Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What I've been watching lately:

The Day of Three Movies (aka: last Saturday)

(1) Bride of Frankenstein (1940 . . .ish?)
Title says it all, and yet - there's still so much more! the villains! the hair! the mwah hah hah mad scientists! the bridging story starring Byron in a thunderstorm!

(2) To Sir, With Love (1965 . . . ish?)
Sidney Poitier, inspirational teacher. I can't remember Dangerous Minds or much of Dead Poets, but I bet there's not a scene where the teacher calls the girls of the class "sluts". (Even when one of them is Ethan Hawke).

(3) Straw Dogs (1971)
Dustin Hoffman gets violent in this freaky, freaky film by Sam Peckinpah. nightmares, with interest.

. . . closely followed by: Sunday!

(4) Rio Bravo (195 . .. ish?)
At least I think it was Rio Bravo (and not Rio Grande, Rio Lobo). these westerns get confusing. anyway, indian butt was kicked in a very black/white moral universe. weirdly, there seemed to be a lot of choirs and trumpeters. very musical branch of the army. would love to see their efforts at pantomine.

. . . and Tuesday! (yesterday)

(5) Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (1941? 42?)
Sequel to the excellent Wolfman film starring Lon Chaney. Chaney was back for this effort, but Frankenstein was played by Lugosi (not Karloff). Which is weird, because Lugosi was IN the orginal Wolfman, but played a gypsy guy cursed with lycanthropy who was killed by Chaney's character the first time around. So Lugosi's in this sequel, but this time as the Monster . . . meaning that the title should actually be "Frankenstein's monster meets the Wolfman" but who's keeping score? (me.)

PS: if you're wondering who is the better Frankenstein - Karloff. Karloff. Karloff. Lugosi is so bad, it bears repeating.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunshine (2007)

I attended a screening plus Q&A with director Danny Boyle in Sydney tonight. (You know . . . Danny Boyle? Trainspotting! 28 Days Later! Danny Boyle, man!)

First up: the film looks amazing.

Sunshine has some of the third act plot problems that sci-fi films often have . . . but the atmosphere, the feel of the film works. Space scenes of recent years have missed the mark in making audiences believe in space, in the majesty of space, it's immensity, the feel of it, the depth. This is a big screen film. And the way it's been put together - there are sequences you lean forward, and breathe through it with the protoganists onscreen.

Danny Boyle is a storyteller, and makes these Q&As a breeze - with an answer for every question, however trivial. He talked at length about the difficulties in making a film as effects heavy as this one - on the actors, and on the other creative types like composers who have to make guesses about the atmosphere of the finished product long before the FX work is complete.

Things I learnt:
- He made the actors live in student acccomodation (cooking for each other) to help get them into the right frame of mind.
- The film cost $40 million, but they tried as best they could to make it look like $100 million. (they've succeeded).
- The script went through 35 drafts.
- Post production took one year. The film tested horribly with test audiences, because the ship and much of the FX weren't finished when the studio tried it out.

Good questions from the audience:
- Sunshine: Why were the gender roles so predictable? Boyle claims that Yeoh was offered her choice of roles and picked the botanist - but admitted that there could have been more women on board.
- Alien Resurrection: Boyle turned the opportunity to direct it down, but talked about how great Joss Whedon's original script was (it was apparently much changed by the time the film was made).
- Boyle's next project?: a bizarre sounding "who want's to be a millionaire" tale involving a street kid, the girl he likes, and the British TV show. Written by the same guy as The Full Monty.

Grading: 3 1/2 out of 5
The big screen experience is compulsory,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Performance (1970)

Because I was a bit too young to get the whole Stones thing, I've always had this image of Mick Jagger as this vaguely repulsive ancient guy. The lecherous drunk psuedo-uncle who isn't an actual relative, but turns up to family gatherings anyway and gets all handsy with girls a third his age. Someone I know spent a couple of hundred dollars on the last tour the Stones did to Sydney. Our conversation about this went something like: "who wants to see the Stones?" "But I'll see . . . Mick!" "no really, who wants to see the Stones?" etc.

But after watching this flick (apparently, the feature length precursor to the rock video) . . . I get it. Mick Jagger is a sex-on-a-stick, hypnotic, fallen angel. If only I'd gotten this memo earlier, I wouldn't have wasted this last decade trying to talk myself into thinking that appreciating The Beatles on some level was a necessary life goal.

Performance also the closest I've got to understanding why you'd ever cast a singer (not an actor) in a film role. Someone "acting" or inhabiting this role would have been all wrong. Jagger can actually act, and pulls off the small moments, but he also amps it up gloriously in a way that would be difficult to replicate in an actorly way. This role needed his id - but not in a way that's as simple a showcase as say, the Madonna film roles.

And as for what Performance is about, what it means . . . who the fuck knows. On a first viewing, it's all surface baby - I think I need viewings #2 and #3 before I seriously venture a theory. About as deep as I can get: it's clearly about the reflections we have each other: the costumes, the attitudes, the labels, the dressing up, the stripping down - with every possible angle explored. A complete headache of a film.

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