Friday, March 29, 2013

Lost Highway

Bill Pullman is sent to jail for killing Patricia Arquette and then turns into Balthazar Getty, directed by David Lynch.

This is some spooky shit we got here. The first 45 minutes of the film are great - pure Lynch, with a creepy, dreamlike quality. Then it seems like co-author Barry Gifford takes over and turns it into a clunky film noir fantasy, with Arquette as a femme fatale and a porn film subplot. But the dream logic is gone, and none of the different pieces really fit together. Getty is a less talented Charlie Sheen, putting Marilyn Manson in the film dates it pretty badly - maybe not as much as putting Frankie Goes to Hollywood in Body Double, but still - and worst of all, Lynch himself seems to go missing, only turning up occasionally, like in the coffee table scene. Some ideas in the film reappear in Mulholland Drive, with a much better result.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

John Irving

Top 5 John Irving books:

1. The Cider House Rules
2. The World According to Garp
3. The Hotel New Hampshire
4. A Prayer for Owen Meany
5. Not sure... A Widow for One Year? There's a gap between those four books and the ones that came after and that never quite reach the same heights.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

David Lynch

Top 5 David Lynch films:

1. Blue Velvet
2. Mulholland Drive
3. Elephant Man
4. The Straight Story
5. Eraserhead

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nid de Guêpes

A French variation on Assault on Precinct 13, by Florent-Emilio Siri, who also did Hostage, the Bruce Willis film.

Now this is more like it! It's a far better film than the Assault remake. The story is mostly told visually, with not that much dialogue. Holding off the exposition, it takes about half an hour before you know who the different people are. Then, in the last half hour, all hell breaks loose. And the film even got some style to spare.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

El Dorado Silverado

El Dorado: A variation on Rio Bravo, by Howard Hawks, with Robert Mitchum in the Dean Martin role, James Caan as Ricky Nelson, Arthur Hunnicutt as Walter Brennan and Charlene Holt as Angie Dickinson. John Wayne is still John Wayne. It even has the same scene of a bad guy being shot and hiding in a saloon and the sheriff going in after him. But they're not able to recapture lightning in a bottle, the magic is mostly gone.

Silverado: The first time I saw this film, by Lawrence Kasdan, I didn't care for it too much, but rewatching it now, it's actually pretty good. It's more of a pastiche, though, with Kasdan putting in every scene he loved from watching Westerns as a kid, leading up to the gun duel at the end. There's something slightly mechanical about the film, and politically correct as well. But there's also the guy falling off the roof scene, so I can't really complain.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Next Stop, Greenwich Village

1953: Lenny Baker is an aspiring actor from Brooklyn, moving to Greenwich Village. Also starring Shelley Winters, Christopher Walken, in a small part Jeff Goldblum, and in a blink and you'll miss him part Bill Murray, directed by Paul Mazursky.

Maybe not quite a masterpiece, but it's a great, affecting film. Baker looked like a mix between James Woods and Jean-Paul Belmondo, Winters plays the ultimate Jewish mother. The story takes place in the jazz / beatnik era, before the folkmusic boom. I like that it's a slow film, with really long scenes, and Mazursky is very generous to the characters, even the cheating girlfriend. I remember seeing this film on tv as a kid, and thinking that this is what adult life will be like.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Virus in Scotland, death and chaos, quarantine, big wall, 30 years later, Now. Written and directed by Neil Marshall. 

I can admire the concept of this film: Escape From New York meets Mad Max 2. It shows balls. Someone like a young Tarantino could maybe have gotten away with it. Marshall does not. Why is it that all modern action films look like they were directed by the same guy? There's no real style. And how do you make a film like this and not have a single piece of quotable dialogue? No Ayatollah of Rock'n Rollah? No Call me Snake? It has the NOW text line, a Carpenter-ish synth theme, even two characters named Miller and Carpenter, all fine and good, but shouldn't it also have some juice of its own? The one original idea, the gimmick with the woman's camera eye is pretty silly, even if it plays a role at the end of the film. Most of all it makes you want to rewatch the films it's ripping off.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rio Bravo

After Assault on Precinct 13, good as it is, I wanted to see the real thing: Rio Bravo! John Wayne is the sheriff, and Dean Martin his deputy. Also starring Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan and Angie Dickinson, directed by Howard Hawks.

A great Western, and one of the most entertaining and rewatchable films ever made. The story takes its time, but we enjoy the company of the characters, so what's the rush? And no matter what people say, John Wayne was a good actor! He doesn't mind being made to look like a fool in front of Angie Dickinson. Dean Martin is terrific as well. I love the sequence where he and Ricky Nelson sing. Would it even be possible to get away with something like that today? Outside of maybe a Wes Anderson film, I think not, and it's our loss. A movie has to be more "realistic" today, but often end up just being less fun - the Assault on Precinct 13 remake being an example.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy birthday, Michael Caine!

80 years old today

Sam Pezzo

After seeing the Vittorio Giardino exhibition in Bologna I started re-reading his books, Hungarian Rhapsody and Orient Gateway. I also got the Jonas Fink / A Jew in Communist Prague books and the Collected Sam Pezzo, his private detective strip.  It's always interesting to see a cartoonist's early work, how it changes from this 

into this, in just a couple of years. You can see some of both Jacobs and Tardi in the strips. He even has the Tardi AAAs in wordballoons, when someone is shot! I haven't read No Pasaran!, his Spanish Civil War book yet, but should get that next.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Escape from...

New York:
What is it that really ages a film? Computer graphics! And the twin towers, I suppose... It's a fun but not perfect film. Plot-wise they jump a few points. The cabbie just turns up at the end, when they need him, with the tape? And the whole tape bit is kind of silly. Ernest Borgnine is fun, though, in his part.

Ah, what happened? Carpenter and Russell can only blame themselves for this film. I don't think producers put a gun to their heads and said, make it an exact copy of the first film, just worse in every way. In the original they had a burned down city to film in, here there are obvious sets - and overlit. What ages a film? Bad mid 90s CGI, that's what. Maybe, if you're ten years old, the hangglider attack at the end is cool - for anybody else, it's hard not to make fun of. Tarantino wants to retire after his tenth film, saying directing is a young man's game. He might have a point.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Assault on Precinct 13

John Carpenter's variation on Rio Bravo. This is a pretty good movie. You can see the signs of a low budget - there's an awkwardness in some of the acting - but that also gives the film a certain freshness. Apparently it was shot in twenty days. There's an economical storytelling and leanness in the script that Carpenter got from directors like Howard Hawks.

I made the mistake of also watching the remake, starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne and Gabriel Byrne. The fact that they made a remake is hard to criticize, since Carpenter's The Thing is also a remake, but dammit, it's still a crappy film. The 2005 version has more action, more twists and turns, more dialogue - the script must be twice as long as the original - so why is it more boring? The characters are all pretty annoying for one thing, and visually the film is ugly, with a constant blue night tone and overuse of handheld camera. Worst of all, the film is no fun! You can say what you want about the killing of the little girl in the original, but it's an image that sticks in your mind. The remake has nothing like that, it's more depressing in its cliché-ridden mediocrity.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

R.I.P. Comès

Belgian cartoonist Comès is dead. His graphic novel Silence made a big impression on me when I first read it, ah, thirty years ago. A great story and beautiful black and white drawings. Time to pick it up for a new reading.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lost Cat cover

... for the Fantagraphics edition. The book should be out in May.

Monday, March 4, 2013


There was a great exhibition of Vittorio Giardino at the Bologna comic book convention. It's time to re-read my Danish version of Hungarian Rhapsody, published almost 30 years ago.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Never So Few

Frank Sinatra fights the Japanese and fondles Gina Lollobrigida in Burma during World War II. Also starring Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, directed by John Sturges.

Sinatra could be a good actor when he made the effort. This is not one of those films. There's not much chemistry between him and Lollobrigida, and the silly dialogues they're given doesn't help. The jungle battle scenes don't look too convincing either. The film gets more interesting during the last half hour, but then it's hard to care.