Here on the Sandy Dunes

Stuff I have read and watched since January.

The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012

the-master-image

I didn’t see a lot of 2012 movies and most of them have degraded in my memory.  So “The Master” has retroactively taken up my best movie of 2012 thingie.  It’s a frustrating movie but enjoyably so.  Slow, intentionally inscrutable, sparse in story or even connective threading between set pieces it relies on its exquisite photography and the charisma of its actors to do lots of acting. Not overacting, mind, just a lot of acting, maybe “Big Acting” is a better phrase.  It is the style of acting in all PT Anderson films, where the characters start broad and then go deep while staying broad somehow, so “Big” seems fitting.  The movie continuously made me question my own readings of stuff because those readings felt right but too simple, too easy. Duality and the Id versus the Ego, and how those two sides wish they were more like the other didn’t seem like they were good enough.  Is it weird to appreciate a movie for making me feeling intellectually inadequate? The answer, of course, is yes.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino, 2012

jamie-foxx-as-django-in-django-unchained

This on the other hand is so exactly what it’s about that I got everything in one go. I read somewhere that somebody said it was “entertaining but not very good” ( I think it was the mightygodking blog) and that pretty much synced up well with my impression of it.  Id have to say this is his second least good movie with “Death Proof” being the bottom and they suffer from the same problem of over-indulgence.  “Death Proof” he over-indulged on dialogue to the point of shrillness and the death of that movie’s pacing.  This one is just badly paced.  He could of cut 45 minutes out of this fucker with no loss of plot and whatever texture those scenes provided (texture being a phrase I picked up from Robert Evans and have grown to love) are acceptable losses.  Man, this thing had a plot contrivance so glaring that it just picks at your brain and I always try to write around spoilers but this time…

SPOILERS

Now I figured the reason that they had to use a ruse to rescue Broomhilda was because King Schultz didn’t actually HAVE 12, 000 dollars.  So when they get caught and Schultz actually just has 12,000 dollars on his person in his wallet…then why the ruse? Why bring Django? Why not just approach him to buy alone to buy Broomhilda for 12,000 for the reason that he wants a German speaking slave?  Calvin Candie couldn’t refuse such an offer.  It seemed like the only reason they had to do any of this is because Schultz didn’t want to fork over 12,000 if he didn’t absolutely have to…so it seems like the whole second half of the movie happens because he is a stingy bastard.  This was too big a logic gap for me to ignore.  If the movie had tighter pacing it probably would’ve been able to skate right past it, but I had too much time to think about it.

Marvel Comics-The Untold Story

Sean Howe, 2012

marvelcomics

The prose in this is really economical and has a lot of pop. For every one bit of data I already knew as a comics fan I learned five new things on top of that.    The last 20 pages about the company could have been easily excised since all of the people who would have anything interesting to say still work for the company and we’re not going to here any of the behind the scenes juice about the stuff going on right now for a long time.  Plus. his heart was clearly in the 70’s and 80’s  parts of the book and I have a feeling he had to excise that stuff the most to hit his page count. I’d be very interested in reading a whole book by him that expanded those two sections.

Red Harvest

Dashiell Hammett, 1929

red harvest

This book is known for being the inspiration behind Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” and Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” though those movies are a lot more clear cut in terms of morality and how many sides are at play.  They both have heroes who are dirty and scoundrely but ultimately altruistic playing two equally bad gangs against each other so that they take each other out.  This is much murkier.  I lost track of how many people the main character (known only as The Continental Op, because he’s an operative of the Continental Detecive Agency) was playing against and what there relationships were to each other.  But the character is engaging because of his motivation.  If the corrupt cops and gangsters had left him alone while he did the one job he came to do he would’ve left the town quickly and as it was. But they fucked with him so he decides to burn it down.  It didn’t hit me till way after I finished it but this would’ve been an awesome Walter Matthau movie from the 70s.  Something that would have slotted in nicely between “Charley Varrick” and “Hopscotch” two other movies where his schlubby charm is cover for the fact that he’s smarter than everyone out to get him.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2013

Spooktacular 100th Post

It’s my 100th Post! I watched a bunch of movies for Halloween! It’s November 1st! Shit.

House on Haunted Hill

William Castle, 1959

The twist and reversal at the end along with Vincent Price’s charisma make this thing hang together better than it should. It suffers from some half-decisions and bored acting from the side characters.  This could have really popped if it had committed to the conflict of the man-made frights and the supernatural instead of just having that one whiny guy talk about ghosts that never show up.

Let the Right One In

Tomas Alfredson, 2008

Austere in presentation, sincere in its feeling, meaty in unpacking its implications…I’m gonna have to write a longer one on this. Stay tuned.

The Sentinel

Michael Winner, 1977

This one is almost there in so many ways.  A well-stocked support system of veterans (Burgess Meredith, Ava Gardner, and Eli Wallach) and soon-to-be names (Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo), some weird 70’s fleshiness, and a strong ending are among its good points. But sub-plots are revealed as time-fillers, the main characters shifts from the girl to her boyfriend and back again too often and you can never invest in him because of his greasy mustache.  The leading lady is the big problem especially at the end when it should have been like her head was about to explode and instead it was just girlish shrieking. Some good, some bad, solid C, three star sort of movie.

Blood and Roses

Roger Vadim, 1960

It’s an issue of House of Mystery with Alex Toth art.  It’s the director fetishizing his wife who he cast in the lead and getting her to do also sorts of lesbian stuff on film. Like Arthouse swingers.  Dig that fish miming scene from a different movie in the middle.  This was alright.

The Thing

John Carpenter, 1982

Gruesome and thrilling.  Strangely for a movie that’s all about a monster that could be everybody it is very upfront about and matter-of-fact about its kills and what it presents.  Whether it is playing the corners like in Halloween or something as big as this Carpenter does not bullshit with presentation which I guess the more economical term for that would be economical.

The Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

I knew this movie had a reputation but I did not know what that reputation was until I started watching it and had to make myself find out.  Southern Gothic x German Expressionism. Weird exclamatory monologues.  Fast, fast pacing for the first half.  What I thought the whole movie was going to be ended up playing out within the first 45 minutes and so I was taken by surprise by what the rest of the movie ended up being.  Very charismatic and it’s a shame that Laughton never directed again. Shocking this got made in the 50s.

Twitch of the Death Nerve or “Bay of Blood” or A Whole Lot of Titles.

Mario Bava, 1971

Visually striking, fantastic kills, highly influential for the slasher genre in those terms.  The plot is so boring and muddled it took me three sittings to get through it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

They’ll Never Give Him Web-Pits in Any Movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Marc Webb Sexin’ Up the Shaft, 2012

I was rooting for this before it came out.  Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I truly have come to dislike Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies.  So I wanted for this reboot.  It really worked for me and works for me the more I think about it.  Choices they made are smart and seem pretty considered against both staying true to the source material and what will work in a movie.  Complaints lodged against the movie have been that we did all this in 2002’s Spider-Man.  True.  It retreads an origin told so many times that if the origin was a squirrel hit by a car and then backed over and over and over and over so many times that it’s a blood soaked dishrag by the time you pick it up to eat it. Anyway, Spider-Man 2002 Go America was superficial and emotionally stupid with dull leads.  This is not, so better. I’ll always prefer the non-stupid version of something.   It also took the risk of having Marvel (Jim Shooter) plot design.  It sets up a villain A-plot that gets paid off here and 2 or 3 subplots that will get paid off in the next movies.  It’s a very confident move when you realize that’s what they are doing and easily confused with laziness if one doesn’t.   Because Marvel superhero comics are, to me, as the disposable products of fun they are, carried by the charisma of the star and a narrative based on momentum.  This is the stuff Amazing Spider-Man wants.  Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is likable, fallible, funny, rash, intelligent, biting, angry, whiny and a screw-up.  He thinks things through half the time (the web-snare in the sewer) and unthinkingly fucks up the other half (having his real name on his camera.) Just like any teenager/anybody.   I wanted for this thing and I was happy to be able to buy in.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Four Movies: A Cool Beverage to Wash This Face Down With

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tomas Smiley Smile, 2011

In the story I’ve created in my mind Tomas Alfredson gets the job to direct this around the time he sees “Munich” and figures I don’t have as much neat stuff going on but I can try to make it look that good.  This movie has a simple plot of trying to find the Mole at the top of British Intelligence. The story that comes from that is quite dense. I gave this thing as much attention as I could but keeping track of everybody and the information they were expounding, and that is how this story gets told its people sitting around exchanging information so you have to make that look good, its work.  When the traitor is revealed I could easily pick the bits of information of how it could be that character not from the spy jargon info but from the little personal stuff…this is very subdued and kind of boring like a good 70s spy thing and it doesn’t hand you everything. But it has its morsels to chew on like flecks of beef that fall out of your mustache into your mouth…I respected this movie I respected the hell out of it.

The House of the Devil

Hope He Didn’t Forget to Pay The Fixx, Ti West, 2009

This movie is about waiting around, anticipating the scare that’s coming.  For half an hour a pretty girl walks around town wondering if she is going to get a job at a house. Then for 40 minutes she explores the house. It is a lot of atmospheric looking into rooms. Around the edges of this is a creepy chain smoker, a lunar eclipse, and a slaughter. It all pays off and I’d like to say I enjoyed it more but it looked a little too cheap and not in the 70’s/80’s aesthetic way they were going for. The digital camera biffed the whole thing in a way that film wouldn’t have maybe.

Moneyball

Just make up somebody to love me Aaron Sorkin, 2011

This went down much smoother than “The Social Network” which was very at odds between what the director and the script was trying to convey.  Like “The Social Network” the best part, more than his dialogue yes, is how Sorkin breaks down another language into something understandable and chewable.  This time it’s Baseball Stats, last time it was Computer Code.  It has the same weakness as other Sorkin scripts whenever its not two people at odds or explaining something…the structure is very transparent in a way that screams out “look, craft! artistic licence!” and I don’t want to deal with it and all the parts of this about Brad Pitt’s kid sucked anyway.

The Shadow

We’ll never see Margo Lane in nuthin again, 1994

This movie has some of the weirdest dialogue of the people have never talked this way ever variety. But I actually enjoyed it. They were these little yummy bits sprinkled into a pretty terrible movie.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

 

Drive

Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011

Drive set out with the goal of being a stylistic exercise that was indebted to Bullit, Le Samourai, and Michael Mann’s Thief.  It wanted to have that quiet European pacing, so people don’t talk a lot or very fast. When violence happens it is extreme especially compared to the quiet that preceded it.  The opening 10 minutes before the credits are better than the whole rest of the movie.  It’s a good movie that meets the criteria it wants to meet without transcending the movies it derives from and that is fine, you don’t have to go above and beyond to do it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

A Shadow with the Saddest Eyes

Kagemusha

Akira Kurosawa, 1980

Two Things:

This is a movie about the power of great men.  Great in the perfect sense, a force of personality, an aura that is so large that they were born to be historical.  Shingen the Warlord is such a man and so long after death the power of his aura, the suggestion of his mere existence is enough to hold his clan together, keep his army afloat, and his enemies guessing.  Everybody lives in the shadow or becomes a shadow of greatness and when it is gone they are left on their own, nothing holding together like it used to.

On a literal level this is Kurosawa’s big “Fuck the West” film.  The second some Catholic guys showed up on-screen I knew where the guns had come from.  Kurosawa probably didn’t hate the West but he was a young man when the A-Bombs blew, he knew his history and came to the conclusion every smart person does at some time: things were better off before we knew what a white person was.  There is no honor in living anymore, no honor in war, no code, no seeing the whites of their eyes.  We’re just blown to fucking hell by people far away.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Riverfront Property in Wismar with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht

Werner Herzog, 1979

They filmed this simultaneously in both English and German. Get the German version because German people living in Germany act better speaking German.  In comparison with the silent original I will say that I liked this better.  And I really like the original but much of its power came from Max Schreck being onscreen or the suggestion that he was about. All the elements they traded out from the original is replaced with something as effective and the new added in is worthy.  Herzog’s version has a pervasive dread throughout that grows and subsides but never goes away completely.  Aside from all the shots that he lifted straight from the original, because why mess with perfect shots when one doesn’t need to, Herzog tries to make this as much of a silent movie as possible. Dialogue is minimal and always effective when spoken. People speaking when they have something to say. Klaus Kinski plays Dracula.

This brings up one nitpicky thing on my end.  The original was an unauthorized film version of Dracula and when Bram Stoker’s widow caused a fuss, the filmmakers had to change the title and all the character names so Count Dracula became Count Orlok and so on.  By the time of the remake Dracula had fallen into the public domain so they could use all the Dracula names for it but I kind of wish they had used the re-names instead.

Anyway, Klaus Kinski plays Dracula.  Klaus Kinski is best known as a raving lunatic in real life who played raving lunatics onscreen.  This movie and a movie called “The Great Silence” (stunningly good Western) shows that he has this quiet range that works, a whispering menace just as enthralling as his head on fire explosiveness.  Loved it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011