Stuff I have read and watched since January.
Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012
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.
Quentin Tarantino, 2012
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…
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
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.
Dashiell Hammett, 1929
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