those stupid “greatest sci-fi/horror” lists which, in my younger days, I absorbed with gleeful abandon. I never understood why they put his movies on there when they were, clearly, inferior product to your John Carpenters, your Lucases, your Romeros.

That all changed. When I was about 19 and, I guess, still eager to earn my cult-movie cred, I rented The Brood. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s the first movie I saw wherein the themes Cronenberg has been exploring his entire career were stated explicitly, the plot’s dealing with a mother gone mad (a theme that never fails to shake some part of me), my age and emotional maturity (relative to the past, of course), or the movie’s adherence to certain genre conventions that allowed me, for the first time, to get these themes, but I got it. And how.

Immediately, I re-rented all of those other Cronenberg films I’d seen before. Seen through the lens of The Brood, they suddenly made sense, and what’s more, I went nuts for them. Absolutely crazy “this was made for me and only me” kinds-of feelings about Cronenberg’s work.

Of course, it wasn’t The Brood that killed my dissatisfaction with Cronenberg, it was everything leading up to seeing it. When I saw The Brood, I was watching THE perfect movie for the way I felt at that time in my life. This has happened to me a few times.... Seeing the restoration of Vertigo on the 50-foot screen of Kansas City’s Englewood Theater... seeing The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly at the same theater, watching Annie Hall in the midst of a horrible teenage relationship, and, most recently, City of God.

The right movies, the right time. Life changing.

Anyone out there have any similar experiences?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

2 days to go. (in the valley)

Dosmo Pizzo: You better tell him I'm not fucking around, Susan.
Susan Parish: He's not fucking around.

In the interests of transparency, I will inform you that I am using IMDB to open most of these posts with a movie quote. Seems appropriate. I don't want anyone thinking that I just remember these quotes like some sort-of savant. I'm no savant... I'm not even an idiot. I am a messy eater though.

And speaking of 2 Days in the Valley, we only get two days in the valley but three days of the condor? And SEVEN days in may? Jesus, I might as well just kill myself.

I'm grateful for the positive feedback I've gotten from some people. It makes me feel not so crazy.

So here's what's in the queue: I'm planning on A History of Violence tomorrow, followed by Hotel Rwanda, Gates of Heaven, Seven Up, and Seven Plus Seven. There's some nice tangental linking going on there.

A shout-out to co-worker Chris Schneider who has a massive collection of rare horror and culty movies. I asked him if he could loan me ten really obscure movies for the times when Netflix hasn't kept up with me. He asked, "Like, what, like Night of the Bloody Apes?" I could only laugh and say, "That's exactly right." I didn't even know there was a movie named Night of the Bloody Apes.

oh man

This made me laugh. Hard. Solsibury Hill was a nice touch.

A Trailer for "Shining"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

3 days to go: Obligatory naval gazing post...

Fisherman: Here, squid, squid, squid, squid...

About me: I am 27 years old, a film school graduate, employed (thankfully), sometime composer, sometime writer. I live with my life-mate, Tara, and together we publish a magazine of literary humor called "The American Drivel Review". See the link on the right there. Oh, and, uh, I like movies. A lot.

I have wanted to be a film director since the age of 4 (after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark) and, though other dreams (baseball player, astronaut, quatumn physicist) have come and gone, the movie-making one has remained firm. But here's the sticky truth: I have not made anything significant since my thesis in school, a half-hour science fiction piece called The Harvesters. It's been about four years. And while I've stayed busy acting, directing some stage work, and writing a couple of scores for a much more prolific friend's projects, somewhere I lost the drive, the commitment, the energy. This blog is, in part, an attempt to jumpstart my creative drive by immersing myself in my first love. Cinema.

So what? This is a blog about movies I'm watching, not me. You might wonder what kind of movies I like. What will I be writing about? After all, if I’m going to be writing about Godzilla movie after Godzilla movie for 3 months, this might not be so interesting. Or maybe it would be MORE interesting... Actually, now that I think about it that would be kinda fun. Especially if I watched them in order. But I won’t be doing that. Which is suddenly disappointing.

Imagine the Godzilla movie-a-day blog! "Day 72. Godzilla vs. A Big Rat. This Godzilla movie succeeds in character-driven plot in a way that most Godzilla movies don’t. For instance, when Ikio tells Johnny that she is in love with him, the interplay between the actor’s face and the dubber’s voice tells us that she KNOWS their love would be futile if explored. And yet, when Godzilla crashes into the building and knocks them into each other’s arms, we’re still pleased. We want these two to get together because if they don’t get together, then Godzilla has no power. Also, note the symbol of the dog in the corner in this scene. Clearly, it means something because when they cut away from the shot and cut back, the dog is GONE! Later, when Godzilla fights the Big Rat, it reminds us of New York with its many rats and alligators in the sewers.”

Now THERE’S a blog-worthy idea. What the hell am I doing? Maybe someone else can take that one.

Anyway, to answer my own question... I like lots of stuff. I am hoping to watch the cheesiest of grade-Z flicks to the highest echelons of CINEMA itself. The stuff in between... maybe I’ll catch some of it, but nothing is worse than the mediocrity in between. I watched the remake of The Manchurian Candidate a few weeks ago. Boy, there was some stuff to like in there. Boy, did it not matter because the movie was pretty forgettable. What a shithole of an ending, too. All I remember now, when I think about it, is liking Denzel and Liev and being embarrassed for Meryl.

Looking at the words “Denzel” “Liev” and “Meryl” seems like there’s some sort-of hidden code in there. Anyone want to spell something out of those three names? I don’t have that kind of time. There’s Squid to catch. And Godzilla movies to watch.

For those that wish to know: I'm planning on the "official" blogginess starting on October 1st with comments on A History of Violence Cronenberg is a personal idol and this one is looking to be super.


I flipped a coin to decide whether I should put these google ads on the blog. Probably because it was made of money, it chose yes.


I'll get back to talking about movies and the blog and all that shit later today. This is too fucking cool not to post immediately.

Scientists photograph giant squid!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why This Blog Exists Part II

"and just who do you think you are that you think you can
raise the dead?”

The idea for this blog came to me after watching a movie called The Mind Snatchers.I bought the DVD for this movie for two reasons: it was an early starring role for Christopher Walken (whose work I enjoy for reasons of true artistic appreciation in addition to the kitsch factor) and it was selling for $1.99 at my grocery store. The quality of the DVD was what you’d expect for $1.99. The movie was not quite what I’d expected.

The cover and the title led me to the idea that this would be a campy science fiction deal and it kind-of was. The plot, based on a play by Dennis Reardon, focuses on the army developing some mind-control technology for reasons that I’ve forgotten. Walken is an unstable soldier, taken in by "the powers that be" to be tested on. He is put in a rather spacious estate where there are monkey experiments going on and is forced to room with another guy played by Ronny Cox.

The movie is clearly based on stage material, as much of it is made up of conversations between Walken and Cox, the setting is never really explored, and the blocking of both camera and actors would be more at home on the stage than on the screen. This staginess is simultaneously to the movie’s benefit and detriment, for, while the movie feels canned, poorly paced, and claustrophobic (filmicly), it also allows the actors to shine. Walken is great, as usual. The real surprise for me was that Ronny Cox delivered a great performance. Ronny Cox? A good actor? Even a great one?

Prior to seeing this movie, I was familiar with Cox’s work in Paul Verhoeven movies and I vaguely remember him from Deliverance and Beverly Hills Cop, but I’d never seen him as an actor. Sure, he’s wonderfully slimy in Robocop and serviceable as almost the same role in Total Recall, but those roles are so arch there’s not much room for nuance. In The Mind Snatchers, he is great as a dim-witted, repressed Southern man. There’s a nice acting moment when his character reveals to a psychologist certain racial insensitivities and he checks with his eyes to see what the psychologist’s reaction to his attitude is. I loved that.

So why did watching this mediocre movie with better than mediocre acting inspire me to watch a movie every day for 3 months and write about it on the internet?

After watching the movie, it occurred to me that there are so many movies out there with hidden pleasures to be found as they are in The Mind Snatchers. I had an irrepressible urge as a film buff to find them. I then remembered that I call myself a film buff but I have only seen one Godard film (Breathless) and I’ve never seen Fitzcarraldo and I keep meaning to watch some good Hammer horror flicks and Greed and Notorious and...

The list could go on forever and, I guess, that’s as it should be. The problem that led to this blog is that, since leaving college and getting a job and a life-mate, I’ve had smaller and smaller amounts of time in which to watch movies. This fact had been gnawing on my brain at the time I watched The Mind Snatchers. Then, I thought, “What if I watched a movie a day and blogged about it?” The benefits were clear immediately. It would be a nice way to make a dent in all these movies I want to see. It would be a funny little experiment to see if I could even do it. Having the blog would keep me honest since I’m writing it more for myself as a record of what I’m watching than for anyone else. The movie-a-day regimen is one I’ve failed before like many a fad diet, as is the writing everyday regimen. But the movie-a-day + blog regimen creates a positive feedback loop where I feel like I have to actually watch a movie AND write everyday. What a breakthrough!

So that’s why this blog exists. I hope that people read it and that they like it. I’d love nothing more than if I had a nice readership who came to read my ramblings on a semi-daily basis. Having said that, this is primarily for me as an exercise to get my creative movie-based juices flowing again and to see if it results in any movie-based dementia. ‘Cause that would be hilarious!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Why this blog exists + Declaration of Principles


"We all go a little mad sometimes."

From October 1st to January 1st, I will be watching one movie per day and blogging about my reactions to these movies here.

As the start date for this grand experiment in persistence and commitment draws nearer and nearer, I thought it'd be fun to write about who the hell I am, what the hell provoked me to do this, and what the hell I hope to accomplish from this endeavor.

But to kick this off in a style that is at once ironic, reflexive, and earnest, I thought I'd take a page from that great grandaddy of marvelous cinematic characters, Charles Foster Kane, and treat everyone to this blog's very own "Declaration of Principles."


Bernstein: You don't want to make any promises, Mr. Kane, that you don't want to keep.
Kane: These will be kept.

I. I will watch one movie a day starting from October 1st, 2005 and ending January 1, 2006. In the interests of providing myself a safety net, I reserve 4 'days off' for myself. However, within a week of taking a day off, I will watch 2 movies on one of the following days.

II. During this time, I will watch no more than 4 movies that I have previously seen within the past 5 years. The bulk of the movies watched will be completely new to me or only vaguely remembered from the years past.

III. I will publish a post on this blog within 24 hours after watching a movie. Generally, this means that I will watch a movie at night and post sometime during the next day about said movie.

IV. I will write with clarity and insight. I will proof each post for spelling, punctuational, and grammatical mistakes at least once.

V. In the event that I am unable to continue this blog within the constraints of these principles, I will cease the blog immediately, inform all readers thereof, and submit myself to the mercy of the Movie Gods (assuming the previous two entities exist).

David Wester