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Everything posted by Nathaniel

  1. Deliverance. Just kidding... or am I? On further reflection, I think we should scrap the idea of gay-themed list. The finished project will please no one, and could potentially drive a wedge between members of this otherwise congenial group. As someone who is fairly liberal when it comes to film, yet conservative when it comes to moral values, I imagine it would be hard to come up with such a list on my own, let alone participate in a collective.
  2. Ever heard of subtext? I think Rushmore's idea is an interesting one, although such a list would take a courageous effort on the part of the members of this board. I'm skeptical that it can be done with integrity, but the end result might prove instructive. The way I see it, the genre lends itself unusually well to creative interpretation. You've got examples of narratives taken directly from Scripture (Lot in Sodom, John Huston's The Bible), heretical yet religiously informed parables (Pasolini's Teorema and "Trilogy of Life"), bromances (Midnight Cowboy, the films of John Cassavetes), sympathetic yet doomed portrayals of Sapphic desire (The Children's Hour), queerly inflected fantasies (Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Fellini Satyricon), character studies buried in subtext (the dummy segment in Dead of Night, Billy Budd, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), depictions both serious (The Conformist, Visconti's The Damned) and playful (Some Like It Hot, La Cage aux Folles), plus the trance films of the postwar avant-gardists (Anger, Harrington, Markopoulos, etc.). And that's only counting films up to the early 1970s!
  3. Nathaniel

    Crimson Peak

    It's just as I feared: handsomely produced, but cavernously empty.
  4. On further reflection, that theory might be too nerdy. Probably has something to do with the Red Scare or the rise of TV or something.
  5. Either way, it's win-win! Looking at the trailer again, the Coens seem to be delivering a satire not only of biblical epics, but MGM-style musicals (with Channing Tatum as a singing sailor and Scarlet Johansson as an Esther Williams type), WWII movies, and of course, film noir/crime flicks which inform the kidnapping plot. The real teaser, though, is the identity of "The Future," the mysterious kidnapping group. Given that the Coens are avid film history geeks, and knowing that the movie is set in the '50s, I'd guess that the kidnappers are symbolically tied to the decline of the American studio system in some way. Maybe they are independent talent agents liberating studio contract players from their 7-year contracts. If that's the case, then the film could become a bittersweet ode to the passing of the despotic yet beloved dream factory (the "Caesar" of the title).
  6. The Coen bros have been critiquing Hollywood implicitly starting with Blood Simple, but this has to be the most explicit one since Barton Fink. And it looks like they're having a ball.
  7. Cohen Media recently acquired five Pialat titles for their collection. All of them are currently playing at the Laemmle Royal for a week. I saw two of them on Saturday, Van Gogh and Under the Sun of Satan, both looking rather gorgeous in crisp DCPs. I hope this means a DVD/Blu-ray release is in the works. Under the Sun of Satan was a repeat viewing for me; the first was a VHS copy which didn't really do justice to Pialat's subdued palette. And it's just a stunning piece of work, worthy of its own thread. In fact, maybe I should start one!
  8. I doubt my telepathic powers are as honed as Jeffrey's, but just in case Criterion is picking up vibes from this board, let me try my hand at a wish list: Von Stroheim's Greed Bresson's A Gentle Woman Losey's The Go-Between Hopper's The Last Movie Skolimowski's The Shout These great films all have one thing in common: they've never been on DVD in this country. Greed is so monumental a masterwork that I wonder if copyright issues are involved.
  9. Good call, John Drew. Anguish has been on my radar for years, but I've never made the commitment. It sounds like the perfect film to watch at the New Beverly. Just thought of another one: Blue Sunshine, in which a group of Berkeley grads experience a delayed reaction to a special batch of LSD cooked up and consumed ten years ago. The result: hair loss, followed by inexorable homicidal urges. I watched it a couple months ago, and found it inventive and humane. "Humane" was the component that took me by surprise.
  10. Ryan recently got me thinking about "underappreciated" horror and what that means. Where do you turn when you've sampled such delicacies as Vampyr and Eyes without a Face and The Innocents; when you've checked all the boxes in the Universal catalog; when you've done your homework on Hammer, ambled through Amicus, careened through Corman and dipped a toe into Eurotrash (and finding the water too chilly, moved on)? I started making a list from memory of recommendations that might make good October viewing. Such as the Russian horror-fantasy Viy (1967) lifted from Gogol. The last ten minutes, in which all hell literally breaks loose, are sublimely strange. I also thought of Gary Sherman's Raw Meat, the gruesome yet oddly sympathetic tale of subterranean cannibals living in the abandoned Tube tunnels of London. Or the haunting, impressionistic hippie vampire (maybe?) tone poem Let's Scare Jessica to Death, which resembles a Stephen King adaptation directed by John Cassavetes. There is also Deathdream, Bob Clark's grisly variation on "The Monkey's Paw," and Dick Richards's child's-eye serial killer pic Death Valley. I don't hear a lot of people talking about The Car (1977), which out outdoes Christine in vehicular deviltry, or Bernard Rose's Paperhouse, which plays like a more sensitive version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I know I'd recommend the 1983 horror anthology Nightmares for the giant rat segment alone. Or Dan Curtis's Dead of Night for the "Bobby" segment alone. If anyone has any recommendations in this vein, now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party!
  11. Now that Shyamalan has been supplanted by a new generation of horrorists, he's looking ever the classicist. There's even something quaint and old fashioned about the very idea of a "surprise ending." But he's usually adept at building atmosphere and maintaining pressure, and that's all you can reasonably ask for from a B-movie. In a way, he's never fully recovered from the success of his overrated breakout feature, The Sixth Sense. With Devil and now this, modesty has been his strong suit.
  12. Shyamalan is on to something here. He's touching primal emotions about the terrors of growing old; a fear of the elderly and also a fear of being elderly that's definitely exploitative but also weirdly true. If he had dialed up the compassion a little more, he could have ended up with a near masterpiece on the order of Larry Yust's Homebodies. But the crudeness of the genre he's working in demands a more vulgar denouement. It's still pretty enjoyable, probably the best horror flick since It Follows.
  13. If I read one more intelligent takedown of this fascinatingly conceived, bunglingly executed movie, I may be forced to take a strong contrarian position, if only as an intellectual exercise. I can't defend it as art, but it's lot more complex than people are giving it credit for. There are extratextual forces at work here which make it unique among recent evangelical movies. Can anyone point me to a review as well rounded as Brody's exegesis of War Room?
  14. Actually, my wife was the one who pointed this out. Women are generally more observant about these things. Darren, is the wig a direct reference to Ona Munson in The Shanghai Gesture?
  15. Also, I haven't read a single review--not one--that makes the simple yet salient observation that Ashley Shelton wears a false hairpiece throughout the entire film. Or is everyone just too polite to point this out?
  16. Caught this last night. Glad I did. I think it's an earnest attempt to capture the texture of a spiritual crisis, although having recently seen Hadewijch, I don't think it holds up to Dumont's epic of the soul, which is tougher and makes fewer compromises. Where it succeeds, fitfully, is as an unconventional romance. Simply put, it's about a woman who suddenly finds herself alienated from her husband and inexplicably attracted to another man. What attracts her to this man is neither good looks nor material success, but spiritual devotion, which quickly proves contagious. Whether he represents a romantic alternative to her selfish husband or a "divine appointment" on her way to Christian transcendence the film doesn't say. But this coyness tends to work in the film's favor, honoring the mystery suggested by the Rossetti poem which opens the film. Between this, Museum Hours, and This Is Martin Bonner, I see an encouraging sub-genre developing: minimalist micro-indies made by seekers for seekers. In every film, the camera hardly moves, the writing focuses on the tentative unfolding of new friendship, and the acting inclines to a relaxed, naturalistic clarté. In terms of technique, Cohen's film is easily the most sophisticated of the three, but each has its merits.
  17. I met K & S and did table interview (2 or 3 reporters 3 or 4 cast/crew) at set visit for Do You Believe? If anything, they reminded me of quite a few people here--trying mightily to be charitable in the face of intense criticism, but bearing the psychological scars of a *lot* of pot shots. (Some legitimate, others a tad too gleeful for my taste.) I'm not a fan of either film (and have written about both, so I won't rehearse those arguments here), but I do find the personal nature of the constant mocking jibes of them to be wearisome. I didn't like the movie they wrote, but if I had to choose, I think I'd rather share a meal with either or both of them than half the people who excoriate them. FWIW, I sat directly behind these two gents during a Christian film festival last Sunday. They were presenting the prize for screenwriting (of course), and came across as professional and gracious in the midst of what proved to be a terribly amateurish and embarrassing awards gala. I really need to write an article on these guys. I suspect there's a lot more to them than their Pure Flix resume suggests.
  18. Just putting this here. A theologian I admire, Peter J. Leithart, wrote a brief piece called "Why Evangelical Films Fail," which recaps some of the points some of us have been making for years.
  19. Nathaniel

    War Room

    One of my mentors, John Mark Reynolds, whose grammar is as uneven as his mind is fertile, contributes a bare knuckled response:
  20. Oh, I've never liked green tea. But when SDG called it "the greatest stuff on earth" and went public about quitting it for Lent, it moved me to action. Rather than send him a PM, I thought I'd post publicly so that others could receive the benefit of his wisdom.
  21. No, this isn't a thread about J. Sheridan Le Fanu's masterly short story, "Green Tea," about a man haunted by the imp of suicide in the form of a demonic monkey. This is about the hot beverage popular in China and consumed on a regular basis by Steven D. Greydanus, to whom I now reach out. I've heard a lot about the glories of traditional Sen-cha, so I recently decided to buy a bag and try it for myself. So far, my efforts to brew a delicious cup have failed spectacularly. Instead of that rich green stuff I glimpse in pictures, I get a thin, virtually flavorless, colorless liquid, unworthy of a selfie. What am I doing wrong? Is the boiled water too hot or too tepid? Am I steeping for too long or not long enough? Should I use a tea ball or just let the leaves soak and strain afterward? I need answers, and so I turn to the master. Won't you help me, SDG?
  22. Ooh boy. That's going to be tempting reading for me. Williams is one of the most fascinating Christian artists of the twentieth century, but I'm almost afraid to delve too deeply into his personal life for fear of what I'll find there. There is a scholarly study of his relationship with the occult by Gavin Ashenden, as well as two volumes of letters which explore the darker side of his romantic life. I've avoided both so far. Maybe this biography will be a good general introduction.
  23. In his excellent summary of Philip and Carol Zaleski's new book, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, there are several good paragraphs on Barfield's work and beliefs:
  24. The final scene from City Lights. The Coney Island scenes from The Little Fugitive. The children's field trip in The 400 Blows. The traffic jam in Fellini's Roma. The soliloquy about Los Angeles in Demy's The Model Shop.
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