Friday, December 28, 2012

Frances Bean Cobain

Death Rides A Horse Up In The Air

Death Rides A Horse, starring Lee van Cleef, directed by Giulio Petroni.

It's not a bad film. The director is no Sergio Leone, but who is? And it's got one of Ennio Morriccone's  catchiest scores. I got one problem with the Spaghetti Westerns, it's the men working for the bad guy, who are there basically to laugh evilly when the boss says something or when the good guy is being tortured or something. Did those people really exist? I'm not sure if I've ever met anyone who laughs evilly.

Up In The Air, starring George Clooney, directed by Jason Reitman.

The film has all the signs of being a quality film, the type of film that wins all kinds of awards, so why do I watch it without feeling any connection to the story? For one thing, I don't believe in George Clooney's character, which makes it hard to believe in the film. He's more of a construction than a real person. His job is to fly across America to fire people, okay, but he also has a lecture tour where the message is, think only of yourself, and he has an apartment that looks exactly like a hotel room. Hmm, I wonder if he will learn a lesson during the film? There's a scene where Clooney has to talk his future brother in law, who on the wedding day suddenly gets cold feet, into marrying his sister. It's such a silly clichĂ© scene in a film that tries to be more serious, and the only reason it's there is because Clooney then has to question his own lifestyle. And there's of course a moment towards the end during his lecture tour where he suddenly stops his old speech, realizing he doesn't belive in it anymore. There's not a single surprise in the film, everything is set up for a later pay off. I guessed the final image of the film because it's given in a piece of dialogue earlier. (I also guessed Clooney would himself be fired at the end, something that didn't happen, so I actually don't know everything.) The film is too perfectly put together, like a mathematic formula, and life is not really like that; it's messy. Compare it to one of those rambling 70s films, like Five Easy Pieces – also about a man who questions himself - and where the characters seem like real people and you're never quite sure where the story will go.

Monday, December 24, 2012

There's more to life

...than books, you know, but not much more. I'm on page 483 of A Light That Never Goes Out, Tony Fletcher's The Smiths biography.

Top 5 The Smiths songs:

1. This Charming Man
2. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
3. Half A Person
4. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
5. Girlfriend In A Coma

Monday, December 17, 2012

Two For The Seesaw

Robert Mitchum is a midwestern lawyer and Shirley MacLane a beatnik dancer who meet in New York. Directed by Robert Wise

The film is based on a play and has kept the talky tone. Unfortunately, the conversations are never that funny or interesting. Mitchum and MacLaine seem mismatched - even though they ended up having an affair - and the whole will they hook up or split up part of the film gets a bit tiresome. It's not fair, but it's hard not to compare it to the superior The Apartment. Looks great in widescreen black and white, though.

Friday, December 14, 2012

X-men: First Class

It's X-men in the swinging 60s. Or it's supposed to be. The recreation of the timeperiod is not that convincing, really. Why do I keep watching these films? I don't know. The film is not as bad as X-men 3, on the same level as the first one, but not even close to the second one. The scenes with Michael Fassbender are very good, the rest of the young mutants and the villains are pretty boring, with no personality, and their powers looking quite awkward or silly on the screen - with the possible exception of Beast. The ending is a bunch of CGI overload. There is nothing in the film as fun or exciting as the attack on the president or the big fight between Wolverine and that clawlady from X-men 2.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Midnight Run

Bounty hunter Robert DeNiro has to get mob accountant Charles Grodin from New York to Los Angeles while being chased by the mafia, FBI and a rival bounty hunter. Directed by Martin Brest.

Once in a while Hollywood gets it right, and you can almost forgive all the crap they make. DeNiro and Grodin have great chemistry, the script is pretty much flawless, and all the pieces fall perfectly in place at the end of the film, including the bit about DeNiro's watch. The scene where Grodin impersonates an FBI agent is very funny, the scene where DeNiro meets his daughter is actually quite touching, and Brest films the whole thing as if MTV never happened.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Steve Martin on TV

There's a collection out of Steve Martin's tv specials and appearances. I have his stand up cd's, but his comedy is very visual, so something is definitely lost with only the sound. There are two stand up acts on the dvd. The best one is on a small stage and is Martin at his most hilarious. There's another one, from the end of his stand up career, where he's in front of thousands, and he has to do everything bigger, and it's a bit less fun. Plus it repeats some bits from the earlier show.

There are also some sketch shows, that are more uneven in quality. Some of it has dated quite a bit, including song and dance numbers in corny variety show style. Included is also new interviews where he talks about his career in comedy. After his later, more safe and bland films, it's good to have this collection to remember how brilliant he can be. And that is why we have to protect the ozon layer!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mammoth

Another encyclopedia illustration, mid 90s, mix of water colours and acrylics

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Captain America

I found a used copy of Captain America, so I figured, yeah, sure, why not. I realize that some CGI is necessary for a film like this, but I find they rely on it far too much, giving the film an ugly, unreal look. In comparison, Tarantino's WW2 film looked much better. The first hour is pretty good, though, up to and including the rescue mission of the captured soldiers - the actors all do a great job. Then it seems like the film makers aren't quite sure what to do next, besides building up to Captain America being stuck under the ice. Less mindless action sequences, and more character stuff between the Cap and the girl would have been nice. They could have had more fun with the Red Skull character. Still - better than Thor.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Spanish Prisoner

Campbell Scott has invented some sort of process that is worth a lot of money, and a lot of people want to get it. Also starring Steve Martin and Ben Gazzara, written and directed by David Mamet.

Who can you trust? No one. I think it's a better film than Heist. For a long part you're not quite sure where the story is going. Then unfortunately it stumbles at the end. One twist too many. I think a darker, less happy ending would have been more satisfying - at least for us pessimists. I put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains.

Top five Mamet films:

1. House of Games
2. The Spanish Prisoner
3. Glengarry Glenn Ross
4. Heist
5. Homicide

Friday, November 23, 2012

Return of Cigarette

War of the Worlds

Tom Cruise plays a regular working class guy, something that is a bit hard to believe in when it comes to Tom Cruise. But the film has a 70s rawness and grittiness to it that works quite well. The film shows both Spielberg's strenghts and weaknesses. The attack of the alien tripods is actually quite scary, and there are some really haunting images - the dead bodies in the river, the runaway train on fire. But it's a Spielberg film so of course you can't get away from his usual sentimental touch: Will there be a phony Sophie's Choice moment where Cruise has to choose between his two kids? Will there be a tearful reunion at the end? Will the whole experience bring Cruise's family closer together? Yes, yes, yes, it will. Too bad. But the first hour is terrific.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some books I've read 8

Raymond Chandler: A Life by Tom Williams
Well written, even though I'm not sure it brings that much new compared to the previous Chandler biographies. But it's always interesting to see how much a writer puts of himself into his literary character. Hergé said "Tintin, that's me." and Raymond Chandler is Philip Marlowe, or who he wanted to be.

That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan
An interesting book, and probably as close to the truth we're going to get about the famous boxing fight between him and Ernest Hemingway. At least truer than Hemingway's version, in a letter to Maxwell Perkins, claiming he was so drunk he could hardly see.

The Name of The World by Denis Johnson
Great novel, and very different from the Denis Johnson of  Jesus' Son and Angels.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster.
Good but uneven memoir. Not the masterpiece that The Invention of Solitude was - though I should reread that book. Auster making a list of all the apartments and houses he's lived in is fine, but did we need two pages of his wife's board meeting reports?

Rendezvous in Black by Cornell Woolrich
Pretty good noir novel. Some of his books can be a bit hard to get through - they're more about the plot than about the characters, but this is a well written book, full of plotholes though it may be.

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
I already got two biographies of Leonard Cohen, but I think this is the best one. Lots of stuff I didn't know, like him doing concerts at mental hospitals - a bit like Johnny Cash did in prisons. And the crazy story about his manager stealing all his money, that also includes a parrot saying " I see dead people." Yes. And it made me want to listen to the cds he did after I'm Your Man, that so far I've just skipped.

Came The Dawn by Wallace Wood
I planned to start buying the EC books from Fantagraphics, but based on this book I might... not. All the stories are seven pages, so okay, some narration is necessary, but they're just totally overwritten, stating things already shown in the drawings. The plots and twist endings are mostly pretty silly or dated. I can enjoy Wood's art as illustrations - they're gorgeous - but for me personally it works less as comics. And Wood was one of those cartoonists that had to fill every inch of every panel. Let the page breathe a bit! What's wrong with some open space?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Old strip, no title

-Hey?! What are you doing?!
-Dirtying the bed, huh?! Get out!
-Poor l'il doggie...