Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Trim Bin #36

- I had the pleasure last night of seeing Snakes on a Plane at the Hollywood Drive-In in Averill Park, NY with Jess, Doug and Jack. A review of Snakes is forthcoming, but the drive-in experience was something special. The last (and only) time I've been to a drive-in was a screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit when I was five; I was happy to find that a movie screened under the stars had lost none of the magic from my childhood. It's a valuable thing to learn that some joys don't fade with age (such as the joy of watching a snake chomp on a bare breast - but more on that later).

- The early-70's video zine Radical Software is now online (thanks to Wiley Wiggins for pointing me in the right direction). It's about video art, technology, and philosophy, and it sort of makes me hot. A sample passage from an article by Dean Evanson entitled "Open Ended Nervous System:"

"Each of us is a channel and source for the life force which nature sings to. We are emitters of energy on many levels and bandwidths. We are each producing a song deep inside which, when unfettered, can join with others in a choir of harmonious sound. We have the ability to control our technology by learning of our life source, our energy song. The ego in us wants to force the gross parts of our songs down other people's throats. But harmony and beauty swell not from homogenity from diversity and love."

Get addicted now.

- I've been revisiting a lot of Brian De Palma's films this month, and I feel more strongly than ever that he is one of the most underappreciated filmmakers working today. From a purely technical standpoint, he's a master - even his failures are grounded by an inspired, witty visual style. Whether his subject is vengeful telekenetic teens, transvestite slackers or cocky Cuban coke dealers, he manages to elevate even the schlockiest subject matter to an operatic level without ever becoming pretentious. At once subtextual, metatextual, and sometimes self-referential, his films continue to inspire passionate analysis and debate; he's achieved the rare feat of making ambitious, artistically rich films that are also incredibly fun. An ongoing retrospective at Slate promises to shed light on De Palma's elusive appeal. I'd love to hear your choices for underrated filmmakers (you can also see the trailer for De Palma's upcoming film noir The Black Dahila here).

- This means something. This is important.

Films watched this week:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension 10
Die Hard
Dressed to Kill
Monkey Shines
Henry and June
Fahrenheit 451
Snakes on a Plane


Anonymous said...

Buckaroo Banzai a 10? While I think it's entertaining, there's some things that in my book would keep it out of that level. Mind elaborating a bit more why it earned a 10? I'm not saying nothing should be allowed to get a good rank, I'm just curious what makes it so strong in your opinion.

Max said...

I know you're a Klosterman fan, I don't know if you've already read this.

Max said...

Side Note:
Buckaroo Banzai succeeds in its motives. While the special effects are silly, the plot follows an intuitive path of misdirection. While the filmmakers surely have a fondness for B-movies, the film itself is not a B-movie (unless you're talking about alliteration). The filmmakers don't cheat themselves. The sense of humor that the film has is not written or delivered as self-serving, sardonic or condescending, it just follows the character interactions and compliments the hectic pace. It's like a live-action G.I. Joe picture - they filmmakers don't distance their audience with irony, but invite the audience to participate in the kinetic energy, to be the silent Hong Kong Cavalier. The actors give performances that indicate their sheer affection for the characters and material, and while the plot is most certainly influenced by sometimes goofy sources, the actors roll with it all because they're enjoying themselves. Just look at a comic book (part of the film's source material) like Stan Lee/Jack Kirby's "Challengers of the Unknown:" it's goofy stuff, but the writer and the artist invest so much care into the final product that it's not meant to manipulate the audience (as in a mediocre drama like Marvel's "Civil War"), but instead invite them to become involved in the action, to care about what happens to the characters; the film works in a way that many similar titles don't (Leonard Part 6 comes to mind). Like Tom Atkins, there just isn't another Buckaroo Banzai.

Andrew Bemis said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. And thanks for the link - I particularly like the comparison to "Peaches."

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean. Buckaroo is different in that it walks the line between serious and farcical for the majority of the film. This not a fault, but something to the untrainted senses (in particular my own), seems bizarre and harder to pick up on. Subconciously an audience expects to dominate in one mood or the other, not keep right in the middle.

While this is off of the list of stuff you need to show me, I think this discussion tacks it on to the list of stuff you need to let me revisit.

Dr. Criddle said...

I'd give Buckaroo a 10 too. As for the most under-appreciated filmmakers:

DePalma - certainly. Ironically enough, I think several of his most popular movies (Carrie, The Unctouchables, and definatley Scarface) have reputations which overshadow the director himself, as well as a lot of his other and equally great work like Sisters and The Phantom of the Paradise.

Juzo Itami - even though it's kind of great to have that one filmmaker that only YOU have heard about, which is what Itami was for me when I first discovered his movies... I still wish that he got a little more recognition among film fans over here. His movies don't even have decent DVD releases (or any DVDs at all, in some cases)...I guess the problem is that they're a bit too recent to be considered "classics" and they're not violent or bizarre enough to attract the "cult" crowd. But "Minbo", "A Taxing Woman" and "The Funeral" are all great social satires and "Tampopo" is just one of the most surreal, funny and adorable movies I've ever seen.

Joe Dante - the "Eternal Monster Kid" director. Much like Quentin Tarantino, his movies are simultaneously massively enjoyable entertainment and subersive comments on the traditions of genre films, plus they are loaded with more references than you can shake a stick at.

Francois Truffaut - I think he's a much, much better director than Jean-Luc Godard. The 400 Blows is, for my money, the best French film ever made, and Day For Night and his other movies are terrific as well. BTW, were you referring to Truffaut's Farenheit 451 as a "10"? I'd always heard mixed things about it, but given your high rating I'll definatley go and check it out.

I'll probably think of more....

Andrew Bemis said...

Fahrenheit 451 is a strange film, a sort of distant one, but also a technically astounding and strangely mesmerizing adaptation. The Hitchcock influences are all over the place. I agree about Truffaut - I recently saw Jules and Jim for the first time, and it shot high up my best-ever list. Good call on Joe Dante, too. I still have to watch Tampopo.