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Everything posted by Titus

  1. I'm not sure what I think of the entire album yet, but "Tin Angel" is sublime. A return to narrative songwriting that manages to retain much of his late-period epigrammatic style and apply it to a sturdy, cohesive lyric that holds together beautifully. It's a wonderful song. Dark and mysterious and beautiful, with his ragged and broken voice suiting the sound and the atmosphere perfectly.
  2. Glenn Heath Jr. swoons over the film in Slant. The Slant piece raises a question I've had myself -- is there really much point in trying to write a review of a film like this a couple hours after seeing it for the first time?
  3. Peter Bradshaw gives it a rave.
  4. For one example, look at the scene in which Ethan and Martin hear the Cavalry in the distance. They then discover that the Cavalry has just massacred an entire Comanche village, and among those who were killed is the good-natured woman Martin accidentally married. This is an immensely ugly and disturbing scene, and one which parallels the earlier massacre of the Edwards house. This isn't a movie about the whites heroically avenging the crimes of the Indians, it's about the destructive relationship between the two races in general.
  5. It's not that one has to see 30 or 40 other films to "determine a hit or miss," but that Ford's complexities run much deeper than is at first apparent, and the more one is exposed to his world the more one understands the beauty and artistry of his filmmaking. He's an enormously complex artist, and the more you understand his cumulative body of work the more you can appreciate how each individual picture fits within it. My feelings about this are pretty much identical to Darren's, it would seem (and, for what it's worth, I also think Ford is the greatest of all filmmakers). And this holds true with the individual films themselves, as well. I was somewhat underwhelmed upon seeing "The Searchers" for the first time. But after spending more time with it over the years and becoming better acquainted with the characters, it's myriad beauties become much clearer, and small moments that initially seemed rather unimportant (such as Ward Bond ignoring the embrace between Ethan and his brother's wife) suddenly became charged with meaning. Also, regarding "The Searchers," I just want to say that I think your views regarding the racial issues of the film ("whites=good/Indians=bad") are enormously misguided and miss much of the point of the movie. Consider how poorly the whites (especially Ethan Edwards) come off in the movie, as well as how both the whites and Indians are depicted as mirrors of each other (as are Ethan and Scar, individually). It's views on race and racism are much more complicated than you're giving them credit for.
  6. Titus

    Don't Look Now (1973)

    The link includes an update in which Sutherland denies both the rumor and Peter Bart's supposed presence during the shooting of the scene. And Roeg himself denied the rumor (somewhat forcefully, if I remember correctly) on the audio commentary of the UK DVD of the film.
  7. I don't think O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU was ever intended to be a "serious" film, but I can understand why you would find A SERIOUS MAN problematic. The humor in that film could be argued as intrusive in a film that is clearly trying to grapple with serious issues, but I think this is a basic philosophical underpinning of the Coens' work -- their injections of absurdity and humor is not used to produce relief in an otherwise somber film (ala Ford or someone like that), it's actually intertwined with the more serious qualities. Such as the scene in A SERIOUS MAN, for example, where Larry Gopnick seeks advice from the first rabbi. The rabbi is gone, so the junior rabbi, likely 15 years Gopnick's junior, attempts to give spiritual guidance to him, and the results are woefully (and hysterically) inadequate. The film is, at its most basic, about a man searching for answers to The Big Questions and being perpetually confounded -- the scene with the junior rabbi is a humorous microcosm of the entire film. You forgot the endless round of bullets in his Thompson or the farcical manner in which he guns down the car in the middle of the street. But this wasn't a mistake or over-direction -- it's part of the point of the film (and is what I meant when I suggested it "wears its artifice on its sleeve"). It's a self-conscious essay on the gangster genre and Dashiell Hammett's writing (Walter Chaw has a good piece on TRUE GRIT at Film Freak Central that briefly touches on this aspect of their work). I'm just saying that's not all that the film is about.
  8. Since you haven't seen TRUE GRIT, I'll leave the specifics aside. But in its most basic general form -- that the Coens populate their movies with outlandish caricatures and baroque speech patterns even in non-comedies, and the result is really discordant and all-over-the map tonally -- the complaint does seem to me rather self-evident. One might like that description or see something in it or overlook it, but the bare-bones description hardly seems disputable. The Coens frequently heighten the idiosyncracies and quirks of their characters for satiric or comedic purposes, but rarely deal in outright caricatures -- and when they do, it is generally with secondary characters (such as the classmates in A Serious Man that are prone to adolescent profanity). Their primary characters are almost uniformly complex, fully realized individuals. Take Tom Reagan in Miller's Crossing, for example. He's clearly an homage (or "caricature", if you prefer) of the type of cynical loner figure common in so many of the crime novels and films of the 30s and 40s, but the Coens are able to breathe life into him. The entire film is like this -- it may wear its artifice on its sleeve, but there's genuine human emotion roiling underneath the icy exterior. It's a juggling act that is remarkable to me. There's an entire side of the Coen Brothers that too often goes unnoticed as people fail to peak below the surface to see the heart in their films.
  9. If I may, I don't think that last word (and the idea in the whole clause) can ever be taken for granted with the Coens. Heh. Well, I must confess that I find the Coens' reputations as mere smart-asses, and their supposed inclinations towards condescension and smugness, to be greatly exaggerated -- and the accusations to be almost always poorly supported, as if the points are so self-evident that they don't require an actual argument or any evidence (this last point is not at all directed at you, however, it's just my general frustration at how frequently the Coens are shrugged off in some circles). But I haven't seen the new film yet, so have no opinion one way or the other on it specifically. What interested me about your comments, though, is that they seem so antithetical to nearly every other reaction to the film that I've come across -- most of which emphasize how straight the Coens play it (and, indeed, how old-fashioned the film feels) and how affectionate they are towards the characters.
  10. Indeed. In interviews they make nary a mention of the original, yet have spoken avidly about their enthusiasm for the novel and their intentions to try and do it justice. Matt Damon said that, when meeting the Coens for the first time regarding the film, the first thing they instructed him to do was read the book (rather than the screenplay). Fidelity to Portis' work seems to have been their primary concern, not to "demystify" the original or the classical Western in general (and given this is only the second time they have chosen to adapt a novel, their affection for the material would seem to be sincere). Have you read the book, vjmorton, and do you have similar objections to it?
  11. Glenn Kenny compares the Coens to Murnau at the end of his rave.
  12. The Wrong Man isn't part of this Universal set, it's part of the Signature Collection from Warner Bros. -- a studio whose library TCM has complete access of. But yes, the Universals have been played on TCM, they just aren't shown at all regularly. I don't have any problem with your personal dislike of Marnie, Nick. I probably shouldn't have even made reference to it in my initial post, given the off-hand manner in which you made the original comment and the off-topic nature that the discussion could lead. It just struck me as strange that Marnie, of all his films, would be the Hitchcock you chose to pick on. There seemed more obvious choices to me. But I certainly didn't mean to reprimand you for your dislike of it, so I apologize if that's the way it came off. Just one correction: Robin Wood isn't really a "smart person we've never heard of" -- he's a justly lauded film writer. I mentioned him because he's especially noted as an authority on Hitchcock (his book on Hitchcock is one of the definitive texts on the filmmaker) and his defense of Marnie is quite famous. If you aren't familiar with his writing, I strongly recommend it.
  13. TCM actually doesn't play many of these all that often, I assume because they don't own the Universal library and have to pay some sort of a licensing fee to play any of them. If you check TCM's website, you'll find that none of the 14 titles is currently scheduled to air (the schedule extends into February, I believe). The films in the Warner Bros. set, on the other hand, get played all the time. And it's off-topic, but surely you could've come up with a better title to take a cheapshot at than Marnie -- even if you were limiting yourself to this set (I'd nominate Family Plot). I think Marnie's quite good, actually. And the late, great Robin Wood (one of the strongest writers on Hitchcock) was a passionate supporter of it.
  14. Do the cuts that are on your cassettes sound different than the versions on Biograph? I've only ever heard two versions of "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" -- the (I believe) album outtake that's on Biograph, and a really beautiful, less jaunty and more low-key version he did for a Carnegie Hall concert in 1963. Perhaps your bootleg just used one of these versions? "Walls of Red Wing" has appeared on some bootlegs of the Witmarks before, but it turns out that the Witmark version doesn't actually exist (or doesn't circulate, anyway), and the version that was being included on Witmark releases was actually a concert recording with the audience noise erased. I don't know, just a thought -- there surely must be some reason they weren't included here. And too bad you're not picking up the mono set. I was looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Now I'm going to have to rely on my own judgment -- something I try and avoid whenever possible.
  15. Some of the exact same recordings from this set have been released officially already (such as "When the Ship Comes In" and "The Times They Are A-Changing," both at the end of the BS vol.1), so any omissions would be strange. Are you sure "Percy's Song" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" were recorded as Witmark Demos? I believe the versions released on Biograph were outtakes from The Times They Are A-Changin, and I've got an old bootleg of the Witmark Demos that doesn't include either of them. Edit to add: Have you gotten the mono set yet, Andy? If so, what are your thoughts on it vs. the extant stereo releases.
  16. There was an excerpt where he spends several pages unpacking "Blind Willie McTell" that surfaced online around the time it was released. I haven't read the book yet, but I've been meaning to check it out based on the strength of that excerpt and the generally great reviews it's been getting. You might let us know what you think of it, Christian, as you get a little further. Wilentz had a pretty funny interview on the Stephen Colbert show to plug the book, by the way, that included Colbert's analysis of that pretty wild video for "Must Be Santa" that came out last year. I'm sure it's online somewhere -- you might find it amusing, if only to get a better feel for the author.
  17. Titus

    The Simpsons Movie

    There was a very similar gag (done with a great deal more subtlety -- this one seems unbearably hamfisted and didactic to me) in the "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie" episode.
  18. I know this was directed at Jeffrey, but....I'm guilty on all counts here. Still, I sorta kinda agree with you regarding the trailer. The teaser trailer struck me as much more impressive, with the muted sound effects and the haunting children's choir giving it a very reflective and melancholy tone -- the full trailer seems to be marketing it as a more conventional revenge Action-Western. And while I agree with Jeffrey about how exciting the glimpses it gives us of Bridges and co. are, I think the Cash song is really hokey in this context.
  19. They've been around for 25 years now, and it'll be difficult for them to improve over the creative peak of the Miller's Crossing/Barton Fink back-to-back homerun in the early 90s, so if you've yet to warm to them than I imagine you just weren't meant for each other. But this dismissal strikes me as sort of strange, given that the Coens likely had no involvement in this trailer, and that trailers are always cut much more rapidly than the films themselves.
  20. Yeah, if they wanted a high-profile 60s era release, I would've preferred the Hollywood Bowl concert -- also pretty widely available, but the bootlegs I've heard are lousy quality, and the music is just mind-bogglingly good.
  21. There are other things I'd rather see be released via the bootleg series, but this is welcome all the same. There's some great material in there, including a few pretty major early songs that have never seen an official release ("Long Time Gone," "Long Ago Far Away," etc.) I'm actually more excited about this:
  22. The consensus at the Criterion forum is Broadcast News.
  23. Princess Mononoke is more explicit, but Spirited Away does have that scene with the "stink god" that turns out to be a river spirit who is "sick" due to human pollution. Plus, Haku's being the spirit of a river that has been destroyed and filled with apartments carries a certain environmental message with it. Practically every Miyazaki picture has an environmental element to it, but it's probably most pronounced in Nausicaa or Princess Mononoke. I'd go with one of them.
  24. Titus

    3 Women

    I had similar problems when I watched the film, but I would certainly recommend finishing it. It becomes increasingly seductive throughout the remainder of the picture, and there's a dream sequence near the end that would make David Lynch envious. The film has grown in my estimation over time, though I still can't say it is one of my favorite Altmans. Of his forays into these kinds of dreamscapes, I find Images to be considerably more impressive. I'm a little surprised that one continues to be ignored.
  25. Your observation's correct -- I certainly misunderstood your point. But I'm still not sure I agree with you (this is assuming I've managed to grasp it this time around). So you're suggesting that the way the Coens resolve the different threads of the narrative work against what they're trying to do thematically? As opposed to A SERIOUS MAN, in which they leave a number of the threads completely unresolved, resulting in a multifaceted web of ambiguity that magnifies that picture's myriad ideas and questions? Provided that this is what you're objecting to (and please, correct me if I'm still failing to follow your point), I'd argue that these differences between THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE and the more recent film are simply the result of different subjects. That is, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE strikes me as a much more insular film than A SERIOUS MAN. To be rather reductive about the whole thing, I would say THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE is about Ed Crane while A SERIOUS MAN is about the world around Larry Gopnick (and how he responds to it). And so while the open-ended plot elements are integral to A SERIOUS MAN, they serve a different, more conventional purpose in this film. Ed Crane ("modern man") is the mystery of this film moreso than the world itself, the way I see it. The external narrative exists mostly to throw different shades of light onto him.
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