July 31, 2004

Sisters

Brian De Palma's 1973 suspense thriller showed up last night on the Sundance Channel. Margot Kidder is really cute in this one, with her French accent and low cut nightgown. Actually I should say that she is really good in this film -- with a butcher knife.

De Palma's films are usually interesting, though his stories contain too many shortcuts for me. Body Double was intriguing, though the story was so off-the-wall I could barely follow.

The Sisters in this film are former siamese twins who have been separated somehow during young adulthood after being joined for many years. Medically speaking, this is a very laughable prospect, but you have to tell yourself, "this is a movie." I have a hard time enjoying films that make me say that too many times.

One of the sisters is a psychopath, and you are left guessing which one. Jennifer Salt plays a woman who witnesses the murder through a window across the street -- or so she claims. All she really saw was a bloody guy wave at her. She's a journalist with a public axe to grind regarding the local cops, so the police detective has a bad attitude toward her and her claim.

I do like De Palma's camera work. At one point he uses shadows nicely to obscure Margot's nipples while her boobs are showing. Almost titillating. I always appreciated Kidder's earthy sexiness.

Alfred Hitchcock's name is invoked by many in describing this film. Brian obviously learned a lot from the master of suspense; and he hired Bernard Hermann to score Sisters. Hermann scored many of Alfred's films. However, I think this comparison is a little too kind to De Palma. And, I don't need the social commentary re racism and sexism. This film is good, though possibly overrated.

Posted by Wayne at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

East Coast Trip


The first highlight of our trip east for Lucy's family reunion was when we accidently crossed the Mississippi where the Ohio River joins it. A confluence of two great rivers. Click on the rail to view photos.


The basic purpose of our trip was to attend the picnic depicted in the 32 photos on the page linked the above pic. This feast is called The Pig Pickin' and is a spread to behold.

beach_chick.jpg
The trip qualifies as a trip to "the east coast" because we actually got to the coast for one day. Virginia Beach. All the photos other than the obvious exceptions, were taken from our 10th floor balcony at the beachfront Ramada.

Posted by Wayne at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2004

Water


We returned to a very rainy Lawrence. The sidewalks are drying a little bit now with a breeze and cessation of tangible precipitation. But the lower lying streets were almost flooded earlier.

Posted by Wayne at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

Photos from the Road


We just returned from an east coast odyssey involving ham, sand, water, and asphalt. But mostly ham. In future posts I will photographically discuss a confluence, a picnic, a coastline, many roads. Lucy gets credit for the arch pic.

Posted by Wayne at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Spider-Man 2

Very damn good. Almost excellent. If this is formula, it is formula very well done.

One problem these comic book movies tend to have, as I've mentioned on this blog before, is a villain that is much more interesting than the hero. The first Batman movies are a great example of this. However, this film balances the hero and the bad guy very well. Doc Ock is quite a compelling villain, but he doesn't outshine Spidey. And, you don't just hate Ock. You have to feel for him to a degree because he has been taken over by these artificially intelligent arms. This might be the most imaginative villain construct I've ever seen. Credit Stan Lee for that.

Peter Parker's existential conflicts are nicely portrayed without detracting from the action, adding enough to the story such that supposed grownups like me can appreciate the whole film more. Or at least this gives us something to kid ourselves with. I would begrudgingly admit that I was getting impatient with all of Peter and Spidey's mooning over the woman that he won't let himself have.

I also really appreciated the guts of the storytellers of Spider-Man 2 to allow the mask to come off to a limited degree, relieving some of that tension that is caused by the hero's incessant and absolute anonymity. Yes the magic here arises from the humanity and youth of our hero. They could not have casted Spider-Man better than Tobey Maguire.

My attention span is almost non-existent; I am very easily bored. So, I can always gauge the quality of a movie simply by how many times, during viewing, I wonder what time it is or how much time is left. Whenever I'm watching a film at home I usually keep tabs on this as it plays. However, Spider-Man 2 held me enrapt all the way to the end credits. For a 2+ hour movie this is actually quite an accomplishment.

Wayne says, check it out!

p.s. Question: Was Spider-Man always spelled with a hyphen?

Posted by Wayne at 09:23 AM | Comments (2)

July 11, 2004

Eyes Wide Shut

Tom Cruise was going to kiss that corpse. I was sure of it. Right there in the morgue, in front of the orderly, in his suit, the naked corpse an ex-beauty queen turned hooker who may or may not have saved his life earlier.

Lately my movies have featured strange human interactions with corpses. I saw Six Feet Under this evening too, and Nate's wife is trying to come back to life.

I like Eyes Wide Shut. We accidently rewatched it last night having seen in it several months previous. Most people didn't like this but it was so different that I had to like it. So very very Kubrick. I could see Stanley directing the scene between Tom and the dead hottie. Cruisey lowered his head so slowly -- I wonder how many takes they did. The pre-orgy ritual reminded me in some perverse way of the android destruction ceremonies in A.I. I know Spielberg did A.I., but it was a Kubrick film. Steve followed Stan's plans.

There so many unanswered questions and fuzzy endings here. Too many in fact to allow for most people to enjoy it. I can see how feel cheated by the story.

I was intrigued by the acting and interacting of Tom and Nicole Kidman, since they were real life hubby and wifey when this movie was made. They were quite good I thought, especially given the weird transpirations of the script.

Nicole looked great too. That is my all-time favorite first shot. If you see the flick on the schedule you flip over there just for the opening.

Kubrick's last film, not counting A.I. Too bad it wasn't better received.

Posted by Wayne at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2004

The Wild Angels

What's with all the swastikas? I don't associate the Hell's Angels with Nazism. But then again this is a Roger Corman film. It's easy to forget that since it stars Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.

There are strangely macabre aspects to this story, which aren't so strange if you remember that Corman is around. The last scene is Fonda filling in a grave. There is a visit to a freelance undertaker, and other strange things are done with a corpse.

This 1966 film is Peter's first, and he is cast in the unlikely role of Blues, leader of a pack of Hell's Angels. He couldn't have been more than 21, and no gang has a leader that young, nor as skinny as he was at the time. Bruce Dern as The Loser is pretty good though. Reportedly Bruce had Diane Ladd pregnant with daughter Laura during this filming.

These angels aren't big on dialog and they are definitely not in the intellectual biker class. I was reminded of those old Japanese Godzilla movies. There aren't many sentences with more than four words.

Easy Rider was obviously a pretty natural segue from this for Peter. He already knew how to ride the bike when he got to Taos. But it's hard to believe that the same guy did The Hired Hand.

The Wild Angels is an unavoidably interesting movie in spite of its simplistic approach. There is a big statement against Christianity. There is also a scene early on where some very blatant racist comments are made to some Hispanics. Frankly my favorite line was Fonda stepping up and saying, "Okay which one of you taco-benders stole an angel's bike?" This was more creative than Loser's use of the term "beaners."

The film at least attempts valiantly to show the angels, both as humans and as beasts. It misses a little on the human side. We caught this on Flix.

Posted by Wayne at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2004

Capturing the Friedmans

Reality is not always what it seems on the surface, and sometimes not what it seems two and three layers down.

The reality here is so disturbing that it defies articulation, in large part because there really isn't any way to tell exactly what it is.

Arnie liked boys. Little boys. There's no denying that. The stack of magazines. The story he wrote the journalist lady who had the gall to consider his side. Arnie was not completely innocent. And if he hadn't sent that magazine, there never would've been an investigation.

However, the whole thing about the abuse associated with the computer classes was obviously a police department creation. And they did a hell of a job of creating it. As soon as they figured out that Arnie liked little boys, they had to get him in any way they could....but hey wait a minute. Arnie liked pictures of little boys. That's all that's proven. There was no evidence I could see that he ever touched a little boy. He seemed to have a handle on it, and probably the magazines helped him. Yeah, when the cops saw that he liked pictures, they made a big assumption about his other activities and became determined to prove something that they knew just had to be true. Why else would a pedophile hold computer classes, if he didn't want to take liberties with the students?

There are a few little hints that maybe something did really happen, just not nearly on the scale of what Arnie and Jesse were prosecuted for. These phantom allusions keep the weirdness quotient up pretty high.

Capturing the Friedmans is one of the most disturbing films -- and possibly the best documentary -- that I've ever seen, because it is so weird, and it is so real. The whole thing is told with interview footage and a disturbing amount of Friedman home movies. This whole freaky story is told in large part from the inside by the Friedman brothers using various film and video cameras.

This should be on HBO for a while. See it if you're up for being disturbed.

Posted by Wayne at 04:49 PM | Comments (1)

July 08, 2004

Virgil Bliss

Jail can become home for many a convict. This is the underlying theme of Virgil Bliss, a film that looks hard at how difficult, if not impossible, it is for an individual coming out of prison to adjust to a life of freedom. Our title character here obviously has some issues with women. He falls hopelessly in love with a woman with whom his only interaction has been paying for a blowjob on the street.

Virgil is portrayed as a basically decent person, who obviously made a couple of bad choices somewhere, and as a result had to spend 12 years of his life in prison. He gets out on parole and is sent to a halfway house for two weeks before he is released on his own.

As the viewer, you find yourself rooting for Virgil, wanting him to do good and not be drawn in by the bad crowd again. However this is exactly what appears to be the unavoidable result of his getting put in a room with a con named Manny, who is breaking all the house rules.

You root for Virgil, but you can't have much faith in him staying out. He's so pitifully out of place in general society. The whore he falls in love with even asks him if he's a retard at one point.

The film is shot documentary-style, and this gives it a great deal of realism. The story is quite believable. That is, until the whore actually starts to respond to Virgil's love and adoration, and tells him she loves him too. But, this just shows that she is as maladjusted to the real world as he is. Virgil's affections are the closest thing to real caring she has experienced, beyond her pimp's violent possessiveness.

Virgil Bliss is my first film experience from the Sundance Channel. Clint Jordan does a great job playing Virgil and Joe Maggio directs. If you get a chance to see this, and you don't mind intense grittiness, I would highly recommend it.

Posted by Wayne at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

Mystery Train

mysterytrain.jpgIndependent film begins and ends with Jim Jarmusch. That's a bit of a far reaching statement, but he epitomizes indie film in my mind. (Hey, I'm hurting for comments here.) This cult classic's backstory is easily imagined from the cast and producers. I know nothing about this film in particular. I don't study films; I watch them. But I could conjure a very indie scenario behind this, based on the players. Since the producers are Japanese, could it be that the two Japanese actors who lead the film are the son and daughter of these guys? And Jarmusch talked them into financing his project as a means to American stardom for them? I have no idea if this is remotely true, but I hope that's the way it went.

This movie is a little slow and drawn out, but that's to positive effect. Just don't drink too many beers before you watch it.

I loved this flick. It begins on a train and ends on a train, but beyond that I don't know what the Mystery Train reference is about. It all happens in Memphis, in the shadow of the King, Elvis. The Jap kids are fascinated with Elvis, but the male correctly asserts that Carl Perkins was better.

There are other storylines here that you are probably familiar with if you're so into film that you would search for movie blogs to read. Joe Strummer's appearance was interesting, though he wasn't very good.

I hadn't seen Mystery Train before, and it was a fitting maiden voyage for our new cable system here in Lawrence. MT came on Flix, a movie channel that I was unfamiliar with. On Sunflower, we will discover Sundance and IFC along with Flix. I thought Sundance was supposed to have good movies, but last night they played Showgirls. I flipped in there just as the chick and Kyle Maclachlan (sp?) got to his house to go swimming.

Posted by Wayne at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2004

Toto, we're not in New Mexico anymore...

We're moved. Mostly anyway. All the stuff is transferred from New Mexico to Kansas. The stuff is nowhere near arranged, but it is basically in the area that it is supposed to be.

We like our townhouse. We like our town too. We like Lawrence. It's green here. Man is it green here. We've seen rabbits out our back door, heard frogs in the front. A quarter mile down the road is a cornfield. But alas, the cornfield is for sale. The field to the west of the cornfield has a sign announcing a new development. I like things like they are, I see no need for developing anything.

We had coffee this morning at a really good coffeehouse that is easily-walked-to from our door. Downtown is awesome with coffee and food and beer. Last night we visited the Java Break which is open 24 hours. They have three separate rooms with tables (calling them dining rooms doesn't seem right) and in the middle is a used clothing store. All this on the basement floor of a building.

This has been a very rainy summer, so the grass is tall and thick, the trees are dense with leaves, and the river runs.

Transporting the goods was an ordeal. We rented a 17' UHaul van, a trailer to put the pickup on, which I pulled in the UHaul. We thought this would be enough room, but we wound up having to rent a 5'x8' trailer to put behind the Saturn. So both vehicles had trailers. The drive from Albuquerque took us two days total, leaving Wed. afternoon and arriving in Lawrence Friday afternoon, just missing a local deluge.

The drive was fine. The ordeal came in loading the truck. We wound up spending all night Monday working on it, because we were supposed to be out by our closing on Tuesday morning. We wound up delaying the new owners' move-in by a few hours, not finishing until about 5 Tues afternoon. We were exhausted. Thanks to Mark and Mary Jane for a comfortable place to die that night. And thank God for their hot tub.

Loading in up here wasn't fun but at least we got it done in a day. Most of our stuff is in a storage unit.

Yep, we're gonna like Lawrence. The Sunflower Broadband internet hooked right up when we plugged in the modem and the router etc. It took about 5 minutes to synch up but now flies at about 2.4 mbps. We haven't gotten the cable tv hooked up yet but I anticipate a post on the video offerings of Sunflower. We'll be getting twice the channels for about the same cost as Comcast in Albuquerque.

I may come up number two on this search, but this blog isn't located there anymore.

Posted by Wayne at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)