So, why come back here at all? Well, I actually pay for this online space, I have some history here to keep up (and communities/people I still check in on), and I miss the format a bit. And it's still the default place listed for me (and Gemini CollisionWorks) as an online home in a number of other onine locales.
As I think I noted over a year ago, gradually, as much as I loved this place once, the formats of Facebook & Twitter became more useful to me and my online life -- good for both promoting my own work to a specific audience that noted an interest in it and sharing the links, images, thoughts, and other items/ideas I had collected/collated on the Internet and in Real Life. They work better on a day to day basis, and I haven't had the need or the time for the longer thoughts I used to put down here (I'm actually writing more, that is, being a playwright that needs more time to just sit with a notebook and music and think -- if I sit with a computer I waste time with other pursuits...). So my LiveJournal time has become Playwriting Time, for the most part.
But. I do spend time in some of my online locales writing things, short or long, about what I'm seeing or experiencing, so if the text is there, why not put it here where people who might not see it on Facebook, or Twitter, or Flickr, or MUBI, or Letterboxd, can possibly run into it?
So on a weekly (or more frequent) basis, I'll be collecting the items I post to various social media and putting them here as well. I'm starting out this month with the little reactions I've been posting to Letterboxed.com this past month.
I decided, as long as I was recording my regular film watching to Letterboxd as a kind of journal, I would at least write a sentence, something, about my reaction to the films. Not a review, but my immediate thoughts - not so much for other people, but as a memory journal for me to go back to, maybe of some interest to others (as I become a middle-aged artist, aware of how comparatively little time I may have left, I'm more selfish in judging everything I deal with on the basis of "What can I get out of it that will feed me and my work creatively - if not as a direct influence, then as art-soul nourishment?"). So since I've written 69 reactions to 69 movies I watched in January (a big number; I spent a week in Maine doing little more than watching Turner Classic Movies), I'll port them over here, a few every day, until I'm caught up to date. Then I'll probably dump them all here once a week. And I'll try to bring back my weekly Random 10 from my iPod as well, with more commentary on the music, as I used to do.
So to start, here's some reactions to first movies I watched this year, as you can also find on my Letterboxd account...
Speed Racer (2008) directed by The Wachowskis
First movie of the new year (started watching at 10.30 pm on the 31st), and with that, the first movie I'll add a small "review" of -- a resolution for 2014, to say something, even a short sentence, about everything I watch and log here.
I asked Berit, my wife & partner, what we should watch, this or The Magnificent Ambersons, and she just started laughing. When I asked why, she said that the combo of unlikely films was some kind of perfect summary of me (and when I said that still didn't answer my question, she laughed harder and picked this film). I do love this film, and probably only dock it a half-star from a perfect score due to some lingering prejudice about its "kid film" qualities (which it is, sure, but so is Star Wars and they should be, and are fine for all that).
The color and the movement and the Brakhage-ness of it all, in the service of a fun, somewhat-subversive story just bowls me over every time. It is in the tradition of (and feels almost a summary of) an entire lineage of storytelling-through-color-and design that I love, but adds a visceral punch in the editing that so many gorgeously art-directed films lack. I want to go from this to rewatching One from the Heart and The Boyfriend and The Tales of Hoffmann and so on and so forth. No, in more sober moments, I wouldn't want all films to be as artificial and designed as those, but while watching them I feel quite differently.
And any film that metaphorically deal with the position of the artist in capitalist society (centrally or indirectly) are probably going to have an in with me, whether it's this one or, well, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (which are similar in more than a few ways, now that I think of it). Four and a half Stars
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) directed by Aditya Chopra
Trying over the past year or more to stick my toe into the vast sea of Indian Cinema. Never knew where to start -- well, except maybe with Satyajit Ray, some of whose works I tried about 25 years ago and didn't get into. Turns out that I like a lot of his later, less famous works (The Chess Players; The Middleman; etc.) more than the earlier, more acclaimed ones.
But as for "Bollywood?" Didn't know how to start or where to go until put onto a few films by Mark Cousins's Story of Film, and from the films and actors he talks up there to others. Eventually, I just basically added to my Netflix & Hulu streaming anything that had high ratings or in the case of Netflix had many interesting and positive reviews from people who seemed to know their Indian Cinema.
I've been going chronologically through film from 1946 onward for over a year, filling in mainly the gaps in international cinema in my education, but occasionally things being removed from streaming forces some jumps, so while I'm mostly back in 1987 now, I'm leaping to 1995 and onward as a lot of Indian film will vanish from Netflix by Sunday. Tonight, made it to this highly-regarded film that didn't impress me at first as much as its incredible reputation suggested it should. With my tastes, yes, I like action and other genre pictures a lot more than romance generally, but I can appreciate a good love story. Still, for most of this one, while I liked the locations in London and Switzerland, and the music was great (especially the opening number), the acting charming, and the shooting excellent, it didn't seem very special to me.
But when, after the intermission, the story moves to India, it really takes off. Still not a favorite of mine, but the last section of the film does seriously jump in quality - there's two especially beautiful musical numbers, and as the stakes rise in the drama, the actors really get to shine. After some of the other Indian films I've watched, I still don't completely get the fervor this one has inspired, but it's not as disappointing as it started out to be. Three Stars
Boarding Gate (2007) directed by Olivier Assayas
Nice bits here and there, some good plot ideas, but not terribly interesting. Well-acted (I even liked the slightly-wooden-but-not-inappropriately-
Mohabbatein (2000) directed by Aditya Chopra
Oh, there we go. Very much liked this one, preferred it quite a bit to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge -- it seems, and from the little I read about it, that it was a bit of an attempt by Aditya Chopra to recapture some of the magic of that much-loved film. I know it wasn't anywhere as popular as that film, but for me this one succeeds the whole way through while Diwale only worked in fits and starts. The large and talented ensemble cast really sells it and makes you care about all the love stories going on (only the older comic-relief couple seems short-changed and shoehorned in because there HAS to be some comic relief).
Amitabh Bachchan, as usual, is mesmerizing, helped here by an almost campy-running-gag series of dramatic entrances (I think there are about five parties or musical numbers broken up by sudden whip-pans to his disapproving form). Shahrukh Khan has matured a lot since Diwale, and can actually face off convincingly against Bachchan. We also get a crowd-pleasing reprise of Amrish Puri's amazing bug-eyed death glare from Diwale, now done three times in one scene, each with a dramatic dolly-in. Beautiful.
The long running time has been criticized (even in the Indian press, where I would think 3+ hour-long films would have more acceptance), but unlike some Bollywood work I've seen I was never bored a moment by this film, waiting for the next musical number or set piece. Chopra's improved as a director since Diwale (though he's still a bit repetitive in his staging), and the cast is talented top-to-bottom, as well as being, both men and women, really easy on the eyes -- as is usual, though I must note here the camera REALLY points up the physical attributes of the women as I haven't noticed before in Indian film (I was quietly sighing, "Oh, my" in surprise just about every time one of the women reappeared in a new, even more revealing costume).
As with most Bollywood films I watch -- even more so, in fact -- this has given me more actors whose filmographies I now need to get through. It's vanishing from Netflix Instant shortly, but if it returns or you find it anywhere else, it's well worth the 3 hours and 36 minute investment. Four Stars
The Thin Blue Line (1988) directed by Errol Morris
Rewatch as I pass through 1988 in my chronological viewing/reviewing of film. I've seen this too many times, I guess, and don't seem to have much more to get out of it. I thought it would still be interesting despite the many viewings and knowing everything about it by now, but no. I just know it too well/ I can recognize how great a film it is still, but it doesn't have the same hypnotic power it did for many years. I'd almost dock it a star, a star and a half for how I feel now, but I can remember what it was like to see this for the first time, and it deserves its rating for the power it once had over me. Four and a half Stars
Dhoom (2004) directed by Sanjay Gadhvi
Nice action picture, with great music, and some especially cool moments and performances, but, except for some lovely 3-way split-screen sequences, nothing all that special. Nothing wrong with it, just didn't stand out much. Also a little horrified to finally hear auto-tune make its way into Bollywood vocals, normally a haven for beautiful, true voices. Three Stars
...more to come soon, I guess and hope...