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

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Only Love Breaks Your Heart

Farewell, My Lovely

Raymond Chandler, 1940

My favorite part of this book is when I realized in the last 30 pages that the entire middle of the book had nothing to do with the resolution of the plot. You could have taken out the whole sequence with the Psychic, the corrupt cops, and the crooked sanitarium and with very little effort had reached the same endpoint. But its the sort of taking the plot for a walk that I like. It’s just Marlowe dealing with conflict, taking on pain, and keeping his smarts while almost losing his grasp. It’s powerful external conflict creating pulsating inner conflict (coming down from all the dope he’s been shot with) which is better than plot momentum when it’s handled as well as Chandler does it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Dreams are More Interesting Than Ikea Furniture, Inception.

M83.-Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, 2011

I really like the new M83. album.  I, like so many others, anticipated it greatly and Anthony Gonzalez (who is M83.) built it up as a great epic.  Well it is and it isn’t.  So it is that while I like the M83. album I wanted to capital L-Love it and I can’t say that I do.  It has brought new rewards with subsequent re-listens.  I’m aware of the tricks in the M83 bag so I know what changes Gonzalez has made from past albums.

The double-album clocks in at 74-minutes but feels incredibly compact.  This is the fastest moving M83. album by far.  Gonzalez has decides to use numerous 1-2 minute interlude tracks to build the dreamy landscape of HUWD.  That is a huge compliment this album has a feeling of constructiveness and world-building that is enchanting if not, for me, entrancing.  Past M83. song have had longer run times and these singles had very moving sweep.  I compliment him for trying to translate that to an album length by inverting (is that the right word?) his formula.  But it does lead to far fewer standouts as far as songs go.  The “Intro” with Zola Jesus has this wailing evangelical choir chant that makes for a strong start. The lead single “Midnight City” will burn into your brain with its snoot trumpet rhythm and a Sax solo that 100 percent fucking lands.   “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” is where Gonzalez finally creates a spoken word track that not only works but, where past spoken word efforts have been painful to get through/skip button worthy, works spectacularly well thinks to its Nintendo candy-coated rhythm.

But these all have standard 3-5 minute run times and I miss the long-form textures of old.  Especially at the end where the standard 10 minute plus closer of old is nowhere to be found. Usually the most mesmerizing of M83. songs (the choir-riffic “Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun”, the subtle hum of “Midnight Souls Still Remain”, the intricate “Beauties Can Die”) I do miss it an opportunity for an epic close to an epic album.

That said it is an impressive, fast-moving, texture rich work whose ambitions I appreciate and whose value will definitely grow over time.  But, I can  learn to love you!

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

…And they do that: Part True Grit review, Part 2010 movie overview

True Grit

2010, The Coen Brothers

I don’t know what I have to offer on this that better, smarter, um professionally trained, people have said already.  Then again that’s always the case with whatever the fuck it is I do here and I should really stop fretting about it out loud like this because its gotta be losing its charm by now.

Oh yeah, the movie.

It’s funny that the thing that the new True Grit calls attention to is not the difference between this version and the original film version, which I have never seen but I must imagine that plot aside is a different thing entirely to this, but itself and other Coen Brothers films.  And it calls attention to itself because True Grit is so straightforward, a movie almost entirely removed from the Coen Brothers usual bag of tricks, awesome tricks mind you and ones I’ve only half got my head around having seen only half their oeuvre in spread out spackled manner, and is exceptional for being exactly what it is.

I mean god, didn’t 2010 suck for movies?

Iron Man 2 was as good as the second half of Iron Man 1.  It was carried by Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke, using the Johnny Depp technique of acting in a different movie than the one he’s in, and as always the best parts were the parts where Tony Stark was building shit and using holograms.  But man, that flick had some scattershot plotting going on.

Toy Story 3, the movie Pixar didn’t feel like making.  But the cheese has gotta get sliced I guess, so they decided to make an 80s kids movie; the kind that is creepy and dark, kinda melacholy and will give an 8 year old at least one nightmare for awhile, in this case the creepy baby doll or the firey death star where characters that sound like Tom Hanks and Tim Allen accept their fucking FATE.  Put this on with The Witches and Return to Oz and a kid will sit straight and fly right for a while after.

Inception was this weird sexless movie about boring dreams and meaningless rules, and shit action,  starring actors who clearly knew they didn’t have to give a fuck, justsaythewords.  But I loved the South Park episode that came out of it.  Go watch that, its legally free on this here internet.

Black Swan…I still haven’t seen it but it’s essentially a remake of this as I understand and I remember that being advertised in some comics around that time, as a little curiosity to 11 year-old-me reading shitty relaunch Spider-Man comics.

Damnit, True Grit. Well True Grit won the year for me.  Because everybody, the Coens, I-enjoy-the-fuck-out-of-my-career Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon whose always just so dependable, and Hailee Steinfeld who I only wish the best of luck after this because she was sooooooo good.  It’s all in the service of this simple story and the straightforward western.  Something being exactly what it is about and nothing more, that deserves reward too.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011

Loss is the Rules of the Game

Mad Men-Chinese Wall

So here we are at the Cusp of the cusp of the end of the season.  The new firm’s continued existence is now thrown into jeopardy as often foreshadowed and when it comes to this sort of thing, the ups and downs of the firm, when it is either mega crisis or mega upswing, Mad Men buzzes at it’s best.  This is a very palpable threat, that this could break down and next season could be about all the characters at different firms or doing whatever after this is a failure.  If something foreshadowing the reversal of this development has been laid down than I’ve missed it except,  I’m thinking we’re about to maybe see Roger Sterling’s finest hour.  Again, Roger Sterling’s development has been one of the most impressive things about this season.

Have you noticed that all of Peggy’s best moments this season has been as a comic foil?  Scooting on a scooter, peeking over the wall into Don’s office, lipstick on her teeth.  But I just don’t care about who she is randomly fucking this time and I understand the point in that it parallels with Don’s Manwhoriness but that doesn’t make it compelling.

Megan the new secretary wasn’t even on the bracket for me and she swooped in to win the whole thing.  That’s a Cinderella story that will warm your heart.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2010

 

 

Just Use the Instrumental, the Lyrics are Waaaaay Expensive

Mad Men-Hands and Knees

Ummm, this was quite good.  This felt…very mature, I guess.  It was a “consequences” episode which also means it was a big payoff episode and the laying down of stuff for Season 5.

When I was done I thought that the Pryce subplot for this episode was superfluous.  I’ve flipped on that though and it was a good bit of character building.  Lane is so fascinating as a character because so much of his life happens off-screen that when the focus returns to him it’s always some of the most absorbing parts of the show.

This season’s arc for Don has been his gradual disintegration now that he doesn’t have a family to hold together his persona.  Jon Hamm sells the hell out of panic and desperation in this episode and how big the consequences for his lie could be if uncovered by the law.  This was the first time I had even considered that at some point in the future everyone WILL find him out because that is how tenuous it all is.

Honestly, I think the best thing this season has been John Slatterly/Roger Sterling.  Season 2 and 3 for him was about his mid-life crisis and that ended when he left the original company that he inherited to build something himself.  He’s reflective but…again, more mature I think.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly but…something shifted and it was subtle and Roger is fascinating to me now in a way he wasn’t before.  I can completely understand NOW why Joan would dig him.

The big thing this week however was the Lucky Strike thing.  This has been the spring-loaded trap we’ve been waiting to pop for a while now and the anticipation of it actually made it more disastrous when it finally did happen.  We’ll probably be dealing with this for Eps 11 and 12 before we get a Don and family focused finale because that’s been mostly neglected this year like the business stuff was last year till the end and plus I read Ep descripts on Wikipedia.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2010

Death in Thin Cut Suits

Tokyo Drifter

Seijun Suzuki, 1966

Coming out of Japan’s version of the Double-Bill Cheapie Toky0 Drifter blazes with individualism.  It makes no sense, something about a building and two gangsters trying to retire.  Watari as Tetsu kicks up some shit and bops outta Tokyo to hit the road to do…some stuff, mainly get into more gangland fights.  He can’t escape his past and go into his future…of drifting until he kills the fuck out of everyone and look awesome in lightly colored suits.  Its all style and goddamn even the style doesn’t make sense sometimes but there is always something Tres cool to look at in every scene.  83 minutes spent damn well.

Get Carter

Mike Hodges, 1971

Michael Caine has been a stone faced fuck up til this point.  Even though his humor is dry dry dry and he has cracked the wry smile once or twice and he even had phone sex with his girlfriend type person to make his whore of an innkeeper wet n hot.  But he’s stayed on the rigid path of professional revenge.  Then he realizes the extent, the nature, the full reality of the situation he’s been investigating and we watch him break down under the weight only and then build up again to a crescendo of full fury vengeance a hurricane of violence nobody can escape and nobody deserves to.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2010