And check out my old Philadelphia Weekly comrade Sean Burns tearing apart Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain and Gary M. Kramer on No Place on Earth.
Also be sure to check out Vadim Rizov on Disconnect.
On the extreme off-chance that you’re wondering why I’m not playing much with this Tumblr anymore, it’s because I have a real person’s full-time job on top of a real student’s full-time workload. The fruits of the former, from the last week, can be found below:
Also check Vadim Rizov on Jurassic Park 3-D.
Also: Philadelphia, you get Beyond the Hills, Ginger & Rosa and The Silence. You lucky dogs!
ALSO: Got Vadim Rizov to review Room 237 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which I keep almost writing as “G.I. Joe: Retribution.”
Also farmed out work to others: Vadim Rizov on Admission and Gimme the Loot, Steve Erickson on My Brother the Devil and Gary Kramer on Starbuck
ALSO: I got the great Vadim Rizov into the Metro. He reviewed Spring Breakers, Reality and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Also be sure to check out Steven Erickson's review of Yossi.
As some of you may know, I was recently named Film and TV editor and Features Writer at Metro US. I will be handling and writing about film and TV (but mostly film) in our three American papers in NYC, Boston and my old town of Philadelphia. This unfortunately means I had to tender my resignation at Philadelphia Weekly, for whom I’ve written for a few months shy of thirteen years. It’s sad, but the upside is the world gets more Sean Burns. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Rather than inundate my Twitter and Facebook feeds with all the stuff I’m writing, I’ll just compile them here from now on. Here’s what I’ve done recently:
A Highly Subjective List of My Best Repertory of 2012 (Slightly Late and In No Hierarchal Order)
What Happened Was… (1994, Tom Noonan): What it’s like to go on a date with Tom Noonan, as written and directed (and starring) Tom Noonan. Also what a stage play transplanted to the screen should look like when you’re not going to “open it up.” The only set is Jackie’s (Karen Sillas) spacious apartment, where there are evidently few lights. So, there’s mood, but there’s also the peerless direction/self-direction of actors (whatever happened to Sillas?) and the way Noonan allows the awkwardness of human interaction to hang there, to take its time. (Also caught this year was Noonan’s The Wife, which, like What Happened Was…, suddenly popped up on Netflix Instant. (Both are still there.) It’s more “open,” but even more atmospheric.) [Instant]
Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976, Rugero Deodato): I don’t like Cannibal Holocaust, but my dislike is based on a conceptual problem that, as it happens, stems from what could be classified as overachievement in a film entitled “Cannibal Holocaust.” Which is to say that it’s a smart film – just wrong. I can’t vouch for other films by Ruggero Deodato, but having now seen a second I can confirm that he’s definitely not an idiot. What this is is a Starsky and Hutch twist in which the two buddy cops are raging dickheads: relentlessly cocky and carefree, they share and forcibly disrobe women and, in one scene, assassinate a group of bank robbers before they rob a bank, i.e., before they’re provably committed a crime. It slyly walks a fine line: anyone sincerely into this Death Wish nonsense will have a hoot, and so will anyone who reads it as a devastating satire of same. [Instant]
The Long Day Closes (1991, Terence Davies): Near as I can tell the most perfect distillation of Terence Davies’ lush memory piece shtick. Free of the (mostly) boilerplate evil dad aspect of the (still excellent) Distant Voices, Still Lives, he relentlessly roams through his past, unaware and unworried that he won’t be working much for the next two decades. [Film Forum]
La Région Centrale (1971, Michael Snow): Three hours prowling the same space, from as many angles and positions as can be achieved in that allotted time. And it could still conceivably go on for another three hours, or more. [International House]
Mauvais Sang (1986, Leos Carax): The post-Holy Motors hangover involves fans discovering that Leos Carax is a miserable bastard who is rarely in a mood good enough to make Holy Motors. I’d already known this, but I’d never seen his version of a neo-noir, almost all of which is self-consciously abstract images that wallow in thief Denis Lavant’s poetic bent. The only respite lasts a minute, and even if you’ve never seen the film you’ve possibly seen it: Lavant hears Bowie’s “Modern Love” on the radio and immediately starts running and caterwauling down an empty city street at night. For my money it’s the most accurate and powerful depiction of joy ever captured on film. [DVD]
Moonrise (1948, Frank Borzage): Borzage was one of the filmmakers I finally caught up with this year, and while I adore the silent entries I saw, and while I recognize that this is a director who doesn’t need sound holding back his camera, this late-period noir is my favorite. Of course, it’s one that is not terribly beholden to audio: the opening is a surreal montage even the silent era wasn’t always cool with, while the rest is an almost-cynical tale that benefits considerably from having a romantic behind the lens. [Instant]
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, John Ford): I’m not even touching the QT Ford snafu, except to say you wouldn’t knock him if you knew him. This was the favorite out of what turned out to be a decent Ford catch-up year (also seen: The Informer, Fort Apache, They Were Expendable and the surprisingly interesting Cheyenne Autumn (in 70mm!)). It’s also the loosest of the bunch: not beholden to a major plot and more of a hang-out picture, where the themes and codes grow organically out of the action. I don’t get people who don’t think Ford was funny, and I’ll point to this as why not. [DVD]
The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (1939, Kenji Mizoguchi): Devastating, as advertised. New York needs a good Mizoguchi retro now that I’m here. [DVD]
Gabriel Over the White House (1933, Gregory La Cava): The Pre-Code era meets a period of serious political unrest, meaning holy shit. Ushered in by Hearst (who gave uncredited screenplay advice), this finds a lazy liberal president possessed by God to become a fascist who fixes all the world’s problems, e.g., setting up kangaroo courts and executing bootleggers. FDR used to ritualistically watch this, as the legend goes, and I hope none of the Breitbots ever discover it. [YouTube]
Wake in Fright (1971, Ted Kotcheff): Went in expecting this to at some point descend into genre hell, but the relatively realistic place it winds up is far more terrifying anyway. As a drinker who sometimes goes on (comparatively light) benders, I identified too strongly with this. [Film Forum]
Le Grand Amour (1968, Pierre Étaix): Hurricane Sandy killed the Pierre Étaix retro at Film Forum halfway through its run, meaning I only got to catch this, the comic filmmaker’s allegedly signature work. (Although friends tell me Yoyo is the real find.) Anyway, I will happily settle for the forthcoming Eclipse box or whatever results, as Étaix’s is one of the oddest comic sensibilities I’ve seen in film. [Film Forum]
Saint Jack (1979, Peter Bogdanovich): While Bob Guccione was pouring millions into Caligula, Hugh Hefner was paying Peter Bogdanovich to slip some nudity into his shaggy portrait of a weathered but always resilient pimp (Ben Gazzara) in Singapore. No one saw it, and Bogdanovich claimed that was too bad as it was one of his best films. And he’s right: Gazzara’s predictable awesomeness aside, it’s one of the last of the ‘70s character studies, and has no loftier goal than to show someone who keeps on keepin’ on, through ups and downs, through doughy middle periods, even through atrocities like getting his forearms forcibly tattooed. [Anthology Film Archives]
2012 was also the year I finally delved into Scottish-Canadian animation pioneer Norman McLaren (favorites: Begone Dull Care, Blankity Blank, C’est l’aviron, Lines Horizontal, Lines Vertical, Mosaic, Pas de deux and Synchromy), Bruce Baillie (dug the most, natch: Castro Street), Jordan Belson (whose eyesores are not on YouTube, Vimeo, etc. for what’s at heart a good reason) and saw more Chick Strand. In fact, the latter’s Kristallnacht was probably the best thing I saw all year.
Also, this was the first year since 2007 that I didn’t do Exhumed Films’ storied 24 Hour Horror-thon, as by then I had relocated from Philadelphia to NYC. But I was around to do their more manageable 12-hour exploitation ‘thon “Ex-Fest,” which I wrote up here. Vice Squad in a pristine 35mm print was lovely.
Bonus Round! Best Films I Re-Saw and Had My Mind (Re-)Blown
Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974, Jacques Rivette): Rivette’s career peak was already one of my all-time favorites, but I’d never seen it properly: trapped in a theater, where you have no other distraction than finding its groove and then not getting off until Celine and Julie indeed go boating. This film has its own logic, and provided you get in synch, letting go once the epic running time is up is one of life’s saddest acts. [Film Forum]
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, Peter Hunt): As I’ve blabbed about elsewhere, I spent a good chunk of October, for a variety of personal reasons I won’t go into, wasting my repertory time on MoMA’s complete run of the Bond films, archival prints of which had recently been donated to their vaults from, I believe, the Broccolis. The major revelation was that the one with Lazenby was not only terrific – which I’d already known – but that it was the series’ pinnacle. It’s not the most Bondian: it’s too atypical for that. But as my bud/colleague Vadim Rizov pointed out before I saw it, the origins of modern action filmmaking are right here. The editor even takes out frames during fight scenes to make them even more frantic than they are already. [MoMA]
Playtime (1967, Jacques Tati) in 70mm: Only ever saw it on video and ohhhhhhhhh, so that’s what it’s supposed to look like. And it was already Top Ten Ever for me before. [Walter Reade]