Tuesday, April 30, 2013
What's the rumpus? It's still the Coen brothers' best film. It might be fairly low budget, but it looks great. It has both the small moments and the big setpieces, and a beautifully constructed script that is endlessly quotable. I was just speculatin' about a hypothesis. But was it even nominated for an Oscar? Nuts! Shame on the Academy. Look into your heart. Eddie Dane is a great bad guy and Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar is strangely sympathetic, almost running off with the film. Always put one in the brain. Re-watching it, you notice small details, like the number of times Verna says "heart". A masterpiece, but if I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon.
Monday, April 29, 2013
It's a bit hard to get past Marlon Brando's attempt at a British accent, and he's an odd choice for the part. Okay, there is some brooding involved in the Fletcher Christian role, but he never really gets to do much Marlon Brandoing. Maybe he just didn't care at this point. It's a shame that the film version of On The Road never happened, with Brando as Neal Cassady and Montgomery Clift in the Jack Kerouac part. Even censored, it could have been interesting.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The filmmakers have obviously done their research. Things look pretty authentic. The vikings don't have horns on their helmets. The film was shot in the fjords of Norway. But there's also a corny love triangle between Douglas, Curtis and Leigh, and the vikings speak English. Kirk Douglas makes a pretty good viking, even without a beard, and of course, Ernest Borgnine was born to play a viking. The last half hour is really impressive, with the attack on the English castle and the final fight between Douglas and Curtis, looking like a blockbuster before there were blockbusters.
Oh, and sorry about all the plundering, by the way.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
This is one of those Westerns where the Indians are just a faceless horde to be shot down, with no background for why they attack. At one moment a passenger on the stagecoach, with one bullett left in his gun, directs it at the head of a female passenger, the idea being that death is better for her than to be captured by Indians. Only at the end of his career, with Cheyenne Autumn, did Ford try to see the situation from the Indians' point of view.
Anyway... this was the breakthrough film for John Wayne, but his persona isn't quite there yet, so it's rather Thomas Mitchell, as a drunk doctor, that steals the film. It's a sound film, but still often has the feel of a silent. John Carradine plays a Doc Holiday type character. There's the scene of the bartender removing the mirror before a duel - always a classic.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Friday, April 5, 2013
The film has scenes that today might seem corny, the Indian chief is played by a white man, and there are lots of outdoor scenes that clearly are filmed in a studio, but the film still feels more real and lived in than most modern Westerns. There are lots of little details that ring true, like the fact that the character Lars Jorgensen, who speaks with a Scandinavian accent, is the one who uses American expressions like By golly, or By jiminy. At the same time, Ford came from silent films, and a lot of the story is told visually, with room for ambiguity.
Indians in Westerns is a tricky thing. Will they be faceless hordes to be shot down or noble, wise treehuggers? Is it a racist film? Well, John Wayne's character is clearly a racist. But it was a racist period. Indians raped and tortured. The whites weren't any better, attacking Indian camps and killing women and children. There's a real darkness in the film, closer to McCarthy's Blood Meridian than to the ordinary 50s Western, balanced with some of Ford's usual comedic elements.
Visually the film is amazing, the Monument Valley backgrounds giving it almost a biblical feel. And then there's the famous ending, with Wayne framed by the doorway, a scene just as iconic and mythic as Bogart and Bergman at the end of Casablanca.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Amazing book, with lots of bookcovers by McLoughlin. Mostly crime novels, but also some Westerns. Even some of his comics.
Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
Some sort of mad, poetic masterpiece, more experimental than The Favourite Game.
Kissing The Beehive by Jonathan Carroll
Carroll's attempt at the mainstream? It's disappointingly uncarrollian - a tug of war between a writer and a -yawn- serial killer, with no fantastical elements.
White Apples by Jonathan Carroll
Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll
Glass Soup is a continuation of White Apples. Carroll's best books are a mix of the every day and the imaginative. These books takes place almost exclusivly in the latter. I enjoyed the books more than Kissing The Beehive, but there is a lot of exposition - rules about going back and forth between life and death.
Secrecy by Rupert Thomson
A tale from 1690's Florence, it's beautifully written, as always with Thomson, but somehow I was less engaged in this book.
The Searchers - The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel
Very interesting book, not only about the film, but also the novel it was based on and the real case, the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker by Commanches and the son she had, Quanah Parker. It's a pretty bloody story, with scalping and torture on both sides. Nobody comes away innocent, except maybe Cynthia Ann herself.
Hergé - Son of Tintin by Benoît Peeters
Good, solid biography of Hergé. There are some mix-ups in the translation, though. A page is often called a panel and a panel is called a frame.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I gave up on page 59. Does it get better? I found both the voices of the husband and wife kind of annoying.
The Lonely Hunter - A Biography of Carson McCullers by Virginia Spencer Carr