Monday, February 04, 2008

VOTE! (super tuesday)

If you are in a Super Tuesday state - go out and vote. I'm not going to tell you who to vote for, just vote. This is our country, we need to run it.

If you are not from the United States and don't know about our unusual customs and strange holidays - Super Tuesday is the one day in America where everyone develops super powers and must also develop great responsibility. This is why we make so many super hero movies - once every four years we wake up as super heroes - and we fly around and bullets bounce off our chest and some of us have laser vision and must wear dark glasses... and then we vote for which super hero should run our country.

I will be casting my vote for ULTRAMAN at the orange table at Bev Garland's Holiday Inn tomorrow.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Do It Yourself Film Making..
Yesterday’s Dinner: White Pizza at Cal Pizza Kitchen on Sunset.

MOVIES: TEETH at the Sunset 5 with my friend Rod. Okay, the strange thing about being in this business - the night before I'm channel surfing and pass the credit roll of some movie... and there's Rod's name! He does digital compositing and post work. Weird that I click on the credits just as his name comes by. Anyway, I show up at Sunset 5 a little early and wander around - the cinema is in an ultra-hip strip mall that you've seen in a dozen films ("Did we park on the Prince level?") and is anchored by Virgin Megastore... except Virgin closed. Now it's a ghost town. They are doing some renovations, so it kind of looks like a war zone. Strange how someplace that was once *the* place is now barren.

If you don't know what TEETH is about, it's the story of a virginal high school girl (a great Jess Weixler), the leader of her abstinence group, who has a second set of teeth... in her ho-ha. Any guy who touches her down there loses his fingers. And a few lose their tally-wackers.

The film is okay, but uneven. Works as a comedy and social satire, doesn't work very well as a thriller or horror film. Lots of laughs with the abstinence group and the health text books with stickers over the dirty parts and the discussion of evolution... unless you believe in creationism. It scores as social satire. Oh, and the nuclear plant is in almost every shot - and never wears out its "laugh welcome" - you just keep giggling at it.

But the movie is not scary, has no suspense, no sense of dread... in places where that's what they were going for. And the family rings false, which is a big problem. You have no idea how these people could all live under the same roof. The script seems like it needed a rewite just to clean it up. The characters (like the stepbrother and parents) were two dimensional - they seem sketchy. On the other hand, the horny high school boys all seem very real. The story also seems sketchy - as if they had a feneral idea of what was going to happen, but hadn't really thought it through - like the scene where the boyfriend's car is still by the lake... but didn't seem to be there earlier. Kind of confusing.

And you never see the monster. Problem is - you find yourself curious about the monster. You see what it does - lots of guys holding bleeding stumps - and you see a tooth they pull out of a victim - but you want to see how it's configured.

Imagine CLOVERFIELD if they *never* showed the monster - after a while you'd wonder if they had one. You'd begin to think they were ripping you off by not showing it. I realize, here, we have a little problem with showing the monster.

The movie *does* have the most beautiful location I've ever seen on film - this lake with a waterfall and a cave where the high school kids make out - it's somewhere near Austin, TX, where the film was shot.


I also did not like the ending - which kind of turns her into a killer slut. Maybe that's a "girl power" end, but it seemed like the power of the dark side.

DVD: Last night I put in the disk to AMERICAN FRIEND, and it was scratched up so bad I couldn't watch it, so I irdered another from Amazon...

But this is my favorite Wenders film. I'm strange, because I like all of the pre-HAMMETT movies and think the ones afterwards are hit & miss. I am oddly not a fan of PARIS, TEXAS.

But AMERICAN FRIEND takes Wenders' slow pace and uses it to build the suspense. And, unlike the novel, there is a real friendship between Tom Ripley and his victim in the film. A warm friendship. I stuck with the skips and scratches and articating until the end of the first murder - a never ending scene in the subway where Bruno Ganz can't bring himself to kill the man; and the longer he waits, the more difficult it becomes logistically. It's a great Hitchcock style scene... a later scene (I'll have to wait for the new DVD) with the next murder on the train is not only a nail-biter, it's *funny* - there are ironic and amusing elements in the scene that break the tension... well, for a moment. I think this is the film where I *discovered* Wenders, and then went back and saw all of his previous movies. I think part of my reason for liking the old ones more is that you can see his progress as a film maker. What seemed to happen post-HAMMETT is that he became Hitchcock after the critics recognized him - and some of the films are indulgent and a little sloppy. Still, Wenders is one of those guys who make interesting films. Like Hitchcock, the worst Wenders film still has something.

DVD: YOUNG AND INNOCENT - is a forgotten Hitchcock film that deserves to be remembered. It's a chase film, about a struggling young screenwriter who is accused of murdering a famous actress - and when he's assigned a public defender, the guy is a moron... so our hero escapes (clever scene) kidnaps a woman in a car outside the courthouse... and as bad luck has it - she's the daughter of the police chief! Now he must find the edivence that proves he's innocent and/or the real killer, plus keep her from going to the authorities. So he must convince her he is innocent first.

There are some great set pieces, and what I always thought was cool was the use of miniatures - there are all kinds of really complex models in this film. A "helicopter shot" zooms over the city, past cars on the street, past a train blasting down the tracks, to a rail road yard where a man and woman and dog are in a car... and it was all models! Cut to the real man and woman and dog in the car, with the same background. There is also a great mine cave in scene that swallows that car - and almost our heroes.

One of the cool things about older Hitchcock movies are the *gags* - in 39 STEPS there have to be 2 dozen things that deal with the handcuffs - it's as if a writer made up a list of every possible handcuff thing, and put them in the script. Here we get all kinds of gags - from the public defender's thick glasses (good for a handful) to the dog (in one scene it doesn't get in the car during a chase and they must slow down to get the running dog... as the police catch up!) to a tense game of blind man's bluff at a kid's birthday party where our heroes are trying to escape to a homeless guy who has seen the killer and the issues of getting him into an elegant night club to pick the killer out of the crowd.

Oh, and that scene has one of those amazing tracking shots - we start outside, overhead - enter the night club - hundreds of people, which one is teh killer? And as the camera slowly moves over the room with too many suspects for them to weed through before the police arrive, the camera slowly moves down to eye level and creeps up to the killer's *eyes* - they fill the screen. Cool shot, that makes us wonder how they will ever get through all of those false suspects to find the real killer - kind of a needle in a haystack. This is a breezy chase film, kind of like 39 STEPS. Probably less known because the cast isn't as attractive nor as famous. But fun to see again.

- Bill

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