Tag Archives: classic movies

Vote For The Next Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

Amazon has a poll to vote for the next Criterion Collection title to be published in Blu-ray format. The choices are fairly obscure, and I’ve only seen two of them: Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law and the 1965 Japanese film Kwaidan.

Of the two, I found Kwaidan to be more memorable. It contains four ghost stories set in old Japan, filmed with painterly cinematography. I had always assumed they were classic Japanese tales, but I have just read that they were in fact “adapted from the fiction of Greek-born Lafcadio Hearn (a.k.a. Yakumo Koizumi, 1850-1904), who assimilated into Japanese culture so thoroughly that his writings reveal no evidence of Western influence.” There are scenes here that I think may have directly influenced Tarantino’s Kill Bill.1 If you are expecting The Grudge, I think you will be thrilled. Unless you (inexplicably) liked The Grudge.

  1. I’m thinking of the showdown with O-Ren Ishii in the snowy garden. []

It’s Obvious, Episode 3: Casablanca for Dummies

Yes, it’s high time to discuss that most-kept of secrets. There’s more in Casablanca that meets the eye. This is another chapter in the series of “It’s Obvious…” film articles that started with the following entries:

Episode 1. It’s Obvious, Narnia

Episode 2. It’s Obvious, 2001

In this entry, I will discuss the high possibility that the main character in that most respected of film classics, Casablanca, was quite gay. Yes you heard it right. The character played by that most admired of macho actors, Humphrey Bogart, was as gay as Hollywood could dare to write in the high-suspicion environment of post-World-War-II America. I personally am just “shocked, shocked” that this revelation was not caught, expounded, denounced or cherished in such outre documentaries like “Out of the Closet Hollywood.” Oh well, perhaps they can add a small segment to the DVD release and credit me, bladerunner at CrackTeam.org, for this insight.

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Data Mining in Films

Sometimes, a plot theme is explored in several films.

One such theme is “data mining,” for want of a better term.

To satisfy his personal curiosity, the protagonist deeply explores a previously gathered record of an event using his professional techniques, and makes an important discovery. Watching the professional protagonist going about his task for personal reasons is quite interesting.

“Blowup” (1966): Photography. He blows up photographs and explores details in the background.

“The Conversation” (1974) Audio. He uses various audiotape editing techniques.

“Blow Out” (1981) Both photography and audio. He synchronizes a sequence of magazine photographs with his own audio.

Paul Schrader’s Recurring Characteristics of Film Noir

Great Noir poses the question: Why me? Why is this happening to me? And the answer is for no reason, for no reason at all. Noir concerned with error and confusion.
-Errol Morris

These are notes I took during Cinema History class some years ago. I hadn’t seen them written quite so clearly on the Internet (I probably didn’t look hard enough), so I am doing so. Thanks to both gentlemen for their contributions (any mistakes are mine, not theirs).

Schrader’s Recurring Characteristics of Film Noir

  • The majority of scenes are lit for night.
  • Oblique and vertical lines are preferred to horizontal.
  • The actors and setting are often given equal lighting emphasis. This devalues the characters’ humanity.
  • Compositional is preferred to physical action.
    • Performance intensity
    • Crowded characters
  • Much use of reflective surfaces (water, mirrors, windows).
    • Goes back to German Expressionism
    • Introspection of characters
  • Voice-over narration is often used. It is frequently needed by the audience to understand the plot.
  • Complex chronological order reinforces a sense of hopelessness and lost time.

Here is the addenda provided by my professor, Robin Matthews:

Matthew’s Recurring Characteristics of Film Noir

  • Rain
    • Adds a somber tone
    • Creates reflective surfaces
  • Neon lights
    • Indicate an urban environment
    • Give off little light
  • Dimly lit nightclubs: provide a place to plan crimes
  • Winding roads: relate to dreams, as unsolved
  • Characters with physical handicaps, or “grotesques” (E.g., Nicholson’s bandaged nose in Chinatown transforms him into a clown.)
  • Sadists (E.g., Night of the Hunter)
  • Double- and triple-crosses
    • Can’t trust anyone
    • Femme fatales
    • E.g., Body Heat
  • “Cosmic” irrationality
    • Good and bad are not that far apart
    • Happy endings are rare
    • Example 1: French Connection‘s Popeye Doyle endangering innocent lives during a car chase
    • Example 2: DOA
  • Dream sequences

The Conversation, The Series

Coppola and company will be turning The Conversation into a television series. It will pick up where the movie left off, so put that into your Netflix queue. From Variety:

Producer Tony Krantz (“24″) is teaming with scribes Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and Erik Jendresen (“Band of Brothers”) to turn Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” into a weekly series for ABC.

This is great news for team members of The Crack Team, which made this an official CT Classic Movie long ago. I think this is a great crew to make it happen, judging by their body of work (although I didn’t watch Band of Brothers). I’m just curious who will star. Hackman is 76, so that might be a bit of a stretch. But we’d need a gruff, everyman for the part. Any suggestions?

Forbidden Planet: Spoiler-Free Review

Robby the Robot and Anne Francis.jpgI just saw this SciFi classic last night, as part of a double feature with The Day the Earth Stood Still. Experts were on hand to provide more information (including, unfortunately, spoilers). I had never seen it before, but now agree it definitely deserves it’s status as classic SciFi. It was a big budget film back in ’56 ($1.2M), so the sets look great, esp. on that Technicolor film.

Even better looking is Altaira, played by Anne Francis . The 50’s were a great time for objectifying women, and Anne Francis was definitely worth the effort. She runs around the entire movie in ultra-flimsy micro-miniskirts and bare feet, pretty much just like the photo (although her hair is much blonder int the film). In fact, according to Wikipedia, she helped launch the miniskirt craze. It’s no stretch that Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew (all male, average age 24.6) are comically falling for Anne’s naive character. Nielsen, who’s almost unrecognizable to someone who knows him from his Naked Gun films created 30+ years later, does a good job, although we heard he wanted to play it cooler but the producers were against it.

And, of course, there’s the iconic Robby the Robot. Robby was built for Forbidden Planet, but has made many appearances in film, TV, and commercials since then. He also has the best line in the film, delivered when Altaira complains he took too long to arrive when she called him:

Sorry miss, I was giving myself an oil job.

“It’s Obvious” Episode 2: 2001 for Dummies

This is beyond any doubt, the greatest movie ever made. If we pitiful hominids are to leave something of value behind us to demonstrate our collective genius (after the Solar System explodes), a copy of this movie would qualify. It was made in 1968 and has not aged a day. You could view it today and its vision of Mankind’s future in space and beyond would stand up to scrutiny.

The spoilers will follow; if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch the DVD until you can get to the Cinerama Dome for a big-screen showing (they have them every other year). And don’t forget to sit in the very front row, center seat at the theatre; you’ll be immersed in a psychedelic journey beyond your wildest CGI-addled dreams.

PS. When I talk about the Monolith I am referring to that big, black, rectangular piece of ebony artwork that makes an appearance throughout the film. And yes, I’ve seen the Monolith written with a capital “M” for reasons that will appear in the review that follows.l
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